From adding length to creating volume, hair extensions can help you achieve any desired look. And these days, there are several types of extensions you can have installed. “Seamless extensions are taking over the industry today,” texture expert and Mizani artist Al Alexander says. “Mostly I-tips, microlinks, and tape-in extensions.”
But, while those styles are popular, how do they affect the overall health of our hair? With proper installation, maintenance, and removal, Alexander says damage isn’t a part of the extension equation.
“Damage usually comes with neglect of maintenance like not shampooing and treating the hair and scalp,” he shares. In addition to not caring for your hair and scalp, he adds that not tightening or removing extensions in a timely manner, over-styling with heat, and not detangling the hair can all contribute to unwanted damage.
Now that we have some ground rules on what not to do when wearing hair extensions, let’s understand the differences between each type of extension and what to expect during removal.
Tape-ins are one of the most popular types of extensions. As the name suggests, the extensions are attached to a piece of hair-safe tape. When applying them, the natural hair is placed in between two extension pieces, and the adhesive is adhered to the scalp.
It’s essential to remove these extensions properly to maintain the health of your natural hair. “For tape-in extensions, there are special solvents that release the adhesive from itself and the hair. Typically, it’s applied directly to the base of the adhesive. After about two minutes, it will release. Once it’s released, use a comb to remove anything left behind.”
With a sew-in, extensions are sewn into cornrows. Experts recommend visiting a stylist for removal to avoid accidentally cutting your hair. “For sew-in extensions, you would cut the thread, avoiding the natural hair,” Alexander explains. Once the wefts are removed, the next step is to undo your braids.
If you feel confident enough to remove your extensions without assistance, it’s important to detangle your hair before washing to avoid matting. Alexander’s recommendation: “Detangle with a wide-tooth comb and Mizani’s 25 Miracle Milk ($16) to release the hair that shed during the install.”
Microlink extensions are created using a wefted track and rely on small silicone or metal beads to attach to the hair. “Microlink extensions can last anywhere from 6-10 weeks with proper by-weekly maintenance during the install,” he explains. “Less dense and finer strands lean more toward the six-week mark,” Alexander shares. “More dense and coarser strands can last a little longer.”
For removal, micro-extension pliers are required to squeeze each ring in the opposite way they were installed. Once the extension is gently removed, the next step is breaking up the product buildup at the root to avoid matting.
I-Tip extensions are attached to the hair using individual copper beads and silicone lining to create a secure grip. Because of this, the removal process requires patience and a gentle hand. “You’ll need assistance since the beads are extremely small,” Alexander explains. “You have to apply pressure in the opposite direction used to flatten the round head at install, which upends the bead back up and releases the I-tip.”
Caring for Your Hair Post-Extensions
While you may be tempted to remove your extensions at home, stylists recommend seeking professional help. “It is easy to damage the hair and your scalp if you try to remove extensions on your own,” Reavey notes. “Especially when you have individually bonded extensions, the process requires tools and often more than one person to remove them efficiently and effectively. Having a professional remove extensions ensures that your scalp barrier is not damaged and your natural hair is not matted or broken.”
But if you find yourself in a pinch, you can carefully remove your extensions on your own. Reavey suggests consulting your hair stylist to ensure you have the proper hair removal tools.
Regardless of your route, caring for your hair post-extension removal is an essential step. Alexander advises allowing the hair and scalp to tell you what it needs by closely observing your strands. “In most cases, an intense moisture treatment is needed seeing that the hair has been stored away and may not have been nourished as it normally would when worn natural,” he explains.
As for your scalp, Reavey shares that there are a wealth of options to treat your scalp and revitalize your hair growth cycle after removing extensions. “First, you want to make sure you’re using a scalp detox treatment and double-cleansing to remove the product buildup and the dead skin remaining on the scalp,” she says. “I love Act+Acre’s Scalp Detox ($42) because it uses plant-based ingredients to cleanse the scalp without stripping the hair follicles. Next, you want to ensure your scalp stays moisturized and healthy with soothing ingredients like aloe vera.”
For an at-home regimen, chat with your stylist. In the meantime, here are a few of our haircare favorites that make great home care companions.
“My go-to post-extension recommendations start with Mizani’s 25 Miracle Milk to detangle and pre-treat the strands,” Campbell shares.
If you’re taking a break from extensions, give your scalp some extra TLC with this sea salt-infused scalp scrub that helps break up and remove impurities.
Moisture is always essential, even when rocking extensions. This moisturizing mask is formulated with almond and coconut oils, making it excellent for curly and coily hair types.
Rinsing away buildup is still important while wearing extensions. That’s why incorporating a gentle clarifying shampoo into your routine is a must. Formulated with apple cider vinegar and keratin, the Ouai Detox Shampoo will cleanse and strengthen simultaneously.
“It’s crucial to hydrate and soother your scalp after stripping extensions,” Reavey says. “One of my favorite products to nourish the scalp is our Stem Cell Serum ($85). It’s made with apple stem cells that stimulate and extend the growth phase and aloe vera, which supports collagen production and moisturizes the scalp.”