Hi I’m Chryssi, the weave technician at Princess & Dolls. I fell in love with weaves (also known as sew-in extensions) 17 years ago when I had my first weave installed. I have short nappy hair (African hair) that doesn’t retain length or volume. I desired to have long luscious locks without doing damage to my already unimpressive hair. What I loved most about weaving my hair was the immediate transformation. From about 4 inches of hair, I had about 22 inches of beautiful wavy hair. I felt like a princess and my confidence grew! I also loved that the extensions were totally invisible. No one could see them as they blended perfectly with my hair. Most importantly, weaving helped my natural hair to grow! My hair was protected underneath the weave and as long as I re-installed my weave every 6-8 weeks, my hair as happy and so was I. I have never looked back since. Despite investigating other methods of hair extensions that developed in recent years, I always come back to sew-in extensions.
Because of my love for sew-ins, I mastered the art of weaving hair so that I could share this amazing process with others who need or want hair. Arriving a few years ago in the QLD hairdressing scene, I was surprised at how little is known here about sew-in extensions. More surprising was the amount of false information supplied by my colleagues in the industry. Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for all hairdressers (it’s a tough gig) but it seemed like there was a lot of intentional “skewing of truth” to promote other very unsafe methods of installing extensions. Hopefully this article will bust some of the myths surrounding sew in extensions and weaves.
Do sew-ins destroy your hair?
On the contrary, sew in extensions can actually cause your hair to grow because your hair is not manipulated daily, and is protected from harsh elements within the cornrow. (A cornrow can be described as a running braid. The hair is sewn onto the cornrow) In fact I have had many clients who decided to get weaves because their natural hair was breaking and damaged. After a couple of years having weaves sewn in, their natural hair had recovered enough length and volume so that they stopped needing sew-in extensions completely! One of them wrote about it here.
There aren’t many online reviews on sew in extensions unfortunately (hopefully we can change that!) There are a few bloggers who speak of the extreme pain they suffered at the hands of a person who installed their weave. It however appears that most of these got their installs from unqualified installers. The weaving industry is not the first to have people claiming to be professionals when all they’ve done is watch a YouTube video!
Although sew-in extensions originate in African culture, the cultural background of the technician is not always a good indicator of whether one is a competent technician or not. Because African hair is so tightly coiled and extremely difficult to detangle, most Africans have over the years developed pain thresholds on their scalps and can withstand high tension on their hair. (And I would know as I am African!). Unfortunately, using the same kind of tension on a Caucasian scalp can cause severe pain, migraine headaches and traction Alopecia. To be safe, make sure you look at actual photos of work previously done by the weave technician. Ensure that the photos belong to the technician - some people simply take photos off the web. Try to choose a technician who has done a lot of hair that is similar to your own. (For example, do they have experience with Caucasian hair, African hair etc.) Make sure you read their reviews as well. There should be some tension on your scalp as your weave is installed but it should not be excruciatingly painful.
A good technician will not only look after your extensions, but will also look after your natural hair. He or she will give you proper advice on how to care for your hair and your weave. For example, how long to keep the weave in, what products to use, what sort of treatments to use on your hair between installs, how long to wait between installs etc. One thing I like to do with my clients is to vary the placement of the rows on each install so that the hair that had the row previously gets “a break”. If your weave technician is a caring professional, you will not suffer any damage to your hair.
In all my years of sewing in extensions I have only ever had one client who came to me with damaged hair from a sew in (which I did not do). This was not a result of damage from the sew in extensions, but was caused by the client keeping her weave in for 6 months straight! (The recommended period is 6-8 weeks). As would be expected, her hair had matted under the cornrows and It was impossible to undo them. We had to cut off her hair. In this case, as in many others, negligence was the problem, NOT the install method.
Celebrities like Naomi Campbell who have no hair line left, suffered from the 90s custom of installing wigs by placing glue on their hair.
Glue or any other form of adhesive in your hair such as used for tape extensions is never a good idea. More on that a little later. If you follow the advice given to you, your hair will thrive and grow with the sew in method.
Are sew-ins only suitable for black people and thick/coarse hair?
Sew-in extensions are suitable for all races and suitable also for people with fine hair. African people have the most brittle hair of all races. It is the driest hair and therefore can easily snap like a dry twig if mishandled. Sew in extensions were developed not simply for aesthetic enhancement, but also as a protective hairstyle to enable such brittle hair to grow. As they have proven so successful with such brittle hair, sew ins are extremely safe for other hair types which even when fine, are much stronger. Over the years I have safely done sew-in extensions on clients with super-fine hair, with no difficulties. Many had attempted other methods with disastrous results. If you have fine hair, please do not buy into the myth that tape extensions or any other adhesive method will be safer for you. These methods are harsh and will ruin your hair particularly because it is an extremely tedious and difficult task to get the adhesive out of your hair even with the recommended removers. This task is often left to the least experienced staff member in a salon with obvious results - hair loss and damage. Sew ins are completely organic. No glue or adhesive is used and removal entails simply cutting off the threads and undoing the cornrows.
Will my hair develop mould as a result of sew ins?
No. Cornrows do not lock away your hair to oblivion neither does a sew in weft or a full lace wig. Your hair does still breath under the row. It is important that after each wash, your hair is properly dried. It is also important to have your weave re-installed within the recommended time frame.
In my nearly two decades of weaving, I have never had a client suffer mould neither have I heard of anyone going through this. If this did happen, it would be an extremely rarely case and would most likely be caused by extreme negligence, poor hair care, poor hygiene or some other condition.
What are the down-sides of having a weave?
- Depending on your scalp type, a few clients report itching under their cornrows. This often resolves normally or after a wash.
- If you are someone who likes to wash your hair every day, you will not be able to keep your cornrows in decent shape for the duration of the install. This however can be dealt with by getting your extensions re-installed every 4 weeks instead of every 6-8 weeks.
- The extensions are not permanent. They have to re-done every 6-8 weeks.
- Good quality hair extensions of all types are initially expensive to purchase. The advantage though is that if you buy good quality extensions, you may not need to buy extensions for up to two years and this works out to be cheaper in the long run.
What is the best thing about wearing a weave?
- They are the most natural looking extensions because they are not easily detectable and can be done from very near your temple, creating a very natural effect (instead of a mullet head effect). Because of this, they are quite versatile.
- They are organic – you do not need to use tape, glue or any other chemical to affix them to your hair.
- They are safe for your hair and can actually promote hair growth.
- They are low-maintenance. You do not have to do much with them once they are in,
- They will not slip out – With tape extensions, a wrong move or no move at all could lead to slippage and some very embarrassing incidents. Get conditioner on them and out they will fall. Sew ins however stay on your scalp through thick and thin. You will not have to worry about explain why there are bits of your hair left over in the pool after a swim.
- They give you the option to try out new colours without bleaching or colouring your own hair. With the option of a full sew in wig or weave, you can go from black to platinum blonde without touching your own hair. This method of extensions therefore gives you the opportunity to experiment while protecting your own hair.
- Sew in extensions are the only form of extensions that can effectively and convincingly conceal hair loss conditions such as Alopecia, Balding, Trichotillomania and more.
I fell in love with sew in extensions all those years ago and I am delighted that in recent years, many people including celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Kourtney Kardashian (above) and Kim Kardashian, are attracted to this method as well. Once in place, they act just like your real hair. You can wash, comb, and even style your hair with sewn in extensions just as you do with your real hair. Use a trusted professional stylist to have them fitted for you. After you have them in, you will see a huge improvement in the beauty of your hair, and so will everyone else. I welcome you to start a new and exciting chapter in your hair journey with me, Chryssi at Princess & Dolls.