Hair Extensions & Weaves: A Hairstylist’s Guide

Woman receiving weave hair extensions and braids

As a stylist, you’ll need to know how to style your clients’ hair in a variety of ways. Hair extensions and weaves are extremely popular, and there’s a good chance your clients will want these services at some points. That’s why you should know how to install weaves and hair extensions according to the preferences of your clients.

It is also important to educate your clients to properly care for these styles to keep them looking their best as long as possible. Here are a few important things to keep in mind with regard to hair extensions and weaves.

What Are Hair Extensions?

Hair extensions are pieces of synthetic or human hair that are added to a client’s actual hair using a variety of methods. These methods include clips, seamless application, bonding, fusion, braiding, and weaving. While hair extensions should be applied by a hair stylist for many of these methods, some people apply them using simpler methods like clips at home.

However, if your client comes to you with questions about maintaining and installing extensions, it’s essential to have the right information on hand. For instance, hair extensions made from human hair can be heat-styled; synthetic hair extensions usually can’t withstand heat, so it’s best not to blow dry or use a flat iron on them. Hair extensions made from either type of hair can be cut into a style, but in most cases, those made from human hair are better for styles that include layers or defined bangs.

What Is a Weave?

A weave is a method of installing hair extensions that involves sewing the pieces of extensions or wefts into the hair. In most cases, the client’s hair is braided into cornrows or tracks. The extensions used for a weave are gathered at the top and fastened together to create a hair piece. You’ll take the sealed portion of the extension and weave a needle and thread into the area where the hair seals together. Then, you sew the extensions onto the tracks to secure them in the client’s hair.

Additional Methods for Adding Hair Extensions

Bonding Hair Extensions Method

Aside from weaving the hair extension(s) into the client’s hair, you can also use the bonding method. For bonding, you’ll have to apply extension glue to the weft and apply the extension to the root of the client’s hair. This is one of the easiest methods for applying extensions and is temporary. Depending on the client’s hair type, bonded extensions can last for a few weeks.

Fusion Hair Extensions

Fusion hair extensions are similar to bonding, but last longer. For fusion, keratin glue is applied to the extensions. The client’s actual hair is parted into small sections, and a hair extension is applied to each section. The keratin glue is so strong that fusion extensions can last for up to six months.

Clip-in Hair Extensions

Clip-ins are by far the easiest way to apply extensions to the hair. The clip is sewn into the extension and allows you to clip the extension into the client’s hair. Your client can also use this method at home to add bangs or to make their hair appear longer.

Clients who want to add highlights or lowlights to their hair without actually coloring it can use extensions to achieve their desired look. However, to keep the extensions looking their best, they should wash, condition and comb the hair extensions regularly to keep them looking more like natural hair.

Newer Methods for Hair Extensions

As you gain more clientele as a hair stylist and become more established in your field, you’ll need to know about new methods for applying hair extensions.

Micro-links Hair Extensions

The micro-links method doesn’t involve heat or glue, and you won’t have to use glue remover to take the extensions out. Several clients may ask about this method, since micro-links don’t cause any damage to the hair. The client’s natural hair is pulled through in very small sections using a tool that is similar to a crochet hook. Each hair extension is pre-tipped with a sealing agent and put inside the link of the crochet hook and squeezed tightly. To remove micro-link extensions, just use pinchers to open the link; if the hair is properly cared for, it can be re-used several times.

Considerations for the Micro-link Hair Extension Method

You may also want to use a link in certain spots of the hair that may be lifting instead of re-doing all of the client’s hair. This will usually hold the client over until the next hair appointment. The links can form a circle and sew a hairpiece into place or hold wigs down. Since micro-links are very small, they lay naturally on the hair, so if a client gets extension colors that are similar to his/her actual hair or colors that can be used for highlights, the extensions are very hard to see, which makes the style look very natural.

Seamless Hair Extensions

Seamless hair extensions are another new product you’ll need to know about as a hair stylist. The wefted section of the hair comes from an extremely flat polyurethane strip. The strip has double-sided tape, so all you’ll have to do is take off the tape backing and apply it to your client’s hair. These extensions usually last for a few days, or you can add adhesive to the extension to make it last for several months. Seamless hair extensions aren’t easy to detect once they are applied, since they lie flat on the hair and clients can even run their fingers through their hair without feeling the extensions Some clients also prefer them because they are comfortable and don’t require you to braid the natural hair the way you would if you were applying a weave.

Caring for Weaves and Hair Extensions

Once the weave or hair extensions are installed, your client needs to know how to care for the hair at home. Of course, you also need to know how to keep the extensions looking like new, since some clients will come to you for extension maintenance. Weaves require particular care and maintenance. Here are the directions you should recommend to your clients:

Washing

Human hair extensions should be washed and conditioned every 1-2 weeks. This helps the hair maintain its shine and cleans all debris and styling products from the hair. It’s important to dry the hair completely before applying any heat. You should also use a blow dryer after washing the hair to ensure the hair extensions are completely dry.

This is especially important if the hair extensions are woven into the client’s actual hair. If the hair extensions are wet for too long after washing, parts of the client’s hair will also be wet. The moisture buildup can lead to mildew and scalp damage. Inform clients that lukewarm water is best for hair extensions, and that they should wash their hair and extensions at least once a week if they sweat. It’s best to use shampoos and conditioners that are sulfate-free, since they are gentler on the hair extensions and scalp.

General Care for Hair Extensions

Be sure to remind your clients that human hair extensions should be taken care of the same way they would care for their actual hair. Synthetic hair doesn’t last as long and may need to be washed and maintained differently. Some synthetic extensions have specific washing instructions, so be sure to follow these directions so the synthetic extensions will look as attractive as possible for as long as possible.

Caring for Braided Hair

If the client’s hair is braided and hair extensions are sewn onto the braids, it’s best to use a spray bottle to wash between the braids. Combine water and shampoo in the spray bottle and spray the solution onto the braids. This solution should also be applied to the scalp. Gently massage the shampoo and water. Use another spray bottle with just water to rinse the solution from the hair and scalp. This process can be repeated once or twice to ensure the scalp and braids are clean. The hair should be dried completely. It’s essential not to turn the head upside down during washing, since this can tangle the extensions. In addition to using a blow dryer, it may also be best for clients to sit under the hooded dryer to ensure the hair is completely clean.

Leave-Out

If a section of the client’s natural hair is left out, this hair should be tended to as well. Deep conditioning the hair prevents dryness and breakage, so it’s best to deep condition this part of the hair with each shampoo. Pour a small amount of conditioner on the hair and apply it to the leave-out. Place a shower cap on the client’s head and leave the conditioner in for about 20 minutes. You can also place the client under a hooded dryer to intensify the effect of the conditioner. You may also have to use a nozzle bottle filled with conditioner to ensure you reach the roots of the client’s hair. Rinse the conditioner from the hair with warm water and apply a leave-in conditioner to prevent frizz.

Daily Care

While washing and conditioning the hair should be done at least twice a week, antibacterial spray should be applied to a client’s braided hair daily. This keeps mildew from settling on the hair and scalp, since it can take a long time for braided hair to dry. This method is also best for clients who have thick hair that doesn’t dry quickly. The spray should be applied after washing the hair and every day that the hair extensions are in.

Detangling

After washing the hair, detangling the extensions and any part of the hair that is left out is essential. Use a wide-tooth comb for detangling; it’s best to start at the bottom of the hair and work upwards to the weft until the hair is free of tangles.

Hair Extension and Weave Removal

When it’s time for the weave to be removed, be sure to carefully cut the thread from the tracks without cutting the client’s actual hair. Apply hair oil to the client’s head to make it easier for the braids to come out and to condition the hair. Finger comb through the hair and use a wide-tooth comb for detangling. Wash and condition the client’s hair and trim the ends before styling. This keeps the client’s natural hair healthy and in great condition in between extension styles.

For bonded extension styles, use a bond glue remover. Apply a generous amount to the weft of the extensions to gently remove the weft from the hair. Remove any braids carefully and wash, condition and trim the hair.

Consulting with Clients

When you’re in cosmetology school, your instructors will likely show you how to install a hair weave and allow you to practice various extension methods. These skills are essential once you graduate and start taking your own clients. The more you know about hair extensions, the more likely you are to attract a variety of clients who are looking for your services. Keep in mind that while weaves and hair extensions often make the hair look longer, there are weave styles you can install that give clients with long hair a shorter style. Extensions are one of the best ways to drastically change your client’s hair style without having to cut their natural hair or wait for the hair to grow to a certain length.

Once you learn the skills and techniques for applying a weave or hair extensions, it’s very important that you consult with your clients when they request a style that requires extensions. Explain the various ways that the extensions can be applied to the hair and show your clients examples of the application methods so they can make the best choice for their hair type and desired style. Some clients may have sensitive scalps and if you use the weaving method for hair extensions, this can cause discomfort. Be clear about the removal methods for the extensions and how the client’s extensions and natural hair should be cared for to keep the client’s hair healthy and keep the extensions looking their best for as long as possible.

Want to Learn More?

Did learning about extensions and weaves interest you? Need to get your undergraduate certificate in cosmetology? At Minnesota School of Cosmetology, we are dedicated to helping our Cosmetology program students develop a solid foundation and a flair for style through hands-on training in basic and advanced industry techniques. You will learn how to cut, color and style hair, give manicures and pedicures, provide spa treatments and perform various skin care techniques from industry-experienced instructors in a professional salon setting. We keep our class sizes small to make sure you get the individualized instruction you need and attention you deserve. You will graduate with everything you need to be a versatile artist in an exciting industry, including a cosmetology diploma from a respected college.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a cosmetologist and starting a rewarding career in the beauty industry.

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