For years, hair extensions have been known for having one sole purpose: To help clients achieve longer lengths. But with the advancements in products and technology, they are now known and used for so much more.
“I think most people don’t realize how versatile extensions are,” says Caitlin Davidson, national educator for Babe Hair Extensions and hairstylist at Unknotted Hair in Edmonton, Alta. “I feel like extensions have always had a bit of a taboo about them because of the rumours that they can cause damage, are super expensive and that only certain people can wear them. As stylists, it’s our job to show our clients that extensions are not just for celebrities anymore—anyone can truly wear them, we just have to find the right solution for their needs.”
Learn how to make the most of hair extensions and find out why now is a great time to learn and add them to your repertoire.
While a trip to the salon for a haircut typically means sending your client home with shorter hair, that doesn’t always have to be the case. With extensions, your client could end up walking away with even more hair, but there are a few key things to keep in mind when using hair extensions for adding length.
“It’s important to choose your method—what type of extensions you’re going to use—based on what’s going to look appropriate,” says Jesse Marriott, a master educator for Hotheads Hair Extensions and hairstylist at Utopia Hair Studio in Red Deer, Alta. “Sometimes we have the tendency to go overboard; we can’t have your client ending up with more hair than what would be humanly possible naturally. Talk to your clients about length options and figure out what they will love and what will look right on them. I always analyze my clients’ height to determine what would look appropriate and proportionate on their stature.”
When looking to add length on clients (especially for those who’ve never had extensions before), starting off with something more natural is key.
“I would recommend no more than four inches longer than the natural hair,” says Julia Biagi, certified Bellami Hair specialist and junior stylist at Define Hair Studio in Woodbridge, Ont. “That way, it can blend more easily and look more natural and it also won’t feel as heavy, which is important for clients who aren’t quite used to having hair extensions.”
When installed correctly, extensions shouldn’t be noticeable and can even help clients who are interested in growing out their own natural hair (protecting hair from heat damage and breakage). However, it often requires cutting to ensure they flow naturally with the client’s hair.
“For 99 per cent of my clients, when you look at them you can’t tell that they have hair extensions,” says Marianne Savage, educator with Great Lengths Hair Extensions and owner of The Beauty Bar in Burlington, Ont. “As long as they’re cut properly and blended in nicely with your hair, they’re going to look amazing. The problem is a lot of people won’t cut them or blend with layering or slither cutting, so you end up with stacks that don’t look right. I make sure that I layer-cut so they go from the longest point of their hair to the hair extension’s longest point and I slither-cut—trimming the bottom but blending in layers to make it look like it’s their real hair.”
Whether it’s fusion, tape or weft extensions, it all comes down to investing in education and practice to make sure you know how to install extensions correctly. Savage says not being trained properly can result in shoddy work that can not only look unnatural but can even damage the client’s natural hair.
“Sometimes I find that when extensions are too heavy, they can sit like dog ears—they’re really flat to the head and then they puff out at the bottom,” she says. “If you put layers in, they give it a little more oomph and more volume, so the top part doesn’t sit so flat and you won’t notice the tape, bonds or wefts. If they’re too close together or the bond is too big and you’re not laying the extensions the same way as their natural hair, you will probably see it.”
“When someone has hair extensions, they’ll usually have them for a very long time. When they have them taken them out, they’ll feel naked. They’ll be loyal to you for a long time if you take care of them and teach them how to take care of themselves.” — Kelly Le, educator for Global Best Beauty and GBB Hair, Toronto
Volume and Density
Hair extensions are also an effective way of adding subtle volume or increased fullness to transform your clients’ locks.
“Volume and fullness can be created in so many ways with hair extensions,” says Davidson, who recommends using the flat-tip or single-sided tape options from Babe Hair Extensions for adding fullness at the ends. “I find that you get great coverage but can blend out your client’s colour pattern more seamlessly. Both methods are light in the hair and look extremely natural.” For clients with longer hair who are looking for a subtle amount of volume and fullness, she recommends utilizing weft options.
However according to Savage, wefts and tape-ins may not be the best option for clients with very fine hair or those with thinning hair concerns, since even the smallest options for both can still end up being noticeable in the hair.
PRO TIP: For clients concerned about having their extensions exposed, Savage recommends using fusion bonds with Great Lengths’ Tapes Plus, which has a hidden tapeline that’s covered in hair that’s ideal for using in finer areas around the face, crown or part line.
“In order to look natural, the extensions have to match with the hair’s density,” recommends Savage. “I would never want to do a weft on someone with superfine hair because it just doesn’t look right. I think fusion are the best because you can match the density of the bond to the hair and the amount of hair that you’re putting on someone’s head. When I match the density of the hair, it will already start to look natural before I even cut it, and then when I cut to blend, it’s going to look amazing.”
“When adding density, even the smallest amount of hair extensions will make a significant difference,” adds Maggie Semaan, international hair artist for Balmain Hair Couture and owner of Haus of Rtists in Montreal. “Almost anyone can obtain their dream hair with extensions.”
For those looking for more lift, micro-bond fusions can be installed above the parietal ridge to create a bit more lift and volume. “We have the most application varieties with micro-bonding, so we can custom-create any bond to match a client’s natural density,” says Davidson. “We can cut down one single fusion extension down to as small as a 1/6g piece of hair starting from a 1g piece. We can add lift and fullness above that parietal ridge to find any thin spots or can gently change a growth pattern to help camouflage alopecia. The best part of is that micro-bonds shed out naturally over a six- to eight-week window. To maintain the look, clients just need to get the ones that shed filled back in.”
When working with clients who have a range of hair issues or concerns, it’s important to be able to customize options to fit your client’s individual needs. “Extensions are not one size fits all,” says Kelly Le, a Toronto-based hairstylist and educator for Global Best Beauty and GBB Hair. “Sometimes you may need to combine methods. Let’s say the client’s hair at the bottom is fuller, you can do regular strands of extensions, but when you get to the top of the head—the crown area or the parietal ridge, where the apex is finer, you may need to cut your bonds or tapes in half. Depending on the area of the head, you have to customize it so that it shows less and isn’t as noticeable.”
“The reason why hair extensions don’t [look right] is because there’s not enough or too many hair extensions,” she adds. “If someone has fine hair on top and you put massive hair extensions on half of their head, it won’t look natural because the bottom will look too thick compared to the top. For someone with a lot of hair, if they cheap out on putting in enough hair extensions to add in the length, it can look straggly because the volume doesn’t match the hair on the client’s head.”
PRO TIP: Le she suggests putting 10 to 20 per cent more hair than what clients already have on their head.
According to Marriott, it’s important to be cautious with your fine-haired clients and understand how to adapt the trendy looks they may want, so that they’re more suitable for them.
“A style that’s big right now is the French bob, which looks best when it’s beefy. If your client shows you a picture of a bob but you see she doesn’t have the same density that the photo has and you know that you need that volume and thickness in order to give her a haircut that matches the image, you should suggest adding a few hair extensions to make the image a reality,” he says. “If they really want to achieve that look, they’ll be open to whatever is necessary to make it happen.”
Another style that’s big right now is the shaggy mullet, which Savage says requires more fullness than you may think. “I’ve used extensions for people who needed to fill it in the front and not the back,” she says. “Some people tend to be thinner around the front area, so they may need a bit of extra fullness.”
PRO TIP: While the focus may be on a client’s hair health during a consultation, the scalp also plays a role in what extension methods can be used. For clients with scalp conditions, such as psoriasis or rosacea, it’s recommended to advise them to resolve those issues prior to installing extensions since they can impact the longevity.
While many stylists say extensions have been a great source of revenue, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to extensions during the pandemic with all of the restrictions and lockdowns.
“One thing I would be mindful of with the restrictions and guidelines, is how long your client can wear each method before needing maintenance. I would suggest using methods that can be worn longer if you know a shutdown is about to commence in your area. Also, if your client has to wear a visor or a face shield, sometimes placements of extensions around the front hairline might be a little uncomfortable, so just ask if they need to wear them for work prior to doing an installation.” — Caitlin Davidson, national educator for Babe Hair Extensions and hairstylist at Unknotted Hair in Edmonton, Alta.
“Since some stylists are not working right now while their salons are closed, it’s a great time to learn about hair extensions—whether it’s virtually or in a smaller-sized class. Refresh your education and learn about hair extensions so that you have something new to offer your clients once we do reopen.” — Kelly Le, educator for Global Best Beauty and GBB Hair, Toronto
Hair extensions are a great way to give clients their dream look without actually having to colour or damage their natural strands. From creating depth and dimension to experimenting with vibrant shades, the possibilities are endless.
“We all have clients who want that beyond blonde look but you know their hair just can’t handle it,” says Marriott. “When they’ve been platinum for so long and it comes time to add depth and dimension back into the hair, sometimes it’s hard for the hair to hold onto that colour because it’s been so chemically processed. Extensions are a good way to bring depth back into the clients’ hair.”
Although colourists may be tempted to use their signature techniques when it comes to extensions, there are some key differences between colouring natural hair and colouring extensions that should be kept in mind.
“Colouring extensions is very different from colouring natural hair as it doesn’t always pick up the same,” says Biagi. “When toning down blonde extensions to make them look a bit ashier, I don’t put on purple shampoo directly. I plug the sink and fill it with water and then add the purple shampoo to dilute it a bit, because blonde extensions are very porous so you have to be cautious. I also suggest using a semi- or demi-permanent colour on extensions and recommend doing a strand test so you know exactly what you’re working with.”
“I love to use them when clients want to add lighter pieces but don’t want to lighten their own hair,” adds Semaan.
When it comes to lightening hair, Le advises against it for extensions. “When you’re lightening, you’re blasting the hair extension and it’s uncontrollable,” she warns. “Buy lighter hair extensions so you can deposit the colour. I also avoid using permanent colour since it has ammonia, which will open the hair cuticle and can cause the hair to be more tangled and matted.”
According to Davidson, one of her favourite things about using extensions is the ability to colour the hair without commitment.
“You can create a balayage effect, add highlights or lowlights, add funky colors without the damage of pre-lightening the hair. Or you can match natural colours and just add some extra richness to the hair,” she says. “When custom-colouring hair extensions, I always recommend washing the extensions prior to colouring. By removing the coating that is used on the hair in the packaging it creates a more even base, and you will get a truer tone to the finished results. Colouring your extensions prior to installing ensures full saturation to make sure you get the desired shade.”
PULL QUOTE: “Let clients know what they’re signing up for. It’s both a commitment and an investment—it’s not just a one-time service you do. Clients need to be aware of what they need to put into it to get everything they want out of it.” — Julia Biagi, certified Bellami Hair specialist and junior stylist, Define Hair Studio, Woodbridge, Ont.
Talk is Cheap
How to address costs with extension clients.
“I’ve noticed when I’m overly transparent, price can be an issue. I like to tell my clients that extensions are an investment so I tell them what the investment will be for the look they want. Work on creating packages that will appeal to them. When they hear the word ‘investment,’ they think of what they are going to be getting back versus what they’re putting out. When you just say ‘cost,’ they think about all the money they’re spending and not as much about what they’re getting out of it.” — Jesse Marriott, master educator for Hotheads Hair Extensions and hairstylist at Utopia Hair Studio, Red Deer, Alta.
“Pricing is never an easy conversation to have, but I find when I’m direct and upfront from the start then there are no surprises at the end. I highly recommend keeping an updated price list so your clients can have an idea prior to coming in for their consultation. During the consultation, I break down the price of hair, installation fees, custom-colouring fees (if applicable), the cost of maintenance and deposit. I find if it’s talked about throughout the whole consultation, then at the end when you give them the grand total it’s not a surprise and it prevents any issues from arising.” — Caitlin Davidson, national educator for Babe Hair Extensions and hairstylist at Unknotted Hair, Edmonton, Alta.
“Clients usually understand that extensions are a luxury service and they’re aware of all the labour that’s put into it, especially when they get it done by an expert. I use the consultation to go over all the different options for my clients that would suit them while still fitting their budget, to make sure they’re completely comfortable and leave feeling happy.” — Julia Biagi, certified Bellami Hair specialist and junior stylist, Define Hair Studio, Woodbridge, Ont.
“There are always going to be people seeking deals. If someone is, you may not want to do their hair because they’re either never going to be satisfied or will always be searching for a deal. Don’t ever discount or break down your costs for clients—price depends on length, number of bundles and time. Some colours can cost more, too. Be upfront and read people’s body language on whether they want them or if they are on the fence. Make sure to charge a deposit and when necessary, ask them to sign a contract.” — Marianne Savage, educator with Great Lengths Hair Extensions and owner of The Beauty Bar in Burlington, Ont.