So whats the deal with hair extensions? They seem to be everywhere and there are a bagillion different kinds. How does one wade through all the fluff out there and decide which kind is right for them? Well start by educating yourself as much as possible. Especially since most professional, good looking extensions cost some major coin. Here’s some knowledge about hair extensions I’ve gathered through the years. We used to offer Cinderella extensions in the salon. My old assistant was certified in them and as she was buliding her clientele we tried letting clients know about them in the salon so I had her do a set on me. My hair is straight and generally easy to work with so I thought it would be a good way for people to visualize them. I was a lil underwhelmed. . I had to scrunch or wear them curly to blend well. I knew it wasn’t the application, I know she knew what she was doing. It was the hair.. after 2 weeks it started to separate, like tiny little dread locks. One morning I woke because I could feel slight movement on my hair. I squinted through one eye open to see my hubby gingerly removing one of the faux tresses that was touching his arm. It was still attached mind you. ” What are you doing ?” I accused. He looked gulitily at me and said ” Nothing personal, but I dont like your extensions. Your hair is soft and these.. well they just aren’t. They look like Percy(our min pin) chewed on them & I would rather it not be on my arm please.” Great. I had her remove them the next day. So while she was removing them I asked where the hair came from. She told me this story about how in India when women get married they cut off their hair and offer it to the Gods at the temple. So I ask” The Gods then give it to extension companies to sell to Americans for hundereds of dollars?” She wasnt sure. Then I wondered why women would do this there? Isn’t cutting your hair a sign of grief in some cultures? Hmm, cutting it off for marriage.. I knew it wasn’t in India, so I particularly enjoyed the irony . But wait, I know Indian women, and little about their culture. They take pride in their hair and take great time in keeping it shiny and beautiful by rinsing it in coconut milk and all kinds of exotic, expensive things. So why do all that, just to cut it off and let the priests of the temple sell it?? Something didn’t jam. So I did a lil research. Most liklely extension companies and hair distributors are getting the hair from impoverished south India and not from the more affluent women with the milk and the exotic potions. Actually I read some pretty disturbing stuff. Now before all you nay sayers start calling me at the salon, Im not calling you out on your Indian hair extensions brands. In some religions it is offered to the temple as a sign of humility. I know that a number of temples can give evidence that the money from actual offered hair does help the community in some way, although it is impossible to tell whether it all really goes where it is meant to go, especially since there is such limited access . So before I delve further into this topic let me just say that this info is about hair extensions, and there is NO way to skirt around different ethnicity’s and textures. We, as stylists, know that cultural background and genetics have to be considered into the choices we make for our clients on a daily basis. This is information I have collected to match hair with caucasian hair. So with that said, here is what has become common knowledge in the hair extension industry. First, there is very limited regulation by the government in this. Other than the hair being treated ( boiled and cleaned) for customs,they dont care so much where it comes from or how its marketed. The African American salons pioneered extension work in this country. Caucasion hair does not have the hard glassy finish that darker hair does, so it often cannot withstand these techniques. Back in the eighties Chinese hair was the first on the market. It didnt blend so well with relaxed hair. On to the Indian hair and the extension explosion in the early millenia. This hair blended beautifully with most types of hair. It just didn’t last long and often had a “separated” look not long after applied . So all that in conjunction with my personal experience ,turned me off extensions for awhile. UNTIL one night while the hubs and I where in south Florida, we were waiting for the car to come around and the woman waiting in front of us flicked her gorgeous mane over her shoulder and gave it a toss. Her hair was straight, I mean pin straight, and silky. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end.. my gut told me they were extensions and I had to know what kind. What do do?? Oh no.. here comes the valet guy with her car I have to ask her, but she’s going think Im so rude and maybe psycho! “Who cares, ask now before she drives away and you never know!!” Inner Monologue said. So I did, and thankfully she was very gracious and informative. She told me her stylist did Hairlocs and her hair was straight and she wanted to wear it straight. She also had not been happy with other extension lines and told me her hair was Italian. I was intrigued. So when we got home I called the company. Certification only available in L.A. and ( my lucky stars) Fla. The hubs company has a condo in Florida and on trips, while he was working, I would use this time to research what hair products and services were popular there. I mean this is Broward County, where the 3% wealthiest live. I want to know! I was already uncomfortable with the thought of American women strutting around in some less fortunate womens hair with no thought of where it came from. I wanted that womens hair, but only if I could socially stomach it. I did not want to hear any stories about Italian children being forced to shave their heads. So I researched. It all looked ship shape. No bad things heard about where they aquired the hair. Then I went to my class. I watched the staff like a hawk, just waiting for some shifty expression on the “where the hair comes from” speech. I was relieved that they were educated, and ethical. I started to relax.. a system that reuses and is not wasteful, no heat or chemicals, and hair provided ethically that I can wear with my straight hair… true love.