The Pros and Cons of Clip-Ins, Fusion, Beads, Sew-Ins, and Halo Extensions.
I’ve been wearing extensions for the past three or so years now. After trying so many different kinds, spending loads of money on bundles of hair and installation, I’ve decided to make a guide to convey the pros and cons of various types of extensions. The following descriptions do not take into account all of the different types of extensions that are out there, but rather this is an overview of some extensions I’ve relied on over the years.
I created the above graphic to demonstrate a few types of extensions that I’ve had the most experience wearing.
I started wearing extensions to fill in the many bald spots on my head, so that my hair didn’t appear as thin as it actually was. I had always been hesitant to try out extensions, especially in times when my hair was mostly sparse in the upper or side regions of my scalp. I worried that extensions would be too visibly fake or wouldn’t be able to cover up the areas I really needed to be hidden.
After trying a variety of types of extensions, I've learned that extensions really do add so much volume to my hair, and are the best form of helper-hair for me. Careful placement of extensions is key, and in my experience adding L’Oreal Magic Root Coverup really does the trick in hiding thinning hair and bald spots on the top of my head / more visible areas of the scalp, when paired with extensions.
What I really love about extensions is that, unlike wigs and hair toppers, they allow the shape of your hairline and part to be visible. I’ve never been able to find a wig that looks natural on me, and this is specifically because my hairline and part are so difficult to replicate. (I’m still searching for the perfect wig, though, so let me know if you have any recommendations!)
Extensions let me retain my natural hairline shape, while still hiding the fact that I have bald spots along my hairline, part, and in various other regions of my scalp. The natural look that I am able to achieve with extensions is truly incredible, often allowing me to forget that my scalp is really only about 25% covered in bio-hair.
Clip In Extensions:
The extensions I started with remain my favorite clip-in extensions to this day. They are the Euronext’s 14-inch Clip-in Human Hair Extensions from Sally Beauty. I love that I can clip in real human hair all over my scalp, hiding the clips where I need to, and filling in every thin area on my head (and believe me, that’s a lot of places) for only $114. That is such a steal for this level of quality.
Real human hair at an amazing price
I love the length and color (these also come in an 18-inch length and 9 different colors
I'm able to adjust the placement to suit my ever-changing cover-up needs
You really need to be careful in the placement of this hair and check on it throughout the day to make sure these aren’t slipping or pulling out your hair
Depending on your reason for hair loss, these can be a hinderance (i.e. specific types of alopecia can make your hair more susceptible to falling out with this applied pressure).
You cannot sleep in them. These extensions need to be removed after several hours of use to prevent damage to your bio-hair.
They are less secure than the more permanent types of extensions (watch out on windy days!).
Two years ago, faced with the challenge of going abroad, traveling frequently, and sharing a living space with new people, I decided it was time to explore more permanent extension installation. I wanted to be less worried about my hair so that I could focus on getting to know Copenhagen, and fusion extensions allowed me to do just that!
After doing some research, I found the brand Great Lengths, used their salon locator to find a certified stylist near me, and scheduled a consultation.
Side note: I HIGHLY recommend calling ahead and explaining your specific situation in great detail before going in person for any kind of extension consultation. This way, the stylist knows what to expect and can be realistic about whether or not a particular type of extensions will be a good fit for you.
I was pretty skeptical about whether these semi-permanent extensions would actually be an option for me, but my hair stylist was so accommodating and really worked with me to fill my scalp with as much hair as possible (all without damaging my bio-hair!).
Once you get these put in, you don’t have to go back to the salon until it’s time to take them out. This is what made them so perfect for traveling - they required such little maintenance.
Once they’re in and you get used to them, you can basically treat them like your own head of hair.
They last up to 3-5 months!
At around 3 months, they start to look a little unkempt because they grow out with your bio-hair. While other extensions require move-ups after 4-6 weeks, these don’t. Being so low maintenance comes with a price: the extensions start to appear more visible, and also begin to slip out in small amounts after a couple months.
They are really expensive, and because you can’t reuse them after you get them taken out, you have to keep purchasing new hair every few months if you decide to keep getting them done.
These can sometimes give your hair a “spaghetti” look because the bond between the bio-hair and extension hair is rolled into a very round shape.
When I got back from Copenhagen (my favorite place on Earth), it was time to have the fusion extensions removed, and I had already decided I would not be getting more of those. Now that I was going to be living closer to the salon, I could get more high-maintenance extensions.
Bead extensions (also known as i-tip extensions) are like the fusion extensions in that they’re attached in small bundles and dispersed around the scalp, but they’re better (in my opinion) because they require a little care every 4-6 weeks, in which they are moved back up closer to the follicle to keep up with bio-hair growth. Each move up is pricey, but because the same hair is reused for around a year, you’re not paying nearly as much as you would to keep getting fusion extensions installed.
Bead extensions are a cheaper investment over time than fusion extensions, because you are mostly paying for labor, rather than new hair.
Hair looks less like “spaghetti” and lays flatter on your head, because the bead is tightened into a rectangular shape when adhered to bio-hair.
I’ve also found that because these beads can be attached at so many points across the scalp, it’s a great way for me to prevent hair-pulling, especially in the early days post move-up. (Trich-specific)
These are still pretty expensive, because they require a lot of visits to the salon (which in my case was kind of a hassle because my salon was 1.5 hours away from my college when I had them).
When I moved to Atlanta for a summer internship last year, I had to find a new salon to get my bead extensions moved up every few weeks. During my first visit to this new salon, I was very vocal and honest about my hair situation with my stylist. After listening carefully to everything I had tried and all the challenges facing my hair, she already had new ideas for me.
She proposed the sew-in weft to me, because it would provide more hair per square inch of my scalp, as well as put less pressure on my bio-hair, because it would only need to be attached in a few places, rather than all over my scalp.
I have personally gotten my wefts from Bellami.
You can get these moved up every 6-8 weeks, rather than 4-6 weeks. (More time between move-ups = less expensive cost over time.)
The density of the extensions gives you much more hair than you get with bead or fusion extensions.
Fewer points of adhesion = less pressure on bio-hair.
I found these to be more visible and required more L'Oreal spray to blend them with my bio-hair (though this could have been due to my color choice).
I was more prone to pulling my bio-hair with these extensions, because it wasn't attached in as many places on my scalp. (Trich-specific)
You need to make sure the contact points between the weft and your bio-hair are adhered tightly before leaving the salon. If a contact point becomes loose and slides out, the weft will partly hang off your head, which is not only annoying, but it also disrupts the weight balance of the other adhesion points on your scalp.
(not pictured in my graphic)
As some of you may have seen in my first ever YouTube video, I’ve been wearing Halo extensions all through quarantine. I first saw these on an Instagram ad, but they were going to be about $75, and didn’t look very secure, so I passed. When I saw them on Amazon for $11, I thought I’d go ahead and try them out.
I have a love-hate relationship with Halo extensions. I think they’re great to wear for short amounts of time, but I’m still on the fence about their durability and longevity. The fact that they’re synthetic allows them to maintain a beautiful curl, but also causes a lot of tangles.
I also feel like I can’t really move my head around so much, for fear of the very thin plastic “headband” part of it falling off or pulling my hair.
Overall, though, these have truly been the perfect extensions in low-maintenance quarantine!
They are beautiful, come curled, add length and volume, and are fairly easy to blend with bio-hair if you are able to get the correct color.
They are SO cheap. Even though they might not last super long, it would still cost way less money to purchase a new set of these extensions every month than to get permanent extensions installed and moved-up on a regular basis.
Synthetic hair (if you don’t already know this) tangles SO easily. You have to brush it so often to prevent impossible knots from forming.
The part that lays on your head has questionable security and durability, and I always worry it is going to snap, move around, and/or pull my hair out in the process. This is also always the hardest part to hide, but there are several strategies for doing so.
So, which are my favorite?
I really think each of these extensions can be perfect in the right situation. For example, the Halo Extensions work the absolute best for Zoom calls, but aren’t the best for going on walks. Fusion extensions are great for periods of time when you know you won’t be able to go to a salon. Bead extensions may be the best for preventing trichotillomania pulling, while sew-in wefts may be better for covering up alopecia spots without requiring too many adhesion pressure points across the scalp.
When deciding what extensions might work best for you, really consider what your daily routine looks like, what will be the most sustainable for you, what will be the most budget-friendly, etc.
Extensions can be really personal, so it’s important to think about what will work best for you specifically. If you are on a budget, I recommend starting with the Halo extensions, to see if extensions are going to help with your hair situation in the first place. If extensions don’t work for you, that’s also okay!
Finding your personal best helper-hair is going to be an experience unique to you. I’ve started to think of it like dating….You may go through a few flings, one night stands, and even long-term relationships before you find the right fit. You may even decide along the way to stop dating and to embrace being a bald(ing) beauty.
My best advice to you: have fun with the trial and error.
I am not paid to endorse any of my recommended brands or products.
Pricing for various extensions and installations vary depending on brand of hair and salon/stylist.