Full disclosure: as a beauty editor, I get to play guinea pig and test endless lipsticks, serums and dry shampoos (amongst others). Recently, my dream of having long, luscious locks came true: I got to try hair extensions.
I have always lusted after red carpet looks with gorgeous retro waves, chic full up-do’s, and voluminous, bouncy blowouts. Those stylish looks were unfortunately never in the cards for this fine-haired girl—until now. All of a sudden my once stringy strands could actually hold a curl—and last hours!—or, gasp, prolong a blowout for days.
My hair-changing journey took place at RPZL, a new extensions bar that opened in NYC in February. To quote RPZL, their goal is to “make premium hair extension application as easy and attainable as getting a manicure.” Sounds good to me! RPZL offers multiple types of extensions applications—keratin bonded, tape-ins and clip-ins, the non-permanent alternative. I researched my options and decided to take the plunge and get the cream of the crop of hair extensions, the keratin bonded ones.
My appointment started with a quick consultation with my new mane master, Azzy Parisiani. She asked what my goal was from the extensions—did I want super long strands, a la Marsha Brady? Or more thickness and fullness (think Victoria’s Secret bombshell waves)? My answer: a little bit of both. I wanted longer hair, of course, but not so long that you wouldn’t believe it could possibly be mine. And definitely fullness—limp strands have been my biggest hair struggle since elementary school. She nodded in agreement and off to the sink we went, for a double cleansing (to get rid of product buildup) and conditioning.
Azzy blow dried my hair straight, as extensions are always bonded to dry hair. She disappeared briefly into RPZL’s “House of Hair”, and came back with bundles of beautiful dark brown hair, that perfectly matched my own. RPZL uses Remy hair, which is 100% virgin human hair (never chemically-treated). Over the next two hours, Azzy patiently attached each bundle of hair to small sections of my hair close to the roots, using ultrasound technology. This compact, high-tech machine bonds the extension hair to my hair using ultrasound waves that are cool to the touch and won’t damage hair or hurt in any way.
Once they were all attached, Azzy cut the extensions to my desired length, blew dry my hair again briefly and added some wave with a 1.5-inch barrel curling iron. Voila—two and a half hours later and I had the full, bouncy waves that I had always dreamed of. I left the salon confident, glowing and with a smile from ear-to-ear, armed with instructions of how to properly care for my new long locks.
That first night and weekend was exciting and nerve-wracking all the same—I had a slight headache from the weight of the new hair and had to learn how exactly to sleep with extensions (it’s all about the braid, a loose one on the side). At first, I was definitely conscious of my hair through every toss and turn. But slowly, I settled into my new nightly routine and learned the ways of living with extensions. These rules became my new beauty commandments:
Use products that are sulfate free, including shampoo, conditioner and styling products, at least on the roots and bonds. Only use conditioner on the mid-shaft to ends.
Always sleep with hair pulled back, either in a loose ponytail or braid to prevent knots and tangling.
Don’t let hair air dry. I either get a professional blowout—it lasts 4-5 days!—or blow dry the crown and bonds gently (when my hair is almost dry) to preserve the life of the bonds. And I’m always careful to keep the blow dryer and curling iron from touching the bonds.
Brush hair as much as possible. I use a boar bristle paddle brushes and comb through my hair every night before bed to get rid of any knots and tangles.
Be gentle. I treat my hair with a little more sensitivity than normal, and only use fabric elastics for less breakage.
Having extensions has been an incredible experience. My one and only complaint is the amount of time it takes to style your extensions yourself. My old hair was pretty quick and easy and not something I accounted a lot of time for. With extensions, I have to factor hair styling into my schedule, allowing much more time for each step: air-drying, blow drying and curling. But on the upside, I can extend blowouts significantly longer and am able to wash my hair less often.
One thing I’ve learned: a bad hair day with extensions is still a pretty good hair day. The past three months have been a fun, exciting and hair-raising journey and I am definitely sad to say goodbye to my always voluminous ‘do. Until next time, extensions—back to sampling mousses and root-lifters for this beauty gal!
A final (exciting!) note: as of this week, RPZL’s customizable clip-in extensions are now available on their website. You can either choose your own color or upload a “selfie” to their site and their expert stylists will match your color and texture. A full set ranges from $250-$350.