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Understanding the hair extension industry

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

Most people who want hair extensions just don’t understand the hair extension industry and they need to be made aware that many untrained people are applying for hair extensions with no hairdressing qualifications or proper training at all.

The main factors for good safe hair extensions are:

1. The hair quality and origin.

2. How the hair is attached to the natural hair.

3. How the extensions are cut.

4. The quality of the hair extension training your chosen technician has undergone.

With the hair extension industry booming, like many industries, there are many people untrained and unqualified to help you. In some cases, this includes hair producers and hairdressers who apply the hair to the clients.

People are using the industry as a cash cow and many companies don’t care about the quality of the hair they produce or about the client's natural hair at all. The industry is aggressive. Its primary aim is about making a profit whether it's done by overcharging for poor quality hair or by selling as much hair as possible the quickest way possible.

Hair manufacturers use harsh chemicals that strip the cuticle from the hair. This leaves the hair in a state so bad that the hair then no longer behaves like real hair. They then coat the hair in silicone which wears off after a few washes, leaving the extensions dry and lifeless or looking like a wig and in-turn leading to customers wanting more hair extensions. There are many suppliers that people use every day that sell this type of shiny coated hair that will never create the most natural-looking hair extensions. Hair with no cuticle will never be as good quality and long-lasting as hair with cuticles intact. Some hair extension manufacturers even go as far as producing animal hair and are passing it off as human hair.

Application methods are also the cause of damage to the client's natural hair. Glues mixed into the client's hair will almost always cause deterioration of the natural hair as a tiny strand of hair cannot take the aggressive combing to get it out. Also, acetone which most people use to remove products seriously damages the natural hair.

The lack of properly trained people applying products is one of the most serious problems within the industry. A wrongly application or removal lock will cause traction alopecia and can cause serious damage to the natural hair. One bald spot can take up to 6 months to even begin to grow back if the natural root has been ruptured.

If a client's hair extensionist is not a trained hairdresser 9 times out of 10 they will try to cut your natural hair too much to make your hair extensions blend in. Many try and create layers in the hair extensions and reduce the client's natural hair weight when doing this. This leaves you with half the natural hair you had in the first place!

A hairdresser that has no extension experience who tries to cut hair extensions will start elevating the locks and will cut lines in them as this is how they have been trained to cut hair. However, this is not how you apply hair extensions. This will leave the extension looking unnatural because you have to cut extensions completely differently to natural hair for a natural look.

Any hair extensionist that tells you they can apply them but can’t cut them should raise an alarm bell as their training will be minimal. I find many hairdressers who call themselves hair extensionists who are buying micro ring products with no training whatsoever. They are then applying them up to the parting on the client's scalp above the crown area to hair that is far too short and weak to take the weight of the lock.

Most hair extension courses do not even teach the student how to cut the extensions after the application is finished. They only teach to straighten up the ends. They just rely on their hairdressing experience and think they will then be ok to go off into the big wide world of the hair extension industry. Producing good work is impossible without the correct training. The cut of your extensions will be the determining factor of whether they look real or not.

I constantly see unrealistic hairstyles being created with hair extensions that don't connect with the natural hair because the technician is scared to cut them as they do not know how to. There is either to much weight at the bottom or no connection to the top layers which will leave the extensions looking fake. Most brands and hair extension training courses do not even require their students to be a trained hairdresser so how can these people ever be expected to be able to cut without the basic hairdressing training requirements.

Hair extension companies train to the bare minimum when it comes to cutting as often their primary interest is to sell as much hair as possible. Many do not care about the quality of the work coming out of their training or the damage they are causing through sloppy fast track education which is in many cases deeply negligent.

The quality of the hair extension course that the technician has attended is vital. If they have attended 4 application methods in a 1-day course or something to that effect you are heading for a hair extension disaster.

Hair extensions can not be taught in 1 or 2 days, it takes a lot of practice to become skilled at it. I would say it takes at least 6 months of your hair extensionist doing around 10 heads minimum with constant assessment from a qualified teacher to get to an acceptable standard to be able to charge for hair extensions. The more the technician has done the better they will be so you should always look closely at work before you choose who is going to do your hair.

Any work with lots of curls is usually hiding an abundance of mess underneath. Any long strands of hair coming out of short pieces of natural hair is a recipe for disaster. Hair extensions on the top part of the head in front of the ears will cause damage to the hair.

The hair in front of the ear has a different life span to the rest of the hair on your head that is why it is always shorter. If the extension hair that you have applied is thicker or heavier than the piece of natural hair it is attached to prepare your self for damage to the natural hair. If any of your extensions hurt or feel uncomfortable it means they have not been applied properly again prepare to have damage to your natural hair.

If the hair matts the quality is of a low standard and is probably not cuticle correct.

Russian hair, in my opinion, is one of the best hair types to create hair extensions for the European market but only if it is processed correctly and that is a whole other story to get the hair from dark to light without damaging the cuticle is a delicate procedure.

With all the above in mind ask your hair extensionist lots of questions they should be able to give you the answers if they are educated in the product and method they use. Ask if they cut their own work, ask to see qualifications of hairdressing, not just a hair extension certificate because most of them are not worth the paper they are written on. Ask how long they have been doing hair extensions for too. Make sure they attended an accredited hair extension course that way you know they will have been trained to a higher standard.

Remember you pay for what you get if you pay peanuts you will get monkeys doing the work. I get constant emails every day asking me 1 question HOW MUCH FOR HAIR EXTENSIONS?. It's like asking how long is a piece of string!! The more natural hair you have to start with the easier it is to work with. If the natural hair is supper thick then the technician needs to apply a lot more hair which will increase the cost of your tresses.

The longer you go from the start of your natural hair, the price will reflect. longer hair is more expensive than shorter locks. If you call up a hair extensionist and they can give you a price over the phone without seeing or finding out about your natural hair you should also worry. Any good technician will want to see the state of your natural hair first. They should also ask what style you want to create with the extensions as they will need to take this into consideration when pricing your extensions most hair extensionist's are a one-trick pony and can only create one style so check that they can actually create the look you want first.

If hair extensions are cut properly and connected to the natural hair you will never be able to reuse the hair. It would be like trying to put together a Jigsaw puzzle as every stand applied should be cut to perfections with layers. Any good hair extensionist would charge more to put something like this back together as it would take longer than the original set that they applied.

Hair Extension should not be left in for any longer than 3 months due to the natural hair loss that the client will suffer over the 3 months of wear. When we take a section of the client's hair and attach a lock to it that piece of natural hair will usually suffer a 10% hair loss every month. After 3 months there is 30% less natural hair supporting the extension lock but the lock should not shed so will become to heavy for the natural hair to support it. The hair loss will sit on the top of the lock and this will stress the natural hair and cause the bond to twist until breaking point. This eventually breaks off and you will have a lock-in your hand with a big tuft of the natural hair sticking out the top where it has broken. This type of damage is irreparable the only way to fix this is to grow the natural hair back. Don't listen to the people who tell you your extensions can last for 6 months plus without being replaced.

So really this industry hides a lot of truths and to get a good result you need to do your homework massively. Good hair extensions are not cheap and some bad ones are also really expensive. Hair is precious it takes so long to grow and if you have 6 inches of hair which usually only reaches the bottom of someone's ear it will have usually taken them 1 year to grow. Hair to the top of the head to the shoulder is around 12 inches taking 2 years to grow. Be warned if an untrained technician puts extensions in your hair and damages it just to grow it back to your chin will take around a year and a half. That's a lot of time looking in the mirror hating your hair and feeling frustrated. This is one of the main reasons why hair extensions are so addictive and people are in a place where they have damaged their hair so much they have no choice but to keep wearing them. This becomes an expensive habit for people who just wanted them for a special occasion. They then have to make a life long commitment to them just to make their hair look like they have natural normal hair due to the thinning or bald patches that have been caused through bad hair extensions.

My advice to you is research and find a hair extensionist who has a proven track record and does them as their main career choice, not just someone who does them as part of their whole beauty package. Look at the before and afters, if the before picture looks like the client's hair is damaged ask why as the product they use should not damage the client's hair.

Find out if they have been a long term client, the human hair should be healthy if they are good at what they do. I am just sharing my views, experience and years of expertise and hope this helps open everyone’s eyes a little! Good luck in your quest to find the

perfect hair extensions.

Written for Professional's Review by Hair Workz Managing Director.

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