A few years back I wrote an article on why naturals should consider abandoning extensions/weaves as a regular/daily style routine. Flash forward to today and a reader wrote to me saying that the main reason she wore extensions is that they helped her hair grow faster and wondered why that was the case. Now, I understand what she meant was retain length rather than grow because we all know that the growth rate per se does not change whether your hair is in extensions or not. Additionally, let us assume that the extensions/weaves are done properly i.e not too tight/ not too small/ hairline protected.
If you have been around the natural world for a few years, you may also have heard of the crown and glory technique which was essentially an extension braid method to retain natural hair length. The original site is long gone but there are still some hair forums where this method is discussed and is popular as a length retention technique.
Ultimately, the question is will braid extensions or weaves help you retain hair length better? My answer is yes and no.
Yes — Better protection for the ends and low/no daily manipulation
The reason why some naturals may experience higher retention with braid extensions and weaves is due to two key reasons. These type of styles fully encase the hair which means that the ends of the hair are tucked into the extension. They are therefore not hanging out and being subjected to possible tangling. Additionally with full head weaves, all the hair is under no daily manipulation while braid extensions have very minimal manipulation for styling. These two effects probably contribute to length retention in a big way.
No — High stress during install , high weight of extensions on fine hair and shedding hair during takedown
Some naturals will, however, report that extensions really do not work for them. This is normally attributed to high breakage and shedding as a result of wearing extensions. During the install process, hair does have to be very thoroughly detangled and for some hair, this is a period of very high stress as it is not the norm to have each strand on its own. Naturals with fine individual strands or low density hair may also find that their hair is not able to really hold the weight of extensions. It is sometimes possible to even see breakage at the root of hair. Finally during the takedown process, shed hair must be removed carefully and not get trapped or tangled within hair that is not shedding.
In short, there is no straightforward answer. Some people will benefit from extensions while others will not. It is your own experience that really matters.
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