As you read in the February issue of ELLE Canada, my mop of limp and fine hair and need for instant gratification lead me to extensions. Hair stylist and owner of
Salon Escape Robert Barbosa transformed my hair by adding 20-inch long individual extensions to my head—here are my details to consider if you’re “growing” your own hair and how to maintain the luscious locks.


Getting a consultation before deciding to get extensions will help you decide what type of extension is best for your situation and whether or not your hair can hold the extensions properly. “Although synthetic or fiber hair can be great to experiment with for a night out, natural hair blends more easily,” Robert explained to me. “It can be treated like your own hair so you won’t have to change your maintenance routine.” My goal was always to disguise the fact that I had faux-locks and with that in mind agreed to get natural
hair extensions.

Total time:
Five hours and 45 minutes

I was intensely self-conscious walking into the salon—my dry-shampooed hair was thrown into a messy bun on top of my head and whispy fly-away’s had me resembling Helena Bonam-Carter—after a swift assessment and encouraging smile from Robert, I was robed and ready for my transformation.

Step 1: My hair was washed twice with clarifying shampoo to eliminate any product buildup that would weaken the keratin bonds that attached each extension to my
natural hair. Without being conditioned– my hair needed to be “clean” in order to hold the extensions—my hair felt stiff and straw like as I sat in the chair.

Step 2: A thorough blow-dry! Any dampness will weaken the hold each extension may have on your natural hair.

Step 3: Robert pinned my hair up leaving approximately an inch loose at the base of my neck. He then selected a small section of hair at the bottom-right of my head and secured the hair with a plastic disk.

Steps 4, 5 and 6 on the next page, plus hair extension care tips …

Image courtesy of Nelson Simoneau.


Step 4: Using hot prongs Robert attached one of the extensions, laying it on top of my natural hair and bending the keratin bond to the underside before rolling it tightly between his fingers. “The tighter the bond, the less product or water can seep in and loosen the hold,” Robert explained as his fingers made quick work of the hot bond. (Tip: Making sure your hair is sectioned cleanly and that the bond is rolled properly will determine how long your extensions can last. This is all about choosing the proper stylist, we can’t say it enough finding the right hair dresser is key!)

Step 5: Working across my head Robert painstakingly attached over 125 individual extensions to my natural hair working from the base of my neck up to just below the crown of my head. Similar to laying a wall of bricks– each extension was placed a quarter of an inch apart, with rows that were approximately a quarter of an inch above one another–Robert staggered his application to ensure no gaps, holes or dreaded “bald spots” would be visible. The key Robert pointed out was to leave approximately an inch of loose hair framing the extensions so that when your hair was pulled back none of the bonds would be visible. He also explained that placing the extension too close to my scalp would create a “waterfall” effect which would have the extensions sticking out at an angle creating an unnatural poof.

Step 6: After the extensions were all attached, I took a moment to stretch my legs and glanced at myself in the floor length mirrors. Panic spread across my face as I noted my uncanny resemblance to Cousin It. Robert assured me after a cut and style the extensions they would blend naturally. The staff at Salon Escape inched closer to my salon chair to watch their boss transform my shag into an enviable mane. Using my natural hair length as a benchmark, Robert created layers to disguise the naturally-mine hair from the naturally-someone-else’s hair.

Maintenance tips, plus hair extensions myths and truths on the next page …

Image courtesy of Nelson Simoneau


THE MAINTENANCE: Extension Fact or Fiction

I know you’ve heard them, but as someone who’s lived it, I debunk common extension fables.

Myth: Your hair will take ages to dry.
Natural extensions are extremely healthy hair and without cuticle damage your hair actually takes less time to dry. I used Great Length extension which are 100% human hair that is Indian Temple hair, that has never been treated. (For more information on my type of extension visit

Myth: You have to use special shampoo and conditioner and other styling products.
Products that contain silicone and sulphate can weaken the bond and may caue extensions to fall out. Great Lenghts offers their own brand of shampoo or conditioner, but many natural brands can work well.

Myth: Getting extensions will damage your natural hair.
If properly applied and maintained extensions can improve hair health, especially during heat styling. “You wouldn’t directly iron a silk shirt, but if you lay a piece of linen or cloth over silk, you can iron through without damaging the more fragile material,” Robert said. Extensions use this same principle by absorbing the majority of heat needed when styling hair; your real hair will hold the style without absorbing all of the damage.

Myth: You can’t brush your hair
Although you can’t use a regularly bristled hairbrush or comb, there is a specific type of brush that used soft plastic loops instead of bristles which will comb your hair without pulling at the bonds.

Read more:

Hair styles: Up and away
Expert hair advice: His favourite looks
Hair styles: The best hair styling products

Test the latest celebrity hair and makeup trends with our Virtual Makeover Tool!

Image courtesy of Nelson Simoneau