It's not every day you get to sit down in front of celebrity hairstylist Chris Appleton (whose clients include Jenners, Kardashians, a certain Lopez, and a Perry), so when you do, it's safe to say he can have his way with your hair. However, that's exactly the circumstance I found myself in earlier this week, and surrounded by Glam Seamless hair extensions, bottles of hair products, and enough curling wands and flat irons to cover a red carpet, we eventually decided on an angle: a quick and easy summer hair tutorial that would give me the glossy mermaid-esque waves Kim and Kylie have practically trademarked on IG, paired with the volume and thickness à la J.Lo. The bar was set high.
Since I've always thought of my heavily highlighted hair as pretty unremarkable, I was skeptical my gimpy strands would be able to pull it off. Yes, my hair has been growing like crazy and now grazes my mid-back, but it's on the thinner side, damaged, and uncooperative when it comes to my usual styling efforts. And once the hot, humid summer months set in? Forget it. That said, I had complete trust in Appleton (who was kind enough to compliment my hair upon arrival—seriously, bless him) due his amazing roster of loyal clientele and the magical hair looks he effortlessly creates for them.
Sure enough, roughly 10 to 15 minutes after landing on a styling decision, I was walking out the door with hair that looked and felt twice its normal thickness (hallelujah!) and more appropriate for a magazine cover, beach, or night out than its actual and rather anticlimactic destination, my lowly office desk. That said, the process was so fast and foolproof (Appleton has so many great tips!) I feel 100% confident I'll be able to re-create the look this coming weekend or whenever I feel the urge to have really, really great hair. Oh, and you totally can too.
To spread the hair love, I'm sharing Appleton's step-by-step process, which involved some strategic clip-in-extension placement, hair spray, a flat iron, and maybe a quick hit of texture spray if you're feeling like it might be that kind of night. (Literally, that's it—four products.) Ahead, how to use clip-in extensions to your hair's advantage this summer, as shown by celeb hair magician Chris Appleton. Keep scrolling!
The Glam Seamless team had told me to arrive with clean, blow-dried hair, so after a quick rough-dry, I was out the door. To give my hair a little bit more volume and polish before starting his extension work, Appleton touched up the hair around my face and the top of my head using a blow-dryer and wide round brush. He explains that if you don't have time to do a full blowout at home, at least addressing the front and top layers can instantly make your hair look more voluminous and put-together. Always make sure you blow-dry up and out (versus down and out) to get the right amount of bounce and body pre-extension.
For the base layer, Appleton used a fine-tooth comb to section off my hair roughly in line with the midline of my ear. Even though Glam Seamless's clip-ins lie super flat (a must for no detection), grip can be an issue. Therefore, Appleton recommends back-combing and teasing the roots along the scalp of each section in order to give the clips something to really latch onto.
If your hair is really slippery or not freshly washed (aka a little greasy), he recommends either using a flat iron to quickly press and set the teased roots or spritzing the teased roots with a quick hit of hair spray for extra assurance of hold. (An extension gone rogue is never a good look.)
Clip-in placement will largely depend on how much hair you have and what kind of look you're after, but as a rule of thumb, Appleton recommends placing each extension roughly one or two inches apart from each other. All too often, he says, people get way too excited and start packing too many in too close together, which won't look natural and creates a higher likelihood of detection. Appleton placed another extension right where the top of my ear hit—just an inch or so above the other one.
Another tip? Mixing a few colors and shades will make your extensions look more natural and help a ton with blendability. If you're like me and perpetually overdue for touch-ups or in need of a brightening boost, placing a few brighter and lighter extensions sprinkled throughout the hair will immediately lend the look of fresher, more vibrant color.
Once you get to the sides of the head, Appleton says one of the best tricks when using clip-ins is to place them diagonally—higher toward the back and lower toward the front. That way, the hair naturally falls toward the face, which automatically makes your hair look thick and full. Ultimately, Appleton applied two sets of clip-ins on each side of my head, adhering to his one-to-two-inches-apart rule.
To finish the application process, Appleton went in with one last extension at the crown of my head. Since high points of the head like this are the sections you have to be most wary of in terms of camouflaging and hiding the clip-ins, Appleton says it can be smart to use a colored root spray to douse the clip part of the extension with whatever color your root is. For instance, since some of my natural dirty-blonde/borderline-brown roots were showing, Appleton spritzed the bright-blonde clip with brown to help completely camouflage the extension.
This is probably best done by a professional prior to whenever you want to wear your extensions. According to Appleton, cutting the extensions a bit will help tailor your clip-ins to your natural cut and will make them look more believable, and in general, they'll blend more seamlessly into your natural length and layers. Oh, and he says to always, always use a razor—if the cut is too blunt, the extensions will look fake (which, they are, but you get what we mean!).
Honestly, at this point, I already loved my hair and couldn't believe how invisible and lightweight the extensions felt (or how fast and easy it had been to put them all in). But we decided to take the look a step further from sleek and smooth to wavy and mermaid-like.
To create the waves, all you'll need is a flat iron. Appleton says to avoid using a really skinny size and to use one that's a little wider. Not only will the process be much faster since you can cover ground more quickly, but it will also encourage a prettier wave pattern.
Taking small sections, simply use your free hand to create S-shapes with your strands while simultaneously pressing each S with your flat iron. This technique results in flat, smooth waves, versus the poofy, crimpy waves other hot tools can yield. Appleton used the above from Harry Josh.
When it comes to finishing the look, Appleton recommends shaking out the waves rather than brushing, which runs the risk of ruining or at least dulling the wave texture. Then, for extra body, texture, and volume, he spritzed some texturizing spray throughout for one last dose of thickening and hold.