Great lengths

By Milly Nolan

From fine, mid-length hair to long, thick tresses in just two hours, I road-test hair extensions, Beauty Editor Milly Nolan's blog on MiNDFOOD.

Despite the fact that I have always longed for more luscious locks than the terribly fine and frizzy mane I was born with, until more recently hair extensions were not something I had considered.

In my mind they were reserved for celebrities and thanks to the likes of Britney and Paris, I thought they looked fake and tawdry. So it was with both trepidation and curiosity that I took up the challenge offered by Grant Bettjeman of Bettjemans Hair Associates, Auckland, to add length and thickness to my hair by having hair extensions applied. Bettjemans use the Balmain brand of extensions, which are made from 100 per cent human hair and are fitted using a revolutionary weft system and a keratin bond.

The whole process of joining the hair extensions to my natural hair by bonding and weaving them in place only took two hours in total, including a cut and a blow wave. It was hard to believe that in that short amount of time I had gone from having shoulder-length hair to hair which was hanging half way down my back. I instantly loved them and walked out of the salon feeling as if I was on a hair commercial. I even got a wolf whistle later that day!

The next six weeks of having the hair extensions, however, wasn’t always plain sailing. I promptly realised that what I had always wished for – which was long and thick hair – was in fact, extremely high maintenance. This was partly due to the fact that the extensions were so straight in comparison to my naturally wavy hair, so it required a lot of effort and styling to get the two looking similar.

My hair also has a tendency to frizz and curl while I sleep, so on waking it looks like I have stuck my finger in a power socket. What this means, is that every morning I need to wash my hair so that I can blow-dry and iron it straight again. However, what usually took me only 15 minutes was doubled in time due to the length and thickness of my extensions. I had to section each piece of hair and blow-dry and then straighten each section individually. Needless to say, 40 minutes later, I was late to work for the whole duration I had the extensions in.

However, despite the high maintenance factor – and you must take into account that I am extremely unskilled and uncoordinated when it comes to doing my own hair – I absolutely loved the option of styles that having so much hair gave me. Having gone from a pathetically sized ponytail to one that was more like a horse’s mane, it was like Christmas had come early.

I loved being able to wear a high ponytail and swish it from side to side. Top knots looked great too as did ballet buns and long, thick plaits. But best of all, was when I had my hair professionally curled by a hair stylist. When dolled up in a dress and heels, somehow my cascading curls completed the look.

It was interesting how many men noticed that I had longer hair and complimented me on it. I guess it goes back to the old-fashioned ideal of what a woman should look like – apron and all! Luckily for me, my boyfriend likes me with or without the extensions but is particularly happy that I no longer have then for four reasons: firstly, that I no longer look like I have a Joe Dirt mullet on waking; secondly, that the annoying noise of the hairdryer is back to 10 minutes maximum; thirdly, the length of time it takes me to get ready has been halved; and finally, because he no longer has me demanding him to check whether any of the extension joins are visible.

At the end of six weeks my extensions had grown with my own hair, so were sitting a few centimetres down the hair shaft rather than tightly at the scalp where they had begun. It is at this stage that you need them taken out and reattached. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I really did love having so much hair but in the end the deciding factor came down to the fact that I was going on a skiing holiday and didn’t want to spend 40 minutes each morning doing my hair and therefore delaying our chances of being in the top car park! Plus, summer is just around the corner and I can’t imagine the hair extensions would bode well with swimming.

It only took half an hour for my extensions to be taken out. A laser gun was used to disintegrate the glue so that the extensions could be pulled out gently without damaging my hair. When the last one was taken out I felt like crying. I couldn’t believe how fine my hair was and how little I really had.

It’s been two weeks now since I had them taken out and I really miss them. I miss looking so feminine. I miss having the choice of a different hairstyle every day. I miss having bouncy, cascading curls like the celebrities do. And I miss the fact that my hair tie only went around the ponytail twice rather than the zillion times that it does now. But, I do love being able to run my fingers through my hair, being able to use a normal hair brush again, being able to give my scalp a good massage in the shower and the fact that I no longer have to worry that one of the joins is sticking out, unbeknown to me but obvious to everyone else.

I think hair extensions are an absolutely marvellous invention and if I had the time, the money and better hairdressing skills I probably would have kept them in forever. It makes sense now why so many celebrities go from short to long and back again in a day, and that’s simply because they can. And for special occasions, like weddings, hair extensions definitely have their place. I guess what the experiment made me realise is how nice it must be to have thick and luscious hair naturally. But, as my Mum would say (stolen from the mouth of Pollyanna) “just be glad for what you have got”.


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