I tried it: Hair extensions
Filed under: Beauty
So when I was given the chance to try natural hair extensions, I didn't need to think twice. Even when I heard they were called Racoon - the UK's number one hair extension company - I was only slightly worried I'd end up with the hair of a North American critter attached to my head.
First up was a consultation with stylist Graham Tilley, to decide if I was suitable for extensions and what kind of hair I'd need. I knew I'd be in safe hands as Tilley has applied extensions and styled hair for Vogue, Tatler, Elle and Harper's Bazaar, plus a range of celebrity clients.
Tilley explained he could mix individual strands of hair of different colours to give me the perfect match for my own hair. Luckily, I had "'virgin' hair" - meaning no colour or chemicals on it - and it seemed in good health, so I was accepted for a full head of new hair.
I was worried that the extensions might damage my own hair, plus I had concerns about where the hair comes from. "The extensions won't damage your hair if they're done properly. They can protect your own hair and allow it to grow longer and stronger," reassures Tilley. "If everything is followed correctly and you look after them, they can be the most amazing thing ever. It's quite an amazing thing - in the space of a few hours you can give a woman a whole new confidence."
Tilley also explained that the hair used by Racoon is ethically sourced. "Monks collect the hair from Hindu temples where it is donated as a spiritual offering. The company then buys it from the temples, which use the money to put back into the local community. It's just a slightly newer model of the way wigs have been sourced for centuries. Plus Racoon send up to about 40% of the hair back as it's not up to standard," he says.
Once my fears had been laid to rest, Tilley tells me I'm having "Euro" hair. This doesn't mean European, but "the Rolls Royce of hair – the best of the best", which can be curled, straightened, coloured and even permed. The hair is not applied with glue, but a natural adhesive made from pine nut kernel and orange peel extract - plus a secret ingredient known only to Racoon.
My six-hour appointment - don't panic, I have thick hair but the average session is about three to four hours - involved the hair being applied in small individual clusters of strands with manually created bonds formed with the adhesive. It's a lot of painstaking work and I'm in awe of Graham's patience!
When he'd finished, my lacklustre locks had truly been transformed into my dream hair. I couldn't believe how natural it looked and felt, and my friends and colleagues agree the extensions are a perfect colour match. One told me I had "the best hair of anyone I know". Bonus!
My extensions cost around £800 thanks to the quality and time it took to apply them. But if you weigh this up against the money you save on cuts and colours while you have them in, it isn't so bad.
So far, I haven't found fault with my new hair but I'll let you know how I get on with them over the coming weeks. Will they take me longer to get ready in the morning, or do I spend a fortune on new products? Check back soon!