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hair extensions 101

What to know before you go faux.

Choose a Type

Human hair: If you’re looking for all-over length or an elaborate style, you are better off going with human hair—it’s expensive but looks much more natural. But the big question remains: Whose natural hair it is?

Synthetic hair It’s economical, but can be hard to match. Most types can’t be heat-styled (they would melt!), and can be reflective, which shows up in flash photography.

Choose a Process

Clip-in pieces: If you are just looking for a single piece (say to add volume to a bun), you can opt for hairpieces that clip in—HairUWear.com offers both human hair and artificial options in a variety of sizes and colors.

Full-head extensions This is a more permanent process involving a stylist bonding hair in rows over your entire head, which lasts three to five months. A popular option is Great Lengths (GreatLengths.net).

Save Up

The prices vary and really depend on how much hair you’re looking to add—and what you’re looking to have done to it.

Clip-in pieces For a single weft, it’s possible to find prices that are under $20. More natural colors and textures are going to cost more.

Full-head extensions Ones like those offered by Great Lengths cost an average of around $2,200—but again, you’re looking at a full head’s worth of human hair.

The Verdict

If you’re just looking to fill in a style (for example, to fill out a bouffant), choose artificial hair in a color that matches yours, and have your stylist use it as the base for your style, wrapping your real hair around it. For a full head, go for human hair.

Source: Brett Butcher of Great Lengths (GreatLengths.net).

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Wedding Hairstyles: Wedding Hair Type Tips

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Find the perfect wedding hairstyle whether your locks are fine or thick, straight or curly.

Photo: Laura Doss

Long Hair

Whether leaving it down or pulling it up, you’ll have plenty of good material to work with. A look we love: an edgy ponytail. It works best with hair that’s shoulder-length or longer and has plenty of layers cut into it.

Style Tips: Comfort is key. If you’re wearing a backless dress and want to wear your hair down, your hair could stick to your back. Prevent this with a nongreasy styling gel like Kiehl’s Clean Hold Styling Gel ($14, Kiehls.com).

Short Hair

Many brides want long hair for the soft, romantic look, but hair that’s chin-length can be more effective for some styles (it’s less heavy so it takes fewer pins and products to keep it up).

Style Tips: Short hair can handle precise pin curls really well (think old-Hollywood style), but you’ll need firm-hold hair spray on hand. For a spritz that’s strong but lightweight, try Aveda Pure Abundance Volumizing Hair Spray ($15, Aveda.com).

Colored or Chemically Treated Hair

If you chemically straighten or relax your strands, your hair is likely fairly fragile and breakage-prone (same goes for any type of regular treatment; including coloring).

Style Tips: Choose a style that conceals damaged ends, like a French twist -- your stylist can use pomade (again, we like the Robert Kree one) to increase shine and smooth down your strands.

Jewelry-friendly Hair

Okay, it’s not a hair type, but if you do have a specific accessory that is an absolute must-wear for you, it should influence your final hairstyle.

Style Tips: Think about how you can best show off your accessories -- if you have a great necklace, pull your hair up and keep your décolletage bare. Luxe earrings call for a sweeping updo.

Veil Hair

If you want to wear a veil, choose a hairstyle that works with it. For example, you can wear it below a chignon or just above a half-updo.

Style Tips: You might even consider keeping a fabulous style under wraps for your ceremony, so it’s even more dazzling at your reception. Just be sure your stylist shows your MOH how to remove your veil without mussing your style.

Fashion Forward Hair

Consider your gown. Just like you probably wouldn’t find paper streamers decorating a black-tie reception, so too an ultra-modern faux-hawk would be a bit jarring with a ball gown.

Style Tips: A romantic chiffon sheath calls for a loose style, up or down; a sleek knotted updo works with a sexy trumpet silhouette.

Natural Hair

Chances are you typically wear your hair in a way that’s both comfortable and flattering. Even if it’s a basic ponytail, your hairstylist can help you create a wedding-worthy version.

Style Tips: Be sure to keep the look fitting to your wedding style: If you’re getting married in a ballroom, look for inspiration pics of twists, buns, and other formal updos. If you’re marrying in a casual, backyard celebration, look for slightly less “done” styles like loose half-updos.

Special thanks to Redken session artist Giovanni Giuntoli of Cutler Salon in New York City.

-- Kate Wood

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