How to Not Ruin Your Hair With Extensions, According to Angelina Jolie's Stylist

Have you ever looked at someone with impossibly long, thick, and lustrous hair and wondered which piece of their genetic code was responsible for such wonder? Well, these days, there's a good chance those enviable locks have less to do with DNA and more to do with hair extensions. Once reserved for the Hollywood elite and those with insanely deep pockets, hair extensions of all varieties have become equally commonplace among A-listers and everyday folks alike. "They're not Hollywood's best-kept secret any longer," says Ted Gibson, legendary celebrity hairstylist and founder of his eponymous L.A. hair salon. "They're really versatile in application, and in a way, you can really be a different person by wearing extensions." 

Even if a major transformation isn't your goal, hair extensions have become as casual an option for increasing length, thickness, and volume in your hair as just about anything out there. The best part? They offer immediate results. (No more waiting for those biotin-filled hair vitamins to finally kick in.) But one deterrent that might have stopped you from trying them up to this point is their reputation for causing severe damage to your real tresses. Are breakage and crazy thinning really worth it?

Gibson thinks so. In fact, he goes as far as to confirm that, with the advances in application techniques and types of hair extensions, it's possible to wear them with little-to-no damage to your natural hair. Few have reached the upper echelon of Hollywood hairstylists where Gibson now resides, so if he says extensions won't completely eff up our hair, then we believe it. After all, the gorgeous manes of his A-list roster—from Angelina Jolie to Lupita Nyong'o, Sandra Oh, and Lily Collins—are proof of his expertise. Ahead, check out Gibson's top tips for making sure your real hair thrives while you're wearing hair extensions. Then, continue on to learn about 13 of the best hair extensions out there to try now.

Tip #1: Be Honest About Your Level of Commitment


(Image credit: @chrisappleton1)

According to Gibson, the cardinal rule of hair extensions is understanding what level of commitment you're signing up for. There are so many different types and installation techniques out there that require varying levels of maintenance and effort. "There are girls that put hair extensions in and wear them for four months, and then, they're done. Their hair can be destroyed because they wore them for so long," Gibson tells us. "I think it's so important to think about how much maintenance you're willing to put in." As a general rule of thumb, if you just want length or volume for a special occasion or want the option to remove your extensions daily, then more temporary ones like clip-in extensions and halos are your best bet. For more durable options meant to stay put for weeks at a time, you'll want to consult a trusted stylist about techniques like sew-ins and micro-links. 

Tip #2: Don't Scrimp on Haircare


(Image credit: @kerrywashington)

If you're considering extensions under the guise that you'll be able to ignore your real hair, then we have some bad news. This will not be an opportunity to neglect your natural hair! Aside from leaving extensions in longer than they're intended, Gibson says not caring for your hair underneath is the worst thing you can do. "Taking [the extensions] out, shampooing, and deep-conditioning your hair before you put extensions back in is vital," he implores. If you're using human-hair extensions, you'll want to regularly shampoo and condition them, too, to keep them looking their best.

Products to have on hand:

Tip #3: Use a Gentle Touch


(Image credit: @chrisappleton1)

Gibson says that another hair-extension misstep is wearing them too tight. This is especially important to remember when wearing a sew-in, where your natural hair is braided into cornrows to create a foundation to attach extensions to. The braids can go from secure to ultratight so easily. Wearing any type of hair extension puts tension on your hair and scalp, so you want to be careful not to overdo it. If you're experiencing headaches or seeing little bumps around any braids or points of contact, those are telltale signs of excessive tightness.

Tip #4: Don't Forget About Your Scalp


(Image credit: @lauraharrier)

Speaking of scalp tension, Gibson says that deprioritizing scalpcare is another mistake to avoid. "Making sure that your scalp is healthy before putting extensions in is important because if your scalp isn't healthy, then what can happen is that you can cause alopecia, especially if your braids are too tight underneath." He also mentions that it's essential to account for any treatments that can potentially compromise your hair and scalp, like chemical relaxers or color processing, and to choose your extension technique accordingly.

Products to have on hand:

Tip #5: Have Fun


(Image credit: @arianagrande)

There's an old saying in the fashion world that goes something like, "Wear the clothes; don't let them wear you." The same sentiment is true when it comes to hair. "I think these days it's really about breaking the rules," says Gibson. "There are so many different techniques on how to add hair extensions. Before, it was just the sew-in, but I think there are so many different options now that women don't have to be so afraid of doing a little bit of experimenting." Long story short? Don't worry about what the next person is doing. Do you, boo.

Shop the top hair extensions:


(Image credit: @janetmock)

If you have color-treated hair, try:

If you want a custom unit, try:

If you want loc extensions, try:

If you need a crown topper, try:

If you want a halo hair extension, try:

If you like tape-in extensions, try:

If you have coily hair, try:

If you want bundles in varying lengths, try:

If you want a ponytail extension, try:

If you want an Afro puff, try:

If you want low-key clips, try:

If you prefer extra volume, try:

If you need it fast, try:

Associate Beauty Editor

Courtney Higgs is a Cancer sun, Libra rising beauty enthusiast with about six years of experience in the editorial space. She was previously Who What Wear's associate beauty editor after spending many years working on the West Coast edit team at InStyle Magazine. She graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a BA in communication studies and pivoted to editorial after spending her college years working in the legal field. Her beauty philosophy is simple: She believes there are no wrong answers and that discovering our favorite beauty products and rituals is a journey, not a sprint. When she's not geeking out over products, she can be found adventuring around L.A. with her fiancé; watching reality TV with their French bulldog, Bernie Mac; or relating way too hard to astrology memes.