Monday, October 15, 2007

Apple #273: Hair Weaves

On various TV shows I've seen lately, enough people have mentioned hair weaves, saying so & so's hair weave was just nasty, or something to that effect. The cumulative effect has been to make me -- a white girl through & through -- wonder: exactly how do hair weaves work?

  • Hair weaves, first of all, are a type of hair extension.
  • The hair you get added to your own can by synthetic (plastic), or it can be human hair. A lot of people say stay away from the synthetic stuff.
  • Many people also say that of the human hair available (Asian, European-Quality which means Indian or Pakistani, and European), European hair which usually comes from Italy or Spain is generally the best to get.
There are two basic types of extensions.
  • Strands: the extension is loose, and applied to your hair in clusters of 20-50 strands at a time.

This is what a "bulk" of strand extension looks like. This particular variety is the Beverly Johnson, 18" of deep-wave human hair.
($54.99 from

  • Wefts or tracks: these look like curtains of hair that are attached, either by hand or by machine, to a mesh that is then secured to your scalp underneath your own hair.

Examples of wefts or weaves or tracks. The place at the top where the hair is crimped is where it gets attached to your own hair.
(Photo from Nubian Hair in Canada)

Some wefts have a strip of adhesive across the top, or a place to apply glue or tape.
(Photo from Xinya Hair Products)

Even though glues or heat can be used to apply either of the two extensions, there are additional methods of fixing the extension to your hair to choose from:
  • Braided: Your natural hair is braided in tiny cornrows, going across your head to create a sort of curtain rod from which to hang the weaves. The braids are made toward the lower part of your head so that you still have some of your natural hair to hide the braids. The extensions are then sewn onto the braids using sturdy weaving thread. While this option has the benefit of not using any adhesives or chemicals, the braids can be made too tight, or the extensions can be too heavy for the braids and pull out your hair. To prevent your hair from breaking or getting brittle, stylists advise applying oil to your scalp where the braids are.

Three types of needles that can be used to sew weaves. 99 cents each from EsthersOnline.)

It's kind of hard to tell from this picture, but thread used for hair weaves is thicker and sturdier than your typical sewing thread.
($15 per spool, from Clem Lue Yat, which specializes in hair weaves and units for people who've undergone chemotherapy)

  • Tracked or Micro-Weaved: Like the braided method, your hair is braided but entirely around your head in concentric circles. The braids are sewn together to form a sort of cap around your head. The extensions are then sewn to the braids. Tracks are used in this case because they are much larger. About 8 to 15 tracks will cover your entire head. Lasts about two months. $15 to $35 per track.

A quick picture of how micro-weaving works
(Image from Scott International in Rotterdam, the Netherlands)

  • Netted: Your hair is contained under a thin, breathable net. Extensions are then sewn to the netting. The benefit to this is that the stylist can apply the extensions anyplace he or she chooses and is not limited to the demands of your own hair. The drawback is that you have to wash your hair with the extensions and the net on, and you need to make sure your hair is completely dry "so it will not mildew under the net." $150 to $350.

One example of a weaving cap. This one goes for $8.99 from EsthersOnline.)

  • Bonded: Your hair is divided into small sections, glue is applied to it close to the scalp, and the extension is bonded to the section of your hair with the glue on it. The adhesive can irritate people's skin, and as little adhesive should be used as possible. It can also make removing the extensions very difficult and can cause damage to your own hair. Bonded weaves usually last one to two months, and although they will start to loosen on their own, it is best to have a professional remove them for you. $10 to $15 per track.

One type of adhesive used in bonding extensions. This can only be removed with a special solvent made by the same company.
(Liquid Gold, sold by Laissez Fair Hair for $8.00)

What the extensions look like just after they've been bonded to the natural hair.
(Photo from Laissez Faire Hair)

This is the Economy Purging Tool with Control. Even though the name suggests removal, it's actually used to apply bonded extensions.
(The Purging Tool can be yours for $89.95 from Laissez Faire Hair)

  • Extend Tube: Your hair and the extensions are pulled through little plastic tubes (sometimes called shrinkies). The tube is then clamped and heated so that it seals the extension to your hair.

The plastic tubes that go around your hair and the top of the extension. They can be clamped or more often are bonded with a purging tool to attach the extension.
(250 in a pack for $24.95 from Laissez Faire Hair)

Long hooks are used to pull the extensions through the tubes. This one is marketed as a deluxe variety because it has a hook at both ends.
(Dual Action Pulling Needle, $18.00 from Laissez Faire Hair)

This extension is specially made to be used with extension tubes. The top ends are already crimped together to make each clump go through the tubes more easily. This particular extension is actually human hair, I think dyed in the bleach blond with strawberry blond shade.
($74 for 14 inches from Laissez Faire Hair)

  • Fused: Like the bonded method, your hair is divided into sections, but instead of using glue, fusion weaves use hot wax using a device much like a glue gun. The weaves last longer, about 2 to 3 months, and they are more expensive -- about $800 to $1,800.

This is a Fusion Hot Gun kit. It includes templates, "fusion pliers," gloves, fusion remover, a clarifying shampoo for use before treatment, and the fusion wax in your choice of colors: black, brown, or red-brown.
($94.95 from Laissez Faire Hair)

If you want to know more about how to do hair weaves, check out these free videos:

Marquetta Breslin has a DVD that demonstrates her braided weave techniques. The brief video at her website gives a quick picture of how they work.

Bobby the Headmaster makes weaves but without using braids. (Video is excerpted, but still weighs in at almost ten minutes)

Regardless of what type of extension you get, how you take care of it is crucial. While washing and blow-drying and especially coloring can loosen or even wreck your extension, you do have to wash your hair (see the Weaves Library for tips on washing your weave). Most stylists recommend washing every two to three days. It's important to keep the extension clean because it doesn't take long before bacteria can build up in it and it'll stink and generally be nasty. It's also important to keep your own hair clean, for similar reasons, and also dry underneath those extensions, but you also want to make sure it's not drying out too much and getting brittle and breaking on you.

Here's one woman's tale of other things that can go wrong with weaves:

Still, lots of famous people have hair weaves:
  • Oprah
  • Beyonce
  • Tyra Banks
  • Ashanti
  • Naomi Campbell
  • Serena Williams
  • Jessica Simpson
  • And, I'm told, most black women with flowy, wavy hair are wearing weaves
  • Britney did, too, but even before she shaved her head, she kind of let hers go...

All that gluing and waxing and sewing looks like various forms of torture to me. According to what I've read, some people get extensions so they can make all kinds of hairstyles without damaging their own hair in the process. Other people get extensions because their own hair has already gotten damaged, and they're essentially covering it up while it repairs itself. Other people get extensions just because they think they look cool.

But I think if it were me, because I don't usually go in for lots of hair styling and I generally want to keep things as natural as possible, I think I'd go with the fro. Though I've read that "going natural" can also be time-consuming.

I doubt I'd be cool enough to pull off something like this, but Nina Simone sure did.
(Photo from Jeanne's Body and Soul blog)

By the way, I didn't do a Strange Place Names sub-entry here because this entry seemed long enough as it is.

Dr. Susan Taylor's, Hair Weaves
iVillage, Weave the Magic
Laissez Faire Hair, Hair Extension Application Techniques
Karen Marie Shelton and Terri Robert-Edwards, Hair Extensions the Safe Way, Hair, October 14, 2007
Julyne Derrick, Black Female Celebrity Hairstyles,
Tanika White, With weaves, stars let their hair down,
The Baltimore Sun, June 3, 2007
Yahoo! Answers, Why do black women wear weaves?


  1. Thanks, rachna! That's very nice to hear!

    --the apple lady

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  3. Not sure how i came across this blog, but by now i'm hoping you've realized "most" black women are wearing weaves just as much as most white women are. White women just have different installation methods and will still pay an up-charge of over $1000 for a $300 job. Every white woman I know has clip-in hair extensions in their bathroom; may not be a sew-in, but you all have to wash your natural hair more frequently than black women. Weaves are no longer a stereotypical black feat. You'd be surprised how many of your favorite caucasian celebrities can't live without their weaves. Think about it, not even a white woman can grow a bob to back length in a week. Oh and Yahoo Answers to determine why black women wear weaves? hahaha. 'A' for effort and curiosity.

  4. Thanks for the A for effort! I appreciate that. I've still never worn a weave, and I still don't know a single person who has. But I am not exactly on the cutting edge of fashion either. So I'm glad for the update. :) I agree , going from a bob to down-the-back hair in a week would be pretty fun.

  5. Thanks for sharing your good content and thoughts on Indian deep wave hair extensions

  6. Weaves and hair extentions is not something that's just being worn in the black community. Maybe you live in some small, non-diverse town or something but I live in a major city where I see white salons advertising extensions everywhere. Most celebrities wear hair extentions and wigs no matter the ethnicity. I realize that this blog was written a few years ago so maybe things have changed since then. Go to Sally's and try some of their caucasian extentions! lol


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