Hair Extensions: Vanity Karma Bites Me in the Ass

I didn’t know.

I almost never say those words. I pay attention. I know stuff. If I don’t know, I find out. I research the shit out of things. I once spent a week compiling a chart comparing every tiny specification of three different dishwashers I was considering buying, from how many decibels it ran at to how many streams of water showered the top and bottom racks. So last summer when I was thinking about getting hair extensions, I did some research to find out how they worked, how long they last, what kind of hair they use and where it comes from, etc. There was an article in Canadian Living with a before and after picture of a woman who had gone to the very same salon I was thinking of using. It looked great! What I didn’t realize was that the article really should have had ‘before’, ‘during’, and ‘after you take them out’ shot. I had no goddamn idea just how much damage my own hair would sustain after 5 months of wearing these extensions.

I have super-fine hair; the kind that is so tiny and thin that it breaks easily, grows really slowly, doesn’t hold a style, and naturally there is very little of it on my head so it’s often flat and stringy. But I had gamely spent the last 10 years growing it painstakingly to the point where it was a little past my shoulders. And I thought that putting extensions into it would be the perfect way to add volume while waiting out another 6 months worth of growth of my own hair. I was so wrong.

I was dreading taking them out, as I had been really enjoying looking ten years younger and my self-esteem was generally through the roof. But it was time, so yesterday I removed them. The extensions were held in with small metal rings: they pull a bit of your own hair through the ring, place a clump of hair extension in the ring as well, and then clamp the ring shut close to your scalp. (Here’s a pic I found through Google image search of what that looks like.) As it turns out, I’d estimate I lost about 50% of my own hair in the area where the extensions were (the whole lower half of the back of my head, as well as the lower half of the sides of my head). I used to be able to put it into a ponytail and while that ponytail wasn’t too thick, it was thick enough to stay in a clip and evenly hung down. Now?–there’s so little hair it won’t even hold in the same clip and the ‘ponytail’ is a small, scraggly collection of uneven hair.

Here are my Before, During, and After You Take Them Out shots. I’m heading to my hairdresser today to have it trimmed and shaped, but I know she ain’t got no miracles waiting for me on her hairdressing cart.

A week or two before getting the extensions, on a good hair day.
Several months before: a shot from the back (taken in Ghana–a whole other blog post)
"During" - with extensions
“During” – with extensions
After – complete with up-all-night-crying-periodically face.

Please forgive me my wailing about this first-world, vanity-inflicted problem. Things could be way worse. I could be living in Syria. I could be a chicken or a pig on a factory farm. I could be a factory worker in China or Bangladesh. I could be unemployed and homeless. Still, I feel devastated.

So let me be a lesson to you, kids. If you’ve got fine, thin hair, do NOT get extensions, unless you don’t mind wrecking your own hair.

Just a note about where I had them done, in case you are in Toronto and were considering doing this. I went to Doll Bar. They were friendly and did a good job on the extensions but they certainly were not up-front about how much damage could be done to my hair. I interviewed them twice before taking the plunge, once on the phone and once in person, and specifically asked about damage, and they really down-played it. “Use the micro-link extensions,” they said. “They do a lot less damage to your hair than the fusion [glue-in] ones.” Presumably I’d be entirely bald at this point if I’d used the glue-in ones. Thanks for the tip, ladies.

Anyway, perhaps my slightly cynical tone here misrepresents how incredibly upset I am. At this point I really feel like staying in bed and not leaving the house for a really long time. I feel embarrassed, both for the way my hair now looks and feels and for not having known. And embarrassed for having been vain enough to get extensions in the first place. And yes, I will eventually suck it up and get over myself, but please give me a few days to cry my eyes out before then.

Got any good advice for growing out a really bad haircut?

17 thoughts on “Hair Extensions: Vanity Karma Bites Me in the Ass

  1. My sister and a few of my friends have started using Biotin to grow their hair and it actually worked! My doctor was the one who originally recommended it to her. Worth a shot!


  2. Take what ever time it takes. I believe in the therapeutic benefit of tears!
    However you look really great. Unfortunately, we are our own worst critics.
    For your appointment with the hairdresser: by the look of the extensions, it seems you like a blunt end – and while your fine ends look fine (!), I’m sure your hairdresser can make a nice blunt cut that will give your ends structure and a look of volume, just like the extensions.
    Thank you for your honesty – and the ‘real’ story of the extensions experience. Great title too!
    Perhaps you can re-post on Canadian Living’s site?
    All the best…. (if you’re not happy with the results of your new cut, come and visit. My hairdresser competes around the world and I’m sure will make you happy!!)


    1. Thanks for the supportive words, Eleanor. You’ve always got such a great style. Perhaps I’ll fly your hairdresser over here!


  3. Massage almond oil into your scalp every night before bed (or two hours before you shower). You”ll have to use a lot of shampoo to get the oil out, but while its sitting on your scalp it helps strengthen your roots which will help with growth and conditioning. You can apply the oil to all your hair for an awesome deep conditioning treatment. After you wash, your hair will be super shiny and frizz-free! If you’re going to bed with the oil in your hair, wrap your hair with something so you don’t get grease stains on your pillow. Almond oil is all natural and really, really works!

    You can also use olive oil or coconut oil. Both are very good conditioners but don’t strengthen as much as almond oil. Mustard seed oil is the best, but its kinda stinky and therefore I don’t recommend it.


    1. Perhaps I’ll try the mustard oil…at the very least the smell may keep my husband awake at night and prevent him from snoring! Thanks for the tips, Zebi.


  4. What an interesting article Lori. I saw the link on my facebook newsfeed and I really glad I read this. Like you I do a ton of research before a purchase but sometimes you just can’t know everything till you take the plunge. At least you knew not to get the glue in ones. Personally I still think you look fabulous.


  5. Lori, I feel for you. I have incredibly thin, fine, fragile hair myself. It looks like your after pic all the time. I have given over to wearing it up almost every day. I too almost went for the extensions but happily my long-suffering hairdresser told me it would be the worst thing I could ever do. He did tell me to try clip-ins for special occasions, which I have done a few times. So much fun! Having long lush hair is such a wildly intoxicating boost to self-esteem when you regularly struggle with only quarter enough hair. My hairdresser is Len at 647-993-9389. He works independently out of a salon on Bloor near Spadina. I’ve been seeing him for 10 years and he’s done better with my hair than anyone had ever done before. He’s also pure delight. I look forward to every visit. Now, off to buy Biotin and almond oil…..


  6. Lori, I once had my bob cut shorter than usual, I asked my stylist to cut it to near my ears, and graduate it at the back. She told me she would need to shave the back a bit to make it work, I trusted her (because she’s always amazing), and when it was all over, she had shaved it to the skin! Suddenly my neck was higher at the back and the bottom part of my scalp was bare and freezing cold in the wind. I hated the way it looked and felt, and I was embarrassed. The rest of my hair was so short I couldn’t hide it.

    It took a couple of months to grow back out again, and during that time I think I was a lot more uncomfortable with it than anyone else was. To this day, I am very sensitive about getting my bangs cut – a botched job there, and it’s on your face for quite a while. It seems vain, but only you can understand. I compare it to gaining 10lbs, most other people don’t notice, but your clothes don’t fit, and that sucks.

    At the end of the day, people see your beautiful face, personality, and lovely blond hair! They aren’t counting the strands. I think you’d be stunning with a short cut – maybe something to try out? Through the ashes! A new beginning!


    1. Thanks for your comments and moral support, Ginger! We all have our bad hair stories, and it’s true that it has a big effect on our self-esteem, even if it’s something that most other people would never even notice.


    1. Thanks for the link, Mary, but I have learned he hard way to have a healthy skepticism about any hair extensions review that doesn’t include information about how the hair was after the extensions were taken out a few months later. I was over the moon just after having mine put in. Much different story later. And I definitely won’t be trying hair extensions again–that was enough hair-related anguish for one lifetime. 🙂


  7. Hey use Virgin-nothing-done-to-it coconut oil from a local health food store. Apply to dry hair, until your hair looks greasy , about 1 TBS melted. Massage in. Leave on at least one hour once or twice a week . Leave on over night once a week. Untill hair feels and looks better. This works. , makes the hair grow long and strong. BUT make SURE to shampoo your hair TWICE and condition as usual. ( shampooing removes the oil , but not the benefits from it. )


    1. Sounds great! Even if it doesn’t end up helping my hair it sounds divine to slather my hair with coconut oil!


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