Ever since university, which saw me experiment with hair extensions for the first time – back then the only option was thick acrylic hair, weaved and tightly bonded at the root with a sort of glue gun device – I’ve loved the femininity and effortlessness of long boho beach waves. Call it a cliché but I just wanted to look like Sienna Miller. What I’ve sadly come to realize is that it’s not Sienna’s ‘do I admire but her beauty, and no change of hairstyle is going to give me sensational bone structure, luminous skin and plump lips. So, after spending most of my late teens and early twenties with badly applied waist-grazing locks – the weight alone caused irreparable stress and damage to the root of my naturally fine hair – I decided to go cold turkey. No more extensions.
I made the top knot my signature and became obsessed with rebuilding my hair’s health and quality through overnight conditioning treatments, Biotin and specialized vitamins, regular trims and endless Olaplex applications. I missed the ease, the instant glamor of extensions but I told myself that surely over time my own hair would grow. It didn’t. Cue my second epiphany and the realization that my hair in its natural, raw state is ‘light’, thin and prone to breaking and my scalp acts as an indicator for any stress in my life – when a stylist found early stages of alopecia along my hairline and crown, I knew it was time to quit the job that kept me up nights.
“You would really benefit from a few extensions, just for some thickness at the sides,” Karl Warner, my indefatigable hair guru suggested. Explaining my previous relationship with faux weaves, he introduced me to micro ring extensions. “They’re a lot kinder to the hair,” he promised, “and so natural-looking.” Accepting that I would never be able to replicate ‘Sienna waves’ naturally (and with two summer getaways planned), I finally succumbed to the lure of some artfully placed strands…
Following a partial set of highlights, toner and trim, my hair is color matched to the extensions. Given that my underneath, longer layers are raw and therefore naturally darker, Karl combines two different shades of extension – the match is exact and completely undetectable. Using micro rings, which involve the use of a ‘looper’ to slide a ring onto a small section of hair, close to but not touching the root, Karl keeps each section taught before pushing the extension through the ring so that it lines up. The bead is then clamped flat to secure. After adding 100 20-inch strands, I feel like Rapunzel and immediately wonder how practical this new mane will be when I’m rushing out the door in the morning to make an early spin class. We decide to cut off a few inches and shave away some of the thickness so that it blends more naturally with my own hair.
Stunning. And so much easier to manage than I had initially expected with a routine that now involves washing my hair only every 3-4 days (and weekly at-home Olaplex treatments to maintain condition), a blow dry and tying it back in a braid overnight. Come morning, a quick brush-out, some serum and voila – perfect beach waves. The only downside so far is the depressing inevitability of going cold turkey again in 3-months’ time.
Extensions (including cutting and styling): AED3,820
Half head color and toner: AED615
*NB prices may vary depending on hair type
Karl Warner at Pastels Salon, The Ritz-Carlton JBR, Dubai (+971 4 399 5016)