Review: Tape-In Hair Extensions

*Before you begin reading the post, I suggest you click this video and let the music set the tone*

A little over a week ago, my life changed forever and immeasurably for the better.  No, I did not achieve enlightenment.  No, I did not cure cancer.  No, I did not adopt the golden retriever puppy of my dreams.

I had small pieces of someone else’s hair taped to my head.  And I could not be happier about it.

In my lifelong beauty journey, my hair has always seemed to be the one thing I just couldn’t quite get right, mostly because I was born with what my Mom (lovingly?) refers to as Your Dad’s Hair – i.e., very thin, curly hair that doesn’t want to grow much past my shoulders.  No matter how many deep conditioning treatments and highlights I put my hair though, nothing can replicate the fullness and thickness of simply having MORE hair.

So I finally decided to take matters into my own hands and set up a hair extensions consultation at Chicago Hair Extensions Salon (also known as the same place I have my eyelash extensions done.)  Here’s what I learned:

The Basics of Tape-In Extensions

The very lovely Ashley, my new hair guru, explained to me that I am a prime candidate for tape-in extensions because they are lightweight and easy to hide under my thin, fine hair.  Tape-ins add fullness, length and can be washed/curled/straightened/styled just as I do my own hair.   She told me I would need to come back in 6-10 weeks, depending on how fast my hair grows (Spoiler: It grows incredibly slowly) and she will move the extensions up and re-tape them.  The hair can be used 2-3 times before needing to purchase new extensions.

Here’s how the application process works.  It’s called the “sandwich method”:

I happily threw down my card and paid the down payment (we’ll get to price later…prepare yourselves) and I was counting down the seconds until I came back for application.

Before & After

For the application itself, Ashley instructed me to shampoo my hair twice before our appointment and not use ANY styling products.  Here’s what my hair looked like before extensions – this is also pre-flat iron, I promise I didn’t normally walk around looking this janky:

before

Not the greatest head of hair you’ve ever seen, right?  Well just 1 short hour later, my head looked like this:

after

Do you see the heavens parting?  Can you hear the angels rejoicing?  That is H-A-I-R, my friend.  Lots of it.  My hair is now a good 3-4 inches longer than before and sooooooo much thicker.  I am in love.

Ashley applied the majority of the extensions on the back and sides of my head up to ear level, making sure to leave the crown area alone so my own hair can cover the extension bonds.

I can’t really put into words how happy I was with my new fabulous, long, thick hair but my face makes it pretty clear:

full

And for one more comparison to show you what a difference the extensions make, here’s how my side braid looks before and after:

side-braid-beforeside-braid

Maintenance & Upkeep

I have to admit that it took me a couple days to:

  1. Get used to the added weight – So this is what it feels like to have thick hair!
  2. Walk past any reflective surface without stopping to admire and pet my hair
  3. Update what used to be my 5 minute hair care routine

Hair extensions are expensive so it’s important to treat them as gently as possible to get your money’s worth.  Here are the maintenance and upkeep must-do’s:

  • Use a loop or extension brush – My salon was kind enough to give me a free brush.  It’s crucial to have the proper brush or you can snag your extension hair or get caught up in the bonds when brushing.  Amazon has some great brushes.

    remysoft-loop-brush-for-hair-extensions_thumb155_crop

  • Sleep in a braid or low ponytail on a silk pillowcase – It’s important to keep your hair in a loose braid or low pony while sleeping to reduce tangling and pulling on the tape bonds.  Bonus: Sleeping with a braid gives you lovely waves in the morning.
    While it’s not an absolute necessity, I also highly recommend sleeping on a silk pillowcase to further reduce any snags – and you’ll wake up without those annoying sleep face lines.  I have the pillowcases below and they are amazing (and they stay super cold during the night):

    61dzgoa-8wl-_sl1500_

  • Sulfate-free is the way to be – Ashley emphasized that I can only use a sulfate-free shampoo when washing my hair and to concentrate on the top of my head, being sure not to scrub or pull on the tape bonds.  It’s also best to go a few days between washing to extend the life of your extensions. Batiste dry shampoo continues to be my best friend.

    batisteAfter shampooing, apply conditioner only from ears down and not near the bonds.  Conditioner can make the tape bonds loosen faster and we don’t want that.  I like to spray on leave-in conditioner to the mid lengths and ends each night before braiding.

  • Styling tips – It is a HUGE no-no to go to bed with wet hair when you have extensions, so I make sure to blow dry the bonds and top of my head, letting the length air dry.  Once the hair is dry, I use a heat protector spray and curl or flat iron.  It’s imperative to keep the curling iron or flat iron away from the tape bonds so always leave start an inch or two away from the bonds and you’re good to go.

    back                                                                 Post-blow dry and curling 

Price

If there is one downside to extensions, it’s obviously the price.  They are not cheap.  I don’t want to say the exact price I paid, partially because prices vary by salon, extension brand, applier, etc. and mostly because my Mom reads this blog and if I say the exact price I will Hear. About. It. the next time I’m back home. (Well, once she prints off this post at the tiny library a mile down the road and brings it home to read because my parents shun the internet. I am not making this up.)

I’ll give you a ballpark price of $400-800, which includes the hair extensions themselves and the installation labor. The price will be around $100-$150 every 6-10 weeks to have them moved up and re-taped.

Yes, I know this is expensive and quite frankly kind of a odd thing to do when you really think about it. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have a thing for spending my money on applying hair to different parts of my head. Some people go sky diving, some people bet on sports, some people buy houses. I buy hair and it makes me feel fabulous. The universe is working on all of us.

And there you have it!  My tape-in hair extensions experience thus far.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how things progress but for now, I couldn’t be happier.

Curly Hair Routine & Favorite Products

When it comes to my hair, I live a lie most of the time.  As I’ve mentioned before, I almost bankrupt myself every month maintaining my dyed blonde hair. I also spend a fair amount of time fighting against my natural curls and beating them into submission with blow-drying, flat ironing and curse words.

But every now and then I say screw it and let the curls fly free.  As any curly girl knows, it takes some product and practice to get your curls to behave and look their best.  Here’s my tried and true curly hair routine and favorite products:

carrie

Photo Credit: fashionista.com
  • Curl Activating Shampoo and Conditioner

Do curl activating shampoos and conditioners really help your curls be the best they can be? I think so.  Is it all a placebo effect and I’m just lighting my money on fire?  Maybe.  Either way, I use the L’Oreal EverCurl Hydracharge Sulfate-Free Shampoo and Conditioner  because I think it gives my curls a little more oomph and makes them soft and shiny.

shampoo

Photo Credit: drugstore.com
  • Thou Shalt Not Use A Towel

Towels might seem all warm and cuddly and non-threatening but rub one on your freshly washed curls and you’re in for trouble and a LOT of frizz.  Instead, use an old, soft cotton T-shirt to blot your hair (don’t rub, don’t you dare rub) and squeeze out the excess water.  The key to frizz-free curls is to touch them as little as possible.

blue

Photo Credit: target.com
  • Define Those Curls

Now we’re getting somewhere.  While my hair is still fairly wet, I scrunch the curls with Paul Mitchell’s Round Trip Curl Definer.  This stuff is great because it’s not a gel but more of a serum that helps separate and define your curls without weighing them down and making them stiff.  Gel + wet curls = crunchy late 80’s Jessie Spano hair and we don’t want that.  What we’re going for is more “Penny Lane in Almost Famous” curls.

PL

Photo Credit: teachmix.com

  • Don’t Touch

This is one of the most important steps: Do nothing.  Walk away.  Do not touch your curls.  Let them air dry for a bit while you put your makeup on or do whatever else your heart desires.

  • Mousse and Style

We’ve reached the home stretch!  Once your hair is almost completely dry, scrunch/carefully comb through a golf ball-sized amount of mousse through your curls.  My go-to is the Aussie Mousse + Leave-In Conditioner because it smells AMAZING and the leave-in conditioner leaves my hair super soft.

mousse

Photo Credit: makeupalley.com

  • Finishing Touches

If you’ve got the time, I highly suggest using a curling iron roughly the size of your curls to define the top layer.  I like to randomly pick small pieces and alternate the direction of the iron so that it looks more natural.  My curls aren’t tightly wound so I stick with an inch or 1.5 inch iron.

iron

Photo Credit: ulta.com

And that’s it! Enjoy your curls 🙂

curls