California-based hairstylist Kiara Bailey launched her hair extensions line, Hair Lingerie, back in 2005, as a healthy alternative to the extensions that were on the market at the time. Sold in Toronto exclusively at LAC+CO, we caught up with Bailey when she was in town to answer every single question we had about hair extensions. Below is our entire conversation with Bailey.
What made you want to launch an extensions line?
I was working in Beverly Hills with a lot of celebrity clients. I found the extensions on the market just didn’t work for them. They weren’t high enough quality. The conventional methods of extensions were ruining everyone’s hair, resulting in long-term hair loss, especially for celebrities who were wearing them every day. It was damaging their hair. You work with someone over the course of four or five years and you see their hair start to deteriorate. At that point I was like, “There has to be something else that saves people’s hair and looks natural.” One of the other challenges with individual extensions is that when they’re in, they don’t blend with your hair. You always get that stringy, spaghetti look. I always think of Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton in the early 2000s. They had those stringy extensions. They need to match your hair so you can leave the house with wet hair and have it all be the same texture. That was a big thing for me: more authentic looking hair extensions.
With ours, yes. What we do is a little bit different. When you see it, it looks like hair and behaves exactly the same way. The reason why you have to blow-dry most conventional extensions to death is that they don’t look like hair. You have to over-style your own hair to get it to match the glossy doll hair situation that’s going on. It defeats the whole purpose because you’re further damaging your own hair. The whole purpose of extensions is to add volume and keep your hair healthy.
When celebs go from a bob to waist-length hair, is that a wig or extensions?
The way you can tell if it’s a wig or not is if there’s a massive colour change. If you were to sit down and go from dark to platinum, that’s going to take you an extended period of time and it’s going to damage your hair. Instead of doing that, they just wear wigs. If you have black hair and are going from a bob to waist-length, in that situation you’ll have six packs of hair going in.
What type of extensions do you use?
Hair Lingerie is a tape adhesive method. The biggest difference between us and a lot of the tape methods you see on the market now that have come out in the past five years is that our panels are all made from lace. They’re all hand-tied like a wig would be. When you see them in the hair, they look completely like scalp and look totally natural. They’re also flexible and breathable. A lot of times when people get tape extensions in, the top of them is plastic. You always have this strip of plastic at the root of your hair. When the wind blows, you see it. When you go to put your hair up, you see it. You can’t colour it. With lace you can dye it and it’s ventilated so it looks like your scalp. And because of the lace, it’s flexible. You don’t have a piece of plastic stabbing your head. We don’t just take extensions out of a bag that you put in your head. You want the service to be about you and be unique. You don’t want the person next to you to have the same hair as you do.
Rumour has it you can also put these extensions in super fast
We can put extensions in someone’s hair in 20 minutes. When you’re putting them in the hair, you’re either using four-inch panels or two-inch panels. The application method in and of itself is so fast and easy because it’s tape. If you imagine putting stickers on something and how quick that is as opposed to conventional methods. where you have to figure out where you’re going to put it, heat it, clamp it, etc. With this you’re able to cover the head so much faster because of the size and the fact that it’s sticky.
How long do they last?
Most clients are wearing them anywhere from six to eight weeks before they get changed.
Do you have the change the styling products you use when you have extensions in?
It depends. If you’re using something that’s really oily or really moisturizing, then you’d need to switch. As far as conditioners, you’re fine. You’re really only conditioning the ends. A lot of clients find that they’re able to take care of extensions a lot more easily than their own hair. With your own hair, the styling component always gets annoying. “Now I have to style my hair. Now I have to get it to look good.” With Hair Lingerie extensions you’re able to get that extra 15% that you’re fussing with every day. You have it. You’re not like, “Okay, now I need to curl. Now I have to add volumizer. Now I have to add thickening spray.” You just have it.
In terms of blow-drying, can you do that without pulling on your tape-ins?
You should always dry your hair almost all the way before you put a brush in it. You have to remember that the extensions are attached to your hair. If there’s moisture in there and if it’s wet it’s going to stretch and break. When it’s wet, any brush grabs much tighter in the hair. If you have a lot less moisture in the hair, when you put the brush in it’s not going to grab as tight and you’re not going to risk having any kind of hair loss.
I read that you said that clients can actually repair their hair while wearing these extensions. What does that mean?
With conventional extensions, when you put them in, the balance of the hair you’re attaching them to is generally off. In order to create enough weight, you’ll have two, three, or four times as much hair in the extension. It can cause damage. Then you have the removal process, which is intense and often involves a pair of pliers and breaking the bonds. In that situation you can also lose a lot of hair. With us, those two things—both the weight of the attachments of Hair Lingerie and the removal process—are really gentle. Because of the quality of the hair, you’re not getting tangling or matting. You don’t have to overly care for the hair. We eliminate a lot of the areas where extensions typically damage hair. The other part is that when you’re hair’s been compromised—it’s been bleached too much or over-styled—when you’re putting extensions in the hair that go in throughout as opposed to a weft, you’re actually protecting your hair. A good majority of the styling at that point happens with the extensions rather than with your hair. What we see happen with people is because you’re not doing all those things to your hair, six or nine months into wearing them, your hair’s actually grown in and is healthier. It’s not getting damaged as much. For instance, I have a lot of celebrity clients who get their hair styled all the time. This actually protects their hair during that process.
So the extensions are essentially protecting the hair on your head?
Yes. For people who do style their hair a lot and need to be camera ready, it’s a great alternative for them. They end up still having their own hair. When they go to take them out they’re like, “My hair’s still in great condition.” I think it’s also that a lot of people, when they have extensions in, don’t mess with your hair as much. That’s where so much of the damage comes from: blow drying, styling, constant brushing.
How has Instagram changed how you do your job?
It’s insane. I think anything that happens in regards to our industry and people’s ability to put themselves out there is always amazing. I remember being 15 and doing the Yellow Pages ad for my mom’s salon. I was laughing the other day because I was like, “Instagram is the new Yellow Pages.” If you want to find something, you put the hashtag in for whatever it is and it pops up. You get to see what the restaurant looks like before you go in. I think that in that respect it’s giving people so much more visibility. I think the part that’s been hard is not everybody is honest and open. They really believe that Instagram’s the whole game. They’re forgetting that there’s still the conventional way of building clients which is doing great work. Go work somewhere where they have a great reputation. Have your clients send you people. The referral business is still alive and well. Instagram has given life to a whole group of people who didn’t have that. They were the crazy people in the salon being really loud and now they have an outlet for it. I think it’s wonderful but I don’t think it took anything away from the people who have always been from the other side of building a business. The only downside is that because we have so many filters and so much Photoshopping you don’t actually know what you’re looking at. I have some people I work with who will do two photos: one of what it looks like inside and one with great lighting. I think a lot of people got burned by filters. They’d go see someone and be like, “I want this colour” and you have to be like, “That’s not real. Someone filtered the shit out of that.”
So you can’t always trust what you see on a hairstylist’s page?
You can take [a photo] and put a grey filter on it and tell your followers, “Look how grey and beautiful and snow white I made their hair!” No you didn’t. It’s a filter! I think a lot of people were coming in with unrealistic expectations. They’re bringing a photo in of hair that’s the colour of a white wall. They’re like, “Can you make my hair this colour?” Hairstylists are people pleasers so they’re like, “Sure.” Nine hours later and it’s not happening. It’s because it doesn’t exist.
One of Hair Lingerie’s main points of difference is the ethos of sustainability. Can you elaborate on that?
With most hair extensions, you’re replacing every time you have them done. Even when they’re tape-ins and you can reuse them, the hair quality just isn’t good enough. What’s happening there is the hair is sourced from unethical places. Those brands are either not paying people properly for their hair. It’s important to us is that the process is ethical. We’re paying people a reasonable rate. Hair is a resource. You’re getting it from a human being who has to grow it! Some people see J. Lo and Kim Kardashian’s hair that’s, like, 40 inches long and forget that it takes someone 10 years to grow 40 inches of hair! If you’re buying that and throwing it away or wearing it one time, the sustainability of the industry goes down. There’s just not that much hair available on the planet. We try to make sure everything’s done in a very conscious way. We also package everything in the U.S. I like the fact that I’m giving business to the guy doing stamps and prints and folds the envelopes. He’s down the street. I like the fact that all our labels that we print comes from another guy who is down the street and has family in Los Angeles. We try as much as possible to use paper that’s recyclable or minimal packaging.
And you can use Hair Lingerie extensions for a long time, right?
I think that in and of itself is a really big deal. We live in a generation where people love to throw shit away. I get a lot of pleasure out of the fact that I can meet a client who says, “I’ve had my hair for a year.” They’ll have to have it redone every six to eight weeks but they’ve had that one set of hair extensions [for a year]. If they’d used any other hair extensions brand they would have gone through six sets of hair by then. That’s six people that have grown their hair plus everything that’s gone into dyeing it and shipping and manufacturing it.
How did you come up with the name Hair Lingerie?
I was using them on a client and we were talking about how they made her feel and she was like, “It’s like lingerie for your hair.” I thought about it and realized it really is. It makes you feel sexy. No one knows that it’s there. When you think of the whole purpose of wearing lingerie, you’re wearing it for yourself and you’re the only person walking around the street who knows what it is that you have on. There’s some magic in that and power to it. Hair Lingerie is based on empowering women and giving them the hair they’ve always wanted to have in a very secretive way. If someone tells you your extensions look great, then they’re not that good. It’s supposed to be a secret.
So why do you think you’ve been so successful?
Hair is important to people. It’s a security blanket. For anybody who thinks it’s not, get your bangs cut wrong and watch yourself have a 10-week meltdown. You have to feel like the best version of you. That’s the reason why extensions have become such a big part of the beauty industry now. Before, if your hair was thin you had to go with a different haircut than you might want. Now you’re like, “I can have whatever I want.”