how to look after hair extensions

The Awkward Girl’s Guide to Hair Extensions and How to Look After Them

Want to know how to look after hair extensions? Read on…

It’s now been almost 5 months since I had my Great Lengths hair extensions fitted, and I’m happy to say, they’re still going strong. Great Lengths say their extensions can last for up to six months if they’re looked after properly (I will literally cry when mine have to be removed. I’m almost crying just thinking about it, actually…), but the key to that statement is in the second part of that sentence: you really need to know how to look after hair extensions if you want them to last that long.

As is always the way with me, I learned this the hard way (I mean, is there any other way, I ask you?), and, after a couple of months, I noticed that my extensions were starting to look really dry at the ends. This shouldn’t have been remotely surprising, obviously – I mean, unlike your own natural red hair, extensions aren’t attached to the scalp, so they don’t get any nutrients or oil from it to keep them looking healthy – but it actually got to the point where I was seriously thinking about having them either trimmed or removed, because they looked so dry.

Luckily, before I did that, I decided to do some research first, so, for anyone else in the same position, here’s everything I’ve learned about how to look after red hair extensions…

how to look after hair extensions01.
Only use the
recommended products

When my extensions were fitted, Great Lengths sent me a care pack, containing their own brand shampoo and conditioner, and I also splashed out on some Kerastase products, which were recommended by the salon. Why? Because the extensions were fitted using keratin bonds, so it’s important to make sure the products you use won’t break them down: you don’t have to use the ones I’ve mentioned here, obviously, but, in general, you want to avoid products containing sulphates, which can damage the keratin glue.

I love Kerastase, but was a little bit worried about the cost of using it exclusively (I normally just buy it as a occasional treat, but, while there are other, cheaper products I could’ve gone for, I really wanted to keep my new hair looking as good as possible, so decided it might be worth the investment), but I needn’t have, because of my next tip…

Only wash your hair
when it really needs it

This one really worried me, because, until I had my extensions fitted, I used to wash my ginger hair every single day without fail: if I didn’t, it would instantly look greasy and feel absolutely gross, so, no matter how many times people told me I didn’t really need to wash it that often, I was absolutely adamant that, YES, I REALLY DID.

Well, haha, looks like I’m going to have to do a complete 180 on this one, because NO, I REALLY DIDN’T. I was advised by the salon to avoid getting my extensions wet at all for the first 48 hours, and they went on to say they’d be surprised if I needed to wash them more than a couple of times a week after that. Well, I was surprised too, because it turns out they were right: and I’m REALLY glad they were, because, honestly, if I’d thought my auburn hair took a long time to blow-dry before I got extensions, it was absolutely NOTHING to how long it takes now. Seriously, I’ve become one of those people who literally has to schedule in time to wash her hair, because it takes forever. And ever.

Thankfully, though, I might have to block out time on the calendar just to blow-dry my hair these days, but at least I don’t have to do it too often, because it really does only need to be washed once or twice a week. And, I mean, no, it doesn’t exactly look salon-fresh right before a shampoo, granted, but it doesn’t look nearly as greasy as I’d have expected it to either, and, I have to admit, it’s saving me a ton of money on hair conditioner (I used to get through a bottle a week, easily, but I think I’ve only used two bottles since I had the extensions fitted, which is a miracle, I tells ya…), so there’s that, too.

If the thought of hardly ever shampooing your hair is making you feel a bit sick in your mouth, though, I have another trick up my sleeve here, namely:

The half-head shampoo

Not quite ready to give up on life washing your hair more than a couple of times per week? Enter the half-head shampoo, in which you literally just divide your hair into two sections, and then wash one of them. With this method, I section off the top layer of hair, which doesn’t have any extensions in it, secure the bottom layers in a low bun, and then only shampoo the top half. Because it’s all my own hair, I don’t have to worry about damaging bonds or anything like that, and because it’s just one small section, it dries quickly, too.

I have to admit, I was pretty sceptical about this method when the stylist mentioned it to me, but because hair really only gets greasy at the roots, this is a great way to freshen it up in a hurry. I’ll do this in between washes, when I don’t have time for a full wash and blow-dry, and it means I get the feeling of having clean hair again, without worrying about drying out my extensions, or having to spend all morning on my hair.

(And, I mean, yeah, it’s a bit of a faff having to try to stick the top of my head under the shower without getting the bottom half wet, but I’m guessing that if you’re a very low-maintenance kind of gal, you’re probably not into getting hair extensions in the first place, are you?)

How to look after hair extensions04.
Use coconut oil
on the ends

Yes, coconut oil. And, I know what you’re thinking: you’re all, “Wait: would that be the SAME coconut oil you once slathered on your head first thing in the morning, Amber, and then had to go to work looking like you had wet hair, because it just would not come out?”


Well, I mean, it’s not EXACTLY the same coconut oil, obviously, because that particular incident happened many moons ago, when I was still working in PR. (I actually had to come home from work at lunchtime, just to wash my hair, and it STILL didn’t all come out…) I’ve bought some more since then. Because I never learn, do I?

Actually, though, I DO learn sometimes – which is why I’m going to warn you here that, if you’re following this tip, you MUST make sure that you ONLY apply the coconut oil (Any brand will do, btw: I got mine in the local pound store, but, you know, you do you…) to the ends of your hair, and be prepared to shampoo it out thoroughly. Do NOT apply it to the roots: I repeat DO NOT APPLY TO THE ROOTS.

Er, did I make that clear enough? OK, well, as I mentioned back in the intro, a couple of months ago, I noticed my extensions were looking really dry at the ends, and, guys, it was bad – so bad, in fact, that I was very close to just having an inch cut off the bottom, even although that would’ve totally defeated the purpose of having hair extensions in the first place. “WHY ME?” I thought in despair, as I typed, “Y MY HAIR EXTENSIONS LOOK LIKE STRAW?” into Google. “Why can’t I ever have nice things?!” Then I read about the coconut oil, and I just so happened to have a tub of the stuff sitting in my dressing table, so I slathered it onto the ends of my hair, then piled it up into a bun, and went to bed.

The next morning, I got into the shower and carefully washed out the coconut oil. My hopes weren’t high, here – like, they REALLY weren’t high – but, guys, it was like having new hair again, seriously. In fact, literally overnight, I went from thinking I’d have to have the extensions removed, to feeling like I NEVER want to have them removed, and, hey, I wonder what would happen if I just NEVER DID? Would I just end up like Rapunzel, d’you think? Or nah?

Anyway, I now use this method at least once a week: or, any time I’m going to be doing a full shampoo, basically. I always leave the coconut oil on overnight (I wear my hair up to sleep anyway, because it helps stop it getting hopelessly tangled during the night, but putting it into a high bun also stops the oil getting onto my pillow, etc), and wash it out the next morning, and I’m pleased to report that I’ve yet to have an, “OMG, my hair looks like I’ve dipped it in oil!” moment, so I’m planning to continue with it until the extensions are removed. And maybe even afterwards, too.

And Argan oil on
the lengths

My problems were with the ends of my hair rather than the rest of it, but, just to try to keep it looking its best, I’ve also been using Argan oil on the lengths, after each shampoo. Again, I was a bit wary of this, because most products just seem to weigh my hair down and make it look greasy, but I’ve had good results in the past with Argan oil, so I decided to give it a go.

I use this brand, and apply it to damp hair before blow-drying. I’m always careful to avoid the bonds, so it only goes onto the mid-sections of hair, and because I only need a tiny drop, I don’t find it weighs the hair down or makes it look/feel greasy. It DOES make it feel softer and smoother, though, so it’s pretty much ideal, really.

Brush with a Tangle Teezer
(or similar)

Finally, when I had my extensions fitted, I was advised to brush them at least twice a day, from root to tip, using a brush designed for long hair. I use the Tangle Teezer (Oh, who am I kidding – I have THREE Tangle Teezers…), plus a Great Lengths brush that I was sent when I had my extensions fitted, and these have proven to be indispensable, because I find that regular brushes tend to snag on the bonds, which obviously isn’t ideal.

It’s really important to brush your extensions from root to tip every day, otherwise shedding hair can get caught up in the bonds, and you’ll end up looking like you have dreads (Er, or something…), and I find that the extensions do tend to get tangled much more easily than my own hair (Even although my own hair isn’t much shorter…), so I need something that’s up to the job here, and the trusty Tangle Teezer has proven to be the one. Could not live without, seriously. (Well, I mean, I COULD, but I’d have really crappy hair, so what would be the point, really?)


And that’s been my experience with Great Lengths hair extensions so far. Now that I’ve figured out how to look after them properly, I’m still really happy with them: I haven’t had any of the bonds fall out or loosen so far, and I’m honestly dreading the day when I have to have them taken out. I mean, I’m totally going to feel like I’m bald, aren’t I? As far as maintenance goes, meanwhile, I know this post makes it sound like it’s a full-time job or something, but it all balances out in the end: yes, my current hair takes much longer to wash and style than it did before I got my extensions, but I’m having to go through that process less often (I find that if I curl my hair on day 1 after a shampoo, and then always sleep with it up, I’ll end up with loose waves that last until the next shampoo), so I feel like I’m saving time on the mornings I don’t have to wash it.

My biggest issue right now, then? The fact that I know that, even if they DO end up lasting the full 6 months – and I’m really hoping they will – that means I only have a few more weeks of mermaid hair left. Pray for me, people…

Anyone got any other advice on the subject of how to look after hair extensions?

Related: Sleep in rollers

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  • Alice


    What do you do if you exercise? I always *feel* I have to wash my hair after running.

    And i presume if you swim a lot you wouldn’t get hair extensions…… or maybe you would get a properly waterproof cap.

    October 10, 2018
  • Nicola


    #hairgoals! ❤️ Can you have new extensions put in when you have the current ones removed or do you need to give your hair time to ‘breathe’ in between?

    October 10, 2018
  • I’m really tempted to go for extensions again sometime soon because I have fine hair and it’s a bit sad when I put it into a pony tail. 🙁 I remember I couldn’t get mine wet for two days as well. I would really need to wash my fringe every day as it looks awful when it goes one day, but it sounds doable if I can tie the rest of my hair up.

    My original extensions stayed in a bit longer than anticipated and started off dreadlocks. I loved them and had them for ten years. Contrary to many people’s beliefs you can wash them. It was great having thick hair for the only time in my life.

    October 12, 2018
  • Really looking gorgeous

    October 19, 2018