How Do Hair Extensions Work? Our Stylists Reveal All

Written by: Nancy Pinder



Time to read 8 min

Hair extensions have become a super popular method to elevate your natural hair. Whether that’s adding length, boosting oomph, or a quick styling fix, extensions offer endless possibilities. But how do they work?

Well, the answer to this really depends on the type of hair extensions. Clip-in extensions work differently from tape-ins, and tape-ins work differently from fusions, and…you get the idea. 

We’ll talk you through the most popular types of hair extensions and how it is they work – that way, you can decide what type is best suited to your inches.

What Are Hair Extensions Used For?

First, as a quick rundown, we’ll look at what hair extensions are most commonly used for. Of course, the obvious is to add length to your tresses without the wait for natural hair growth.

If you're looking for volume, hair extensions can also give your locks a fuller, more voluminous look.

What's more, they can effectively conceal areas of hair thinning or loss, providing a confidence boost along the way. 

We get a lot of girls and women coming into our Lakeside salon asking for advice on covering up thin areas – hair extensions are perfect for this!

They also cut down a ton of time from your morning routine or your glam time if you’re headed out to a party or event. Our clip-ins come pre-styled with waves, curls, flicks and sleek hair, which adds instant character to your hair. 

They’ve definitely saved us from a few hair disasters in the past!

How Do Hair Extensions Work?

So, how do hair extensions work? Like we briefly touched on earlier, extensions ‘work’ differently depending on the type.

We’ve broken down the 5 most popular types of hair extensions and explained how it is they’re attached to natural hair.

Type of Hair Extensions

How They Work

Clip-in hair extensions Clips are sewn onto a hair extensions weft, and the clips are secured to natural hair near the scalp.
Tape-in hair extensions Glue and strips are used to sandwich the natural hair and hair extensions together. The glue is heated up to remove the extensions.
Sew-in hair extensions Natural hair is braided and hair extensions are sewn through the braids.
Micro-ring hair extensions Tiny pieces of natural and hair extensions are bonded together by clamping a micro bead shut.
Fusion hair extensions The ends of these hair extensions have a keratin bond which softens when headed. A heat styling tool is used to heat the keratin, and this is moulded around a tiny piece of natural hair. The bond hardens when cooled.

How Do Clip-in Hair Extensions Work?

Clip-in extensions are a temporary, do-it-yourself method that involves clips sewn onto the hair weft

Synthetic or human hair (depending on the type of extensions) is woven or glued onto the weft, and the clips are used to attach the extensions to your natural hair.

The clips are simply slid into your hair close to your roots and clipped shut. And that’s it! Apart from a brush through to blend your natural hair and extensions, that’s how clip-in works.

They're quick to apply, require no professional assistance, and can be removed anytime, making them a versatile and cost-effective option. Plus, because they simply clip onto your natural hair, clip-in extensions don't damage your hair as other permanent methods might.

How Do Tape-in Hair Extensions Work?

Tape-in extensions consist of thin, pre-taped wefts that are sandwiched between sections of your natural hair.

This semi-permanent method requires a professional for application and maintenance, but they're lightweight and almost invisible, offering a natural look.

The glue used is safe for your hair and – when installed and removed correctly – will not damage your hair. Emphasis on the correctly part. You should get these extensions fitted and removed by a professional in a hair salon because they have the skills and tools needed to do so.

As your hair naturally grows out, the tape-in extensions will start to move further away from your scalp, which means they’ll need to be altered. 

This involves heating up the glue and gently pulling apart the tapes from your hair. The hair itself can be reused (most of the time) and just needs new tapes applied and re-installed in your hair.

The RiRi 22” Human Hair Tape Extensions are an ideal option for a natural, semi-permanent change. Check out our in-salon fitting service, too!

How Do Sew-in Hair Extensions Work?

Specially designed for, Sew-in extensions or weaves are best suited to people with thick, coarse hair. 

This method involves braiding the natural hair into cornrows and then sewing the hair extensions into the braids using a needle and thread. The process can be time-consuming but the results are long-lasting!

Unlike some other types of extensions, sew-ins don't require the use of heat or glue for attachment, reducing potential damage to your natural hair. But you’ll need enough hair to create the braids.

How Do Micro-Ring Hair Extensions Work?

Micro-ring extensions involve attaching the extensions to your natural hair using small, silicone-lined beads.

Tiny sections of hair are fed into your natural hair, which is threaded through the hole of the bead. A pair of pliers is then used to clamp the beads shut, securing your natural hair and the hair extensions together. 

Because such small pieces of hair are worked on at a time, it’s a really lengthy process, but the results are very natural.

To remove micro-ring extensions, the pliers are used to squeeze the beads in the opposite direction to which they were shut, opening them up again. The hair extensions can then be fed out, or reapplied.

How Do Fusion Hair Extensions Work?

Fusion extensions involve bonding the extensions to your natural hair using keratin adhesive.

On the ends of the hair extensions is a hardened keratin bond that melts or softens when heated. A tiny section of natural hair is taken for which to attach the extensions to. 

Using a heat tool, the keratin bond is melted, and your natural hair is moulded into the bond, which hardens again when it’s cooled down.

Applied with a heating tool, this method offers a seamless blend but requires a professional for application and removal.

How to Maintain Your Hair With Extensions

Proper maintenance of hair extensions is crucial for their longevity and the health of your natural hair. 

Neglecting care can lead to tangling, matting, and potential damage – and nobody wants that!

Take Regular Breaks

Hair extensions can work wonders for transforming your look, but it's important to give your hair some time off – particularly from semi-permanent extensions. 

Taking regular breaks from extensions allows your natural hair to recover and breathe, reducing the risk of damage.

Continuous use of extensions, especially those that involve heat or adhesive, can weaken your hair and lead to breakage or thinning.

 By taking breaks, you're ensuring the health and vitality of your natural hair, keeping it strong and resilient.

Remember, during these breaks, treat your hair to deep conditioning, regular trims, and a balanced diet to promote healthy growth.

Pamper Your Natural Hair

Incorporating a regular hair care routine can have a significant impact on the overall health and vitality of your hair.

Hair masks are a game-changer! They provide deep nourishment and hydration, leaving your hair soft and manageable.

 Look for ingredients like keratin, argan oil, or coconut oil – they work wonders with their restorative and moisturising properties. 

The RiRi Hair Extensions Boost or the Argan Oil Hair Treatment work wonders!

Using a high-quality, sulphate-free shampoo and conditioner is a must. We recommend the RiRi Hair Extension Shampoo and Conditioner Duo

These products cleanse and condition your hair without stripping away its natural oils, unlike conventional ones that may do more harm than good. They can also be used on extensions that last for weeks or months!

If you're using heat-styling tools, don't forget to use heat protectant sprays. They create a protective barrier on your hair, shielding it from potential heat damage.

Be Gentle With Your Hair

By adopting a gentler approach to hair care, you'll notice a remarkable improvement in the overall health and appearance of your hair, which will ultimately enhance the longevity of your extensions.

When brushing, avoid tugging or pulling. Instead, opt for a wide-tooth comb or a brush designed for extensions, like the RiRi Signature Deluxe Hair Extension Brush

Start detangling from the ends and work your way up to the roots. Additionally, limit the use of heat-styling tools to prevent long-term damage.

While washing your hair, give your scalp a gentle massage. This stimulates blood flow and encourages hair growth, creating a relaxing experience.

The Verdict: How Do Hair Extensions Work?

Hair extensions can either be applied using clips, glue, heat or sew-in methods depending on the type of hair extensions you’re looking at.

Semi-permanent extensions that use glue, heat or sew-ins definitely expose your hair to a higher damage risk, which is why they should always be installed and removed by a professional only.

Temporary extensions, i.e. clip-in extensions, are more forgiving, and are super simple to attach

yourself at home.

Ultimately, the best type of hair extensions for you will depend on a) your hair type, b) your budget, and c) what you intend to use them for. But there’s plenty out there to choose from!

If it’s clip-in hair extensions you’re after, be sure to check out our range of synthetic and human hair clip-ins!

Embrace the transformative power of hair extensions and enhance your natural beauty with RiRi Extensions today!


How Long Do Hair Extensions Usually Last?

Hair extensions have varying lifespans based on type and maintenance. Fusion extensions typically last 3-6 months with proper care, while micro-ring extensions endure for months. Regular maintenance and care are crucial for maximising extension longevity.

What Can’t I Do When Wearing Clip-in Extensions?

It's recommended to remove clip-in extensions before sleeping or participating in any activities that may cause them to tangle or fall out, such as swimming or intense physical activity.

Can the Application Process of Hair Extensions Damage My Natural Hair?

The application process can potentially cause damage to your natural hair if not done correctly. Some methods are less damaging than others. For instance, methods that don't require heat or glue, such as clip-in extensions are less likely to cause damage to your natural hair. It is always advisable to have extensions installed by a professional to minimise the risk of damage.

How Do Hair Extensions Stay In?

All methods of hair extensions essentially involve securing natural hair with the hair extensions. This can be done by using clips, glue, beads and sew-in methods.

Nancy Pinder

Nancy is our resident hair and beauty specialist at RiRi Hair Extensions. She advises customers daily in our Lakeside and Bluewater stores, helping them find the perfect look, length, and shade of hair extensions. 

Nancy also presents our TikTok live to thousands of viewers across the world. You can catch her on our TikTok every week!

Find Nancy on TikTok!

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