Extensions are an extreme mane changer. How else can you add mega volume, cheat length and switch up your color without touching your locks? They are everything, basically. But… are you giving your scalp the TLC it deserves underneath all that tremendous weave? To find out how to keep the scalp healthy under hair extensions we consulted the pros. Here’s what you need to be doing to ensure the healthiest mane when rocking extensions.
Treat Extensions Like Your Hair
According to 901 stylist Stylist Anthony Holguin don’t act like your extensions are extensions— “treat it like regular hair” he advises, noting that you should brush and shampoo at the scalp. “The only thing is try not to condition at root, else extensions can slip out.”
Brianna Colette, senior stylist (also for 901) agrees, noting that hair should be washed thoroughly. This means getting into the “spaces in between the extension attachment site.” She recommends always opting for a gentle cleanser and doing a pH balanced detox rinse if poss.
And of course, there are also certain rules you can’t ignore. “Do not keep your extensions in longer than 4-6 weeks,” Mahisha Dellinger, CEO & Founder of CURLS reminds us of tape-in’s. “Alopecia, permanent hair loss, breakage and infection are all risks associated with not properly caring for extensions,” she notes.
Otherwise, according to Brianna, 3 months is “average for keratin bonds, or 4 months MAX but only if you have very strong hair and your stylist gives the OK.”
When dealing with extensions and your scalp, you want to be as delicate as possible on all fronts—but don’t neglect your care. “Be gentle!” says Brianna. “No aggressive brushing, especially when hair is wet. Don’t go to bed with wet hair. And if you must, braid it. No tight ponytails/buns until extensions loosen up, usually around 3 weeks. Have a professional blowout every few weeks to address any matting of bonds at scalp,” she adds, on extension rules to live by.
Again, take total ownership of your new locks. As Anthony stresses, you paid for them so treat the extensions like it’s your own hair. That means not being afraid to brush. Although, it’s a valid fear, it doesn’t have to be, so break the habit now. “A lot of people are scared or think they will pull their hair out. But in reality you brushing is causing circular movements in your scalp so makes it process oil and dead skin cells and just makes your hair healthy in general.”
Underneath it All
You want to make sure that you’re constantly monitoring your scalp when sporting extensions. You’ll have the best results when you tap into what’s going on underneath the surface. After all, what’s the point of having great hair superficially? “Due to the nature of the installation (braids, net cover, & sewing off tracks of hair on top of your hair) the scalp tends to get neglected and suffocated while wearing extensions. This can lead to severe itching and dandruff,” says Mahisha.
To circumvent this, “identify your scalps needs,” explains Liz Philips, a Philip Kingsley trichologist. “Are you noticing flakes on your favorite new LBD, dryness, itching or inflammation on your scalp?” If so, don’t ignore. “These symptoms require immediate attention. Studies have shown that the mildest form of scalp inflammation can contribute to hair shedding and loss. That alone is reason enough not to put up with an itchy or bothersome scalp condition.”
The way you treat your scalp is totally dependent on what’s going on with you, and only you. “Scalp care should be tailored to the individual scalp and hair needs. What’s good for your girlfriend doesn’t mean it is going to work the same for you,” says Liz, though she points out that your care doesn’t have to be complicated. “A monthly treatment may be enough to keep it in optimal shape, and as mentioned, targeting it more regularly if symptoms present.”
Your routine should also change up depending on the season—i.e. the heat in your apt could be one reason for your flakes. “During the winter months a weekly scalp mask and Elasticizer: $51 routine can be really helpful,” she advises. “Do double duty, attend to scalp and the hydrate the hair at the same time.”
In addition to your scalp care, make sure you have good hair on your head. We all know how Cardi B feels about cheap weave, and we agree. Both Brianna and Anthony are fans of Great Lengths hair extensions. “I lovvvvvve great lengths!” he says. “The reason is that they can tell you where the hair comes from, though many other companies don’t know. That’s important because some hair comes from scary places,” he notes. Hot Heads and The Hair Shop are also on Brianna’s must-buy list.
To keep your real hair and your scalp healthy under your extensions—and keep the extensions looking great, alter your haircare regimen—you need specific products tailored to exactly what’s happening on your head RN, not what you used prior to your extensions. Brianna’s tool kit includes “dpHue AVC rinse: $35, Great Lengths extension brush (nylon & boar bristle blend) and Sheila Stotts wig brush” for total care. And don’t forget the dry shampoo, which can be great in a pinch. “Dry shampoo helps absorb oil and makes your hair not be dirty!” says Anthony of the crucial style life-extender. If you do get itchy, a does-it-all treatment is major key, which is why Mahisha recommends “CURLS Blueberry & Mint Tea Scalp treatment: $12 for a healthy scalp under extensions.”
For Liz, you need to be treating the scalp in multiple ways to treat or prevent any potential issues. She recommends starting out with the Philip Kingsley Flaky/Itchy Shampoo: $40 though definitely not stopping there. “Consider the benefits of a scalp toner, created to manage the symptoms of irritated scalps, the soothing formula is an anti-microbial leave in solution offering immediate relief from flaking and itching,” she says, noting the benefits of the Philip Kingsley Scalp Toner: $35. Think of treating your scalp as you would the skin.
“Apply a scalp mask weekly,” Liz continues. “The use of a targeted scalp mask (Philip Kingsley Exfoliating Scalp Mask: $30) can—with the aid of a scalp massage—gently but thoroughly cleanse the scalp and lift any unwanted debris and scale.” A massage is never a bad idea, even with extensions, as it aids in increasing blood flow to the scalp, which “promotes circulation and stimulation to the area – all very helpful at promoting a healthy scalp assisting in optimal hair growth,” adds Liz. Soon, you won’t even need extensions!
Ultimately, aside from treating your extensions and scalp, you want to make sure you’re taking your strands to a trusted pro—the adverse effects of badly done hair extensions are so extreme, it’s not even worth it. “Application is so important with extensions,” emphasizes Brianna. “Bonds that are too large/heavy can rip hair out. Proper sectioning and attention to detail prevent breakage.” If a deal on extensions seems too good to be true, that’s because it probably is. “You always get what you pay for,” she says. After you leave the salon though, the care is in your hands. “To prevent matting, which leads to breakage, brush hair from root to ends minimum 2x daily, and pull apart any bonds that start to mat as they grow away from the scalp.”