The Rapunzel solution; Younger women turning to hair extensions to add fullness, length, dazzle to ‘dos

By Lauren La Rose / The Canadian Press

It was a milestone event in Gina Sanelli’s life and she was ready to spice up her look for the occasion – so she decided to lead with her head.

“It was my high school graduation and my hair was a little shorter and I just kind of wanted something nice and long, just kind of a different look for my ceremony,” said Sanelli, 19.

She picked up a couple of bundles of hair extensions for about $50 apiece. A friend at the salon where she worked took between 45 minutes to an hour to glue in the extensions.

“It kind of feels a little weird when you first have them on because your hair feels a lot thicker, you’ve got something just kind of at your scalp, but you get used to it,” she said. “It feels natural after.”

Her chin-level, raven-haired cut transformed overnight into flowing, straight, lengthy locks fashioned with a loose wave.
Sanelli’s new look left her friends gobsmacked.

“They were shocked, they really, really liked it because I hadn’t had long hair in about a year and they loved it,” she recalled of the event three years ago. “It was a great reaction.”

Whether they’re curly, coloured, clip-ons or sew-on, young women are turning to hair extensions to add instant fullness and length to their ‘dos, for a night on the town or to shake up their everyday look.

They’re all the rage with celebrities like former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham and singer Jessica Simpson, who teamed up with her stylist, Ken Paves, to create a line of clip-on hair extensions.

Hotel heiress Paris Hilton had barely shed her orange jumpsuit following her release from jail this week when a van from DreamCatchers Hair Extensions, for which she is the celebrity pitchwoman, passed through the gates of her grandparents’ home.

A lot of people don’t realize everyone has a certain length their hair will actually grow to and extensions could be the answer for those longing for longer locks, said Claire Asprey, director of education at the Aveda Institute and Aveda Academy Salon in Toronto. “If you’ve got very fine hair, sometimes your hair will only actually grow to your shoulders and the lifespan of your hair won’t grow any longer than that,” she said.

The quality of extensions, how long someone wants to wear them for and styling fees are key in determining whether the cost of a lengthier ‘do will run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Cindy Leblanc, a stylist at Robin Barker Hair’Sociates in Toronto’s upscale Yorkville neighbourhood, said it takes about four hours to put in Hairlocs, where individual extensions are added on by crotcheting a copper bead onto sections of hair. They last about three months.

“It’s a fairly expensive service,” she said. “Not a lot of 20-year-olds are trying to drop $1,400 on hair.”

Those seeking a more hands-on approach can take a stab at crafting their own extensions. Sounnie Phan, an apprentice stylist at Toronto’s Hair Extensions & Supplies, said the shop sells hair that ranges from $20 to $150 a pack and customers can buy clips and glue to fashion their own extensions.

“The youngest client we’ve gotten is 13 and it ranges all the way up,” she said. “It’s just a booming thing.”