Hair extensions can give you those long, flowing locks you've always wanted or the volume for that fancy up-do you want for your wedding or another special occasion. They can also help you change up your look by adding bangs or highlights. However, there is no one thing called hair extensions. There are a variety of different applications and different materials, all of which affect how much you'll pay for them. It's not an easy question, but we'll help you sort through all of the necessary information, so you can decide which hair extensions are right for you...and your budget.
The cost of a set of hair extensions varies widely, from around $300 to more than $2,500. Individual pieces start at less than $50 for fusion u-tips to more than $250 for a lace frontal. Many factors affect the cost, in addition to the type of hair extensions you choose, such as the type of hair in the extensions and the construction of the extensions.
Different types of hair extensions
Hair extensions come in a myriad of application types, from sew-in to fusion. Below are the terms you'll see when shopping for extensions...and what they mean to the price.
- Tape-in extensions -- These are attached to your natural hair using heavy, double-sided tape. Tape-in extensions are usually the most affordable variety, but they don't work well with every type of hair. Tape-in extensions can be applied in around an hour, but require more frequent maintenance than other types of extensions. Tape-in extensions can be reapplied; you don't have to purchase new extensions each time. You can expect to pay from around $200 for a full head of tape in extensions, excluding application.
- Clip-in extensions -- As the name implies, these extensions have built-in clips that your stylist attaches to strands of your own hair, up near the roots. Like tape-ins, clip-in extensions can be removed and reused. Expect to pay around $100 to $500 for a full head of clip-in extensions, excluding application.
- Weave (or sew-in) extensions -- These are woven into your natural hair by braiding your hair from ear to ear and gradually adding the extensions to the braid. This type of extensions is the best type for extremely curly and/or thick hair. Conversely, weaves aren't well-suited to women with thin hair. Weave extensions are also able to be reapplied. You can expect to pay from around $300 to $600 for your weave extensions, excluding application.
- Hot fusion hair extensions -- There are hair extensions that are applied both by cold and heat fusion. Heat fusion extensions have keratin-coated tips that are bonded to your natural hair using heat. This type of hair extensions is generally the most expensive. You can expect to pay $500 to $4,000. They take the most time to apply, but they also last the longest, from three to four months. This is fortunate because fusion hair extensions are a one-shot deal. They can't be reused.
- Cold fusion hair extensions -- Cold fusion hair extensions, also known as micro-bead extensions or i-tip extensions, are applied strand by strand, to the root of your hair, using tiny cylinder or bead-like links. Similar to hot fusion extensions, these take a while to apply but also last for several months. Unlike hot fusion extensions, these may be removed and reapplied. You can expect to pay from around $500 for a full head of cold fusion extensions, not including application.
Synthetic versus natural hair
Natural hair is generally perceived to be superior to synthetic hair. It's also somewhat more expensive, and there are different types of human hair extensions on the market. Remy human hair, also called European virgin natural hair, is hair that has never been processed and has the cuticle still attached. This is the most desirable because it acts and feels like your natural hair. You can wash and style this type of hair extensions just as you would your "real" hair. There is less expensive natural hair, too. However, these are more prone to tangles and mats. Synthetic hair extensions are less expensive, about half of the price of Remy human hair. Although synthetic hair is less responsive to styling and curling, this type of extension can be a good choice for auxiliary hairpieces like bangs.
Other factors that affect the price of hair extensions
While the type of extensions and the type of hair used are the two things that most affect the price, there are a few other factors to consider when shopping for hair extensions...
- Single drawn vs. double drawn extensions -- Many of the less expensive hair extensions are single drawn (made from one skein of hair) and tend to be thick at the top and thin at the bottom (where you really want the thickness). Double drawn extensions are more expensive but have an even thickness from top to bottom.
- Color and texture -- Both color and texture are important for natural-looking extensions. You want your extensions to match both the hue and the thickness of your natural hair. Some colors, such as red and fashion colors, are more expensive. And, generally, thicker extensions are more expensive than thinner ones, all other things being equal.
Of course, the prices we've discussed are just for the extensions themselves. Having the extensions applied and maintained by a skilled stylist will be an additional expense. (It's not recommended to apply for your extensions yourself; placement is the key to a good look and it's difficult to pull this off without training and experience.)
Hair extensions, while somewhat expensive, don't have to break your budget. However, this is a product where you truly get what you pay for. For example, investing in natural hair will almost always give you a more pleasing end result than synthetic. The key is weighing how you'll be using the extensions against the cost.