How Do Hair Extensions Work?

What do J-Lo, Selena Gomez, and Ariana Grande all have in common? Well, besides scads of natural grace and beauty? That’s right. They all rock hair extensions regularly. Those waves for days don’t come naturally, after all. Hair extensions are huge in Hollywood, but the popularity doesn’t end there. Roughly 34 percent of women around the world swear by their hair extensions, including business executives and entrepreneurs. Most describe their choice as an investment in how they look and feel about themselves.

If you’ve always longed for the tangled tresses of Hilary Duff, it’s not out of the question. Anyone can have hair extensions, whether you live in a mansion nestled in the Hollywood Hills or you attend community college in Omaha. All you need is a stylist, a reasonable budget, and the ability to devote a good bit of time every day to your hair. Here’s everything you need to know about how hair extensions work. 

Permanent Hair Extensions Aren’t Exactly Permanent

This means you must set aside time occasionally to have them redone. Permanent hair extensions last anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months, depending upon how they’re applied and how well you care for them. So while they don’t last forever, they will improve the appearance of your hair for a good, long time. Afterward, a simple trip to your favorite salon easily reboots the process. Your stylist can apply your new extensions using several methods:

Bonded Hair Extensions, or Glue-ins

Sometimes referred to as hot-fusion hair integration, glue-in extensions use a hot, ultrasonic tool to attach extensions to the roots of your real hair. This can be a lengthy, hours-long process, but it’s also the most permanent. Hair that has been fused with your own can last up to 6 months if applied by an experienced stylist. Hot-fusion is typically not a DIY option and requires the help of a professional to both apply the extension and to take it out for reapplication. 

Glue-in hair extensions last the longest, usually between 3 and 6 months. It’s important to care for both your extensions and your real hair afterward to get the most from your new look. 

Tape-In Extensions

Tape-in hair extensions typically use wefts of hair that are attached at the top with sticky, double-side tape. Your real hair is sandwiched between the layers of tape, holding the extension in place. This type of extension is easier and takes less time to attach, but it typically needs refreshing every 6 to 8 weeks. 

Weaves, or Sew-Ins

Weave extensions are applied by creating a horizontal corn row to which the weft of hair is then sewn using a needle and thread. This method works best on thicker, coarser hair. No glue or heat treatment is needed for a woven hair extension, and the treatment may last up to 3 months if professionally done.


Beaded extensions involve sewing wefts of hair to your own hair and then securing them in place using silicone beads. Beaded extensions work best on medium to full hair types and can last up to 6 weeks. The good news regarding beaded extensions is that once they’re applied, you can use the same wefts of hair repeatedly if you care for them properly. 


Clip-in extensions are among the most economical options and can even be done easily at home. Simple wefts of hair come attached to discreet hair clips that allow you to snap them in place along gently teased hair. Clip-ins are removable and can be used repeatedly over time until they eventually wear out. How long they last depends upon how often you use them and how long you leave them in. 

Caring for Your Hair Extensions

Hair extensions may use either real or synthetic hair. Real hair extensions are best, cost more, and look more natural. They can be styled with heat, just as you would style your regular hair. They also require a healthy maintenance routine that uses gentle shampoos and conditioners as well as minimal tugging and twisting. 

Synthetic hair extensions require more detailed care. You shouldn’t subject them to the intense heat of an iron, but some may withstand hot rollers. You’ll also want to use products that have been formulated specifically for synthetic hair. This helps to keep your extensions from becoming dull and dry. Avoid excessive tugging and pulling on synthetic extensions and always use a wide-tooth comb on wet hair. 

The best tips for caring for your new hair extensions will come from your professional stylist. Be sure to learn all you can about your new extensions during your appointment. 

What Do Hair Extensions Cost? 

Most hair extension procedures cost between $100 and $600, depending upon the type used and how they’re applied, but for those who need multiple wefts or longer tresses, costs can range in price up to $3,000. Clip-in extensions are the most economical, often starting around $100. But they can be the most difficult to match in color. Extra-long, glued-in extensions are the most pricey, especially if they use virgin hair — hair that has never been dyed or processed. These also look the most natural, however, and you can do more with them in the way of styling. 

Regardless of which type of hair extension you choose, you’re sure to love the results. Hair extensions make short hair appear longer, thin hair appear fuller, and can give you those long, luxurious tresses you crave. They do require more maintenance than your normal hair, however. You also must have them redone regularly to keep your new look fresh and attractive. 

When You’re Ready to Try Hair Extensions

When you’re ready for an appealing new look, contact your local hair salon and ask about hair extensions. Whether you choose glued-in, taped-in, clipped-in, woven, or beaded, professional application is your best alternative. Your stylist can evaluate your hair type and recommend the options that work best so that your new look stays bright and gorgeous for weeks or even months to come.