Hair extensions. Gosh I love them! Who would’ve thought they'd be a fashion trend? Twenty years ago only black women were wearing them. People used to say back then that black women were putting in hair extensions because they wanted to look like white women. For the past few years, more and more women have been wearing them, regardless of their ethnic group, from the biggest celebrities to the girl next door. There are many reasons why women wear hair extensions, whether for volume, length, or both. Or maybe they just want to change their look. Honestly, I use hair extensions for all these reasons, which is probably the case for most black women. I wake up every day and say a little prayer for the hairstylists who many years ago invented hair pieces and extensions. What if they hadn’t? What would we (black women) have done with our unmanageable kinky hair? As for me, I have the most unimaginably unmanageable hair! Okay, I could perm it, but that wouldn’t solve the problem. The chemicals only make it drier and easier to break in winter (I live in Canada). The second option would be to shave my head. That’s actually a great solution if you have the right shape of head, but that, unfortunately, is not my case, so it's back to hair extensions. I'm glad they exist, and I guarantee they're going to be around for a long time. Amen!
I am originally from Haiti. I have been living in Canada for the past seven years in the same neighbourhood in Montréal (Westmount). No one knew I was wearing hair extensions until recently, when I told them, because I knew I was going into the business. The reason why they thought it was my hair all along is simply because I managed to do it well and because I always make sure I leave a little bit of my natural hair showing, which, admittedly, I perm to hide the weave tracks and to blend with the colour of my extensions.
There are many hair extension techniques out there, but the one I use for myself (and the one preferred by most black women) is the old fashioned sew-in type. I personally think it's the safest technique if done by a professional vs. the clip-in or glue-in types. But whichever technique you choose, know that your hair will break. Don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. Yes, some techniques will cause less damage, for example, clip-ins or hot and cold fusion, or even techniques like EZ Weft or skin weft. These are good, but they’re mostly used on non-black women. Why? Because these women don't need to perm their hair to use these techniques. I know some black women who use these techniques too, but I personally think it adds a lot of stress to our type of hair, because most of these techniques require that the extensions be attached to the tip of the hair. Now, can you imagine perming your hair and then adding all the weight of the extensions? Nope, that’s not for me. Actually, the sew-in type, mostly known as weaves, helps my hair to grow, as opposed to all the other types. Now, not all weaves will help your hair grow, especially those done in your bathroom by your girlfriend or little cousin watching a YouTube video; your weave will not only cause irreparable damage to your hair, but you’ll also be one more person added to the sea of people walking down the street looking like they have a raccoon on their head!
Undetectable. Have them guessing! Nobody needs to know you're wearing weave, and that's the kind of weave you want to be wearing. The smile on this woman's face says one thing--I know I look good--and no doubt she paid a pretty penny for her wave. But anyone can have the same look for a lot less..
Here are tips for a good weave:
1. Make sure it’s done by a hairdresser who knows what he or she is doing, i.e. who cares about your natural hair under the weave.
2. When you go to your hair supply store, make sure that the hair you're buying matches your hair texture so it blends nicely with your natural hair. For example, if your hair is permed and you have very coarse hair, buy yaki hair instead of silky straight, so it won’t look like you just added a lock of Rapunzel’s hair! And if your hair is totally natural, and you don’t want to perm it for your weave, buy Afro kinky hair, which is closest to your natural hair.
3. Always wash and condition your hair and scalp before you do your weave.
4. In order for your weave to look like your own hair always, always, leave some hair out to show your roots. Voila! If you don’t want to leave your hair out, the best thing to do is to weave the back of your head and braid the front with the same hair texture you used in the back.
Now, this is what I call a bad weave! Heaven knows there’s a lot of them on the street, and this isn’t the worst I've seen!
Her weave failed because:
1. The hair is waaaay too long. Ladies, I know you like long hair, and I can understand that, but if you want your weave to look like it's growing out of your scalp (besides my suggestion of leaving some of your natural hair showing to hide your tracks), you should never, never, go longer than 14 inches. Any longer will make your hair look fake, and you dumb.
2. The hair colour is off. Not only does it do nothing for her skin tone, but the real hair she left out doesn’t even blend with the weave. The best colour for her would have been #2 alone or mixed with a lighter colour, or #3 or #4. The colour she used wouldn’t have been so bad if she had mixed it with a darker colour.
I have darker skin than hers, and I sometimes wear #4, but only in the winter, the reasons being:
1. My skin is lighter in the winter.
2. I find it so depressing to wear a black weave with a black coat and black boots. As you know, the most popular colour for outerwear in the winter is black. Anyway, my favourite hair extension colour is #2 (dark brown). I just hate seeing black women with jet black hair and black clothing in the winter; everything is black, it’s so wrong. My advice is that if your favourite colour for weaves is jet black because you want to match your hair colour, do it only in the summer, and go for a lighter colour in the winter, even if you have to dye the part of your own hair you want to leave out. As far as I'm concerned, they can stop making jet black hair. I’m not saying to never wear black hair, but not all the time. The best colour for very dark skin tone is #2, but if you feel your out of your comfort zone get #1B. By the way, it's good to be out of your comfort zone once in a while because we don't always see things that are really flattering on us—but other people do. If you always wear jet black hair, ask your friend to come with you to your hair supply store next time. Or go a step further and try on a wig with a lighter colour.
Another great colour for our friend above would have been #4/30. I know you ladies like colour, there is nothing wrong with that, but seriously, when it comes to hair it’s best to keep it simple and classic, so you don’t look like a Christmas tree on legs. Which means forget about the blue, purple, pink, red, orange, and some of the other crazy colours I've seen on black women’s heads. These colours say only one thing to people—ghetto. I feel bad saying that, but the truth must be told. Now, I'm not saying you can’t have such colours. You can if you’re a teenager; it’s normal to experiment when you're young (or when you're a superstar like Rihanna). Most of us, including older women, can do it too, providing it's done tastefully, which can mean different things to different people.
Later, I will show some pictures of my own take on colour done well.
Full head weave.
Now, who in the heck invented this technique? Wrong, wrong, wrong! It is very simple: if your hair is natural and you want to give it break or simply want to grow it out, please braid it, or get yourself a wig, because that's exactly what your full head weave will look like. And if you’re clever enough to get a wig, not only will you save money, but you'll also achieve your goal of letting your hair grow. Let's face it, no matter how good a hair dresser is, your full head weave will always, always, looks like a wig. And that's only if your hair dresser is good; otherwise you'll end up with a cone head like hers. Not very attractive, ladies! The advantage of getting a wig instead of a full head weave is simple: you can get an inexpensive human hair wig for $120 (even cheaper). I know some of you don’t want to pay that much for a wig, and it shows. Nothing looks cheaper on a black woman than plastic synthetic hair. Add to this the knock-off designer sunglasses and purses, and the package is complete.
But back to our business of wigs. You can wear a wig for almost a year if you treat it right. The other good thing is that you can take it off at night and let your scalp breath. You can also wash and condition your hair and scalp more often than you would with a weave. All that equals healthy hair vs. the full head weave thing. And it actually works out cheaper when you factor in getting your head done and buying the extensions. Let me break it down for you: you’re going to pay $120 or more depending on the hair salon, unless you find someone like me who can do it in their home for around $80; then there's the hair to buy. We're talking about a good $200 worth of hair that you can keep on your head for only four to six weeks max. So a wig definitely works out cheaper. Finally, wigs are versatile. There are so many ways to wear a wig without people knowing it, even when it has bangs.
Later, I’ll show you some pictures and give you some good tips on how to make your wig last longer.