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Celebrities often go from chin-length locks to mermaid hair in a matter of days. Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Kylie Jenner of the Kardashian clan are notorious for having long luscious locks that aren’t necessarily naturally grown. But it’s not just a trick for the rich and famous. Anyone can achieve beyond shoulder length hair without waiting months or years for it to grow. It’s just a matter of finding the right extensions.

If you’ve never tried hair extensions before or want good-looking, long-lasting extensions now, seeking a professional is probably the best place to start. There are many different ways to attach the hair and different types of extensions. A stylist can choose the best hair and method for you.

Having said that, hair and makeup artist Andrea Claire is all about DIY. If you’ve got the time to find and buy the hair and to experiment with attaching it, go for it. Doing it yourself will mean that you can try out different looks that are easy to switch up.

But make sure it looks good. “Short hair can be made into long luscious locks, BUT it needs to blend. Don’t give yourself a mullet!” says Claire. “You can’t just slap in some hair and run. You need to cut, blend and style.” And of course, a stylist will be the best at cutting and placing hair so it looks natural.

Hair extensions
Photography by Richard Dubois and hair by Andrea Claire

The Hair

Whether you go to a salon or pick up the hair yourself, Claire is adamant that you choose genuine human hair. “In my opinion, opt for real hair or don’t bother,” she says. Real hair will blend better with your own, will be easier to heat style and will look better for longer.

Extensions come in different pieces. You can get wefts, which are wide sections of hair sewn together at the top, or extensions that come in smaller sections — from small strands to a few inches wide.

The Method

If you’re a DIY-er, buy hair in wefts and sew hair extension clips to the top of each weft. One on each end and one in the middle. Then, simply clip the hair extension into your own, usually at the back of your head but not at the very bottom of your hair line. You’ll want your own hair to hide the clips both above and below the extensions. If you want to wear your hair up, clip the weft of hair in upside down. The DIY hair weft is great for those who already have long hair but want to add volume. You’re simply clipping in a little extra volume with pieces that match your hair colour and length.

At the salon, hair is fused, taped or sewn in. Fused hair is done in small strands and is bonded to your own hair using keratin-tipped sections that are adhered with heat. This method is the most expensive ($200 to thousands), takes the longest (a few hours) but will last the longest (up to four months).

Taped hair extensions are literally taped onto your own hair using a weft that has double-sided tape along the top. The process can take just an hour and is more affordable than fusion ($200 and up, depending on the salon and hair) and will last four to six weeks. Taped hair can be re-used if treated well, which cuts down on cost next time.

Sewn in extensions or weaves are most commonly used on thick, kinky or curly textured hair because the extensions are sewn into tiny braids. Hair needs to have some body and texture to it for the braids to stay tight over time. This is the most affordable method, costing as little as $100 and can be done in an hour or two (if you’re not getting a full head weave). Sewn in extensions will last about three months. Sewn in hair can be used again and again, also cutting down on the cost the following time.

What To Expect

Don’t: Expect too much. “Extensions are not the answer to all of your hair’s problems,” says Claire.

Do: Expect your hair to fall out when the extensions come out. This isn’t necessarily a sign of damage, though. Claire explains that hair naturally falls out all the time but when extensions are tied or glued into your hair, that prevents natural hair loss. When the extensions are removed, you’ll lose all that hair at once.

Don’t: Be surprised if you hair is a little damaged. While professionals will do their best to minimize damage and breakage, you are bonding, taping or sewing your natural hair.

Do: Ensure that the hair being used matches your own hair’s texture to cut down on damage. Thin or fine hair should be matched with fine extensions so the weight doesn’t put too much stress on your roots.

Don’t: Ever have extensions applied to vulnerable parts of your hair, for instance, along the hairline or anywhere you’ve had prior breakage or damage.