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.
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?