Your Definitive Guide to Hair Extensions for Kinky, Curly Hair

Finally, how to spot the cheap ones.

Hair extensions were once a hush-hush hair accessory that nobody wanted to admit to wearing, but now that approximately 100-percent of celebrities (according to our totally fake polling) on the red carpet not only wear hair extensions, but openly chat about them, hair pieces are quickly becoming an ordinary staple.

But, if you've got kinky, curly hair, it can be tricky navigating a world of straight, blonde hair extensions, especially if you don't want to spend a zillion dollars on custom-made pieces. So we chatted with curly hairstylist Jasmine Santiago about all things extensions so you can find the best braids, curls, and waves for whatever you want to do.

Do the Prep Work


"Kinky-curly textures like to shrink up, dry out, and get tangled super quickly, so once you take your extensions out, you'll have a ton of breakage, which will negate the purpose of doing a protective hairstyle," says Santiago. So before adding any extensions to a protective style (like clipping a jumbo braid to a slicked-back bun), slather on the conditioner.

"Coat your damp hair with a leave-in conditioner, like It's a 10 Miracle Leave-In for finer hair textures or Hair Rules Nourishment Leave-In for thicker, kinkier styles, then blow your hair out with the comb attachment on your blow dryer," says Santiago. "Blowing your hair straight prevents tangling, keeps the hair moisturized, and helps the extensions blend more naturally in with your hair."


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(Image credit: Archives)

Get the Right Hair Type


Extensions come in two hair varieties: synthetic or real (yes, as in real human hair). "Synthetic extensions are pretty cheap and not meant to last a long time, so they're good for when you're doing protective styles or when you don't want to deal with washing and styling your hair for a few weeks," says Santiago, who swears by Kanekalon extensions as her holy-grail, go-to extensions brand. "Clip-ins, though, are generally made from human hair, and you want them to be high quality so you can take care of them for years and years, which means taking them out at night and being gentle with how you handle them."

Go for Quality


Although a quick survey of all humans in the world backs up Santiago's love for Kanekalon extensions, they're definitely not the only ones. "Vivica Fox actually has a line of great synthetic extensions, as does a brand called Milky Way," she says. Whichever synthetic piece you choose, though, just make sure the hair doesn't look "too shiny," which Santiago says is a dead giveaway of poor quality strands that can "literally just be plastic."

As for human-hair extensions, expect to shell out some extra money (at least a few hundred dollars), since "you really want these clip-ins to last for years to come," she says. Though prices can totally vary depending on where and what you buy, "True Indian Hair company has excellent-quality natural weaves and clip-ins that aren't secretly mixed with synthetic hair, which is what frequently happens with many other all-human-hair brands," she says.


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(Image credit: Astrid Sterner)

Make a Compromise


The benefit of getting extensions from a trained hairstylist at a salon—although more expensive—is that a professional can perfectly dye and match the extensions to your hair color and texture. But, if you're doing the at-home route (which is perfectly fine and do-able), you might have to make some compromises when finding a match.

"Always go with the tighter curl if you're undecided on which to buy," says Santiago. "The texture of the extensions might loosen a bit as time goes on, so it's easier to eventually meet in the middle than start out too loose." Color, of course, gets a bit trickier. "Ideally, you'd find a perfect color match or dye them to match your hair, but if you're in between two shades, I'd go a little bit darker rather than lighter, because it can give your hair the appearance of a natural-looking contrast."



"The fun part of extensions is they let you do whatever you want, without too much commitment," says Santiago. And lest you think the only types of extensions are long, straight pieces of hair, you can actually find pre-styled extensions for virtually any look you're going for, like individual spiraled curls that hook into your hair, curly buns that slide over your bun with a drawstring closure, and even smooth, side-swept bangs that attach to wavy ponytails. "Kinky, curly hair should feel fun, not like a frustrating burden, and extensions can give you that freedom," says Santiago.

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Chloe Metzger
Beauty Editor

Chloe Metzger is the deputy beauty director at Cosmopolitan, overseeing the editorial content and growth strategy of the hair, makeup, and skin space on digital, while also obsessively writing about the best hair products for every hair type (curly girl here; whattup), and the skincare routines that really, truly work (follow her on Instagram to see behind-the-scenes pics of that magazine life). She brings nearly a decade of writing and editing expertise, and her work has appeared in AllureHealthFitnessMarie ClaireStyleCaster, and Parents. She also has an unhealthy adoration for Tom Hanks and would like to please meet him one day, if you could arrange that. Thanks.