FASHION : Long and the Short of Using Hair Extensions : You can sew, glue or clip the accessories on to fill in a bald spot, lengthen locks or add thickness.
So you’re having a bad hair day. You stare in the mirror and daydream about having the lush, thick hair of shampoo models, but you’re stuck with this wimpy, wispy hank that grows at a snail’s pace. Or maybe your hair grows like grass in Kansas, but there are patches so thin you could have your scalp veins read by a psychic.
Not to worry. There are fine salons around Ventura County that can solve your problem.
I visited All About Hair in Ventura and observed a thin head of hair transformed into a curly, cascading vision. But this is no miracle--it’s a hair extension.
Salon owner Mabel Terrazas says everybody wants them. With extensions, which are made of human hair, you can fill in a bald spot, be transformed from a short-haired pixie into a smoldering vixen with shoulder-length hair or just add thickness to limp-looking locks.
“Hair extensions can be applied three ways--sewn on, glued on or (clipped on),” Terrazas says. “The clips are popular because the client can reuse them and they cost less.”
On the day of my visit, Gloria Eldridge, who has thin, black hair, is having extensions sewn in by fellow cosmetologist Marrian Armstrong. Parting the hair horizontally in back, Armstrong meticulously braids it into a corn row flat against the scalp. Then she sews a strip of black curls onto the corn row, pulling the thread taut.
Armstrong braids a few more corn rows, sews on more extensions. The black curls blend in so well in color and texture that you can’t tell them from the real thing.
Terrazas demonstrates the glue method. She parts another section of Eldridge’s hair and applies a special glue to the extension, then directly to the scalp. Grabbing a hair dryer, Terrazas quickly applies heat to the area for a minute or two.
“It’s bonded,” she says, like any successful surgeon.
The extensions all in place on Eldridge, Armstrong trims them to the length that best frames her face. Eldridge frets over whether the top is well-covered because “I’m short and everybody looks down on me.”
Is it comfortable? “At first, you feel some tension because it’s so close to the scalp,” Eldridge says. “But it doesn’t really bother me after a while.”
Because the extension is made of human hair, you can cut it, curl it, shower or swim without concern.
A sewn-on extension will last a few weeks, depending on the rate of growth of your hair: As the hair grows, the corn rows loosen and lengthen. Some people return to have the braids tightened in six to eight weeks, others not for two to three months, Terrazas says.
A glued-on extension will hold fast for weeks, until it is removed with a special preparation that dissolves the glue. Terrazas cautions that you could tear your hair out if the extension isn’t removed properly. It’s not a do-it-yourself operation.
An alternative to gluing and sewing is clipping. Terrazas brings out an extension of straight blond hair, a long strip that looks like a hula skirt for a Barbie doll and is sewn to a clip. Placed in your hair like a comb, the clip feels tight and secure. The best part is that you can remove it yourself and place it on your head wherever you want. But you have to practice arranging your hair over the clip to conceal it.
Eldridge and Terrazas debated the merits of each method.
“I’ve had (gluing and sewing) done and I didn’t like the sewing method as well because I felt bumps in the back of my head,” Terrazas says. “I like (glue) because it lays flat, but I’m going to like the clips even better because I can do it at home.”
So what is the cost of all this?
“It starts at $200 and could go as high as $450,” Terrazas says.
I suppress a gasp. She points out that a full wig ends up costing about the same when you tally in the styling after the purchase price.
“You could go to Jamaica,” Eldridge says. “They do them so fast that they charge $30 to $35.” Factoring in the price of air fare to Jamaica, you might prefer to stick with the local talent.
It’s clear that hair extensions are more luxury than necessity for most of us, especially those whose wallets are thinner than their tresses. For those who can afford it, it’s worth looking into.
* Ann Shields writes the biweekly fashion column for Ventura County Life. Write to her at 5200 Valentine Road, Suite 140, Ventura 93003, or send faxes to 658-5576.