The battle between synth dreads and wool dreads rages on, the sheep and production line spraying sweat and blood across the land. Meanwhile, in a quiet corner, other materials weep to be so popular. There are, in fact, alternatives inside the Alternative Hair Extensions world, and we should all keep our ears perked up for them. The one I am most familiar with is Faux-Roving, or fleece dreads. Basically I cut long, thin strips of fleece with pointy ends, then stretch the crap out of it until it curls back on itself creating a tube kind of shape (tutorial here). They’re light, cheap, fast, and great for installs or falls (click for Pinterest gallery of Faux-Roving). But there’s so much else! Yarn is also one of my favorites. Yes, it could be argued it’s “wool” but yarn comes in a HUGE variety of materials, and they should ALL be used. Here I am wearing 3 types of colinette yarn which I cut, braided together, then braided into my hair. It’s fabulous because of the multi-textural quality to the hair. Yarn is easily accessed as well, and I’m willing to be it’s where many people start their hairy adventures. But I don’t think we should turn our back on it once we can afford synth and wool dreads; go back to the roots and try it again! Cyberlox. Yes, crinoline, what was once made of horsehair and helped women’s skirts stand out is now braided into people’s hair, and I could not be happier about it. Need a metallic or iridescent flash in your already established dreads? Go CYBERLOX! (Installed here with yarn, yep, 2 alternative alternative hair extensions) Scoobies, rexlace, foam, bubble wrap, rubber, wire! Anything we can manage to wrap our hair around, we should! Let’s try to push the boundaries even more and leave “natural” in the dust. Have you tried any of the alternatives to alternative hair extensions? What was your experience?
There is an amazing, heat reactive fiber out there that is metallic, iridescent, holographic! It’s called Angelina fiber, and I cannot understand why more sellers and buyers don’t use it. It can’t be used alone to make dreads because the fibers are too short, but it certainly can be added to either wool or synthetic dreads. I use it frequently in my wool dreads, and it just doesn’t seem to make an impact online or in real life, but I really don’t get it. What’s better than mermaid dreads? Mermaid dreads with the sparkle of the ocean. What’s better than rainbow dreads? Rainbow dreads that flash and shine. What could make a natural set really pop? Subtle metallic highlights. It comes in every color of the rainbow, including several natural colors like pure black, copper penny, rusty nail, and forest blaze. It’s not the cheapest fiber out there, costing about $5 per oz. However, that little bit goes a really, really long way. It’s near impossible to catch the rare, sparkling beauty with a camera, so I suggest just buying an ounce and taking a look yourself. There’s some great deals on Etsy for buying 3 packs of color. Seriously, I suggest considering this for your next set. Here are some of my (badly photographed) sets with Angelina in them:
Purple and Jade: http://vixensingsblack.com/GalUT8.jpg
Rouged Knees: http://vixensingsblack.com/GalUT10.jpg
Black on Black: http://vixensingsblack.com/GalUT28.jpg
Grass at Lake’s Edge: http://vixensingsblack.com/GalNT7.jpg
Native American Inspired: http://vixensingsblack.com/GalVW16.jpg
I’ve been meaning, for many years, to create a tutorial about how I choose to install and wear my extensions. It’s changed quite a lot over the years, so I’ll start with my most recent way and move backward from there. First, you’ll need to check out this head chart to understand what the heck I’m talking about:
The crosshatch areas represent where my head is shaved. It’s just about even with where my ears connect to my head shaved up to where my hair becomes thick, near the temples. I decided a few years back to shave in my sides; a major reason being that I have a bald spot the size of a silver dollar just above my right temple. I couldn’t install dreads to my hairline for that reason and it was very visible when wearing my natural hair in a ponytail. So now, when I shave my sides, I simply let alone the hair just above the bald spot so that it is longer and covers the bald spot. Anyways, if you don’t have shaved sides, that’s okay. Just create more sections with that hair.
Let me say first that this is NOT the bricklayer hair sectioning. I never found that style suited me the few times I tried it, and it’s awkward for pigtails when wearing DE. Also I ONLY wear DE dreads, so there’s been no thought given to SEs at all in this post.
This head chart has room for 54 DE dreads. From the front of my head to the back, I do 4 rainbow rows; in other words, I do 4 rows that go across the head like a headband, from ear to ear. After those first 4 initial rows, I change to a horizontal pattern. If I have more or less dreads to install (minimum 44, maximum 60) I only change the horizontal pattern. I always install the 4 rainbow rows exactly the same, every single time, no matter thickness of dread or number of dreads. Why? Because I mostly wear my dreads straight back from my forehead like the next picture so I need the most coverage on top and in front.
This isn’t to say my install pattern cannot be used for wearing the hair split down the middle. Here I am, same pattern, with a middle part.
I don’t like the bricklayer pattern because when wearing DEs the part wouldn’t be straight; it’d swing from side to side and, to me, look a bit weird.
The only time I wear my hair parted down the middle is when my extensions match my natural hair color well. If my natural hair does not match my extension color, I usually fake it. Sometimes I lighten then color my shaved sides to match my extensions:
More often though, I simply use water activated cake makeup to actually paint my shaved sides and roots to match the extensions, like this:
Because I wear my hair straight back, all I need to paint with the makeup is my front roots and shaved sides. I wash the paint out when I shower and reapply while doing my makeup. Here’s a good example of not painted roots VS painted roots.
The only pain is getting caught in a particularly watery situation. Since the makeup is water activated, it will melt when water and friction are applied; this means swimming and rain can make you melt a bit. Also, there’s some rub off on pillows. But really, this is not so much different from many temporary, bright colored hair dyes. I put up with it, and I’ve never had any embarrassing moments of melting in public. During this current install I even went swimming with my painted roots; really it didn’t budge much as long as I didn’t touch the paint. So it’s really not that bad at all.
Sometimes now, if my hair matches the extensions somewhat (or I just don’t feel like it) I’ll leave out the first 2 rainbow rows and wear a “fringe” or “bangs.” I put that in quotes because my hair is 10 inches long so it’s not a traditional fringe. I wear it in a French braid to the side,
or I wear it in a quiff
Mostly it just goes into a quiff of varying sizes.
I didn’t always install at my hairline though. Many moons ago, I didn’t have shaved sides, and I didn’t install to my hairline at the front or the back due to sensitivity. I left out the first 2 rainbow rows and the bottom horizontal row on my chart and simply braided that hair to keep it out of the way. The bottom braids were hidden by the extensions on top, and then for the front I’d wear a headband and hand tied fringe, like this:
It was hot and somewhat uncomfortable and could shift easily, which eventually led me to shaving those sides and slowly installing to the hairline. Installing to my hairline didn’t happen all at once due to sensitivity. I installed with large, loose sections and light dreads first, then got smaller, tighter, and heavier over time. If it hurts, that’s a bad sign that hair follicles could be getting damaged. Move slowly, give your scalp time to adjust.
Now as far as how I actually “braid” the things in, I first use the blanket stitch braid near the scalp, then switch to a regular three way braid about half way through my natural hair. This gives me tightness at the scalp and the pretty wrap at the bottom. My hair is anywhere from 9-14 inches long, and with that length I can manage to squeeze in 6 inch long dreads, or of course as long as I want.
What type of install pattern do you use? Do you find one better than another?
The only negative feedback I have ever gotten was over a disgruntled customer and my color chart. The light blue color was greyer than she wanted, and so she left me feedback that was negative. I have seen numerous people complaining about bulk hair sellers’ color charts being inaccurate as well. It was darker, it was lighter, it was greener, it was bluer, etc. This is why, if you’re a smart seller, you will have a disclaimer as such “Please note that colors vary from monitor to monitor; the way a color swatch appears on your computer is not necessarily how it will look in person and the color charts on our website should be used as a general guide only.” (Taken from IKickShins.net) This is absolutely true. LCD, LED, Plasma—they all use light differently to project images. Then there’s an individuals preference on the screen being more blue say, or more cyan, darker, brighter, the list goes on and on. Purple is an especially hard color to capture with digital media. All this drama over color can be helped; if a buyer feels uncertain about a color, follow this advice: Ask for more pictures, or even get a sample. Good sellers will be willing to take more photographs of a certain color/colors for free and be willing to send a swatch sample for a nominal fee. Whether buying a set of custom hair, or hair to make a custom set, if a person feels unsure of a certain color ask ask ask. None of us are money bags, so why order something that might not work? This is especially important when trying to match natural hair color. It is extra difficult to capture the natural highlights and downlights of hair on an actual head. Many sellers will even accept a swatch of hair to match. A responsible seller will do their best to capture colors accurately on their own screen (which is quite difficult!). So let us, the buyers, take an extra step to ensure we get what we want and ask, ask, ask for additional images or a swatch or color match service. Have you ever been disappointed with a color? Do you find color charts irritating? What else can we do to get what we really want?
I’ve made or helped make several lists of sellers over my twelve years in this alternative hairy world, and I’ve noticed a new trend. Rather than having a website, sellers are relying on Facebook more and more as their primary source for selling. I understand the impulse; it’s easy to update, it’s easy to promote, it’s highly accessible from phones/computers/tablets, and it takes no knowledge of HTML. However, I think it has limitations. (Remember, I’m no “young thing.” I’m 29 years old and can remember when the internet didn’t even have photographs because they took too long to load, so take my opinions as one of an “older” generation stance.)
A website’s design has the ability to project the style of the seller. From the background to the buttons to the color theme, the actual bones of a self-built website can express the artistic talent of a seller. Dark and spooky? Light and bright? Crazy and neon? Soft and natural? It’s just another way to get to know the seller on a deeper level. Facebook’s standardized blue and white layout inhibits this kind of expression.
A website also enables the seller to more clearly express needed and important information. Price lists, policies, shipping, color charts, etc can be more easily accessed on a website than on Facebook. In fact, as of yet, I’ve not seen one Facebook hair seller with policies about a sale on their page (please correct if I’m wrong!). Policies are a way to help the seller protect herself and for the buyer to know what to expect. Without clearly written policies, things can go awry very quickly because buyer and seller may not have a firm grasp on the responsibilities of both parties. Facebook, as far as I understand it, does not have a highly visible and easy to reach way to express such policies.
A website lets you know how organized a seller is more so than Facebook. True, not every seller builds from scratch, but still conscious decisions are made about what pages to include and how to organize information. Facebook comes with a default layout with very little customization available. Of course, even on Facebook, a degree of the seller’s organization can still be felt especially through the organization (or lack) of photo albums.
A website takes more dedication of time and skills than a Facebook page. To me, most serious sellers will have a Facebook page and website. It’s easy to open a Facebook page, load up some photographs, and start selling. But starting a webpage takes a bit more dedication, a bit more time, a bit more effort. Going that extra mile to create and maintain a website tells me that the seller is serious about their commitment to being a quality seller. That seller wants more than what Facebook’s standardized layout can offer, wants their very own space on the internet to call home.
Maybe I’m being too hard on Facebook, but I just don’t believe it should be the end all be all of selling; yet the trend seems to be going that way. Yes it is a great tool because it’s so accessible and easy to use, but I think having a website (free or paid) really tells me more about a seller than Facebook ever could. What do you think about sellers and their choice of platform? Does it matter?
The frizzies (or halo) is often a frustrating part of any extension experience. Basically, it’s the hairs that escapes the braid, often the shortest hairs, and stick up creating a frizzy appearance, kind of like a halo around the head. Some wearers could care less about this effect, but it really really bugs some people. This halo effect can be made worse if the hair is particularly damaged and has a lot of short, broken off hairs in the mix. Also, if the hair is very dry it can have the same problem. So what to do? Me, I use a bit of aloe vera gel when I braid in my extensions. Just a smidge will do ya, just enough to keep the hair a bit sticky. This keeps the frizzies at bay for maybe a week, but after that it’s of little use. Some people apply different products, like coconut oil, during the install to help the frizzies lay down but I’ve never tried this (I may be irrational but, there’s something about the oils getting in my dreads and never coming back out, yuck). This is why I always take photos of my installs the day after I put them in; one day to settle down and get straight, next day it’s photo time! I want to remember my extensions at their best. The only real “solution” to this problem is to un-install and re-install the extensions. By only doing the top/front ones, time can be saved and the look of no frizzies will still be intact. Anybody else have better solutions? Any tips or tricks?
I’ve noticed that at least the English speaking alternative hair extensions world seems to be centered around the UK, followed up by the USA, then CAN, then a myriad of countries (many of which are in Europe). I often wonder if this is just a language barrier or if it’s because the UK is in fact “Alternative Hair Heaven.” Sure, you’d expect dread extensions wearers by the dozens in places like London, but actually the spread across the UK is very great. Every corner seems to have at least one lady (or gent) local to it that is into if not actually wears alternative hair extensions. One might expect the USA to have more enthusiasts by shear volume of people, but it doesn’t seem to be this way. Canada, although large is sparsely populated, yet well represented in the English speaking corner of alternative hair extensions as well. I cannot vouch for or even wonder about other language corners of alternative hair extensions because, frankly, German is the only other language I can claim, and I do that very badly. I don’t even know how to say “hair extension” in German (is it haar kunst?). It is impossible, but I wish I had hard numbers on alternative hair extension enthusiasts in every country of the world. I wonder if the UK’s culture somehow encourages hair creativity more than any other country? Could the UK be the true “Alternative Hair Heaven”?