Hairstyle secrets - a top Irish stylist reveals all about extensions
I have a confession to make: I’m addicted to hair extensions.
After a particularly offensive hair cut in 2011 when I decided to chop about six inches off my hair, I had no choice but to embrace the false side. I eased my way in with some clip-ins for about two years before upgrading to a semi-permanent solution. Now my new addiction is Great Lengths, which uses keratin bonds and can last anywhere from four to six months.
As a self-styled hair connoisseur, I took the chance to grill Valerie Patterson, co-founder of Dublin salon Cowboys & Angels (who was also one of the first person to bring hair extensions to Ireland), on her styling secrets and how far we've come in our hair-volution.
"I’ve worked with extensions for 30 years, I was working as the art director with a top salon and models needed extra hair here and there," she told Independent.ie Style."I lived in Australia from 1987 to 1990 and when I came back, we opened our salon and started doing extensions."
"At one stage, I was the only person doing them, I never advertised, we were just a small boutique salon. Everyone said, ‘They’re terrible, going to damage your hair, they were a bad job’ but they were wrong."
By then, she had worked out her own formula for success and it wasn't cheap or easy, but it did earn her an excellent reputation with customers; so by the time that extensions became par for the course and more traditional salons jumped on board, Valerie was an industry leader.
"With the advent of the bloggers and models getting them done and having to say the marketing they have in, everyone wanted them," she explains. "Every salon is doing them now, all the hairdressers have come on board. More and more people realise you can use them and make them much more natural."
Her clients are loyal, mostly from corporate backgrounds and prefer a little natural bounce over Cheryl-esque extensions a la 2015 (which, for the record, is my dream hair).
"My clients are more the ones that pay instead of free and have to advertise,” she explains. "I get the odd person who wanted long tresses. A lot of my clients would be professionals: they have a bit more money to spend, they prefer a lob or mid-length hair and to thicken it."
Valerie began working with GL in 2013 and works on an average of three extensions appointments per day. "I see clients every five months, all their extensions are in, it seems a shame to take them out!
"You can get them for up to four months, a lot of people with fine hair will shed naturally. You don’t want to put any weakness on the hair, whereas with good, strong hair, you can leave it in seven months. The longer you leave them in, the longer it takes to get out – you get these tiny little dreadlocks. I use porcupine sticks to get rid of the knots – I’ve tried everything!"
Great Lengths have just launched a new 100% You campaign educating women on how extensions can help provide natural enhancement and address common hair problems.