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Hair Extensions: The Long And The Short Of It

Niamh Spence wants long Rapunzel hair but at what cost?

Written by . Published on April 25th 2014.

Hair Extensions: The Long And The Short Of It

RAPUNZEL was a lucky girl, all things considered.

Fair enough, she was cooped up in a tower and locked away by her controlling stepmother, but everyone has a few issues in their life. It seems it’s a small price to pay to have thick tumbling locks.

Small price and hair extensions don't usually go hand in hand.

“The traction hair extensions place on the hair follicles can traumatise them and result in hair loss, sometimes even permanent.”

Yes, you can get some bargain hair extensions from small independent shops dotted around the Northern Quarter and the Arndale, but as with most things, you get what you pay for. If your hairpiece cost you thirty quid, it will look like it did.

Cheap hair extensions are what give the rapidly expanding hair extension industry a bad name. We’ve all seen that girl on a night out with wiry locks knotted in with her own hair, usually a poorly mismatched colour and in a bedraggled state. I’ve not only seen it, and judged it; I’ve lived it too.

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 At 14.46.17Spot the extensions? Britney Spears is one culprit of bad hair extensions

So why do we do it to ourselves? Why are some of us so desperately seeking long Rapunzel style hair?

“I don’t look right with short hair,” lamented one friend.

“It just gives my hair more volume and makes it look thicker,” whined another.

Even a friend sporting a chic pixie crop admitted she’d considered hair extensions, and only rejected them upon realising she’d appear to have a mullet if they were attached to her short locks.

“People refer to hair extensions as an addiction, the same with things like false eyelashes,” explains Christine Jones, one of the respected Trichologists at Manchester’s Farjo Hair Institute. People are clearly addicted, and the hair extension is reportedly booming, somewhere in the region of £3 billion.

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 At 14.13.46Rapunzel style locks anyone?Hair extensions are a vain practice, but so are most things we do for beauty. However for some, hair extensions are used to hide follicular problems. Hair loss, alopecia, thinning hair, receding hairlines are all swept underneath the comfort of (somebody else’s) hair. “The problem is that people rely on them,” explains Jones. 

“People use them to cover up rather than looking into the problem,” Jones explains. “It causes a greater problem as the hair is already in a diminished state and tightly woven weaves and hair extensions can make problems worse.”

“I’ve seen red, inflammed scalps and patients complaining of being head sore after getting their extensions put in. One woman even told me she couldn’t sleep after having hers done. Yet, it’s worryingly acceptable.”

Whilst we’ve all heard of suffering for beauty and the ‘no pain no gain’ mentality, losing sleep due to an aching scalp being pulled at by a too tight weave or too heavy extensions sounds excessive. “The traction hair extensions place on the hair follicles can traumatise them and result in hair loss, sometimes even permanent.”

One highly publicised case of hair loss, or traction alopecia to give it the correct title, is model Naomi Campbell. Through years of wearing hair extensions Campbell has suffered severe hair loss which is clearly visble when not covered up.

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 At 14.40.15Model Naomi Campbell has suffered hair loss from hair extensions and weaves

However, despite the risks Jones does not ban hair extensions completely. She understands why the more follicularly challenged amongst us are keen to cheat our way to beautifully long hair. “The key is not to have them in for a lengthy amount of time, one month is acceptable and also not to have them too tight,” warns Jones.

“I’ve met women who have had them done for their wedding day and to go on their honeymoon. That short period of time is fine and doesn’t concern me; it’s those that wear them for months on end where it causes the hair and scalp real problems. The better hair extensions are the smaller ones, which are bonded to very thin tresses of hair. Not the metal ones (micro rings) which cause friction to the surrounding hair and can result in hair loss.”

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 At 14.58.41Tatiana Karelina is a well-known hair extension expert with celebrity clientele

Whilst many hair extension technicians-specialists-hairdressers-scientific-sounding-something-or-other will lament their favourite method of extensions as being a safe option and better than the competitors on the market, there are few that are truly good for your hair. One industry professional with a hive of celebrity swishy haired clients is Tatiana Karelina, of Tatiana Hair Extensions. Whilst her preferred method of micro rings, the small plastic rings attached to small strands of hair at the root, is disliked by Jones she insists it doesn't damage the hair. Karelina insists glue and bonds are the real danger.

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 At 14.53.13Hair extensions for all stylesShe says, "I believe that those who manufacture, sell or install glued-in hair extensions have a vested interest to keep quiet on the potential dangers and pitfalls of the glued-in extensions and consequently fail to provide information in a manner that is clear and easy to understand." 

Good point. An industry that is making billions from people being addicted to hair extensions is hardly going to point out the dangers and pitfalls of what attaching hair that is not your own can do.

So what's a short haired girl to do? It seems you can either sit and wait to grow out that short bob haircut or invest in volumising products to hide thinning locks.

Rapunzel never had much fun anyway.

Follow Niamh Spence at @missnspence

For more information about the Farjo Hair Institute, look to their website: www.farjo.net

Or find them on Twitter at: @BessamFarjo

Tatiana Hair Extensions can be found here.

Or follow her on Twitter here: @TatianaHairExts

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