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Long, lush locks aren't handed out equally at birth, but that doesn't mean you have to live without them. Getting hair extensions or wearing hair weaves can give you a massive mane that looks anything but fake. Extensions and weaves are part of the same process, and give you the same results -- thick, long tresses which only your hairdresser knows were not born with you.
Hair extensions are strands or bundles of hair that are added to your own to make your hair appear thicker, longer or both. These strands can be human hair, synthetic hair or a combination of the two, according to Dr. Susan Taylor at BrownSkin.net. Each type of hair has its advantages and drawbacks. Natural hair looks much more realistic, so if you wear your hair down and loose, natural is the way to go. Synthetic hair is more useful for styles that are twisted or braided, and it is also easier on your wallet.
Extensions come in two types, called strands and wefts. Strands are just what they sound like -- small bundles of hair attached at the top like a tiny ponytail. Wefts are flat curtains attached to a strip of tape at the top, so they fall just like a window curtain does, adding fullness and length to your natural hair. Strands can be used in loose, braided or twisted styles, while wefts work best for a loose and flowing look. So, extensions are the product and weaving is the catch-all term used to describe how they are attached.
There are five basic methods for attaching extensions: braiding, bonding, fusion, extend tube and skin weft weaving. In the first, your hairdresser braids tiny, horizontal cornrows into your scalp, and then sews the tops of strands or wefts onto the braids. The tops of strands can also be braided right into these tiny cornrows, with the length allowed to hang freely. This technique is more fragile and needs to be redone more often, according to the technicians at LaissezFaireHair.com. Bonding involves the use of glue to attach strands to your natural hair, near the scalp. Pre-glued strands are also available. Fusion is like bonding, but wax and heat are used instead of glue. Extend tube weaves put little clamps at the tops of the strands. These are closed around your own natural strands with a special tool. Skin weft weaving is done by placing natural hair between two wefts and sealing the wefts together, sort of like closing a bottomless zipper-lock plastic bag. Weaving is used to generically describe how extensions are applied, so you should be clear with your hairdresser on exactly which method you prefer.
Extensions add volume and length to natural hair, and when they are done correctly, are very difficult to spot. They look more natural than all but the most expensive wigs. You can swim, party and get into all sorts of mischief with extensions, and they'll stay put, where a temporary pinned or clipped extension might come loose. Caring for extensions is no harder than caring for your natural hair, though you need to be gentle with them. Extensions need to be removed every two months or so, or the tracks can become ratty-looking and obvious.
Hair extensions can damage your own hair. Even those using no chemicals or heat, like braided weaves, can put undue stress on your scalp and hair causing it break and even fall out. The bonding glue can cause an allergic reaction, and methods using heat can burn your scalp or scorch your skin if not done correctly.