Tips to Care for Hair Extensions in the Summer
Sun, sweat, salt water, and chlorine can damage a naturally silky head of hair, and for those of us with hair extensions (guilty!), summer can turn those extra waves into a tangled disaster. Given the investment—several hundred dollars for the raw materials alone—that’s certainly something to avoid. I spoke to extension specialists Sabrina Michals, director of styling education at Bumble and Bumble in New York City, and Bianca Arussi, co-owner of J’Adore Salon in Beverly Hills, about how to care for bonded extensions (like Great Lengths) and tape-in extensions (like Platinum Seamless and Hot Heads) during the heat of summer.
The hair that extensions are made of can be treated just like your regular hair. It’s the bonds or tape that are fragile and require extra care, and each faces different challenges during the summer. For bonded extensions, the biggest threat is water. “The bonds are most fragile when wet,” says Arussi. It’s OK to go swimming, of course, but don’t allow extensions to soak in water for too long, and dry them as soon as you get out of the pool or ocean. Arussi recommends rough-drying the bonded areas every time they get wet to help extensions last longer. You can let the rest of the hair air-dry. As for styling your bonded extensions, “I recommend keeping hair braided or in a low bun while swimming to help avoid tangles,” says Arussi. But not in a ponytail: “This only adds extra tension on the keratin bonds,” she adds.
When it comes to tape-in extensions, it’s actually your sun- and skin-care products that pose the biggest threat. “Any kind of lotion on the face, like sunscreen, tends to get in the hairline and can cause the tape in the corners to come loose,” says Michals. Wash or rinse your hands after applying lotions to avoid depositing any residue from your products on your hair, which may cause the tape to slip.
Just like your natural hair, extensions should be handled gently, no matter the season. “Make sure you’re using sulfate-free products, brushing regularly, and going to your stylist for treatments on an as-needed basis,” says Arussi. With tape-in extensions, avoid using conditioner at the roots. “Keep the applied conditioner one to two inches away from the tape to avoid adding any additional moisture to the tape that may cause them to loosen or slip,” says Michals. Most important, be gentle while washing. “Try not to rub, scrub, or bunch hair,” adds Michals, as that can rough up bonds, too. And stick to just two or three shampoos a week—even once a week if you can get away with it, recommends Arussi.
Here’s a lesson from Marcia Brady: Brush your hair every day. Especially when you have hair extensions. Especially in the summertime. Just make sure you are using a special extension-friendly brush in the vicinity of the bonds or tape. “The teeth on other brushes will yank at the extensions. However, you can use a regular brush to untangle the ends,” advises Arussi. Extension brushes typically have looped bristles that are specifically designed to glide through hair. Personally, I also like to hold the bond or tape while brushing to avoid excess tugging at the root.
When it comes to summer product picks, leave-in conditioners will help keep your extensions from getting tangled and dried out. “The key is to be mindful of your roots and keep product away from the tape or bond,” says Michals. In my experience, detanglers (also targeted towards the lengths and ends of your hair) are a lifesaver, as extensions tend to tangle more easily than natural hair.