Want to know what my year has been like? In November 2021, I bleached my dark, curly hair bright blonde. In April, I dyed my blonde hair orange. A few weeks later, I chopped it all off into a chin-grazing bob. In June, I dyed it back to my natural color. And finally, at the end of July, I got Kardashian-length keratin hair extensions.
Having mermaid-esque, ultra-long hair has been a dream of mine since childhood. Could I grow my hair out naturally to achieve this look? Possibly, but I think we’ve established that I’m impulsive when it comes to hair choices. Just like my hair color journey has been a wild ride, I’ve also had pretty much every length hair you could imagine–including a chic buzzcut, no brag–except long hair. So when Justine Marjan, who has A-list clients like Khloé Kardashian and Ashley Graham, offers to give you extensions, you say yes. Keep scrolling for everything you need to know.
What are keratin hair extensions?
If you’ve ever applied clip-in extensions and wished you didn’t have to take them out, keratin extensions are for you. Of all the extension types available, keratin extensions, sometimes called bond extensions, are the longest lasting option. Justine used Great Lengths extensions for my new ’do, which are the same kind of extensions that celebs like Selena Gomez, Dove Cameron, and Eva Longoria use (so you’re in great company). Essentially, a strand of hair extensions has a keratin tip. A machine then softens that tip, allowing your hair and the extensions to be bonded together. “It is commonly referred to as ‘strand-by-strand’ due to the nature of the small amount of hair that is applied per application point,” says Jennifer Martin, senior director of marketing at Great Lengths US.
How long does it take to apply the extensions?
This number will depend on a myriad of factors. “This will vary on client’s head size, density, stylist, et cetera,” says Marjan. I have a lot of hair, and between Marjan and her assistant, it took almost five hours for the installation, including styling the extensions. TL;DR: It’s definitely not an errand to squeeze into your day like a manicure. If you want great results, you’ll need to invest some time.
Who is a good candidate for keratin extensions?
Full disclosure: I was nervous to get these extensions done for many reasons. For one thing, my natural hair is thick, curly, and cut into a bob–basically the opposite of any “before” videos I saw online. I was worried that matching my texture to the extensions would require constant styling, that my hair and the extensions wouldn’t blend, that the color wouldn’t match, and that my new hair would be very high-maintenance. Thanks to a combination of great extensions and Marjan’s skills, none of that ended up being true.
The great thing about these extensions is that they cater to different hair types. “The bonds are a great way to achieve instant length, fullness, or add highlights to the hair without a chemical service,” says Marjan. “I especially love the bonds if you plan to wear the hair up or want versatility with styling.”
What is maintenance like?
Once the extensions are applied, it’s time to prepare for the next few months. Just like if your hair has been recently bleached, you should handle your new look delicately. “Hair extensions last longest and have the best results if they are handled with care,” says Marjan.
Can you get keratin extensions wet?
Immediately after having the extensions installed, I was instructed to avoid getting them wet for around three days. After that period ends, you can shower as normal. After showering, treat your hair as gently as possible. “Make sure that you avoid tugging or pulling on the hair, and gently squeeze out moisture after washing instead of shaking with a towel,” says Marjan. “Use a Great Lengths extension brush to brush daily and blow dry immediately after washing so the weight of the water doesn’t cause stress on the bonds.” Because I have super long extensions, this process does take some time. But the good news is that you don’t need to be a skilled hairstylist to do this–an easy rough dry will get the job done.
Can you style keratin extensions?
In my opinion, the best part about Great Lengths’ keratin extensions is that you can treat them almost the same as you would treat your natural hair. If you’re addicted to your flat iron or curling wand, you don’t need to give them up. “Styling is the same with the caution to keep high heat away from the attachment site,” says Martin. While you can use your favorite styling products on the mid-sections and ends of your hair, it’s a good idea to avoid any hair products near the roots or bonds of your extensions. These extensions are real human hair, so they should be treated as such!
How do you sleep with hair extensions?
The most high-maintenance part of having extensions for me is the nighttime routine, and it really doesn’t take much time or skill to do. Every night, “Sleep on a silk pillowcase with the hair in a braid to avoid tangling,” says Marjan. I now have a special extensions brush that I use to detangle my hair from the roots to the ends. Then I put my hair in either one or two loose braids, and head to bed. The whole thing only adds two or three minutes to my routine, and it has the added benefits of giving me beachy waves when I wake up.
How long do keratin extensions last?
If you’re treating your hair gently and following your stylist’s advice, your keratin extensions can last between three and five months. Because I’m looking forward to celebrating my birthday in November with hip-grazing hair, I will be treating my extensions very, very gently.
How do you remove keratin extensions?
If I had it my way, you would just keep the extensions in forever, but I digress. When it’s time to take our your bonded keratin extensions, go to a professional. “A removal solution is applied by a certified stylist which breaks down the bond and they slide off,” says Marjan. Never try to remove the extensions yourself, or you could damage your natural hair.
Do the extensions look real?
There are so many different types of extensions, but it’s my belief that keratin extensions look the most natural. “The great thing about Great Lengths keratin bonds is that they can be customized to match the density of your natural hair for the most undetectable finish,” adds Marjan. “The bonds are hand-cut in a smaller size for the hairline and parting, and [in a] larger size in the back where hair is more dense.” So far, no one has called me out for having extensions or spotted the beads in my hair. My friend’s dad actually said, “Wow, your hair grew so fast!”
How much do keratin extensions cost?
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to this question. “The extensions are sold with service only, and each stylist sets his or her own pricing for the hair, preparation, application, cut, and styling, so costs vary between stylists and will vary depending on desired result,” says Martin. Many salons offer free consultations, so you can sit down with a professional and they can assess your hair, your desires, and determine what’s possible for what price. A fair warning: if you’re using real, high-quality hair, it can cost a pretty penny. I love a deal as much as the next girl, but these extensions are going to live on your head for a while and improper application or removal can damage your hair, so be sure to see a stylist who knows what they’re doing. This is not the time to be frugal.
Can extensions damage the hair?
“Hair extensions don’t damage hair: improper application, care, and removal can cause damage,” says Martin. Sometimes, a stylist might use a machine with heat to bond the extensions to your hair, but the temperatures should not cause any damage to your natural hair. Because the extensions require gentle handling, I actually feel like my natural hair is healthier than it was before.
Where does the hair come from?
If you want to use human hair for your extensions, I believe it’s your ethical duty to find out where the hair is coming from, which is yet another reason I was so happy to work with Great Lengths. “Great Lengths selects the very best human hair from different Indian Hindu Temples, which has been donated willingly as an act of devotion,” says Martin. “The key advantage to the community is that the revenue generated by the sale of Temple Hair is used for social benefit. Every strand has been donated with full consent. Each person that chooses to donate their hair has been treated with respect and care.”
As soon as Marjan finished styling my extensions, I knew I had found my new beauty addiction. Somehow, despite all the haircuts and hair colors I’ve worn over the years, these extensions are the easiest, most low-maintenance style I’ve ever had. They’re comfortable, versatile, easy to style, and look completely real. If you have the chance to try out keratin hair extensions, be prepared for your confidence to soar, like mine has.
Tatjana Freund is a Beauty Commerce Writer, covering makeup, skincare, and haircare products and trends. She’s a fan of vodka tonics and creepy Wikipedia pages.