Going to Great Lengths

Hair Extensions Tested

Beauty buff Dori Katz in the thick of it.

Longing for long locks but aren’t sure you can grow them au naturel in time for your wedding? Consider hair extensions. But, is achieving that elaborate coiffure worth all the effort (not to mention cost)? Read on.

I have always lusted after red carpet looks with gorgeous retro waves, chic full up-do’s, and full-bodied blowouts. Those stylish looks were never in the cards until recently when I took the plunge and decided to get hair extensions. All of a sudden my once stringy strands (see Strip 1 above) could actually hold a curl—and last hours!—or, gasp, prolong a blowout for a few days.

I’ll admit, having extensions has definitely given me a newfound confidence about my hair, and more generally my looks, but it has been a process. The first step is finding the right place to get them applied and the right stylist who makes you feel comfortable and informed. Working in the beauty industry, I was connected to Marc Mena at Warren-Tricomi in NYC.

To find a place that’s right for you, I would suggest doing some online research and polling your friends. Talk to other friends/brides for referrals, call salons that offer extensions and ask to talk to previous clients who have had them done. Go in for a consultation armed with a list of questions about application, caring for the extensions, how to style them etc. Ask about anything you are unsure of--better to be a nudge then staying up at night wondering if you screwed up this pricey investment.

When it comes to choosing the type of extensions, I used Great Lengths. It is Indian “temple” hair, which is 100% virgin human hair (never chemically-treated) that is extremely similar to Caucasian hair in its basic structure. I was surprised at how well it matched my own hair in both color and behavior with exactly the same type and amount of wave. Even my closest friends and family didn’t notice at first—they just thought my hair had gotten much longer and fuller. (I wish!) Most extensions brands have a wide variety of shades and textures to choose from, whether you are blonde, brunette or redhead.

My consultation was pretty quick—Mena looked at and touched my hair and we talked briefly about what I was looking for with the extensions. Make sure to explain to your stylist what you hope to accomplish—length, texture, fullness or all of the above.

The actual application took place a few weeks later. The first step was cleansing; my hair was washed three times with a clarifying shampoo to get rid of all product buildup and excess oil that could interfere with the bonds.

Next, it was blown completely dry, as the extensions need to be bonded to dry hair. The extension hair was attached to my own hair about an inch from the roots using an Ultrasonic 500. This high-tech machine bonds the extension hair to my hair using cold fusion technology (see Strip 2 above). With each section, it releases a wave that generates heat within the bond to attach to the real strands. The process doesn't hurt or feel hot, it just requires patience. For a full head of extensions, it can take anywhere from two to five hours to apply depending on hair type and the amount of extensions you desire.

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