How Do I Choose the Best Adhesive for Hair Extensions?

R. Wood

Choosing the best adhesive for hair extensions is usually a matter of understanding the available options and weighing these against your needs, your skill level, and your preference. In most cases it’s almost entirely a personal decision that will depend on your circumstances. Some products work better on certain types of extensions than others, for example, and others are more suitable for beginners. Timing will probably also influence your choice. Some glues are relatively easy to dissolve, but others are designed for much longer wear and can be challenging to remove before the bonds begin to break down naturally. In most cases you’ll have probably four main categories, namely glue sticks, keratin protein adhesives, bonding glues, and liquid sealants. Within each category there are usually a number of brands and options, too. Reading reviews can be helpful, and taking a look at the application method described on the packaging can help you determine whether you’re up for the task. If you still aren’t sure, asking a hair expert can also be a good idea, particularly if that expert is already familiar with your hair and your individual style.

Used improperly, hair extension glue can damage the person's real hair.
Used improperly, hair extension glue can damage the person's real hair.

Basic Concept

Hair extensions are usually plats made from either human hair or synthetic fibers that are designed to be added to existing hair to make it look longer, thicker, or to add colors without the permanency of dye. There are a couple of different methods you can use to apply hair extensions; clips and braids are common for people who want to change their look very temporarily, but glues and adhesives give the most realistic look and also tend to last the longest.

Hair extensions may be particularly beneficial to individuals experiencing severe hair loss.
Hair extensions may be particularly beneficial to individuals experiencing severe hair loss.

Learn About the Options

Doing your research before you head out shopping can make your search a lot simpler, and can also help make sense of the different products you’ll encounter. There are a lot of different resources to consult, but reading about glues, either online or through manufacturers’ printed materials, can be really helpful. In general you’ll get the most out of your search if you know ahead of time what your extensions are made of and how long you want to keep them in. Whether or not you’re willing to invest in additional tools like glue guns and special brushes might also be a factor.

A stylist putting in hair extensions.
A stylist putting in hair extensions.

Glue Sticks

One of the most common types of adhesive for hair extensions is glue sticks. The glue sticks are melted and then applied using a glue gun. The melted glue on the hair extension is then attached directly to the hair. This often takes a bit of skill to get right and can cause unsightly clumps and glued-in tangles if done improperly. It isn’t always the best option for beginners, but practicing a bit before hand can help improve your technique.

Keratin Glue

Keratin glue, made from keratin protein bonds that occur naturally in the hair. comes in a small tube. In general you must pre-apply it to the hair extension and then press it on to your natural hair. Keratin glue also comes in a glue stick to be used with a hot glue gun. After you attach the hair extension to the natural hair, press and hold it for three seconds and it will be securely attached.

Bonding Adhesive

Bonding glue is another type of adhesive for hair extensions. In most cases this is the easiest to use, but may not be your best bet if you want to keep your extensions more permanently since it’s also the easiest to remove. When removing the hair extension, after applying water, the glue becomes a powder and then is easily washed out.

Liquid Options

Liquid bonding glue is cold glue that comes in a bottle. Once you’ve warmed it slightly, you’ll want to squirt a small amount along the hair weft, and wait a few seconds until it becomes tacky. When it is tacky, attach it directly to the natural hair. Timing is really important here, since if you wait too long the glue can become very stringy and sticky and may not set properly.

Importance of Reading All Directions

Hair extension glue can damage real hair if it is not used correctly. Using this type of adhesive takes proper maintenance and care, and also usually a lot of practice. Preferably, hair extensions should be applied by a professional since they can be difficult to handle. With the right preparation and product, though, you will probably be able to get good results at home, too.

Fusion extensions use heat to bond to natural hair.
Fusion extensions use heat to bond to natural hair.

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