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Should I Get Hair Extensions?

By Amalah

wedding updo

Amy! My girl! How you been doin’ girlfriend?

I have a genuine beauty issue that I cannot figure out the answer to. But you can! I have faith in you and your readers!

Here’s the dealio…I have long, tortorously thick so-brown-it’s-black hair that goes to the middle of my back. I normally wear it up in a ponytail, because the thing takes 45 minutes to blow dry and we’re not gonna get into the  “damn thing won’t hold a curl to save it’s life” issue. I love how long my hair is, but it’s a pain in my ever expanding ass.

Advice Smackdown ArchivesI’d like to cut it short, say to my shoulders, so it’s more managable. But here’s where my issue is…I’m getting married in a year. My hair grows at a snails pace. I want a fancy, complicated style for my hair, like this.

I cannot do that style with short hair, and my fiancé’s exwife, (who admitedly has GREAT hair) suggested I can cut it short and then get extensions put in for the wedding. I’ve heard that not only are spendy as the dickens, but can damage your hair permanently. Thus, I am leaving it up to you. Should I cut it now and get extensions for the wedding? Suffer for the next year and THEN cut it short? Go insane? Break open that new bottle of Mad Housewife merlot?

Loooove yoooou,

hair today…gone tomorrow?

Hmm. Let’s see. Taking wedding styling advice from your fiance’s ex-wife. I gotta admit, that’s a new one.

All right, let’s talk about this “advice.” Or really, let’s talk about extensions. And wow, I don’t even know where to start, because there are many different kinds of extensions and methods for getting extensions. There’s everything from clip-in plastic hair to custom-made extensions from high-quality human hair that are braided and bonded to your own hair — a process that takes hours and can cost thousands of dollars. Basically look at your wedding budget and add another dress. Or cake. Or both!

I once thought about getting some extensions to add some volume to my hair. After doing some research, I quickly put that idea to rest, for several reasons.

1) Damage to your hair. Besides the obvious problems with putting bonding chemicals and glue on your hair, and breakage that can occur as the extensions pull on individual strands, extensions can add a lot of extra weight and stress on your scalp. Horror stories about permanently thinned-out hair from crappy extensions abound.

2) Cost. How do you avoid crappy extensions? By realizing that you 100% get what you pay for here. You go to the best salon you can find and get a consult with an extension specialist. You ask for references and before-and-after photos; he or she asks for a hefty credit card deposit. One seven- or eight-hour appointment later, you’ve got several thousand dollars of someone else’s hair attached to your head.

3) Upkeep. We’ve all seen Britney Spears’ head, right? And what happens when the white girls on America’s Next Top Model get glued-on extensions that rat up by the next photo shoot? And you know Britney is not getting cheap extensions — I think she’s just a ponytail sort-of girl at heart who has no interest in the maintenance involved with weaves. And once you’ve spent all that money on quality hand-made extensions, you probably aren’t gonna want them removed right away. So as your hair grows out, you go back to the salon to get the extensions removed, cleaned and rebraided back up at your roots. (One website I came across said you should estimate around $20 to $60 per track of hair at these follow-up visits, which usually happen every six to eight weeks.)

4) Personal heebie-jeebies about having another human being’s hair sewn onto my head. Honestly, extensions for me went out the window when I saw photos comparing synthetic hair vs. real hair. I mean, the plastic Barbie hair is not fooling anyone, by sight or by touch. A fun thing to play with every now and again, but SO NOT the sort of thing I want fused to my head. Yet the idea of having hair that was not mine — and paying a small fortune for it! — set off a weird itchy kind of repulsion.

It sounds like you’re looking for a quick, easy and TEMPORARY wedding-day-only sort of solution. I really have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea of cutting your own hair only to put it through the wringer of true honest-to-god extensions in just a few months.

Lots of brides boost up their natural hair with a clip-on or two. The results…vary, to say the least, since it all depends on whether you can find fake hair that really matches your own, and the skill of your hairstylist. And really, that’s who you should be talking to about this, if you’re serious. Take the wedding hair photo in and ask one simple question: How long does my hair really have to be to achieve this look?

The answer might actually surprise you — I BET YOU MONEY that a good stylist can recreate that exact look with shoulder-length hair, or maybe something just a bit longer. A bob, or something super short? No. But I think you’re overestimating how much length that style takes. It’s pulled back low, and the curls are created with bobby pins. It’s probably teased a bit underneath to create the illusion of being a solid mass of curls, so whatever length she has is getting used where it really counts. I’ve had VERY complicated updos done when my hair was barely shoulder-length, so I’m really sure you don’t need the kind of inches you’re currently sporting. Hack a few off — maybe don’t go as short as you’d ultimately like, if you’re nervous, but…I think you’ll be happier wearing your own natural hair on the big day, no matter what hairstyle you end up with.

Published May 18, 2010. Last updated May 28, 2010.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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