"I don't mean to be dramatic, but hair extensions changed my life"
Get ready for a rave
Editor / October 11 2022
I was not blessed by the hair gods. I just wasn't. Well, at least not with what I wanted. My natural colour has always been brown-ish; it swung pretty auburn when I was younger and now seems to be a pretty deep brunette (yes, roots, I see you). My texture is curly (sometimes more on the wavy side depending on how it dries), but not in a way I've ever been able to appreciate.
Personally I prefer my hair lighter and straighter than its natural state, and you know what happens when you commit to that? Damage. And a whole lot of it. There's a cruel irony in the fact that I also live for long hair, and that despite my best efforts, my own barely grows past the just-below-shoulders point it managed to reach. Not to mention that what does grow tapers off like a non-chic candle, leaving the ends looking frizzy, unkempt and honestly pretty pathetic. And so I've long harboured hair goals I thought I'd never achieve.
My personal hair idol? Khloé Kardashian. I feel a sense of kindred hair spirit energy with her considering her hair also dries curly, but for the most part she wears it in Barbie blonde tousled beach waves. A girl after my own hair heart! But how was I to follow in her swishy, flowing footsteps when my hair wouldn't play ball?! Well, I had to bring in the big guns. Enter Emilly Hadrill Hair Extensions.
After BEAUTYcrew's Content Producer Ruby Cotton (a lucky natural blonde whose hair is straighter and far healthier than mine) hit the salon to try tape-ins and came out looking like she could step onto the Cannes Film Festival carpet (don't get a big head reading this, Cotton!), I began bombarding her with questions fishing for facts on whether the same strategy would work on my own hair. Can they applied to curly hair?! Can I still straighten and style the rest?! Will the difference between my damaged strands and the added luscious length be as obvious as Kylie Jenner's lip filler?!
She did her best to answer my endless queries, but had only sought advice for her own hair type (um, fair), and so she suggested I try them for myself. I was determined to do the research for the sake of curly girls everywhere. A beauty editor's selfless work is never done. Okay, fine, for me as well! I wanted in on the life of a luscious-locked lady! And so I set off in the direction of the chic Paddington salon with dead ends and big dreams. Quite the life-changing setting, I must say...
As soon as I was sat in my chair and offered a beverage (10/10 for service) my incredible stylist was showing me colour options. We settled on a mix of two (a bright, buttery blonde and a slightly deeper, warmer honey hue) for natural dimension. As for the length and amount, I was blessed with the 'Chic Package' which goes for about $1,600 and features 175g of 22 inch invisible tapes. Once we had the hair picked out, it was over to the basin and back to the chair for a wash and a straight, smooth blow-dry. From there, my hair was divided, and the tape-in extensions were applied.
I could barely contain my excitement watching them go in, gleefully rattling on about the colour match and the incredible length. Composure isn’t a thing during the process of becoming Rapunzel, okay?! I was amazed by how real they looked, even while all the hair was still dead straight. The blend between my tragically split end-plagued hair and the fresh extensions was practically non-existent, which eliminated the biggest worry I had. Big believable energy!
After the whole head was done and I had the chance to assess the length, we ended up trimming a little off, leaving the ends hitting just above the waist. Still plenty dramatic but still a plausibly real length. And that's when the love affair began.
I genuinely don’t know else to describe it except ‘celebrity hair’. Like, you just look a bit famous? A definite win. I remember always enviously eyeing Jennifer Lawrence’s long blonde waves back in my high school days, wondering how on earth they looked so fresh and healthy after bleaching and heat styling, and now I get it: it was the wizardry of extensions, and I was elated to be in on the secret.
A few smug selfies and I was off. The whole process took just over two hours, which was way speedier than I expected. I’m telling you, they’re pros. Leaving the salon, the team kitted me out with the J'Adore Haircare Pack ($220 at Emilly Hadrill Hair Extensions, containing shampoo, conditioner, hair mask, protect & condition spray, smoothing serum and a brush specifically designed for hair extensions). It's a must for caring for them; it takes all the guesswork out of what will and won't suit.
The mane mantra they instilled in me as I left? To ‘treat the extensions like your natural hair’ in terms of washing and wear. That was just the vote of confidence I needed, considering I basically felt like I was leaving the (hair) hospital with a new baby and a few doubts about my ability to care for it. Dramatic, I know. But hearing that lessened the nerves, and I was able to relish solely in my heavenly new hair. Honestly, I was offended when my Uber ride home didn’t end in an autograph request. I had celebrity hair now, how did he know I wasn’t an undercover A-lister?!
Let's break it down into the questions I had beforehand. Here's how my experience with tape-in extensions went...
Do tape-in hair extensions work on curly, thick hair?
Yes. Yes times three. Not only did they work but I swear they made having and styling curly hair easier. Usually I hide at home until my curls have been blow-dried, straightened and then re-waved into place, but with the extensions drying wavy and also slightly weighing down and hiding any overzealous pockets of natural curls, I found the air-dry vibe was more 'mermaid' than 'Hagrid'. Quite the positive trade.
When I got to it, the straightening experience did take a touch longer because I was dealing with extra hair, but the Hollywood-esque vibe of the extensions left me enjoying it far more than usual, and I got quicker with every wash and style. In fact, now I'm back to being able to do it all in the same length of time as my natural hair; I'm basically an athlete.
Due to time of year I haven’t swum with the extensions yet, but I’m curious to see how that drying process goes once we get into the thick of spring and summer.
As far as the 'obvious factor' went (my biggest concern pre-application), here's a run-down. My friends whom I hadn't warned about the change (and hadn't seen in a few months, meaning hair growth could have occurred in the time spent apart) told me hair was "looking really good and healthy". Ha! I'd fooled them into thinking I'd grown this glorious mane myself. Wizardry. I admitted it was extensions though, and sent the salon name their way; some secrets are too good to keep.
Can you colour your hair with tape-in extensions?
Colour wise, we were a go too. My colourist even commented that extensions were perfect for my hair type as the thickness I already have helps to disguise them seamlessly. My colour was even a bit quicker as I only needed a half-head/root touch-up rather than an all-over lift, as the deliciously buttery blonde shade of the extensions left it looking way lighter overall.
Can you heat-style your hair with tape-in extensions?
Yep! The Emilly Hadrill team did mention that exceeding temperatures of 180 degrees was a no-go, though. My ghd straightener was safe, but I did grab a new curling wand suited to the limit before trying waves.
I'd been worried prior to my appointment that I wouldn’t be able to access my natural hair in the right way to get it straight and blend it in with the smoother extensions, but it was actually easy. The only styling step I found a tad tricky was mastering waves that pulled from both my most damaged hair (AKA the hair at the very top) and the lusciously smooth extensions.
I ended up growing accustomed to wearing my hair straighter up there and curling from about the chin down as opposed to my usual face-framing waves, but that was simply because I liked the look of waves in the actual extensions far more than I liked the look on my own hair. Dead (hair) giveaway, you know? This actually ended up being a win, as it meant I was giving my own hair a much-needed break from everyday waving, and focusing the heat on the healthier extension-aided hair sections instead.
While wearing it down and waved was no doubt the most glorious and inviting option, I also found myself gravitating to low plaits and ponies far more than ever before. Styles looked intentional rather than haphazard and 'picking a style' now felt far more fun, as I knew it would look like the Pinterest pictures I'd pulled instead of a cheap, breakage-ridden knockoff.
How do you care for tape-in extensions?
Actually, pretty easily. Care wise in the evening, I would brush them out, apply serum to the ends and braid them into a low plait before bed (for hair health yes, but also to make them comfier to sleep in, as this way hair doesn't get into your face or feel hot around your neck).
In the morning, I would take the braid out before showering to find fabulously tousled waves (even eliminating the need for heat-styling on some days). I will admit I nabbed an ‘oversized’ shower cap to allow me to easily keep it all dry during non-wash showers (which yes, does look just as silly as it sounds), but it was a blessing.
There was definitely an itch factor if I skipped too many wash days, so I did find myself washing two times per week rather than my usual one to ease it, but the hair's beauty made it well and truly worth it. As for the actual wash, I'd apply shampoo, then rinse and repeat before following with a five-minute coating of conditioner (swapped out for the hair mask once weekly). Afterwards, I'd call in the help of a soft cotton t-shirt as my 'towel', blotting the extensions dry before finishing with serum and a bit of pre-styling protectant spray.
The end result
My stylist told me as we were selecting the shade that once you’ve tried extensions you can never go back, and I cannot tell you how true that is. Because while I knew my hair was definitely damaged, when you have no other option, you simply deal with what you've got. But once I saw myself with healthy hair, wow oh wow, was it a game-changer.
Plus, when I look back at snaps of my hair sans help, it basically looks like a bob to me now, and like I mentioned, I’m a member of the 'long hair club' for life. Present-day me now sees that there’s a clear-cut difference between my ‘long’ hair and long, long hair and um, I choose the latter.
All in all, I would say this: I will never forgive myself for trying them because I cannot go forth without them. And yet it's still the best beauty decision I've ever made. In a nutshell, if loving Emilly Hadrill Hair Extensions and the magic they create is wrong, I don’t want to be right. I best start saving for my next set pronto...
Delaney Loane is BEAUTYcrew's Editor (and resident cateye connoisseur). An expert in everything from sensitive skin solutions to lip oil options that won't leave your hair permanently attached to your face, her words have also appeared across mastheads such as ELLE and marie claire.