I've always had a funky relationship with my tresses. As a kid, I had too much of it; as a teen, nowhere near enough. Regardless of the issue, it's always been long. Except that one time I played Edward Scissorhands and disastrously chopped my own Rapunzel-like mane into a long bob. I didn't quite understand my Mama's disgusted reaction at the time, but looking back at pictures, I don't know how she resisted packing me off to school with a brown paper bag over my head. Remember Angelica's doll in Rugrats? That was me aged nine.
My first memory of hair goes back to my toddler years in my majestically beautiful homeland, Moldova. If I close my eyes I can transport myself to that time; the sounds of village life, the smells, that distinctive buzz in the air I've never felt anywhere else. Here I have two hairy memories. One of my beautiful cousin's long, shiny blondy-brown locks and how they almost reflected the sun as she ran away from the masses of boys chasing her; the other of my ageing grandmother brushing her hair in the evenings, carefully saving every loose strand to add to her home-made accessory - a bun extension made of her own hair. Back then, this rather alien ritual captivated me; my grandmother was always ahead of her time.
Growing up the fascination continued. I loved watching my mother’s hair change with the seasons. Brunette in the autumn, blonde in the spring; loose curls for a special occassion, blow-dry for a more serious affair; long ponytail for a walk in the park, a lazy bun piled high on top of her head as she cleaned the house. I loved flicking through magazines too, forevermore enchanted by the beautiful models with lush hair. I was fascinated by the TV advertisements with those glamorous doll-like creatures and their cascading waves "maybe she's born with it," "because I'm worth it-" you know the ones.
During those days, there was never really an issue with my own hair. There were plenty of other things occupying my mind- school, friends, playing with my baby brother, dance classes, which Spice Girl was my favourite, whatever book I was going to read next (I’m still that nerd), how I was going to marry Abs from 5ive/Charlie from Busted/ Westlife’s Shane- you know, the usual.
It was only in 6th year that my hair became something to stress over. Leaving Cert exams had me in a bundle of nerves and while I didn’t notice at the time, the constant worry sure took its toll on my mane. I remember getting this severe eye twitch during my Maths Paper 1 exam. It was so bad I had to excuse myself to the bathroom where I massaged my eyeball, splashing cold water in hopes of easing the tension and discomfort. It appeared to work but as soon as I parked my bum at my assigned seat, the twitch came back with no signs of mercy. Being 17, I brushed it aside but looking back, that was the first sign of my body showing stress and I wish I had paid better attention. In the months that followed my thick locks changed drastically; my hair adopting a noticeably thinner, finer appearance. It also fell out. Loads. All the time. The Great Shed, I call it.
What followed was a 10 year fling with Hairspray. A most loyal customer, I both loved and dreaded popping into the store. Extensions at the time weren’t half as trendy as they are today and I felt a little embarrassed to be wearing them. I was worried my friends would see me – I mean I quite liked pretending all those hairs on my head were my own. I loved the confidence the clip in’s gave me and not a day went by when I didn’t wear them. At night time, they’d sit patiently on my bedside table, waiting to be clipped in once the sun popped up to kiss the sky hello.
What I loved most was how natural they looked (but not always felt). I’ve never been a lover of obviously fake hair. I was in search of “ooompfh” in my hair journey not “ooooooh- what the heck is on her head?”
The trouble with clip in’s, however, is the price. They’re an expensive luxury, especially when you wear them every day. And then there’s the major effort to keep them in top condition, the constant worry that they’re on show and the dread of beach/gym/shower scenarios which left them a matted mess almost impossible to comb out.
I’d considered bonded extensions over the years but I suppose I was always too afraid to give it a go. I’d read the horror stories online, seen the pictures of drastic hair loss- harsh bald patches and all. I wanted beautiful hair but I wasn’t prepared to risk the war wounds that seemed almost a given.
But then I fell victim to social media brainwashing. Of course. Amid the masses of viral videos and memes, my timeline was peppered with mentions of Great Lengths and the accompanying hair transformations photos and testimonials almost too much to resist. I wanted swishy mermaid too, dammit!
Like with everything I set my mind and heart on, I did my research. Extensively. I studied the bonding process so much I practically could have applied the extensions myself by the time I set foot inside the door of Cowboys and Angels on South William Street, Dublin. Owner and hairdresseser supreme Valerie welcomed me with open arms, patiently answering my million and one questions and I instantly knew both my hair and I were in good hands.
Ladies (and gents) be warned- the application process does take a long time so perhaps book yourself in on a weekend or an afternoon off. Lengthy as the procedure is, the end result is astonishing and worth every neck craning second (and cent!). I went for the 50 inch option on my first visit to the salon, with Valerie and her wonderful team mixing a number of colours to match my virgin dirty blonde hair.
A few hours later, I walked out a new woman, freed from the shackles of clip-in's and overcome with the urge to whip my hair back and forth a la Willow Smith. I left the salon with a new found swagger that day, adopting a somewhat vain demeanor - staring at myself in every mirror, window, shiny reflective surface I could find. I had so much hair and I LOVED it.
The most refreshing thing for me was knowing I could keep the hair in 24/7 and that gone were the days of water induced monster furballs on my head!
Great Lengths hair is all natural, it can be coloured, styled, cut - the choice is very much yours and the possibilities endless. My hair looked shiny and beautiful, adding that extra bit of vava voom I had been looking searching for an entire decade.
For anyone who has short hair and is looking to transorm with extensions, I saw GO FOR IT. But do bare in mind you will need to pay more attention to your tresses once the bonds are in. Drying your hair will take that extra bit longer and the same goes for styling too. For someone like me who has always had long hair? Well you'll be just fine. Treat it as your own and you're good to go!
Of course I know what you REALLY want to know is what happneed when they came out. Well, it's simple. My natural hair looked better than ever- in the four months I had my Great Lengths in, my hair not only grew like never before but it also felt stronger thanks to the keratin bonds which work hard at nourishing your hair at the application point.
Honestly speaking, I had nightmares leading up to removal day; visions of a hacked up Barbie head clouding my mind. I remember sitting in the chair watching the strands fall to the floor, praying to the gods above to have mercy on me and my follicles. My prayers were answered. Sure there was a little bit of fall out but that was just the strands that were due to fall out anyway over the four month period, nothing a direct result of the removal process (on that front- a solution is applied to the bond, weaking it and making it slide off- simply and painlessly).
I'm on my fourth set of Great Lengths now and I have never looked back. In fact, I can't imagine life without them! As a bonus- I've also reclaimed so many precious minutes back for myself- moments previously spent untangling, clipping, straightening, curling and generally fussing over my misbehaving clip ins!
To anyone considering bonded extensions, I say go for it- go for it NOW! Make that call, book yourself in and be preared to "feel like a womaaaaaan"... bam bam bam bam bam bam, Shaniah Twain style!
(Oh! I've recently gone and had a chop. I have to thank the incredible team at Lockonego on the Kings Road, London for tending to my mop- cut, colour and style. The service was incredible, the salon beautiful and the team are spendidly gifted, hospitable and passionate! Johnny (cut and style) and Andrew (colour)- thank you for the hair love! If you're in London, definitely book yourself in, you won't be disappointed.)
Great Lengths Pros
-Extremely manageable and easy to wear
-Looks so natural
-Brilliant colour choice
-Can be dyed, cut and styled as your would your nomal locks
-Great quality healthy hair, strong and luscious
-Can keep them in for up to five months if you take good care of them
-Bonds are super tiny and pretty much unnoticable to any prying eyes
-Super easy and pain free to remove
Great Lengths Cons
-Slightly expensive depending on how much you're having put in and the length but genuinely worth every cent
-You WILL need to spend an extra few minutes in the shower, drying and styling but again... worth it!
Great Lengths Must
***INVEST IN THE GREAT LENGTHS BRUSH TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR EXTENSIONS AND SAVE YOUR NATURAL HAIR ANY POTENTIAL DAMAGE***