Go to great lengths with hair extensions

Nicole Espinal holds hair extensions that she used

Nicole Espinal holds hair extensions that she used for her wedding in May. (Aug. 12, 2013) Photo Credit: Jeremy Bales

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As your wedding day approaches, visions of a romantic up-do or flowing locks may be bumping up against the reality of a barely grown-out bob or flyaway strands that refuse to flow. If this is the case, ask your hairstylist about clip-on hair extensions, one way to expand your styling options.

A growing trend in bridal hair, clip-on extensions consist of hair attached to secure clips that then attach to your own hair. Lauren Potthoff of The Grateful Head in Northport estimates that 40 percent of her brides request them. "In the 10 years I've been doing this, I've seen a big increase, driven by our awareness that actresses and celebrities use temporary hair extensions to create their different looks," she says. Aided by extensions, women with the shortest of pixie cuts can have Julia Roberts-like tresses after an hour or two in the stylist's chair.

"A year before the wedding, I cut my hair off," says Nicole Espinal, a colorist at Symmetry Salon & Spa in Stony Brook. "But then I wanted long, beautiful hair for the wedding." So after growing her hair out for a year, Espinal, 24, who got married in May, had extensions put in on her wedding day that took her hair from shoulder length to waist length. And she still uses her extensions. "If I want to have long hair, I clip them in, curl them and go," she says.

Clip-on extensions offer style and convenience at a relatively low cost. Permanent extensions, which are either woven into the hair or bonded to hair using a special glue, last for up to six months before they must be removed by a stylist. In contrast, clip-on extensions simply attach for the day. Another big difference: While permanent extensions cost upward (sometimes way, way upward) of $1,000, clip-ons are well under that price. Typically, clip-ons come in packages of 10 in lengths from 14 to 26 inches and retail for about $300, with labor costing from about $65 to $200 or more. "For brides who want a particular style for that day and that day alone, clip-on extensions are the way to go," says Jan Klein of Jan Klein Style in Southampton.

Clip-ons give stylists something to work with. "Some women just don't have the hair to support the elaborate hairstyle that they want for their wedding day," Klein says. With extensions, possibilities multiply. Karen Z. Bailey, a stylist at Shades of Essence in Farmingdale, specializes in African-American hair. For brides, she often pulls the hair back into a ponytail, temporarily lengthening it with up to 12 inches of extensions wrapped around the ponytail base and pinned securely. With this temporary extension, she can create many styles: buns, up-dos, curls.

Dana Hodges, a stylist at Katherine Jon Salon in Port Jefferson Station, gets a lot of requests for full, long hair. "Brides ask for the Carrie Underwood look or hair like a Victoria's Secret model, a textured style with a lot of volume on top," she says.

But even if you don't want a complicated up-do or outrageous volume, you should consider extensions just for their ability to hold curls or waves. "They are perfect for brides who are wearing their hair down, Potthoff says. "Your own hair might not stay curly for hours. With extensions, hair will look great all day long."

Stylists prefer extensions made with real, rather than synthetic, hair. "We can't put heat to synthetic hair, and a lot of styles require heat," Bailey says. "Plus, synthetic hair just doesn't look real, and if it's going to show at all, it isn't going to be up to our high standards of naturalness."

If you are interested in clip-on extensions, plan to visit the salon a couple of times before your wedding day. At the preliminary consultation, the stylist will talk to you about styles, match your hair to colors on a swatch ring and order the extensions. After the hair comes in, you'll return for a trial. Klein encourages brides to bring pictures and will take photos of different styles as she works, to help the bride make a final choice.

While the cost may seem extravagant for a single day, even if it is your wedding day, keep in mind that you'll be able to use them at other times. Hodge encourages clients to attach some extensions for rehearsal dinner styles. Klein says she loves that, after the wedding, the bride can remove the clip-ons and save them to create less elaborate hairdos, attaching a piece or two to add volume to a ponytail, bun or braid. With care, a set of extensions can last for years. "We explain to clients how to shampoo and store them. Even if you change your hair color," says Potthoff, "you can bring them back to us and we can color them for you."

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