Thanks in part to celebrity style icons like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Simpson, who seem to have a different hair length at every public appearance, consumer awareness of hair extensions is at an all-time high. "We're in the middle of a boom right now," says Sheila Stotts, who regularly works with A-listers on movie sets, editorial shoots and even in the privacy of their own homes. "But extensions are going to stay popular. People today have a 'right now' mentality, and hair extensions give them instant gratification."
With an increasing number of clients requesting extensions, salons not offering this service could be missing out on a lucrative opportunity. "If you don't offer extensions, your neighbor will," says Stotts, who suggests hiring an experienced subcontractor if you don't have a certified extensionist in your salon.
"Victoria's Secret hair," like this look from Great Lengths, is still very popular.
Along with providing your clients with a popular service, hair extensions are a great way to boost your salon's bottom line. "We're hearing from salons across the board that clients are spreading out their cut and color appointments, causing them to lose money," says Brett Butcher, national program director for Great Lengths, a division of Hair U Wear. "However, extension clients are extremely loyal and aren't cutting back on their services. In this challenged economy, it's nice to know that extension services can add back the money that salons are losing from other services." Fernando Fischbach, vice president of Cinderella Hair, also points out that because extensions need maintenance every four to six weeks, salons are continuously servicing the client and adding to their income.
Stotts, who is currently working on producing her own educational DVD, emphasizes the importance of partnering with a reputable company that provides a strong education program. Great Lengths offers a three-day certification program that teaches the brand's application methods and offers advice on marketing the service to clients. Cinderella Hair's certification program provides 13 hours of hands-on training in its strand-by-strand bonding method and three hours of theory. While not everyone needs to be trained on application techniques, Stotts stresses that all stylists should have a basic knowledge of the process and its benefits so that they can answer questions and sell the service.
The training required for extensions might be pricey, but the high price tag you can attach to the service makes it a very sound investment. Great Lengths recently used data collected from its salon customers to determine that the income from only two and half extension applications yields enough net profit to pay for educating the stylist. "No other service can bring in that type of revenue so quickly," Butcher says, noting that their reports showed that a salon can make more than $50,000 dollars a year from extension services.
One of the main reasons that extensions are both popular and profitable is because they offer clients a wide range of options for changing their look. Many people think of extensions as simply providing length—what Butcher refers to as "Victoria's Secret hair"—but they really foster creativity from the stylist and client. "Because they can be removed, extensions allow stylists to convince their clients to experiment with new styles or accents," Fischbach says. "It's highlights without chemicals and styles without commitment."
Men can wear hair extensions, too, like these from Hairdreams.
One of the big trends that industry experts are seeing is the use of extensions for increased density. "In the past, people would request a horse mane of hair, but now the volume is in the width of the head," says Stotts, who notes that more and more women are asking for extensions near the occipital, whether its because their hair is thinning on the sides or they simply want a fuller look. Stotts also notes that extensions are a quick—and noncommittal—way to give a client bangs. "Even small touches can instantly change the cut," she says.
Butcher is noticing a similar trend. "We're seeing the most growth in what we call 'corrective' work," he says, referring to adding length to broken hairs from tool overuse or creating density for clients with fine hair to help them achieve popular short styles, like Victoria Beckham's bob. "Even clients who had never considered extensions wanted them in order to achieve the strong lines in that look," Butcher says. He also notes that this often leads to more extensive extensions in the future. "When you give a client a little, they always come back wanting more," he says. Recognizing the customized needs of clients, Great Lengths has two application methods based on the client's hair and goals. The thermal method is better for adding volume, while the ultrasonic cold fusion method lends itself to fluid styles that require a lot of swing, but not necessarily volume.
Another increasingly popular use for extensions is to add highlights and lowlights to clients' hair. Colorists shouldn't be wary of losing their clients, though. "It's a great way to introduce hesitant clients to color because there's no commitment," Stotts explains. "Colorists should be involved in the process of choosing the colors and placement."
Stotts also insists that extensions aren't just for women or Fabio-wannabes anymore. Men are increasingly turning to extensions to give their hair more density and versatility. "I'm putting extensions on the top of their heads to thicken the appearance and add texture," Stotts says. "Even just a few pieces in the front give men new options for styles, like Zac Efron's popular heavy bang."
Stylists can use extensions to come up with all sorts of new looks to make their clients happy. "Extensions allow stylists to create more interesting design work," Butcher says. "Growing your salon's business really comes straight from the stylists' creativity." —LORI MORRIS
THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT
Check out the extensions offered by these companies:
GREAT LENGTHS offers a three-day certification program that teaches the brand's two application methods, thermal and ultrasonic cold fusion, and provides advice on marketing the service to clients. greatlengthshair.com
LISHA COLEMAN has a new, secure-locking Butterfly technique for attaching custom-made extensions. "Extensions add confidence and create loyalty," she says. lisha.com or 281/335-8620
SUPER HAIR FACTORY offers three distinct lines of 100-percent human hair extensions: Bohyme, hand-tied Super Remi and Pure Virgin Indian Remi by SHF. superhairfactory.com
SOBEAUTYFULL distributes Button/Willow extensions with U-shaped bonds for fusion application and I-tips for micro-link application. sobeautyfull.com
SO.CAP.USA HAIR EXTENSIONS recently added three new products to its line of high-quality professional line: Easy Long Hair wefts, Extensive tape-on extensions and Easy Clip-In Hair Extensions. socapusa.com
HAIRDREAMS has developed a patented Laserbeamer XP that bonds up to eight strands at a time, significantly reducing time and costs for a salon. hairdreams.com
SHORT 2 LONG offers 100-percent human hair extensions that wear like natural hair, thanks to their exclusive soft crimping links, which allow professional stylists to apply the hair without using heat, glue or chemicals. 877/670-3021 or short2long.com
CINDERELLA HAIR has a certification program that provides 13 hours of hands-on training in its strand-by-strand bonding method and three hours of theory. cinderellahair.com