During my time living and working in New York City, at one point I worked as a stylist on photo shoots. It was there that I learned that 90% of the time, models wore clip-in hair extensions during shoots to add fullness, length, or both to their hair. I asked a Hair and Makeup Artist on one particular shoot about hair extensions, and on the next shoot she brought me a loaner set of clip-ins to try for myself. I was immediately hooked. I mean, who doesn’t want Victoria Secret model-length hair? Since then I’ve purchased many sets of clip-in extensions, before I took the leap into permanent hair extensions.

So here’s What You Need to Know about Clip-In Hair Extensions:

  • Clip-in extensions are a great starting point if you’ve never tried any type of extension before, because they’re not permanent.

  • While the price of Clip-Ins at a Beauty Supply Store like Sally’s is appealing, you get what you pay for. The quality isn’t great and you don’t get as much hair as somewhere like Bellami Hair.

  • The best clip-in set I ever purchased was the Bellami Hair 220 Grams of 22” long hair. It came with so much hair that I only used half the set of clip-ins, allowing me to swap between sets for a longer lifespan.

  • You can wash and heat-style clip-ins just like regular hair. In fact, Bryce has held my clip-ins at the root on many occasions so I could curl my clip-ins. True love, I know.

  • I recommend buying hair longer than you need, and taking it to your hair stylist to trim and have them match the color.

After years of wearing clip-ins, I was ready for something more permanent. I was just tired of waking up to a baby bun of like 10 hairs. I didn’t always have sad, thin hair, but I’m guessing age has played it’s part in the demise of my hair thickness over the years. I also did years of keratin treatments, which I think contributed to my hair thinning over time. I’ve tried vitamins, specialty shampoos and conditioners, limited heat styling. Now, my hair is not in a dire situation - I don’t have bald spots or anything. And it’s likely I just have an unrealistic expectation for what I want from my hair. But I want what I want, and that’s Kardashian-esque long and thick hair.

I found a salon in Mclean that did Keratin Fusion Extensions and it was a nightmare. I showed up and the hair stylist had what looked like a glue gun - no, but really - and she convinced me the “glue” was the keratin. She would take small batches of real hair and “glue” it to chunks of my own. It took forever for not just my initial appointment, but for every follow up appointment. I’m talking 3-4 hours. I don’t know about you, but I barely have time to pee these days, let alone 3-4 hours for hair touch-ups. Not to mention it was crazy expensive - I’m talking $1,200 for the first set and $300-400 for touch-ups every 4-6 weeks. The stylist originally quoted me around $100 for touch ups, but after I visited for my first touch up, she quoted me triple the price and said she didn’t expect my hair to grow that fast, so I needed more than she expected. To top it all off, I would have random chunks of hair come out at any given time. So I didn’t stick with this method long and I’ve never looked back. Maybe it was just the stylist I had, and maybe others have had positive experiences with Keratin Fusion Extensions, but you couldn’t pay me to get them now.

But, despite the Keratin Fusion Nightmare, I missed the fullness and length of my hair extensions. Emily at Dollistic, one of the best in micro-blading in the DMV (I’ve also heard that Chelsea at The West Institute is incredible), recommended Shelby Anderson Beauty to me for permanent Hand-Tied Wefts Hair Extensions, when I inquired while getting my eyebrows micro-bladed (details on that for another post, promise). Pro Tip: Ask your beauty/self care go-to people for recommendations for other products, services, professionals. They work with women all.day.long. So they hear it all. But I digress. I made an appointment with Shelby and I’ve been exclusive with her for a year and a half. I’ve literally NEVER been this dedicated to a hair stylist, extensions or not.

So here’s What You Need to Know about Hand-Tied Wefts Hair Extensions:

  • Shelby can give you the thickness, fullness and match the color you want.

  • She uses a method that takes strips of hair, like clip-in extensions without the clips, and uses your own hair to hand-tie the strip into your own hair.

  • It’s painless and pretty quick for the inital set.

  • Touch-ups are every 4-6 weeks, as the extensions need to be pulled back up to the scalp as your own hair grows out. I’m psycho and don’t like the feeling of the extensions “hanging” down off my scalp, so I go every 4 weeks, but touch-ups are very reasonable price-wise.

  • She uses real hair, and here’s the kicker- she even has extensions with natural wave that matches my own hair texture! I literally can wash and go and the natural wave air-dries beautifully. My hair is less maintenance now than without her extensions.

  • I do a coconut oil mask once a week, usually on Sundays, in which I take coconut oil and drench my hair in it, braid it, go to sleep, and wash it out the next day. Any coconut oil will work. I bought two tubs from Costco that I use. Sticking to the mask weekly helped me maintain my first set for a year!

  • Shelby says the average person needs to replace their extensions after about 6 months, but because I was so religious about taking care of my hair and doing my weekly masks, mine lasted a year.

I will be wearing extensions in my grave - I am that dedicated. In fact, when Shelby mentioned to me her interest in starting a family one day, I literally had visions of me making house calls to her house and holding her baby while she did my hair. I mean, I am the What About Bob client. Like, I am not going anywhere. Ever. Too creepy? I’m just committed! I took a few months off this summer, and honestly, it just didn’t feel like me. I love having long, thick hair, so extensions it is for me.

Natalie Strahorn