I'm not the typical candidate for hair extensions - I have long hair and I have thick hair - in fact, my hair is extremely thick - I have about three heads worth of hair. I never sought out extensions for length or for volume - the two main reasons that folks usually choose to get hair extensions applied. I have been toying with the idea of getting a few extensions for years because I am into hair and I like to keep my mane in relatively good order - I called to a Platinum Luxury Hair Extensions stand at a beauty show a few years ago to ask and the girl was so uninterested and rude and unhelpful - she said my hair was too thick as it is and that she would have to cut into my hair for the extensions and sent me off on my merry way. I was almost embarrassed for having asked the question but annoyed that she didn't even let me explain what my main hair concern was.
So you might too be wondering what was it that spurred me, with three heads of fairly long hair, to look into hair extensions? Well the easiest way to put it is that I have three heads of hair, but after 16 years of bleaching and heat styling, the very front bits of my hair are thin and wispy, and even though I get my hair trimmed every six weeks maximum when I get my colour topped up, the ends of my hair get really ratty after about a week and I like my hair to be cut pretty blunt at the ends because I wear it straight 99% of the time. So it's overall volume per se but I wanted to bulk out some of the thinner areas of my hair - more of an overall effect.
Fast forward to November 2016 and I was in Brown Sugar on South William Street getting my hair coloured by the lovely Emma and cut by the equally as lovely Christian (who by the way has been shortlisted for the Image Magazine Business of Beauty Award for Best Hairstylist and if you would like to take my word and vote for him, here is the link) and I mentioned that I had been considering just a few extensions around the front and to thicken out those bits. Both were instantly supportive and immediately I had a consultation with the hair extension guru Norma-Jean who assessed my hair, told me that I would need two packs for a really natural finish, colour matched me and gave me a rough price for the extensions. I ordered there and then - I was relieved to have been listened to and excited to finally sort out my hair. I only wanted Gold Fever - having heard so much about them for the last year, and I thought if I was going to spend decent money on my extensions, I wanted ones which would last 6-9 months, as that's what I had heard from my friends who had Gold Fever. Anyone I told in my family or work thought that I was absolutely deranged to look for extensions when I already have thick hair but the heart wants what the heart wants and I had my mind made up.
Moving on to 22 December 2016 - extensions day had arrived. I booked in to get a half head highlights to top me up for the festive period, a Smartbond treatment with my colour and the extensions. After getting colour done, Norma-Jean set about applying the Gold Fever extensions, focussing on the front area around my face over each ear - about 18 on each side, and one band going along the nape of my neck (but obviously not next to my parting) to help thicken and fill out the very ends of my hair that get ratty so quickly. I cannot commend Norma-Jean enough - it's clear from talking to her and her amazing Instagram that she absolutely loves, eats, breathes what she does and all things hair and she is insanely talented at all aspects of hair, not just extensions, and she is also an overall fab person. All in all, two packs amounted to 50 bonds - which I thought would be loads on my hair - but actually is was just perfect. I was absolutely chuffed with the extensions when they were applied - the brief had been carried out perfectly, the colour match was perfect as there was a blend of colours similar to my highlights (more about this later) and the bonds were so small that they were not even noticeable. I think the total cost was €400. I was very conscious of the bonds for the first 24 hours - it's not that they were tight but I could feel a little pressure where they had been applied, and I didn't sleep great the very first night as it was a little uncomfortable. By the end of the following day, it was like they were my own natural hair, I took to them like a duck to water. You can see the difference they made to my hair in this pic :
I straighten my hair all the time but I have naturally coarse, wavy hair, and I was worried that if I wanted to wear my hair wavy that the extensions would look like long scraggly straight bits - I can't even tell you how relieved and delighted I was that the texture of the extensions was the same texture as my own hair, naturally wavy but straightens and holds a style easily. It was such a love fest for the first month that I actually didn't know how I could ever go back to my natural hair. However, it's been 2.5 months and my feelings have somewhat changed so I am just writing about them now to enlighten anybody who may be in a similar boat because I have never seen or heard anything that wasn't an amazingly glowing review of Gold Fever extensions. I'm not going to slate them at all and I'm definitely not saying I would never go for them again, I'm going to probably cry when I get them taken out but I want to explain why I think I won't be getting them back in straight away.
The pros are of course what you have already heard if you have been researching Gold Fever hair extensions like I did - the bonds really are tiny, are comfortable once you get used to them. They are not invisible - I know mine can be seen when I tie up my hair - but I really don't mind it because they are discreet. The quality of the hair itself is amazing - it's as thick at the bond as it is at the very end of the strand - perfectly thick the whole way through which is exactly what I was looking for to fill out the ends of my hair. They are very easy to style and from the minute they are applied they just looked like my own hair. The hair is quite coarse in that it also holds a style - if I straightened it, it would stay straight for a few days, similarly if I curled the extensions, they would stay curled for a few days.
I'd be lying to my readers if I did not admit that there are also some cons, inconveniences and hardships with having and maintaining hair extensions. I'm pretty high maintenance when it comes to my hair anyway but these are probably the greatest cons that I have experienced.
1. It is recommended to use sulphate free shampoo and conditioner to preserve the bonds. I'm a Kerastase junkie - I only ever use Kerastase products on my hair because they are they very best in my experience and my favourite range is the Bain de Force range. The sulphate free range from Kerastase is awful no bones about it - I could actually feel product build up at my roots, I hate the way it doesn't foam in the shower, I spent ages rinsing it off, the conditioner never got rid of my tangles in the shower and the condition of the rest of my hair deteriorated because I didn't want to use shampoos with sulphates near my bonds.
2. Because I really wanted to get value for money, I very much adhered to the no shampoos with sulphates rule. For the last few years, I've been delighted with my blonde highlights the day I leave the salon but two weeks later, my hair looks brassy and golden again and I hate that. Every single time I get my hair done I ask for ashy toners and even though the colour is fine when I leave the salon, it changes over a couple of washes. One way I try to mitigate against this is purple shampoos but I was unable to find a good sulphate free, easily available and effective sulphate free purple shampoo. I didn't think this through before getting my extensions and I found that even though the extensions matched my hair perfectly when I first had them applied straight after having my colour done, within 2 weeks, my extensions and the rest of my hair were a different colour, with the extensions being lighter and slightly ashier. Most people probably would not notice but I most certainly noticed - because most of my extensions are around the front of my face, I felt I could get away with an extra bit of lightness around my face.
3. When it comes to brushing and styling them, they weren't too bad in the beginning. I mean you have extra hair that needs to be styled but I am used to styling thick hair so it didn't faze me. I only ever used The Wet Brush to brush my hair and it did a pretty decent job. Because I had quite a lot of extensions packed into either side of my head, it was very difficult to straighten the other parts of my hair in between the extensions which were wavy from the root. I purchased a slim hair straightener for this so that I wouldn't even inadvertently apply heat to the bonds (all about protecting those bonds!). The more my hair grew, and it grows pretty quickly, the most difficult it is to straighten those wavy bits without touching off the bonds. Apparently your natural hair can get matted at the tips where you have your extensions applied - I haven't noticed any matting but I have been good to brush my hair regularly and only ever use the Wet Brush and plait my hair at night time.
4. When I got my colour refreshed three weeks ago, the roots of the parts with the extensions could not be touched up which means that, despite the lovely Emma's best efforts, I have very patchy colour at either side of my head. I kind of knew that this was inevitable but at the same time, I find I'm paranoid a gust of wind will come and expose my deep dark roots at either side of my head (but I'm completely fine with the bonds being exposed).
5. I went for 2 whole months without shedding a fake hair and shortly after I last got my colour topped up about three weeks ago, an extension just slid out of my hair when I was brushing it one morning. There was no tugging or pulling, it just slid straight out (admittedly with a few darker hairs attached). I was a little dismayed but just wrote it off until a few days ago when I was brushing my hair the day after a shower and FOUR individual extensions just slid out of my hair - no pulling or tugging or vigorous brushing, they just came out. To say I am a little dismayed would be an understatement - I was hoping to get six months out of them and I lost 4 out of 19 from one side of my head after 2.5 months for some reason unbeknownst to me despite the fact I'd been taking care of them as best I could. They didn't come out on the bristles of my brush but I noticed after brushing my hair that there were a few long chunks at the bottom and when I tugged on them gently, they kept sliding down. Now I know it was only fake hair but this was not a nice thing to experience all the same and I was actually a little spooked. I feel like I am on borrowed time with the rest of them now and I think I would prefer to have them all removed than to have to pick them out when they get loose. I'm incredibly disappointed for this and I don't know if I would have paid €400 for them if they were only going to last 2.5 months.
To be honest, the fact that (despite the hardship that I so willingly suffered in order to maintain the integrity of the bonds) that I'm down 5/50 extensions after just 2 and a half months is the main reason I think I would not get them straight away again - I love the effect of them and can tolerate the maintenance but I just don't want to be throwing an extra €400 at my hair every 3 months when I already spend that on highlights, cuts and Kerastase products. Even my own vanity has limitations of reasonableness. I am disappointed that other people can get 6 months, some even get 9 months out of them, and I'm worried I won't make 3! I'm actually reluctant to wash my hair now in case more fall out. I feel kind of caught offguard because I feel like nobody else seems to have experienced this, and that's why I wanted to share my experience. I was sure that if I took great care of them that they would last but alas despite my best efforts this was not the case. I've no idea why they didn't last - maybe my hair grows too quickly, maybe it was something I did. I also want to very clearly point out that I've no issues with the way they were applied or the brilliant advice that I was given.
This is definitely not a blame post and honestly I've nothing but nice things to say about the whole Brown Sugar team because they are simply the best in the biz - I just think that if I had read an account from someone who has not had the best experience with Gold Fever hair extensions or someone that has a hair story similar to mine that I might have been a bit more cautious to fork out for them, hence me taking the time to share my experience. All I ever see is raving reviews and pics of Gold Fever hair extensions carefully coiffed and curled with an Instyler and I just wanted to point out that it's not all that glamorous.
I'm definitely not trying to deter anyone from getting Gold Fever or any other extensions, I had at least one great month with them and I loved the effect - for me, they are a very temporary and expensive treat. I feel quite unlucky in that regard to be honest. I'm definitely not saying I won't get them again - I almost definitely will for a special occasion or series of events - but I don't think I am going to get into the habit of getting these applied every couple of months back to back.
If you have had any similar experience with Gold Fever or Great Lengths or the like, I would love to hear from you too - it might stop me beating myself up so much about it!