Extensions are a hairy situation, but this week we tested out Great Lengths, also known as âthe Rolls Royce of hair extensions.â
Red carpet after red carpet, I've found myself wondering how the heck do stars go from a short 'dos to long, luscious locks within days of appearances?
After a little Googling and a lot of ogling, I have found the answer: Great Lengths hair extensions. Celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, CÃ©line Dion, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears have worn these luscious locks. Most famously, Paris Hilton found herself in the middle of a lawsuit after she allegedly ditched an extension brand she was being paid to endorse for Great Lengths. If those names aren't enough to have you convinced, here's another: this is the brand that Oprah herself has declared a winner.
As a style editor, I've had my fair share of hair ups and downs but my biggest complaint is how slowly my hair grows. Iâve experimented with clip-ins and bonded/glued extensions without much luck. So, I went on a mission to find out how I could achieve Kim Kardashian-esque locks.
Let me start by saying that Great Lengths isn't for everyone. Itâs expensive and you need to do a fair bit of research and leg work because theyâre not available at every hair salon. Great Lengths technicians are trained and certified and the service is only offered in qualified salons. And trust me, you'll be spending a lot of time with your technician, so I suggest finding someone that is as entertaining as they are qualified.
In my first meeting with my fabulous extension artist, Dee Gauthier from EMC2 salon in Toronto, we sat down and had a very long chat about what I was looking to achieve and how we were going to make it happen. We also discussed length, style and colour.
Great Lengths extensions are not only made with real human hair, theyâre actually sourced from Hindu Temples, where devotees sacrifice their locks in hopes of having their prayers answered. The Temple then sells the hair and the profits are put back into their communities to fund education, orphanages, health care and infrastructure projects.
Apart from being fair-trade, the hair is also treated with the utmost care after it is sourced. Instead of bleaching the hair to strip away the colour, Great Lengths uses a gentle process where they treat the hair in the same way as cashmere wool. Hair bundles are soaked in a "de-pigment" bath for 15-20 days before being soaked in a vegetable-based colour, which is slowly absorbed -- ensuring that the hair that ends up on your head is the healthiest, most tangle-free hair possible.
One week after my initial consultation, Dee and I met again at the salon for the five-hour installation process. Yes, it takes five LONG hours. Row by row, Dee selected miniature sections of hair and matched them to the thickness of the bonds. Each bond of hair was then attached to my head by melting a keratin bond about a centimeter away from my roots. The bonds are so small, they're almost impossible to see. Despite their size, they have staying power: these things will last anywhere from 4-6 months. At that time, you'll have to get them professionally removed.
Five hours (and a sore bum) later, I had long, thick, Kim Kardashian-esque hair. Dee then cut, styled and curled my amazing new mane.
The adventure doesn't end here, however. Maintenance is key for the upkeep of your new 'do. Brushing is an essential part to keeping your locks looking luscious and it involves a bit of work. Brushing it in layers while hitting all the roots twice a day is a requirement -- and it's not as easy as it sounds! During my first week with my new extensions, it was too painful to do anything to it. It takes a while for your hair to grow a little so then the bonds aren't so tight. Luckily, this was a short-term side effect and Iâm now free to do what I please with my new look.
I've had a lot of people ask me if I can still straighten it, wash it, and put it in a ponytail. The answers are yes, yes and yes. Obviously, you have to use care when styling, making sure that you don't go over the bonds with a hot straightener or curling iron, but other than that, it's business as usual.
So, this all sounds pretty sweet right? Well, everything has a downside and Great Lengthsâ happens to be the price. They don't call them âthe Rolls Royce of hair extensionsâ for nothing. Each person is different and the price varies from salon to salon and client to client. (For my super thick hair, the full-head process required eight bundles and would have cost approximately $2,400, but a woman with thin hair may have gotten away with using only three bundles). This treatment will take a bite out of your wallet -- but is completely worth it if you're looking to achieve movie star locks.