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

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

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.

Tip #3: Use a Gentle Touch

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

The 13 Best Hair Extensions: Laura Harrier



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.

Tip #5: Have Fun

The 13 Best Hair Extensions:



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:

The 13 Best Hair Extensions:


If you have color-treated hair, try:

Gibson calls out Bellami as one of his go-tos when searching for high-quality hair to use on his clients. The company offers premium human hair and synthetic extension options in a variety of different lengths and in temporary configurations like clip-ins and more permanent ones like wefts for sew-ins. The best part? While you won't find much texture diversity, you will find hair that's expertly colored to match and blend with a number of nuanced shades from jet black to platinum blonde.

If you want a custom unit, try:

These days, you can get bundles of weft hair from lots of different sources, but hair brand Mayvenn will actually turn those bundles into a custom unit for free with qualifying purchases. You simply pick out your hair via its e-commerce site, then drop off the hair at a Mayvenn stylist near you who will measure your head and create a custom, perfect-fitting wig or unit within a week.

If you want loc extensions, try:

As you may or may not know, committing to locs is a big deal. If you're not interested in locking your hair permanently, these beautiful extensions are the perfect alternative.

If you need a crown topper, try:

There are countless reasons why people can experience thinning or balding at the crown of their heads. If you can relate and have been searching for a hairpiece to help conceal it, then a Crown Topper might be the way to go. This piece sits atop your head and clips into the surrounding hair for a seamless, natural look.

If you want a halo hair extension, try:

"I'm a big fan of a halo hair extension that has a wire around in a circle with hair attached," Gibson remarks. "All you have to do is put it on and put your hair over the top of it. It's less damaging than just about anything else and only takes five minutes to put it on." This one from celebrity-adored hair brand Glam Seamless features an innovative stretch-wire band that can securely and comfortably conform to any head size along with removable clips for added security. It's the ultimate glam-on-the-go option for those who want to get the job done fast.

If you like tape-in extensions, try:

The Hair Shop is one of the premier destinations for shopping high-quality hair in endless styles, colors, lengths, and textures. Gibson says that it's one of his go-tos for finding all sorts of hair offerings for his many clients. Among the treasures to be found here are the expertly dyed tape-in extensions that come in all sorts of colors to flawlessly blend with your natural hair.

If you have coily hair, try:

Hair extensions aren't just for straight and wavy hair types! Those with curly, coily, and kinky textures can get in on the action, too, with these beautiful clip-ins made to match the textures of Black and brown women who were left with no choice but to straighten their hair in order to wear extensions in the past. 

If you want bundles in varying lengths, try:

Indique sources virgin hair from both India and South East Asia to create the highest-quality extensions. A popular option is its bundle combinations, which allows consumers to buy wefts in two to three different lengths to create natural-looking layers upon installation.

If you want a ponytail extension, try:

Ponytail extensions are a great way to change up your look quickly and with minimal effort. This one from Insert Name Here is made with vegan, synthetic fiber from Japan that you pin into the base of your real ponytail before wrapping it around and around to completely conceal your hair. The result is a snatched high pony à la Ariana Grande.

If you want an Afro puff, try:

This one's for the natural girls who love to rock a puff. Now you can reach new heights with this easy-to-install drawstring extension that perfectly matches natural hair textures. Simply secure it to the base of your bun with the attached combs and pull the drawstrings to close around your hair. 

If you want low-key clips, try:

This celebrity hairstylist–endorsed brand is known for the invisible mini clips used on its clip-in hair extensions. Unlike other clip-ins that can appear bulky, these ones lie completely flat for a super-natural look.

If you prefer extra volume, try:

Whether you're after an ultra-glam look or you have short hair, added volume is your friend when it comes to extensions. If you have short hair, thick hair, or a blunt haircut, you might find it difficult to blend your hair with clip-in extensions. That's where the Luxy Hair Volume Bundle comes in. In addition to 10 clip-ins, you'll also get a single four-clip Volumizer weft to help conceal any shorter strands that are harder to camouflage.

If you need it fast, try:

Yes, you can get human-hair clip-in extensions on Amazon! These ones from Vario are more affordable than most options presented here (or anywhere, for that matter), but according to reviews, the lower price has no bearing on quality. They come in seven-piece packs in a variety of colors and lengths, and there are many accounts of dying the hair and heat-styling it without issue. One of the recurring themes in the reviews is the super-fast shipping, so if you need some hair, like, yesterday, then this is the way to go.

Up next, Hairstylists Predict These Will Be the 10 Biggest Hair Trends of 2021