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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.

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

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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  • Austin

    May 18, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    I’d recommend going to the stylist you plan to use for your wedding ‘do before you cut your hair, take the photo of the style(s) you are imagining for your wedding, and see what they recommend for a haircut. As Amy mentioned, you might be surprised at how much hair they don’t need to accomplish the look you want. I refrained from cutting my hair before my sister’s wedding, thinking I needed it all for a certain look, and it turned into a great big fiasco because I have super thick hair and it was WAY TOO MUCH HAIR for the style I had in mind. I ended up having to choose something else on the fly.

  • Michelle

    May 18, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    1 – hair stylists don’t need as much hair as you think. And 2 – I wanted looooong curls and got some amazing Jessica Simpson clip ins that my hair stylist couldn’t believe were only $50….the week of the wedding I took them with me and had my hair colored to match exactly and no one was the wiser. I got SO many compliments and my cousin bought a similar piece for her wedding a couple months later. HIGHLY recommend the clip in route!

  • Jodi

    May 18, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    I had a similar style for my wedding and my hair was only shoulder length. I can’t image how hair the length you have it now would maintain a style like that. I think it would be too heavy. I like the advice of asking your stylist how short you can cut your hair and still have that style for your wedding. I bet you anything the stylist will want you to cut your hair. Best wishes on the wedding!

  • Stephanie

    May 18, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    I’ve never had super long hair, but grew mine out to shoulder length for my wedding. I had a really pretty updo very similar to the picture that Amy posted. Stylists are able to do a lot with very little hair.

  • Zarah

    May 18, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Couldn’t she also save her own hair and use it to pump up the volume on the super fancy up-do in a few months?

  • Lisa

    May 18, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    I had shoulder-length hair and had an updo very similar to that picture. I have *very* fine , thin hair. The stylist basically took a lock of fake hair, laid it on top of mine, rolled both up so that my hair was on the outside, and pinned it up. I had highlights done the week before and the stylist dyed the fake hair at the same time she put my highlights on (with the same dye). No one could tell and it looked really natural. (Taking down that updo took an hour with my husband’s help, but hey, I looked hot on my wedding day 🙂

  • Amy

    May 18, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Totally agree with Amy and the other posts about taking the pic to your hair stylist and asking about hair length. I would be willing to bet $100 that she/he will say you have way too much hair right now for that style.

  • Courtney

    May 18, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    I have to agree with previous posters – you might actually have *too much* hair for that style. If your hair is heavy and won’t hold a curl (like mine), really long hair will make it harder to style. I had a somewhat similar style for my wedding and my hair was about mid-shoulder blade.

    My stylist ended up using a hair filler (I think that’s what it’s called), basically a little puff of hair that she wrapped my hair around to get the style I wanted. My cat had a lot of fun with that after the wedding.

    Basically, yeah, ask your stylist before you do anything.

  • Christina

    May 18, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    I had almost the exact same hair do and my hair is about shoulder length.

  • Suzy Q

    May 18, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    I am very solidly in the No category for extensions beyond the clip-in ones. They always look like ass. Also, you will most definitely look beautiful on your wedding day, no matter what you do with your hair. Congrats!

  • Emma B

    May 18, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    When I got married in 2003, I wanted a tiara (no veil) and a fancy updo for my thick waist-length hair. My stylist had to TIE IT IN KNOTS to reduce the length enough to be able to work with it. It was a cast-iron bitch to take down after the wedding, too — I spent over an hour in the bathroom de-pinning and de-teasing and de-constructing, which wasn’t exactly my top priority at the moment. (And of course it was full of birdseed, which cascaded all over the hotel bathroom floor with every pin removed.)

  • Megan

    May 19, 2010 at 8:24 am

    I got stuck on the fiance ex-wife mention. She may be cool, but deep down no ex-wife is ever that cool. 

    I’d also talk to my stylist, even have a sample up-do done with the hair I have now and talk about how it’ll change or what they can do to keep it the same.

    …and frankly, if there are any doubts, just hang onto the hair a little longer.

  • Erin

    May 19, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    I can’t access the link you posted (it says it doesn’t exist) so I can’t see if it’s an updo or a downdo (is that a word?). But I used the Jessica Simpson extensions for my wedding (I got them for $40 new on ebay — go to Ulta or Trade Secret, find the color that matches your hair the best, then order them online for half the price. You may still need to have you hair colored a bit to match exactly, but it’s better than just looking at the colors online). I LOVED them. I have a few other friends who’ve used them too, and I’ve worn them out other times as well. However, I didn’t have an updo, so you may want to do what others suggested and find your stylist first and ask her opinion.

  • Darcey

    May 19, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    I’m going to also support the recommendation of the Jessica Simpson/Ken Paves HairDO extensions. For a photo shoot (non-wedding), I wanted long, cascading curls that I could drape over my shoulders. I had shoulder-length hair.

    After testing colors at Ulta, I went on eBay and purchased the 100% real human hair in that color, took it to my stylist who added highlights so it would blend with my natural hair, and then she styled and clipped it in. No one was the wiser during/after the photoshoot…

    As long as you get the 100% human hair ones (and try to ignore the “ick” factor – just think of it as doll hair), you can have them colored to match your hair exactly — plus, they hold a style VERY well.

  • ms martyr

    May 19, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    I had just a few pink extensions put in last October during breast cancer awareness month. My only complaint is the texture of the (real) hair was so different from mine and wasn’t naturally curly. I had to curl those suckers every day.
    Definitely consult the actual stylist who will be fixing your hair. Trial runs are always a good thing. You may not like the style on you as much as the model. You’d hate to find that out on your wedding day. A good stylist can work miracles.

  • Kat

    May 19, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    While I totally agree that you should check in with your stylist…. I have the clip in extensions and I love love love them!! I have very fine thin hair that WILL NOT grow past my collar bones without looking like something the cat drug in. I found clip ins at a wig store for $40 that EXACTLY match the obnoxious red that my hair is dyed. They thicken up the volume of my hair and add length. It took some practice to put them on myself right, but its worth it when I want to feel extra glamourous!

  • Sarah

    May 19, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    In case you decide you want to go really short (or cut and then really do want length back), I want to put in a pitch for a very specific salon that also has trained stylists all over the country, The HairPolice (
    When I, as a white girl, wanted to get “nice” looking dreds several years ago and was living in Atlanta at the time, I could find no natural hair salons there that worked on the paler among us. Until I tracked down these folks. Not only can they dred hair of any texture, but I have seen tons and tons and TONS of their “plain” hair extension clients. Whether synthetic or real human hair, the work always looks great, in large part because there are no chemicals, no glue, nothing to wreck and ruin the hair you already have.
    I’ve had my dreds now for eight years, keep up with the maintenance and get compliments on them all the time. I’ve also had synthetic color added off and on over the years….and that only seems to increase the compliments with people always wondering how its done. I’m sure if you needed to work with them you would get the same mad props, just with the compliments being on how great your hair looked just as it is.

  • Danielle

    May 20, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    If your main complaint is about drying time and general manageability, you might want to consider having your hair thinned. I, too, have VERY thick hair that’s too heavy to curl. And I have a hard time convincing most hair stylists that they can thin it A LOT and I’ll still have A LOT left, but when my hair is thinned well, it takes about half as long to dry and suddenly has BODY. You’ll also be surprised what a stylist can do to create curls with bobby pins (as Amy mentions). If you take of a little bit of length and a lot of bulk, I’ll bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the improved manageability and still have plenty of your own hair for the big day.

  • Katie Bee

    May 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    My hair skims the tops of my shoulders and will be maybe two inches longer by my wedding in October. The style in the link is very similar to a style I picked out, and my stylist said it’s a medium-length style. No need to have long long hair. She also said that long hair is a P.I.T.A. to style and will be like a big heavy weight on the back of your head. So I say cut it, just don’t cut it to your chin. You will have no need for a weave.

    And sweetie, maybe stop taking advice from your fiance’s ex-wife. As a previous commenter mentioned, she might be cool, but no ex-wife is ever THAT cool. 

  • Justine

    May 25, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    the woman in the pic looks like she herself had some kind of extensions or pieces…the colours just do not match