Going to great lengths for beauty

Stylist Nicole Cascadden inserts the first of five rows of length hair extensions for Giselle Veller at Salon Hazelton in Perrysburg, Ohio. Nicole herself is wearing length and body hair extensions.
Stylist Nicole Cascadden inserts the first of five rows of length hair extensions for Giselle Veller at Salon Hazelton in Perrysburg, Ohio. Nicole herself is wearing length and body hair extensions.

Once a hush-hush taboo, hair extensions have become a must-have accessory for women and have been made popular by everyone from celebrities to CEOs and even the girl next door, all of whom spend thousands for the locks.

Seen by some as an investment, the extensions with names such as Yaki, Russian, Virgin Brazilian, and Indian Remy come with price tags that range from a couple hundred dollars to thousands per installment. Globally, the fad has spawned a multimillion-dollar industry.

In greater Toledo, hairstylists see women flocking to their salons in search of the latest weave techniques, including clip-in pieces and wefts of hair bonded to natural hair. (A weft is a curtain-like strip of hair.)

Nicole Cascadden, a stylist at Salon Hazelton in Perrysburg, where extensions can cost up to $1,500, said more of her customers are adding hair.

“About 20 percent of my clients wear extensions, but more are talking about it,” said Ms. Cascadden, adding that some clients have steered clear because of the price. “When I bring out the price, they’re like ‘Oh my gosh’, but it used to be more expensive.”

As the concept became more widely accepted, cost decreased and popularity spread. Now, women gladly show off their extensions. The enhancers allow women more stylistic creativity and boost self-confidence.

“If you wanted to add a purple chunk or a pink chunk, you can do that, and when you’re done with it you just take it out,” said Ms. Cascadden, who wears extensions to add length and volume to her hair. “I have fine, stringy hair. Add in some extensions and voila! I’m a Kardashian,” she joked.

Fashion and beauty trends set the tone for what’s in style, and thick, long, lustrous hair is currently the top look.

“The long, flowing hair on models in magazines is hard to achieve with natural hair,” said Alecia Kowalski, a stylist and color specialist at Style House in Toledo. “It’s really hard to get it that long and have it still be healthy.”

That’s where extensions can help. “Extensions give you the opportunity to have the hair you want without damaging your own hair.”

Extensions start at $400 at Style House, and about 10 percent of Ms. Kowalski’s clients wear them. She offers a reduced price for first-time clients.

The hair enhancers come in a variety of lengths, colors, and textures. Some options includes highlights, curls, deep waves, and shades in both natural and vibrant colors. Stylists can also color the hair. Lengths vary, with some more than two-feet long.

There are several installation methods as well. Hair on a weft can be sewn or glued in. Smaller individual pieces can be taped in or hooked on to the original hair using a micro-bead. Different hair types require different techniques.

The tresses can be washed and styled and can last from a few months to a year. The extensions require adjusting, usually every four to six weeks, depending on care. The service costs an additional fee, which locally ranges from $45 to more than $100.

The method of collection and the installation technique determine the price. Those seeking a high-end look go for “remy” hair, synonymous with India, which is where most of the hair comes from. Stylists praise it for the way it’s collected — in a single cut.

“When it’s cut, all the hair goes in the direction,” said Ms. Kowalski, who has been styling hair for eight years. “It’s smooth, shiny, and healthy looking.”

Hair weaves and extensions have been the source of much research and documentaries that explore the way it is obtained. The findings have shed light on tonsuring, an Indian ritual in which millions of Hindu pilgrims shave their heads out of humility and in gratitude to the gods. Hair is an asset they treasure, nurture, and keep in its original state — straight, uncolored, and untampered with. Millions of Indians believe sacrificing their hair is the path to happiness.

Coveted in America, hair weaves are sold on the black market, with thieves swiping thousands of dollars in inventory from supply stores across the country. In the past several years, criminals in the United States have stolen more than $230,000 worth of human hair, industry reports state. In 2011, a supplier in suburban Detroit was killed when thieves robbed his store of 80 packs of hair, valued from $20 to $100 each. That same year, $30,000 worth of hair was stolen from a Toledo store after thieves cut a hole in the roof to gain entry.

Now, beauty supply owners are cautious about showcasing products, only willing to share information with potential buyers and keeping the product behind the counter and sometimes under lock and key.

“Too dangerous,” one man said, not willing to share his name and asking that his store not be identified.

He spoked hurriedly with Taniesha Taylor, 20 of Toledo, as she purchased two packs of Indian Remy.

“I heard it’s good hair, so I’m excited about it,” said Ms. Taylor, who opted for a black, deep, wavy variety. The extensions were on sale for less than $100 a pack, just for the hair. She’ll still have to pay to have them put in. “I’ve never paid this much for hair, so I hope it’s worth it.”

Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: rmullen@theblade.com or 419-724-6133.