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Hits from the Past
Written by Christopher Box
Published on August 25, 2011
The first question I get as a stylist is, Do extensions damage hair? The answer is yes and no. It all depends upon the hair extension system, the experience of your hair stylists and how you take care of them.
This is my tale of hair damage from hair extensions. It was all my fault due to my inexperience with hair extensions. Read, laugh, and most important of all use this hair extension resource site to learn how to avoid hair extension damage!
I thought it would be a good idea to come clean. To confess my sins so to speak. I was not always the hair extension geek standing before you. There was a time in the not so distant past that I was a shiny new stylist with no clue about hair extensions.
Picture it (I feel very Sophia from Golden Girls) Fall 1998, a fresh faced talented stylists is thrown to the wolves after several other hairdressers left the thriving Aveda salon I worked at. I was terrified but excited beyond words.
I fully intended to be the best damn hairdresser these ladies had ever had.
My plan seemed to be working. Well, until Nichole came in and threw a wrench into my world domination. Being a new stylist can be tricky. In the beginning I think most new stylists start out as yes men (and women). I was so eager to please and do exactly what my clients wanted that I forgot that sometimes this was probably not what was in their best interest.
Nichole came in and had just gotten extensions. It was a magical moment for me. This was the first person I had ever seen up close and personal that had hair extensions. I was glamoured by the magic on her head.
Nichole explained to me she had “braided” extensions in her hair. She loved them but really wished they had more of a wave pattern in them. This would make them perfect! Was there anything I could do?
Of course! I was the perm king at my beauty school. (Don’t laugh! It was a required service to be learned.)
I jumped in with all my creative energy! I explained to Nichole I could rock out a perm that would not “look” like perm but a natural wave. I had perfected the technique and felt very comfortable doing this on her new hair extensions.
Yep, that’s how it went down. I did not ask anything else. Not what kind of hair had been used, what type of hair, what brand, and why her other stylist didn’t just order her wavy hair instead.
Grabbed up my perm rods and went to work. I sculpted the most beautiful perm wrap ever. It was very custom and artistic. I consulted my notes and used the Aveda perm for fragile color treated hair. Mixed my potions and lotions together and began applying.
3 minutes in the hair extensions started turning into spaghetti noodles. This is a very bad sign in the hairdressing world. I literally almost died on the spot.
I remained calm on the outside or did I? I seem to remember seeing my panic reflected in Nichols eyes as well. I whipped her over to the shampoo bowl, rinsed and neutralized.
The perm took beautifully on her hair! The extensions were noodle like tendrils hanging on for dear life.
I packed on some some deep conditioners and scrunched her hair up as best as I could. Sold her a ton of Aveda conditioners and promised her that these would make it all better. I whipped her out the door so fast I don’t even think either of us had time to process what had just happened.
When she left I was a wreck. I wasn't the best stylist in the world I was the worst! I had just ruined my first head of hair and was no longer worth of the license I had worked so hard to get.
That night I really thought about quitting being hairdresser. I thought I had followed all the rules and then this terrible thing happened. I was disappointed in myself, the end result, and and how handled it.
The next day Nichole called. She had her extensions removed. My whole stomach dropped into my shoes. I braced for the screaming and accusations.
What happened next shocked me. Nichole said she was sorry. Her stylist had told her a perm was not a good choice for the hair extensions and had declined to do the service. In fact, she had recommend getting wavy hair next time.
I can still hear her apology in my head to this day. I was so relieved! I was off the hook!
Nope. Not only had I permed her extensions, I had permed the braid that was holding the hair extensions in as well.
She had wavy hair from the perm and rows of afro puffs where the extensions had been. I had permed the braid into her hair!
Nichole came back in and I removed the afro puffs with another perm. I smoothed it all out and made it look as good as it could in its short format.
I apologized to Nichole for taking on a service that I did not fully understand. Perming the braids in her hair was all my fault.
I look back on this experience and still cringe to this day. It makes me feel all alone and maybe a little bit angry. There was no real training program in the salon and certainly not a training program for hair extensions.
From that day forward I weathered the ups and downs by educating myself. There were many times that there was no precedent for me to look to. When these times occurred I would really think the whole process through before jumping in like I did.
The great thing is that with all the information available you don’t have to go through an experience like this. This whole site is dedicated to the edcuation of stylists and of clients that love hair extensions.
The best advice I can give to avoid situations like this is to do your research, educate yourself, ask lots of questions, and learn how to follow your gut.
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