Usually when we’re showing you hair extensions before and after transformations, it’s a celebrity we’re talking about. Maybe one day Selena Gomez has the cutest wavy lob you ever did see, and maybe the next morning she’s the proud owner of a Rapunzel-length ponytail. Sometimes the hair extensions before and after is more subtle, like when Kendall Jenner recently showed off itty-bitty faux baby bangs at Paris Couture fashion week. Today we’re bringing you one of the most dramatic hair extensions before and after images we’ve ever seen, coming to us from Los Angeles-based stylist Clayton Hawkins, who we told you about at the end of 2015 in our round-up of Under-the-Radar Beauty Pros You Need to Know. (Fun fact: Hawkins also assists celebrity hair guru Mark Townsend!)
It all started when Hawkins got a call from one of his longtime clients, who, because of their mutually busy schedules, he hadn’t seen in about a year. “She called me and just said, ‘I’m in really big trouble,'” he tells Allure. What Hawkins ultimately found was more extreme than he could ever have anticipated. “She’d always had very delicate and damaged hair, but this was on a different level. I’d never seen anything like it.” The top level of the hair was cut in super-short, jagged snips; underneath were wispy-thin remnants.
According to the stylist, the shocking damage has a few unfortunate causes. First, when individual extensions, which are affixed to the hair with keratin bonds, are placed on already-weak or fragile strands, the weight of the extension can tug on the hair follicle and either traumatize it to slow future growth, or rip the hair out all together. That’s why there were so few long strands on Hawkins’ client. Secondly, the short hair on top was the result of a previous stylist trimming the clients hair to blend the extensions, which according to Hawkins, is a huge no-no. “That just sets you up on a cycle need extensions forever,” he says. A better bet is trimming just the extensions, and allowing the real hair to stay untouched. Finally, some of the damage was the result of doing too much: extensions, Brazilian blowouts, highlights, and regular heated styling. “Nobody likes to hear this, but you can’t have it all,” he says.
If this post has you freaked out, here’s everything you need to know about good hair extensions:
- An Insiders’ Guide to Shopping for Hair Extensions
- Allure‘s Complete Guide to Hair Extensions
- The 3 Products I Used to Rehab My Hair After Extensions
Hawkins immediately got to work, starting by snipping each individual extension clusters—”they’re almost like spaghetti strands”—into thirds, making them super-light, so they wouldn’t tug on the already compromised follicles. A normal head of extensions has around 100 keratin bonds; now, this version had 300—and yes, it took some time. Seven hours to be exact. Another key was choosing extensions in a range of colors, from a lighter brown, to a buttery blond, an ombre and a solid ashier blonde. “I’m constantly on the prowl spotting people’s weaves,” Hawkins laughs. “By using a range of colors, it’s almost impossible to tell. Nobody has solid color hair.”
The two also agreed on a road to recovery plan for her strands. That is, no more highlights for a time, and instead adding color with extensions, plus skipping heated styling and blowouts as much as possible. “That’s another great thing about extensions. The hair should just be able to air dry perfectly, so your real hair can recover.” To say Hawkins and his client were pleased with the results is a grave understatement. “We were both thrilled,” he says. “There’s plenty of glamour to being a hairstylist, but it’s work days like these that are unforgettable.”
In case you’re interested, here’s how to clip in your own hair extensions: