Nearly three decades before “W” magazine hailed her the “tress goddess,” Mahri Martens Tomas was feeling anything but Athena-like with her thin hair. She tried it all, including hair weaving, to add the length and thickness to her less-than-stellar mane. Although the “method” for weaving may have a loose definition in the hair industry, Martens Tomas explains the process as a hair extension technique in which wefts of hair are attached to your head, typically sewn onto braids of your natural hair. She offers her suggestions for achieving the most successful result, along with common pitfalls to look out for.
Martens Tomas compares the construction of a weft to a grass hula skirt, where several strands are sewn together at one end. This joining seam is sewn by hand or on a sewing machine specially designed for hair pieces. During sewing, the seam is doubled-over for reinforcement, so the thickness of the weft can vary from brand to brand. “They can be really bulky or refined depending on the quality of the manufacturer,” she says. In the case of thin hair, the thicker the weft, the more obvious your hair extension job will be.
On the Right Track
The weft needs an anchor to hold it to your head, and that’s accomplished in the form of tracks. Tracks are braids of your natural hair that a hairstylist typically places horizontally around the head in rows with eighth-inch to quarter-inch spacing. Alternately, some stylists lay tracks around both sides of the head, running from front to back. The configuration is not as important as the comfort level, warns Martens Tomas, recalling a time her stylist pulled so tight to create tracks at her hairline that it took three days for her sensitivity to subside. Constant pulling can contribute to a condition called “traction alopecia” where tired hair eventually gives up the tug-of-war and stops growing completely.
Martens Tomas classifies hair by texture when talking about weaves – straight, curly and kinky – and says the latter group will have the most success with it, whether thin-haired or not. Since the smoother texture of straight hair doesn’t grab in the same way a coarse ringlet does, braids tend to slip, causing fly-aways and high-maintenance tracks that need frequent re-tightening.
Tools and Alternatives
For thin hair, supporting the weight of a weave and concealing the evidence are typical challenges. Martens Tomas says a fiber rope stabilizer can be braided into hair to give bulk to skimpy tracks. An alternative to tracks is using an adhesive to glue wefts into the hair where they would normally be sewn in. Be sure to investigate any adhesives before your stylist puts in a full head of extensions. If acetone doesn’t cut the mustard for removal, seek a bonding agent that isn’t so harsh.