So what’s the deal with hair extensions? They seem to be everywhere and there are a million 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.

The Importance Of Hair Extension Research

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 building 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 not impressed with the hair or system. I had to scrunch or wear my hair curly for it to blend. I knew it wasn’t the application. She knew what she was doing. It was the hair. After 2 weeks it started to separate like tiny little dreadlocks. One morning I woke because I could feel movement on my hair. I squinted through one eye open to see my husband gingerly removing one of the faux tresses from touching his arm. It was still attached mind you. “What are you doing ??” I asked.  He looked guilty and said ” Nothing personal, but I don’t 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.

While she was removing them I asked where the hair came from. She said in India when women get married they cut off their hair and offer it to the Gods at a temple. I asked “The Gods then give it to extension companies to sell to Americans for hundreds of dollars?” She laughed but said she wasn’t sure how hair extension companies acquired it. The educators didn’t say.  I wondered why women would do this.  Cutting your hair is a sign of grief or shame in many cultures. Cutting it off to show gratitude for marriage sounded off. I know some about East Indian culture.The women take pride in their hair and spend a great deal of time caring for it. It’s naturally shiny and beautiful. A few of my friends whose moms were from India used all kinds of exotic, expensive things to keep it that way. Something didn’t jam.

I did a some research. Starting with the ladies I knew. They confirmed my suspicions. Most likely extension companies and hair distributors are getting the hair from impoverished south India, not from the more affluent women who were in less need. I read some pretty disturbing stuff. Before all you naysayers start calling me at the salon, I’m not bashing particular hair extension 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 does help the community in some way, but it is difficult to know whether money ends up where it should. Especially since there is such limited discussion about the International Hair market.

Before I delve further into this topic, this info is about hair extensions. Facts about hair origin requires discussing ethnicities and hair texture. Hair stylists know cultural background and genetics are considered when doing services for clients. This pertains to facts for matching hair to the growing caucasian hair extension market. Here is what has become common knowledge in the hair extension industry.

The multi billion dollar hair extension market is international, therefore largely unregulated. Our government has foreign trade requirements but human hair is a gray area. The hair is supposed to be treated (boiled and cleaned)  for customs. But I’ve seen hair that has not been so they don’t care so the government is not involved much, nor do they know where it comes from or how its marketed.  African American salons pioneered extension work in this country and all methods have evolved. Most Caucasian hair does not have the hard glassy finish that darker hair has. Certain types of hair cannot withstand braided or techniques that put tension on the hair. Back in the eighties Chinese hair was the first on the market. It didn’t 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 to think I’m rude! “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 to my lucky stars..Florida. 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, but I wanted that woman’s hair. 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 acquired 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 and forthcoming about why their hair is expensive. 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.