Dramatic hair changes mark a turning point, a new life stage, and often, a new you. It’s a way to hit refresh. Many a beauty buff, myself included, are of the opinion that making a well-considered but radical change in your appearance is empowering because it implies that you’re ready to make equally radical life changes, too.   

Image: Instagram @negin_mirsalehi

But not everyone wants to (or is game enough) to chop off precious centimetres, or proclaim to your horrified hairdresser that you want to see if blondes really do have more fun. Been there, done that (twice), and as cathartic as it was, I regretted both the lob and the bleach blonde ‘do a mere few days – okay, hours – later.

No doubt you’ve heard of the “breakup haircut”. The beauty trope has been around for decades, and is based on the universal beauty law that when you change your hair, you change your life. This is the position I found myself in recently – after a particularly spectacular breakup, I decided it was time for a revamp, and that I would work from the outside, in (admittedly because it was easier to change up my look than see my therapist, although I would argue that in the end, they were of almost equal value).

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @B.L.A.K.E.L.I.V.E.L.Y

But what if I told you there was an alternative – nay, antithesis – to the break-up chop? If you’re seeking a transformation that will have your friends (and exes) doing a double take, there is one beauty tweak that practically guarantees that: hair extensions.

Now, hear me out: I know I’m not alone when I say I used to be a bit of a hair extension snob. Between tapes peeking out of many a stranger’s scalp, or stringy ends on celebrities, no doubt we’ve all seen some dodgy lengthening jobs. But I needn’t have been so scared – in actual fact, these days the majority of celebrities (think Margot Robbie, virtually all members of the Jenner-Kardashian clan, and yes, even Blake Lively) are rocking them undetectably on and off red carpets. The secret to looking fab, rather than drab? It all lies in the quality. I found and tried two types of quality extensions in my quest for long, flowing locks – temporary, and permanent.

IMAGE: @SITTINGPRETTYHALOHAIR

For the uninitiated, temporary hair extensions offer the perfect gateway drug to longer locks, pronto. Enter: the Sitting Pretty Hair Halo. A great starting option, these extensions are made from 100% Remy, high quality, ethically-sourced human hair, and are just as soft as they are shiny. Not one to do things by halves, I opted for the ‘Thick’ option – at 20 inches long, these babies can be cut and coloured by your hairdresser to suit your current ‘do to a T. If you’re not sure what shade to choose online, there is the handy option of sending a photo of your hair over email for a flawless colour match.

The beauty of these extensions is that they apply literally within seconds and come with adjustable, almost-invisible wires, for a comfortable and seamless fit for all head sizes. Another benefit is that they’re temporary – meaning that you can rock a short or long style depending on your mood (great for the indecisive among us), and since they’re gentle, they won’t damage or pull your hair, or stress your scalp out. Hot tip: style with a curling wand or straightener and have them ready to go for several uses – incredibly easy and convenient for travel.

IMAGE: @PIERREHADDADHAIR

After making a cautious foray with the Halo, I was soon hooked on having a constantly glorious mane, and decided it was time to go all out with a permanent option. Having done my fair share of research, I finally located the crème de la crème of the extension world, that has seen me become an unashamedly self-confessed hair extension devotee: Pierre Haddad’s Micro Beads. Both the skills of the professional technicians here, and the quality of the hair itself, are unsurpassed.

After a thorough consultation where I chose the length, colour and texture of my premium human hair, my lovely hairdresser Alan got to work on cheating my way to greater lengths. The process of installing the micro beads took roughly two hours, but my god, was it worth it. Deciding on the copperbell micro beads was a no-brainer for me – with no hot-tools or glue used at all to bind the extension, this cold-fusion method is, in the long run, the healthiest and least damaging permanent option. Not only that, but the inconspicuous micro beads are applied in horizontal rows via a single-stranded method, resulting in them looking and moving just like natural hair.

Word to the wise: keep in mind this option is not for the commitment-phobes, as it requires a higher amount of investment, both in terms of time and money. Good upkeep and maintenance is important, so they are not overgrown and left tugging, and potentially causing unnecessary damage. For this reason, to maintain the integrity of the hair, re-tightening is recommended every 8-12 weeks.

Even with all of this in mind, for me, the indisputable evidence for how good these Pierre Haddad microbeads are lay in the frequency of the compliments I now receive – hand on heart, it’s daily. Not only that, but nobody asks if they’re extensions, simply commenting that it’s beautiful and asking how long it took to grow it out. Truly my Princess Diaries moment.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @ANKSIMAGE

AFTERCARE

To get the most wear of your new locks, it’s imperative to invest in hardworking, quality hair care products to maintain the shine, strength and silkiness. Considering extensions are not growing from your scalp, they can’t benefit from the necessary natural oils that are secreted through the sebaceous glands, and dispersed via brushing your real mane. This is an issue because this natural sebum not only protects the hair shaft, but also plays a big role in naturally conditioning the hair. Which is why I present to you my biggest maintenance tip: amp up your deep conditioning and treatment masks – beloved by beauty ed’s far and wide, I recommend stocking up on the Olaplex No. 3.

Not only is it extension-friendly, it is also a godsend when hoping to revive older, lacklustre extensions on their last legs, especially when you’re pushing to get one last install out of them. Considering the amount of heat-tool abuse I inflict on mine every few days, this is an absolute must-have to link back all of those broken bonds in my strands. Religiously using this leave-in, at-home treatment every Sunday night as part of my beauty routine restored that out-of-the-salon gloss and softness, and kept both my real, and fake hair in tip-top shape. Another tip? I also took this baby with me on holidays, drenched my hair in it and secured it in a plait before heading to the beach/pool, which worked as a treat in protecting it from salt/chlorine/sun/and being a matted, knotty mess.

Story by Marina Gainulina

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