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DIY Hair: Make Your Hair Extensions Last Longer

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Different Types of Extensions

There are a bunch of different types of hair extensions, but the main distinction we are going to make here is whether they are human hair or synthetic.

Synthetic hair extensions are made of plastic fibers. They're made to look like human hair - and depending on the quality, they can actually pass off as real hair! Bad synthetic hair is what you see on a party store wig. Super shiny, generally messy, and very obviously fake. However, there are some brands that make synthetic hair look like the real deal, and it has only been getting better! Regardless of how they look, they will require different care than human hair extensions.

Human hair extensions are made from the hair of real people - most of the hair in extensions comes from China and India! The hair is all collected with the cuticle facing in the same direction, which helps prevent tangling and matting of the hair. A word you will see often describing human hair is "Remy," which means it was all collected in one sitting. Because it is human hair, a particular care routine will need to be followed to get the most out of your extensions!

Pre-styled synthetic extensions bought from Amazon, circa 2011. These were pretty cheap, but looked decent. I prefer human hair!

Pre-styled synthetic extensions bought from Amazon, circa 2011. These were pretty cheap, but looked decent. I prefer human hair!

Human hair extensions, styled with my natural hair, 2020. I received these from Tesshair, and was able to dye them and blend wonderfully with my own hair!

Human hair extensions, styled with my natural hair, 2020. I received these from Tesshair, and was able to dye them and blend wonderfully with my own hair!

Caring for Synthetic Extensions

Synthetic hair typically does not last as long as human hair - generally, it can go for about 3 months with regular use, where human hair can last up to 12 months or more.

Getting the most out of your synthetic hair means a strict care routine, so the hair doesn't look awful and matted!

Use Heat Sparingly. The first thing to note is that synthetic hair extensions are usually pre-styled, and can be worn straight from the package. It's wise to choose which style you want your extensions to be first, so that you don't have to use heat on them later. If you can't decide between curly and straight, honestly, just buy both.

You are able to style most synthetic extensions using heat (check your brand's website for the heat threshold), but remember they are made of plastic - don't melt your hair! Plus, synthetic hair gets extremely hot... So don't get crazy and try to wear it while you style it. Nobody likes to explain all of the heat-hickeys on their neck.

It's also important to let your hair dry naturally, rather than using a blow dryer. The force and heat of a blow dryer can damage, tangle, and cause your extensions to shed.

Wash With Wig Shampoo. Yes, there are specific types of shampoo made just for synthetic hair. Look for something sulfate-free, or pick up a synthetic-specific shampoo online! You can pick up a bottle for as low as $6.

That being said, you do NOT need to wash your synthetic hair often. You should only do so if the hair is visibly dirty or oily, which should be rare as the hair is not sprouting from your scalp. When you wash, use lukewarm or cold water (again with the heat... it's bad for the hair). Try to avoid scrunching, wringing, or otherwise agitating the hair.

Use Detangling Conditioner. You can condition your synthetic extensions just as you would your own hair! Work a detangling conditiner in gently, and rinse it all the way out before air drying. You'll also want to use a detangling spray or conditioner when storing your extensions between use.

Avoid Certain Activities. Luckily, sunshine and water won't be too much of a problem with synthetic extensions. I wouldn't want to hang out in the sun with an extra pound of hair on my head, but it's comforting to know it wouldn't hurt the extensions much. When you get home at the end of the night, you should always remove them before bed and store them properly! I'll go into how to properly store extensions at the bottom of this post.

Clip-in human hair extensions. They're super soft, styleable, and need some TLC to stay that way.

Clip-in human hair extensions. They're super soft, styleable, and need some TLC to stay that way.

Caring for Human Hair Extensions

Wash With Sulfate-Free Shampoo. This goes for extensions that are either clip-in, glue-in, or sew-in. As you may have read in some of my previous posts, sulfates are a big no-no for hair, especially when the hair isn't actually coming from your scalp. Your head produces natural oils that are really great for your hair, but sulfates strip those oils out and cause the hair to dry. That is a huge recipe for disaster on hair that isn't getting scalp oils.

You should be able to tell when your extensions need a wash - if they appear to be getting dirty or oily, or have a bunch of product buildup, it's time. Don't wash your extensions if you don't need to! I have seen some CRAZY suggestions that you wash your extensions 1-3 times a week. Don't do that for clip-in extensions.

Even if you wear them every day, you should be the judge as to when the hair is dirty and unmanageable. It's obviously different if you can't remove your hair extensions nightly - if that's your situation, try to wash as sparingly as possible. While washing, be as gentle as humanly possible. You want to avoid pulling any hair from the wefts.

Use Detangling Conditioner. Much like with synthetic extensions, you should use a detangling conditioner after shampooing your hair. Again, work it in gently and rinse out with cool water before air-drying.

Don't Use Oils Close To Weft. Any extensions with glue at the top (I-tip, U-tip, Tape-in) are not going to do well with oils. They can cause the bond and adhesive to slip, which can either make your extensions come out faster, or make your extensions shed.

Avoid Certain Activities. Human hair extensions can be tough, especially if they are more permanent than clip-in. I would NEVER go swimming with clip in extensions. In the summer, sometimes beach trips are unavoidable - so if your extensions are tape-in or sew-in, avoid getting your hair wet as much as possible.

If you can take your extensions out before you go to sleep, do it! If you are exercising, pull your hair up and fasten it so that your movements won't cause the hair to tug. I can just imagine trying to run with tape-in extensions, and with every step your pony-tail holder tugs a little bit more, ripping the hair out of both your extensions and your scalp. Yikes. Maybe opt for the exercise bike instead.

Human hair extensions after air-drying

Human hair extensions after air-drying

Putting Your Extensions Away

Regardless of synthetic or human hair, there are certain steps you should follow when you go to put your extensions away after wearing.

Gently brush out all tangles, and spray with a detangling conditioner if necessary.

When I put away my extensions, I bundle all of the hair up into a pony tail holder, and then wrap it up in a hair net to avoid tangling. Then I store my extensions in a plastic bag or container, so that they don't get wet or exposed to anything.

You can also store your extensions by hanging them - this is great for holding the style and avoiding creases/tangles! There are specific products that you can use to hold, hang, and carry your extensions.

Extensions brushed out and fastened in a pony tail

Extensions brushed out and fastened in a pony tail

Extensions wrapped in a hair net and stored in a dry bag

Extensions wrapped in a hair net and stored in a dry bag

Get The Most Out Of Your Extensions

If you spent money on a product, why not make sure it lasts as long as possible? Hair extensions can get pretty pricey, and it's important to take that extra step to ensure they are always looking fly.

Whether synthetic or human, these are some easy guidelines to follow to get the most out of your investment. Check out some of my other posts for more hair and extension tips, reviews, and instructionals!

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