i tried them: tape-in extensions!! my experience, the joy, the pain, the suffering…

A Tale of Great Lengths

Long hair was something I always wanted that was also always out of reach. I have stubborn hair that I’m positive defies all laws of nature and grows a generous 2 inches a year. Basically, it will get to my shoulders and then stop. Overall it’s healthy, I have a slight love affair with my Sultra Bombshell curler but I always gave my strands loving care. Vitamins and supplements, coconut oil masks, ACV rinses, and a diet rich in healthy fats (and an amount of avocado I’m not proud of). I washed it sparingly, massaged it upside down, sang to it, told it I wasn’t mad, it could grow when it was ready– okay but really I was good to it, and tested just about any online hair growth method I could find. Still, it held its solid ground on top of my shoulders.

Just after my 20th birthday, I had reached a point financially in my part-time ice cream salesperson career that extensions were no longer only for the rich and famous. Yes, a real dent in my paycheck(…s) but I went for it. I went to my dearest, most trusted stylist and we matched my color. We ordered Hotheads in the 22”-24″ length. The next day, my extensions had arrived and she (equally as excited as I was) installed them at the next available moment. I didn’t look the entire hour it took to put them in. The process was painless aside from a little pulling. And then… I was revealed. I turn around in my chair and could not believe what I was seeing. I had never once in my life had hair this long before. The length had changed my face too; I looked slimmer, and had an overall aura of “enchanting mermaid queen” about me. Finally, my appearance reflected who I really was inside. Okay, maybe it was a little long. My stylist stuck a few layers in and I was on my merry way. Well, almost. For anyone else who has had tape-ins before, I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling. Your natural hair rejects the weight, and throws a fit. Itching, aching, expressing its dissapproval. I couldn’t stop fidgeting, moving it around, having baby panic attacks that my tapes were visible. When I got home I brushed them for the first time… so gentle… lovingly… that wouldn’t last long. That same night I went in a hot tub and my hair, not quite used to the weight, fell right out of its fat bun and was promptly soaked in chlorine.

There are a few golden rules to keeping your hair extensions healthy:

-don’t let them have chlorine

-don’t overwash them

-don’t go to bed with them wet

-but also try not to use a hairdryer

Some others include brushing approximately 32 times a day and sleeping in a burrito of silk but I found these difficult to keep up. So I leave the house of the hot tub, DD a couple of loved ones home, and arrive back at about 4AM. Exhausted, hungry, soaked and matted, I resisted the urge to collapse into bed and I crawled into the shower. I shampooed, conditioned, and being unable to go to bed with wet hair I had no choice but to blowdry. Blowdrying 22” extensions. Must I say more. I was awake another hour drying my hair. Nothing I ever did to my hair before this had taken more than 15 minutes… this was going to take some getting used to. I had successfully broken all the golden rules my first day. Ridden with guilt, I confessed to my hair stylist who promptly forgave me. I also asked her if we could maybe shorten my hair a tad, and a few days later I went in to have it done. She added some more layers and cut off about 3 inches. Still respectively mermaidish, but much more manageable.

I adapted, my extensions adapted, my real hair adapted. We all got along relatively well. A few things would always bother me… the inability to brush my hair from the roots down, never being able to get a good scrub in, visible tapes when wearing my hair up… not to mention the totally uncomfortable event of a guy attempting to run his fingers through my hair mid-makeout *shiver*. But I was happy. My long hair was part of my identity. It really felt like me now. Our future together was bright.

It lasted about 3 months.

I missed my effortless shoulder chop… I missed the scrubbing, the brushing, the freedom… I went outside on a hot summer day with my spray bottle of rubbing alcohol supplied by Hotheads, turned The Secret Life of Pets on my laptop, and started taking those suckers out. This was the most painful part of my extensions experience, and took almost the entire length of the movie. One last one… and I was free!!! Oops forgot one. Removed the rattail. FREE!!! I massaged my hair, smiling, making happy sounds, flipping it around, sure I had lost 3 pounds.

Then I looked in the mirror… my hair had thinned. Though short, my hair had always been strong. People often complimented me on the thickness of my hair. It was one thing that I always had going for me, despite always needing two bottles of hair dye and 3 packs (yes 3 full packs) of extensions to make them look natural. It had decayed: wispy, thin, straggly. It looked like about half of my original volume was gone. My ends were dry and broken. I looked sickly, but maybe in an endearing way if that’s possible. I attribute the damage to going to lengths too long for my short hair, and recklessly taking them out on my own… I don’t at all believe this would happen to everyone. For many people, tape-ins are great and are installed and removed seamlessly.

Overall, I don’t feel like tape-ins were worth the hefty price. However, I must admit I felt pretty damn good about myself those months. If long hair is something you’ve always wanted and you can deal with the initial discomfort, go for it. Just go to a reputable stylist and get a good brand of extensions. In the long run it will be worth the price difference, they’ll last if they’re good quality and you care for them well. As for care, you’ll get out what you put into them. Hopefully my insight will help you decide whether or not to get them if you’ve been contemplating it. For me, even after obsessively extensive research, I had to try them for myself to really know. It was an important experience and it gave me a deeper appreciation for my little locks, for now I’ll be working on healing them. My thick hair isn’t something I’ll take for granted again! And hey, who knows what the future holds. Luckily hair extensions don’t expire. Maybe some day I’ll put them in again, at a less ambitious length. What ever you decide to do in the end, have fun with it!


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