I’ve come to terms with my gray hair (which I love now, btw), but sometimes you need to change it up—and waiting for new silvers to grow in just takes too long. But are gray hair extensions worth it? Here’s my honest review.
By: Lisa Fennessy
IN THIS POST:
- Pros: What I liked about my gray hair extensions
- Cons: What I didn’t like about my gray hair extensions
- Are gray hair extensions worth it?
- There’s no “RIGHT WAY” to do extensions (or any other hair change)
Gosh, I miss dying my hair sometimes. (Bet you didn’t expect me to say that?! 😂) Well, I don’t actually miss the hair dye…what I miss is the change, the freshness the salon experience…the head massage, the two hours to myself, the glass of wine…youknowwhati’msayin?
I mean, I stopped dying my hair 5 years ago (as of May 2022) and with that I also kinda stopped going to the hair salon too. I didn’t mean to do it but my monthly visits turned into yearly ones and all of a sudden I’m like, wait a minute, I NEED A CHANGE.
Now don’t get me wrong, I L🤍VE my gray hair but there is nothing like stepping out of the salon with that FRESH FRESH, that NEW NEW, that *hair flip*, I-look-good feeling you get after a hair refresh.
Craving that, my first inclination was to try gray ombre. My hair, especially the underneath, is still really dark. Most of the gray is on my crown and around my face so I thought, heck, let’s lighten it up on the bottom and underneath to add a little edge, some fun, some playfulness.
Well, my hairdresser shot that idea right down, saying my hair is still too dark to dye it gray. Doing that would require a huge amount of processing, which would inevitably leave my hair dry, brittle and weak. (NO THANKS!)
As an alternative, she recommended gray extensions and I was so in.
Turns out there are a TON of different types of extensions. Hand-tied, tape-ins, removable…I got human hair Keratin bonded extensions, which didn’t mean anything to me at first, but will make sense to you if you’ve looked into extensions. Essentially, they are ¼ inch strands of hair that are “installed” with a special heat iron that glues them to a similar amount of strands of hair on your head.
So it’s been three months since I got these extensions installed and it’s just about time to remove them. Some extensions, like tape-ins can be moved up. Bonded extensions actually have to be fully removed and if you want new ones, you order new. Here’s what I liked and what I didn’t.
Pros: What I liked about my gray hair extensions
A fun pop of color: Like I said, my hair is pretty dark underneath, so these gray extensions added a bright gray color to places where it didn’t exist before.
Brightens up my look: Adding gray to the underside my hair brightened up my face a little more.
Edgy and unexpected: Several people told me they look natural, but I felt fun and edgy knowing that I had altered my look with extensions. (This was my first time getting them!)
Adds volume: Love the look of a bulky pony, a thick-a*s bun or a thick, full soft wave and I got all of that with these gray hair extensions.
Can be placed specifically where you want them: The bonded extensions need to be “installed.” Meaning the hairdresser / tech selects the spots for where each extension will go. It’s really very artistic what they do and I loved collaborating with Izzy from Creature Studio to get them placed just right.
Sick dimension: My braids and buns look incredible with a ton of dimension via these bright gray hair extensions.
They got thicker after the first wash: I liked my new volume right away, but I liked it even more after the first wash when each extension filled out and got thicker.
Cons: What I didn’t like about my gray hair extensions
The price: I got about 20 extensions installed and it cost me just shy of $600 with tip. 😱
Some fell out: Over the course of 3 months, I had two extensions fall out, one time when I was brushing my hair and another time before I got into the shower I noticed that an extension was about 4 inches longer than it should have been. No harm, no foul. I just tugged on them gently and they came out but still, EW!
They hurt at first: I’m not talking about unbearable pain, but they are tight and itchy for about the first week. Maybe even the second week too. For sure I had a hard time sleeping that very first night. It was kind of annoying and I definitely felt like I wanted my old hair back a few times.
They matted: The older they got, the drier they got and they tended to tangle and mat.
I felt self conscious: If I wore my hair up or half up, I caught myself wondering if people could see where I had my extensions installed. I also felt distracted getting a massage or getting adjusted at the chiro, like I had to let people know what they were feeling wasn’t ticks, just extensions. I haven’t felt self conscious about my hair like this in years and I didn’t like reintroducing that feeling again.
You can’t let your hair air dry: I try not to use too much heat on my hair because heat will cause gray hair to yellow. So most of the time I let my hair air dry 90% of the way and hit it with a dryer for the last few mins. I couldn’t do that with these. If the bond remains wet, it can break down the glue and increase the chances of it falling out. Also, you increase the chances of mold growth. 🤢
Can’t get oil / conditioner near them: The same thing applies to oil or conditioners. So you CAN apply conditioner to the middle and ends of your hair, but you can’t apply it near or around the bonded part because it will break down the bond.
Swim caps required: And to piggyback on that, if you are at the beach or pool, don’t even think about going underwater unless you have a swim cap on. They can’t be wet for an extended period of time, remember?
You need a specific brush: You can’t brush your extensions with any ol’ brush because it can pull them out or damage them. So I ended up having to invest in a new brush too. The recommended hairbrush for extensions is a boar bristle hair brush. My hairdresser said the best one is over $100, but we found this knock off for just about $30.
The color changed: The hairdresser toned my extensions when they got them in hand so they would be more of an exact match for my hair. This tone wore off over time and my extensions became more of a warm blonde instead of the cool gray I prefer.
RELATED: The best all-natural purple shampoos for gray hair.
Are gray hair extensions worth it?
All in all I LOVED having them and I may get them again at some point…or try a different type of extension to compare. I hear the handtied ones do not fall out as easily.
But my biggest fear, and probably the biggest con, is that I’ve potentially compromised the love I have for MY OWN HAIR. Before I got extensions, I loved everything about my hair. It was thick enough, long enough and full of dimension. But now that I have even thicker, longer and more dimensional hair, have I just ruined what I used to love? I’m afraid when I get them taken out my hair will suddenly feel thin and less-than.
The other odd thing that came up during this experience is I wondered if I could still claim my hair as “natural.” I get asked all the time, “Is your hair natural???” And I always proudly answer, “YES!” But with gray hair extensions, I felt like that badge of honor had been taken away from me in a way, because answering “YES” all of a sudden came with a caveat.
There’s no “RIGHT WAY” to do extensions (or any other hair change)
Most importantly, this was a reminder to myself that my hair is MY HAIR and I deserve the space and freedom to do whatever I want to it without shame, guilt or taking on anyone else’s judgment. And so do you! When I first mentioned on social that I was considering doing something fun, like dying my hair an ombre gray, I got comments across the board, some supportive and some not so much.
Remember our own personal hair story is just that: It’s our own and it’s not here for other people to judge. It’s not necessarily linear and it doesn’t have rules. Whether it’s going gray or dying your hair or getting a buzz cut or getting extensions, if you want to try it, GO FOR IT! You think Michaelangelo asked for color pallet approval before painting the Sistine Chapel?! NO! (Well, I don’t actually know that for sure but he probably didn’t! 😂😘)
RELATED: 101 ways to respond to rude comments about gray hair.
Have you tried extensions? What kind and what did you think?
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EmApril 15, 2022
Curious if you did research beforehand to determine if the hair was ethically sourced and if the glue used to bond them was nontoxic?
Lisa FennessyApril 20, 2022
Hi Em! I didn’t! Does that exist for hair extensions??? Would love to know!
KathyJune 28, 2022
I began few years ago I do my own with hot iron I’m a stylist I enjoy all the colors an textures …I would not trade mine for anything😁😛loved your article!
Lisa FennessyJuly 5, 2022
That’s amazing that you do your own Kathy!!! I’m jelly ; ) xo, L
Lisa PiroloAugust 6, 2022
I tried extensions and like you, had mixed feelings. I had a love hate relationship with them. Ultimately I was happy to have them out. It did make me dislike my hair for a while after I got them out. They also took quite a bit of my hair out when the were removed. I’d try a different type in the future. Mine were the glue in.
Lisa FennessyAugust 29, 2022
I felt the same way Lisa! Love / hate for sure. xo, Lisa
JaneOctober 17, 2022
I had a huge disappointment. Got grey and blonde extentions to tr6 to match my hair … done by a professional. The grey looked awful blue… dark blue but I was told it would fade after a few washed to an icy silver. I was getting married in six weeks so that gave me tons of time. I am not kidding, my hair was dark blue and green for my wedding. The blue bled into the blonde… the hairdresser was shocked… I took them all out after my wedding… horrified. All my pictures show blue green hair ! I paid $800 for these QUALITY extentions. Now I am waiting to see what the company has to say about them… but that sure doesn’t give me back my wedding day does it…
Lisa FennessyOctober 20, 2022
Oh my goodness…I’m so sorry that happened! Mine changed color overtime too. It really didn’t seem like a worthwhile investment for me. I especially hated having to pay to get them taken out. Someone mentioned that you can use nail polish remover to take them out at home? I didn’t try that. xo, Lisa
CamJanuary 4, 2023
I struggle with the gray too and got the glue extensions a couple times. I loved the length, and thickness – it was the cost! I now do a what’s called a weft or sown in. I paid for the hair close to a year ago and go in every 2-3 months to have them moved up. It is a fraction of the cost! And I get the length, thickness and that added white color all through the middle! I’m more “salt” on top like most women and this makes it so easy, affordable, comfortable and looks great. Side note: I tried the beaded extensions once. Awful!! Great article and review. Embrace the gray ladies!!
Lisa FennessyJanuary 7, 2023
This sounds like a great option, thanks for sharing Cam! xo, Lisa