Hair extensions, most editorial stylists would argue, are an investment that can be the difference between a client working with you again or not. Giving them the gift of full, luscious hair keeps them coming back. Yet hair extensions are an expensive part of any stylist’s kit that require the necessary knowledge to color and care for. To keep your treasured tress attachments in tip-top shape, consult the guide ahead as bi-coastal celebrity colorist Jeremy Tardo, and hair extension specialist Amanda Shuttleworth—both Benjamin Salon artists—share their tips for coloring hair extensions plus the do’s and dont’s of pre- and post-wash care.
Extensions by Amanda Shuttleworth
Choose the Right Surface to Color on
Depending on the particular weft/extension job, I sometimes color hair pieces on a large glass surface like a glass tabletop. This allows me to lay the pieces out individually for coloring. The glass also cleans easily afterwards. If I don’t have a glass surface, I lay long foils down and apply the color to the hair on top of the foils.
Work As a Team
I think it’s important for the colorist to work closely with the extensionist to order hair pieces that are the closest texture and color matches possible for the client to begin with. This makes coloring the wefts/extensions much less intensive.
I work with extension specialist Amanda Shuttleworth because she understands the necessary placement for the extra pieces within the client’s hair, based on the length, density, and shape that the client wants. She is also much more familiar with the many companies that provide extensions. This helps us to find good quality pieces that blend well with our clients’ existing hair.
Opt for Lighter Extensions When in Doubt
When we choose the hair wefts/extensions, we typically air on the side of light over dark. If extensions are too dark, there is potential for damage to the hair when lightening them. If the extensions are too light, depositing color into them is much more gentle.
Try and Figure Out the History
Coloring extensions is tricky. Most extension hair has been intensely treated with chemicals already. You rarely have access to the history of the hair and the porosity is unknown.
Tone or Darken Them
Normally, wefts/extensions can be toned and darkened. This is adding pigment to them, which is easier to navigate than removing pigment from them.
Test Before Committing
I prefer not to lighten extensions. Testing a few pieces is always an option, but bleaching extension hair can be a treacherous road. If a client is wanting to lighten their hair extensions, I usually tell them that it might be time for a “new set.”
All human hair is susceptible to tangling and frizziness as a result of dryness. This is true for hair on our scalps and for extension hair. Because the extension hair is no longer getting nourishment from the scalp, extensions are more prone to dryness.
- To avoid this, keep the hair clean and moisturized. Cleanse the hair thoroughly with a clarifying shampoo like Solu Shampoo by Davines every 4-6 weeks to remove all product build up.
- I also suggest a low pH conditioner. The pH level of the hair and scalp is typically 4.5-5.5. A hydrator with a pH of 4.5-5.5 (or lower!) will close the cuticle and make your hair smoother.
- Using the right brush for hair extensions is very important. I like the Shu Uemura Paddle Brush because it is designed specifically for hair extensions.
- Lastly, if your wefts/extensions are prone to tangle, a vinegar rinse like René Furterer Lumica Enhancing Shine Rinse is EXCELLENT. This would be done after shampooing and before conditioner. The Vinegar rinse closes the cuticle which makes the hair shiny, helps prevent tangles, and restores the natural pH balance in your hair. René Furterer also makes a great leave-in detangling spray called Naturia.
- Detangle using a classic Wet Brush beginning at the ends all the way to the scalp.
- Avoid brushes with balls on the ends of the bristles. These can snag and stretch the hair causing breakage. Flat or round brushes that are metal or boar bristle are okay. I love the Shu Uemura Boar Bristle Paddle Brushes as well as the YS Park 651 Oval Brush which is a mixed boar and nylon bristle brush.
- Apply all styling products away from the roots of your hair. NO silicone near the roots. Cream based thermal protecting lotions like Sachajuan Styling Cream or light serums are good.
- When using heat, stay away from the roots to avoid damaging the extension bond. Get 70%-80% of the moisture out of your extensions before styling them. Most extension hair is relatively easy to smooth out. Styling the hair at the end of the drying process is still effective and will be kinder to your extensions.