How to Care for Your Hair Weave or Extensions

Extensions and weaves are popular beauty products. There are some things you should do to maintain them and to protect your natural hair.

What Is a Weave and Hair Extension?

Hair extensions are pieces of human hair or synthetic hair that are added to your natural hair. The process involves gluing, clipping, or sewing added hair onto your natural hair. Some methods like bonding and fusion use glue to keep the extensions in place. Fusion is stronger and can last up to six months on your hair.‌

A weave is an extension or a weft that is sewn into your braids or tracks. A weft is a collection of hair sewn onto a thin cloth. These products are attached to your braids with a needle and thread and sometimes secured again with glue or tape.‌

Different types of extensions and weaves, whether synthetic or human hair, and different styles from clip-in to weaves have different requirements. 

How to Wash Extensions

Washing your extensions is important to keep them looking fresh. You’ll also need to wash your natural hair regularly to maintain a clean and healthy scalp. Weaves need special attention since your natural hair is bound up tight. ‌

Hair extensions don’t have any natural oil of their own, so you’ll need to use the right shampoo and conditioner to prevent stripping. Use sulfate-free products meant for color treated hair and a silicone-based leave-in conditioner. ‌

Focus conditioner on the ends of the extensions rather than the roots and reapply if the hair gets full of static. Don’t twist or scrub the hair, even when towel drying. Instead, gently squeeze. ‌

Human hair extensions. Wash and condition your human hair extensions every one to two weeks to keep them clean of any styling products and looking shiny. Use lukewarm water and gentle shampoo and conditioner. Generally, you should care for human hair weave and extensions like you would your natural hair. 

Synthetic hair extensions. Given that these aren’t natural hair fibers, only wash synthetic extensions if they’re dirty. Use lukewarm water and gentle shampoo and conditioner. Allow to completely dry before styling. ‌

Continued

Natural hair. You’ll still need to care for your natural hair underneath your weave or extensions. If your hair is braided, wash in between them with a spray bottle of water and shampoo. Spray the solution directly to your scalp and massage. Use another spray bottle of water to rinse the shampoo. Thoroughly dry. Do this process once or twice a week.‌

If you use clip-in extensions, this wash-and-condition process will be easier. Simply take them out, and wash your hair as normal. Wash and dry the extensions separately. 

Drying Hair Extensions

Once they’re washed and conditioned, extensions and weaves should be thoroughly dried before you style them. This is especially important for weaves because your natural hair underneath can get wet if the extensions stay wet for too long. This can lead to mildew and scalp damage.‌

Human hair extensions. Dry these extensions with a blow dryer. This will help make sure they are completely dry before styling.‌

Synthetic extensions. Make sure extensions are dry before styling, but only use a blow dryer if your extensions say “heat-friendly” or “heat-defiant." Heat can cause synthetic extensions to melt.

Daily Care and Styling

Prevent mildew and bacteria in your hair with an antibacterial hair spray. Spray your braids and scalp every day with the antibacterial solution. This is especially important if your hair is thick as it will take longer to dry.‌

Human hair extensions. These are easier to style. You can use heat and many styling products, and you can safely perm and color extensions.‌

Synthetic extensions. While these are cheaper, they have styling drawbacks. They can’t be permed or color treated, and you can’t use hot irons and dryers on them unless they’re labelled as heat-safe.‌

For both human and synthetic weaves and extensions, you’ll also need to detangle the hair daily. Use a wide-tooth comb, and start at the bottom and work up.

Removing Your Extensions

Some extensions can last a long time, but in order to protect your scalp and your natural hair, it’s important to remove your weave or extensions. If your hair is braided, the tight style may pull on your hair and can lead to hair loss. The extensions themselves can also pull on your hair. Glues and tapes can lead to rashes and other scalp problems, too. After two or three months of wearing a weave or extensions, take them out and give your hair a break.‌

Extensions can give you a fun new look and style change, but maintaining them well is important for your skin and natural hair. 

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 11, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology Association: “How to prevent hair damage from a weave or extensions.”

Breastcancer.org: “Wigs.”

International Journal of Women’s Dermatology: “Hair camouflage: A comprehensive review.”

Minnesota School of Cosmetology: “Hair Extensions & Weaves: A Hairstylist’s Guide.”

Vision Hair Extension: “Hair Extensions Training Guide for Professionals.”

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