It was November of 2013, and 19-year-old me was, as some might say, “peaking.” I had good friends and a boyfriend, I was at a new low weight, and I had finally brought my GPA up after that time I took Econ and failed. I had also *effortlessly* rocked my long, naturally curly hair throughout most of my college career. But this was a tumultuous time— a time when flatirons were still cool and hashtags were overused. And since I didn’t know any better, I decided that it was time to make an adult change to my hair… which involved chopping most of it off.
This was the beginning of the end.
Because seriously, my hair has never been the same. My natural, frizz-free ringlets have never returned, and it now takes an eternity to grow my hair a couple inches.
For most of my life since 2013, this hasn’t been that big of a deal. My hair found itself into a ponytail most of the time, anyways. But after a rough breakup, I decided it was time to start putting an effort into my appearance— not for anyone, specifically, but for myself. I started wanting to wear things other than workout clothes, THANK GOD, which translated to more time spent on my hair and makeup as well.
Instead of going on Instagram for the memes, I started scrolling for fashion/makeup/hair inspiration. Suddenly, I started noticing that like… everyone had long hair. Every basic b*tch from the Bachelor, every “influencer,” girls from high school and college, EVERYONE.
You know how when you’re buying a new car, and you start seeing the car you like everywhere, to the point where it seems like everyone has it? That’s what happened to me, except with hair. Everyone seemed to have long, luscious locks but me.
I became obsessed with the idea of getting extensions, because it seemed like the magic ticket to the long, beautiful waves I kept seeing on my feed. I did research on extension types and lengths, spent hours looking at Yelp reviews, and asked everyone I knew what they thought. I eventually decided on a salon and booked my consult.
HAIR EXTENSIONS: THE CONSULT
WHERE: The Monaco Salon, here in South Tampa.
(PS… I HIGHLY recommend this studio if you’re looking to get hair extensions in Tampa. They did a really amazing job, and I don’t think my hair has ever looked better. I’ll touch on this more later.)
WHAT I CHOSE: 22” tape-in extensions. Why? Because they’re the easiest to maintain. I have a tendency to slack on hair care, so I didn’t want anything that would rip my natural hair out if I forgot to brush. I also went with the salon’s brand, instead of the “premium” brand, because it was quite a bit cheaper. I was able to touch samples that day, and I was impressed with how the hair felt. I remember being slightly worried about the quality, but my stylist reassured me that I was picking a great option, as it was still virgin hair.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED: I got color matched to ensure that I got the shade I wanted. This also included a different color for my highlight pieces, as I wanted dimension. Then, I had to put down a deposit. I’m not gonna lie… this part hurt. I had to pay around $500 to secure the actual hair, which was refundable, but… still. I definitely regret paying so much money for something like this, but at the time, it seemed worth it.
Another bummer? How long I had to wait to get them put in. I waited 2-3 weeks after my consult for my appointment, and it felt like FOREVER. Keep in mind, I was also spending an hour a day on Instagram’s #hairextensions page, so the obsession was very real at the time.
HAIR EXTENSIONS: THE PLACEMENT PROCESS
Finally, it was time for my appointment! I didn’t have a lot of flexibility on timing, so I went on a weekday morning.
WHAT HAPPENED: This experience was absolutely seamless. First, my stylist did a shadow root and toned my actual hair. Then, after it was washed and dried, the extensions were placed. Tape-ins are the easiest to place and remove, so my whole appointment only took about four hours, including styling. After the extensions were placed, I had to get them shaped. This was done by a master stylist, which made me feel VERY cool and also more comfortable with the money I was spending. And she did completely transform the extensions, to the point where they blended right in with my hair. Then my original stylist curled my hair and I was outta there!
HOW IT LOOKED: I remember being amazed by how beautiful the hair was and how LONG it was. Right when the extensions started going in, I fell in love. Monaco’s main brand is virgin real hair, which is a far cry from how color-treated hair feels. I actually thought I was done right after the extensions were placed, because they already looked so good! See above for how they looked directly after placement, before styling.
IMMEDIATE THOUGHTS: I have never “felt myself” quite as much as I did that day. I walked allllll over Tampa feeling like the hottest, coolest girl in the world. While my hair did feel a bit heavier, the tapes didn’t feel obtrusive on my scalp and overall, I didn’t think I would mind the extra burden all that much. My new hair had just become my best accessory.
HAIR EXTENSIONS: THE AFTERMATH
Unfortunately, most people on Instagram don’t talk about how much work is involved with maintaining extensions, and the possible negative side effects. So here goes, for anyone out there looking to get hair extensions!
1) The Struggle of Keeping It Dry. My stylist warned me that I would never be able to go to bed with my hair wet, and that I would always have to blow dry it after I showered or worked out. I didn’t fully understand how much time this would add to my day, especially as someone who works out a lot. At that time in my life, I was going to cycle classes a couple times a week, and I still remember feeling so overburdened by the need to constantly wash and blow dry my massive amount of hair. I honestly can’t imagine what that would be like now, as a fitness instructor.
2) The Time Spent On My Hair. A lot of people assume that blow-drying their hair with extensions will be relatively similar to blow-drying their normal hair. LOL. JOKES. It took me twice as long, even with a Dyson, which is known for being the fastest and most high-powered blow dryer on the market. I had to carve out a full hour of my day just to dry my hair— this doesn’t include the time it took to style it, whether I was going straight or wavy. #TBT to that time I walked into Drybar for a blowout and it took over two hours. However… I did look pretty fly that day. See below.
3) The Itchy Scalp Dilemma. After about a month, I was pretty sick of how heavy my hair felt, and even worse, how ITCHY my scalp got. I’ve always had a dry scalp, but it was never obtrusive. I was shocked by how much buildup I experienced, likely because I couldn’t use clarifying shampoos anymore (not all are extension-safe) and because I didn’t wash my hair as frequently.
Beyond this, my boyfriend absolutely hated touching my head because he thought the tapes felt weird. And I agreed— they did feel strange, especially when my hair wasn’t professionally dried and styled. Head scratches are an important part of every relationship, ESPECIALLY when your scalp is itchy, and he agreed with me 100% that as pretty as my hair looked, the cons outweighed the pros.
WHAT I DECIDED: After two months I got my extensions removed. Monaco didn’t pressure me to keep them in, and they even saved my extensions in case I wanted them later. This made me feel good, especially after spending so much money on something that was supposed to last half a year. I was disappointed by how short and gross my hair looked after my extensions were removed, but I was overjoyed the first time I washed my hair and could actually reach my scalp with a clarifying shampoo. It took a couple weeks, but eventually my scalp and hair started to feel normal again. It’s even started to grow a little bit!
I will say that getting extensions did mess with my color. My shadow root ended up growing out in a really unfortunate band that has taken months to disguise. And since the extensions provided highlights, it has also taken a while to get my color back to where I want it to be (AKA ashy blonde with lowlights). It’s a process, but it has been worth it!
THE TAKEAWAY: I recommend really thinking about the time commitment involved with extensions, and the possible negatives you might experience. If you’re someone that isn’t used to spending a bunch of time on your appearance (I still only take likeeee 10 minutes to do my makeup when I go out), I wouldn’t recommend getting them. I also have always been a very “natural” person, AKA I’ve never gotten fillers or fake nails or lash extensions. I put fake lashes on once for a photoshoot and took them off right when it was over because I HATED the way they felt. So if you relate to any of this, think twice. There are other ways to naturally grow your hair, and the extension game just might not be worth it for you.
However, I will say over and over again how much I valued my experience with the Monaco Salon. I have heard absolute horror stories about extension placement, and I was so impressed by the professionalism I encountered throughout my time at the salon. 10/10 would recommend!