Hair extensions are an excellent way to get your hair to look fuller and longer. While getting extensions is simple enough, taking care of them is a whole other story.
Maintaining your extensions well is essential—after all, you don’t want them coming off or getting ruined well before their time and all that money, time, and effort going down the drain!
Regular attention and care will ensure that your extensions live their longest and best lives. Whether you’ve got synthetic extensions or Remys, a few good habits will keep your extensions looking healthy and smooth.
If you’ve just got your first extensions or want a refresher on how to take care of hair extensions, here’s the only guide you’ll need!
How to Take Care of Hair Extensions
From storing to brushing to styling to washing, there are several things, most of them requiring very little effort, that you can do to make sure your hair extensions last longer. Here are a few tips to help you out.
Brushing Your Extensions
Just as you would with real hair, you need to brush extensions gently and properly to keep them healthy. If you’ve got removable extensions, always brush them out after taking them off. Stack the wefts one on top of the other and brush them out gently, working your way up from the ends to the roots.
If you encounter a stubborn knot along the way, remove that particular weft and work it on separately. Remember—pesky knot or otherwise, being gentle is key.
Additionally, never brush your wefts when they’re wet, as they’re more prone to breakage when they’re wet. Instead, brush your extensions when they’re completely dry, or at least about 90% dry.
It’s also important that you use the right brush on your extensions. Stick with a soft bristle brush or a wide-tooth comb for the best results. You’ll also find several brushes designed specifically for brushing out extensions, with looped nylon bristles that glide easily through the strand and make short work of those pesky tangles, sans any of the damage, snagging, or pulling that are characteristic of regular hairbrushes!
Keeping Your Wefts Tangle-Free
Just like normal human hair, wefts, especially Remys, are susceptible to that bane of all haired things—tangling and matting. Matting and tangling happen due to dryness, insufficient brushing, and even the impacts of weather.
For example, humidity causes frizz causes matting and tangling! On the other hand, heat will dry out your hair, but ultimately cause matting and tangling just like humidity will.
Additionally, when you use them throughout the day, factors such as friction, the acidic and salty sweat from your scalp and nape, heat, and natural hair movement contribute to matting or the creation of clumps in your extensions. This is why consistent (and not necessarily constant) brushing throughout the day, with the right brush or comb, is important.
Also, on windy days, consider tying up your hair—ponytails and half-ups can be just as chic as those loose beach waves!
Pro-tip—coat each weft with a teensy bit of hair oil to keep it smooth, silky, and frizz-free.
At night, consider wrapping your hair in silk or satin or using a silk or satin pillowcase to prevent tangling and dryness. You could even put your hair in two loose pigtail braids for waves and texture the next day. Avoid low buns, top knots, or free-flowing hair so that you aren’t left with a knotted, matted mess!
Washing Your Hair Extensions
Extensions don’t have a natural hydrating or moisturizing source, unlike real hair. Therefore, they’re not as oily or prone to becoming oily, which means that you don’t need to wash them as often as human hair.
However, it does mean that when you do wash them, you use hydrating products (without alcohol and sulfates, as these can dry the hair severely), with oils and nutrients, to keep them sufficiently moisturized and nourished. Sometimes, you can even forgo the shampooing and stick only to conditioning.
Make sure you’re gentle and don’t rub your extensions too much. While a hot shower is all kinds of wonderful, it isn’t going to be so wonderful for your extensions, so stick to warm or lukewarm water to prevent natural oils from getting stripped.
Additionally, while conditioning, don’t stray too close to your roots, as the conditioner may cause your extensions to loosen or slip out.
It also helps to have the water run down your hair (instead of flipping your hair over) to prevent tangles and knots.
Always follow up on your shampooing/conditioning with a cold-water rinse to seal in the moisture. Squeeze out the excess water and make sure that you’re not rubbing your extensions with your towel when you’re drying them.
How Often Should I Wash My Extensions?
When it comes to how often you need to wash your extensions, follow this commandment—the lesser thou washest your extensions, the longer they shalt last!
Wash your extensions only when necessary, such as when there’s a product build-up (identifiable by increasing styling difficulty) or they’re starting to look stringy and dirty. Use your judgment, but if that fails, stick to washing your extensions about once a month (or every 30 uses).
Remember—each type of extension, from clip-ins to pre-taped wefts to micro rings, come with its own care requirements. Check with your hairstylist about what these are and follow them for extensions that last longer and also allow your natural hair to grow.
Deep-Condition Once a Week
Greasing hair may be a pain, but it’s a sign that your hair’s receiving nourishment in the form of a constant supply of natural oils from the scalp. Your extensions, bonded as they are to the roots, aren’t going to receive any of this oily goodness.
To keep them moisturized and shining gorgeously, consider a deep-conditioning treatment once a week, along with all of the above points.
Coconut, macadamia, and argan oil are all great options; they’re also natural and come with none of the harm that synthetic products come with. There are also several DIY hydration masks that you can try if store-bought options don’t work for you.
Just make sure that you’re not applying the product anywhere near your roots—we don’t want those extensions loosening or slipping away!
Drying Your Extensions
Unless you’re crunched for time, avoid blow-drying your extensions. Just as it damages and causes breakage to real hair, blow-drying will damage your weaves.
If you absolutely must blow-dry your extensions, prep them with a heat protectant spray. Additionally, use the cool setting to keep heat damage at bay. Start at the root and work your way to the tips, blow-drying in a downward-facing direction. Doing so will not only keep your cuticles smooth but also keep the hair from getting tangled.
Only brush through when the hair’s fully or at least 90% dry. You can use a micro-fiber towel to speed up the drying process. Micro-fiber towels are excellent as they suck up water extremely fast without causing frizz or roughness in the hair.
When using a micro-fiber towel, make sure you’re patting the excess moisture out of the hair and not rubbing it out. It’s best and easiest to lay out your extensions on a flat surface and dry them.
If you notice any stubborn or big knots and tangles, finger-comb through to loosen them.
Oh, and never, ever sleep with wet or even slightly damp hair! You’re going to wake up with a serious case of bedhead, which means an eternity untangling your hair. All that brushing is also going to pull at the scalp and possibly loosen your bonds.
The Right Hair Care Products
Apart from all of this, the right hair care products will make sure that your extensions remain as matting and tangle-free as possible. Products formulated specifically for damaged/dry hair, with moisturizing ingredients such as castor, coconut, or argan oil, will work wonders, keeping your weaves manageable, nourished, soft, and healthy.
Always read the label when buying a new product, and stay away from products with the following ingredients:
- Surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- Alcohol denat
- SD alcohol 40
All of these can remove the natural oils in your extensions, affecting their strength and making them drier and more prone to matting and tangling. Use products with these ingredients long enough and you’re also setting your natural hair up for significant damage and ergo, a shortened lifespan.
Products without sulfates and alcohol may not necessarily produce much lather, but that, in no way, means that they’re less efficient—they can do just as good a job, or even better a job, than hair products with the two ingredients.
Beware that many companies that claim to have sulfate-free products may actually be hiding sulfates and alcohol in other ingredients and formulae. This is why it’s necessary to know the ingredients and not merely look for the “alcohol-free” or “sulfate-free” tag.
Additionally, limit the use of sticky styling products such as hair wax, gel, and spray. These can create coats over your extensions and clog the pores. You’ll also need to wash your extensions more often if you use hair products, which, as we’ve seen, is detrimental to your extensions’ life, leaving you with tangled, dry, limp strands.
Don’t style your extensions differently from your natural hair. Even if you use mild products on your extensions and use regular products on your natural hair, the latter can move to your extensions, thanks to factors such as heat and head movement.
If you thought your extensions were above shedding, we have some news for you—shedding is a common problem even with hair extensions, especially ones made of human hair.
Your extensions will shed when you brush and style them—don’t let this worry or scare you. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. As is the case with human hair, a few steps will help reduce the amount your extensions shed.
- Gently brush out your extensions before you wash them, and post-washing, only once they’re completely or 90% dry. This minimizes any shedding from breakage.
- Brush your extensions before and after every use; if you can, also brush them every night before going to bed and every morning, after you wake up.If you don’t have the time to brush, at least finger-comb your extensions to separate the bonds daily. This shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes and doesn’t require any tools, either.
- Don’t wash your extensions too often, especially with sulfate and alcohol-containing products. Extensions shed more when they’re brittle and dry, so keep them well-moisturized.
- Use low-heat/cool blow-drying settings (not more than 250℉) when drying and styling your extensions. Your natural hair may be able to withstand this, as it’s constantly receiving nourishment from the body, but your extensions won’t.
- Limit the usage of styling products, as this will necessitate more washing and provide more opportunities for shedding. Extensions are typically healthy, silky, and gorgeous already when you get them, so you shouldn’t need too much extra help in the form of products.If you want your extensions to hold curls better, pin them up overnight or for as long as possible (even if that’s just an hour) instead of using styling products and sprays. If you must use a spray, use a lightweight formula that makes brushing through easier; heavy formulas will clog up the extensions and warrant more washing.
How to Store Your Hair Extensions
When not in use, removable hair extensions must be stored properly to maximize their lives. Storing them properly takes only a few minutes, but can make a world of difference to your extensions’ lifespan and quality.
If you’re using clip-ins, take them off, give them a good brush, and ensure that all the clips are shut, before your store them.
The most convenient way to store your extensions is as ponytails—use a hair tie (preferably satin) as close to the wefts as possible to create a ponytail. Then, gently roll the extensions into loops and place them in the storage container. (If you want light waves in your extensions the next time you wear them, you can even gently knot the hair together!)
The easiest thing to do for a storage container is to repurpose the box your extensions came in as a storage box. Some brands even design their boxes to be reusable this way.
If you hastily threw away the packaging, don’t worry! Any airtight container, or even a shoe box, will work.
If that’s too pleb for you, several brands sell specially designed boxes to store hair extensions. These keep your weaves from tangling and damage while protecting the shape of the extensions (a boon if you’ve just styled them), prolonging the life of your extensions. These boxes are also excellent for travel.
Store your extensions in a dry, cool spot without any direct sunlight. Also, make sure that the extensions are completely dry; moisture may attract bacterial and mold growth.
Styling Your Extensions
As mentioned earlier, limit the use of styling products and blow-drying on your extensions. If you do want to style them, opt for heat-free, styling-products-free methods as much as possible.
When it comes to coloring and dying, it’s best to buy extensions in the color that you want, instead of coloring them later. Many brands sell extensions in a range of solid colors as well as lowlights and highlights, which are excellent for adding depth, dimension, and movement.
In case you can’t find extensions in the color you want, human hair extensions can be dyed to a darker shade. It is recommended that you leave coloring jobs to the professionals and get either the brand or an experienced salon to do it for you.
Bleaching your extensions is a complete no-no. Your extensions have most probably already been dyed before coming to you and trying to bleach hair that’s already been dyed is tough—in most cases, you’re not going to achieve the color you want because of the preexisting dye and its impact on the new dye.
You could resort to alternatives such as increasing the amount of bleach used and/or the amount of time you let your hair soak in the bleach, but this will most certainly increase the chances of damage, especially on delicate accessories such as extensions.
If you’ve got your heart set on coloring your extensions, test it out first on a single weft. This will save you a ton of time, money, and effort. Depending on how satisfied you are with the results, go ahead and color the whole set, or ditch the plan!
How Long Will My Hair Extensions Last?
Depending on how often you wear them, how well you care for them, and what material they’re made of, hair extensions can last anywhere between three months to over a year.
Constant heat styling and washing will shorten your extensions’ lifespans, but it’s essential that you keep them sufficiently moisturized to reduce any dryness (unlike human hair, extensions don’t have a natural source of hydration).
Find the right balance between washing, conditioning, styling, and moisturizing your extensions to ensure that they last long.
There’s no doubt that extensions will transform your tresses, but while walking out of the salon with gorgeous locks is guaranteed, the challenge lies in keeping them looking this way!
To keep your extensions looking healthy and shiny until the end of their lives, proper care is necessary—a combination of regular maintenance appointments and caring for your weaves at home. This may mean an additional aftercare routine to deal with, but it’s a necessity for those shiny locks!