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Undercover Love: How to Care For Your Hair Underneath Your Extensions


We’ve all seen the YouTube videos and read the online horror stories: Lady Gets Weave - Hair Falls Out! Woman With Male Pattern Baldness Stuns and Stumps Doctors! Says She Left Extensions In for 14 Months!” Women who have lost or severely damaged their hair and the people who love them will be the first to tell you that the absolute worst thing you can do in the world is to get hair extensions.

Their awful experiences have made them believe that weaves and extensions were the reason that they suffered hair damage, but in most cases they’d be entirely wrong.

Done the right way, extensions can be one of the absolute best protective styles you can do for your hair. The key is to make sure that you take care of your own hair while wearing the extensions. Check out the following to find out how to care for your hair while wearing hair extensions, braids or wigs.


Why Do Some Hair Extensions Murder Hair?


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Many women have had salon experiences where their hair was ruined by hair extensions. Many others have worn extensions but experienced near unlimited hair growth, sprouting lush new inches every month while improving the overall health of their existing hair. What gives? Why is there a marked difference between the two groups’ experiences? There are a few reasons that some people end up destroying their own hair while wearing hair extensions, including the following: 

The hair was damaged before the extensions were put in.

If your hair is in a weakened state due to breakage, over processing, a bad diet or any other number of hair-destroying issues, the absolute very last thing you should ever do is add extensions into the mix. It won’t be able to handle the stress.

Poor quality hair was used.

Many people use the excuse of being on a budget to explain away purchasing poor quality hair extensions. When your wallet squeaks every time you reach for it, you’re probably going to look for the absolute best deal you can find when it comes to buying hair. The problem is that poor quality extensions are made out of poor quality materials and fillers. When those materials touch your own hair, they strip it of oils and moisture while breaking the strands. Result: damage and hair loss.


The install technique damaged the hair.


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Incorrectly installed hair extensions are one of the easiest ways to destroy your hair underneath the install. A bad sew-in can mean death to delicate strands. Some extension techniques like fusion work better on certain hair textures than on others. Fusion is a hair extension technique where your hair is parted off into sections and extension hair is glued to your hair with keratin.

While these methods can look amazing if done by the right stylist, they are not good options for people with delicate strands. Our hair is powerful, but it’s not invincible. You need to choose an extension technique that will be good to your hair underneath. 

The hair underneath the install wasn’t taken care of.

Many people think that giving their hair a break from being manipulated and styled by wearing extensions also means giving themselves a break from taking care of their own hair. NOT. THE. SAME. THING. Not taking care of their own hair underneath the install is one of the major reasons that women end up damaging or losing their own hair when it comes to wearing extensions.

The extensions were left in too long.

Sometimes hair extensions look so flawless and beautiful that people leave them in for much longer than they should. There are some women that boast about leaving their extensions in for months on end. While some women may get away with this with their hair intact and in good shape when they finally take the extensions out, they’re they exception to the rule. Those are the people would can practically set fire to their hair, and it will look amazing. For the rest of us, leaving installs in for months on end will lead to tangling, breakage or worse.  

The hair was installed too tightly.

Inexperienced stylists are sometimes the culprit when it comes to hair loss with extensions. If your own hair is gripped or braided too tightly, your hair could literally be pulled from its roots. Hair that is braided too tightly along the hairline is one of the main causes of traction alopecia and lost edges. 


How To Take Care Of Your Own Hair While Wearing Extensions


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Now that we’ve gotten the ugly out of the way, we can talk about the good stuff. You can have your cake and eat it too when it comes to extensions. You can rock extensions for whatever reason you wish, whether it’s to change your look, protect your hair or just give your own hair a break.

The only thing you have to do is make sure that while you're wearing the extensions, you do everything in your power to make sure that your hair underneath the install stays moisturized, clean and healthy. The following tips can help you do just that.


Wash, condition and moisturize your real hair regularly while wearing your extensions.


Photo by João Paulo de Souza Oliveira on Unsplash


Louder for the people in the back. TAKE CARE OF YOUR REAL HAIR UNDERNEATH THE INSTALL. When you wear extensions, it automatically gives your hair a rest from the heat and manipulation that comes from daily styling. It does not give you a rest from taking care of your own hair underneath.

Make sure that your own hair is clean, conditioned and well moisturized underneath the install. Deep condition it before you put the extensions in so that it’s strong enough to handle being tied away for weeks at a time. Wash, condition and add moisture to your hair as often as needed while wearing your extensions in order to keep it well hydrated so that it’s healthy and lush when the install is removed. Ask your stylist how to access your hair without disturbing the extensions.

Don’t leave extensions in for too long.

It’s very tempting to going for long periods of time without getting your extensions redone, especially when the install still looks good after a couple of months. While your stylist’s skills may have been such that the install on top looks amazing week after week, your hair underneath the install is continuing to grow. 

As your hair grows, its natural shedding process continues, even underneath the install. That shed hair has nowhere to go, so it stays trapped inside the extensions. If you get your install done regularly, that shed hair will be easy to comb out and remove when you take the install down. If you’ve had the extensions in for too long, that shed hair could become entangled in the rest of your hair. When you finally remove the extensions, you could have extensive breakage and damage trying to remove the shed hair.

Use quality hair extensions.


Photo by Godisable Jacob from Pexels 

It can be very tempting to buy the cheapest extensions you can find, especially when you’re on a budget. The cost of the extensions themselves and the cost of the install can cost quite a bit, so you’re looking for ways to cut corners. You may select pack hair from the beauty supply store, reasoning with yourself that you can always change it out and replace it before the quality inevitably goes down.

The problem with cheap quality hair extensions is that you literally have no idea what you’re putting on your hair. Poor quality hair extensions, even those that have been labeled “human”, have fillers and other unpleasant ingredients that could seriously damage your hair. That’s why you’ll hear some women complain of dryness and breakage with their own hair even after wearing cheap quality extensions for a short period of time. At best, you could experience dryness if the cheap quality hair strips oils and moisture from your own hair. At worst, you could have a bad reaction to whatever chemicals and fillers are on the hair.

There are affordable, high-quality extensions out there that will give you the gorgeous, flawless look you want, helping you save money while protecting your hair. They can be washed and reused without having any damaging effects on your hair. 


Choose an install technique that doesn’t damage your own hair.

There are many different hair extension techniques out there. Clip-in hair extensions, full or partial sew-ins, microlinks, fusion, closure installs - the list seems endless, and every time you turn around, there’s another technique being launched on YouTube or Instagram. Some techniques work better on certain types of hair while other techniques work best on other types of hair. Ask your stylist to assess the condition of your hair as well as your hair type to find out which extension style will work for you. 

For instance, you may decide that you want to get microlinks because you’ve seen amazing videos featuring flawless, undetectable microlink installs on social media, and you’ve heard about how versatile they are. You think microlinks would be an amazing way to rock a different look while covering up your own hair.

The problem is that with microlinks, your own hair isn’t tied away. It’s connected to the extension via beads, and it’s left exposed. It’s a great style for people who don’t mind manipulating their real hair while wearing extensions, but it’s not what you think of when you think of a protective style. It could be damaging for someone who’s hair is in a fragile state. Avoid this extension style if your own hair couldn’t handle the constant manipulation.


Avoid extensions completely if your hair is extremely fragile and damaged.


"kanga" by jasleen_kaur is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’ve been dealing with hair loss and scalp damage due to stress, overstyling, medical conditions or some other sort of trauma, it’s best to avoid extensions completely. You want to give your hair follicles and scalp a rest while you go through the process of healing your strands. Wigs would be your best bet since you can protect your hair during the day while rocking the style you want and continue treating your tresses underneath.


Choose a good stylist who cares about hair health.

This may be last on this list, but it’s one of the most important things you should do to protect your own hair while wearing extensions. Choose a stylist who cares about healthy hair care as much as they care about what the final style looks like. They won’t braid your hair too tightly, they will give you an action plan for post-install hair care, and they’ll give you tips on how to take care of your hair.

Wearing hair extensions is a fabulous way to change up your look while giving your hair a rest from the rigors of daily styling. The tips above can help ensure that your own tresses continue to thrive while you rock your latest look.


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