Few feelings match the euphoria of getting a new wig or set of extensions in the mail. A mere five minutes after confirming the online order, you’ve already refreshed your inbox multiple times in anticipation of a tracking number for your new bundles. Finally, you get them and flaunt your new ‘do for a bit before reality ever so rudely sets in—it won’t look like new forever. After a month or so, your faux style has completely lost that fresh-out-the-salon feel and now you must learn how to wash your wigs at home. (A quick re-style probably wouldn’t hurt either.)
As daunting as it may seem, cleansing your unit or weave in the kitchen sink is hardly a complicated process. According to Kat Lewis, Head of Education at BELLAMI, dull, lifeless extensions are a dead giveaway that it’s time for them to be washed and given some TLC. “The more product you use (hairsprays, serums, hair paste, etc.), the more frequently you will want to wash to avoid build-up on the hair,” she says. “If you feel like the extensions or unit are becoming dull, dry, lackluster, or not styling the way you want them to, give it wash and revive it.”
There’s a right and wrong way to wash your wig and/or extensions. But before getting into the details, let me preface by saying that an investment in quality products makes a huge difference, for the better. If there is one thing I’ve learned after many conversations with other wig and weave wearers, it’s that some of them incorrectly assume going for the cheapest options won’t impact the lasting power of their purchase. That’s precisely what you don’t want to do, though I won’t deny there are some standout affordable options that don’t sacrifice quality just the same and that includes cleansing products.
For instance, I’ve been using the Matrix Total Results Length Goals collection (made in collaboration with BELLAMI) on all of my wigs, and the results have been everything I hoped for. Seriously—I have the empty bottles to prove it. In other words, I’m protecting my investment.
“I ask my guests,” says Lewis, “would you drive your brand-new Ferrari without insurance?! We have to add moisture and protect the hair with our choice of hair care products to ensure a longer life for our new hair (extensions).” Now it’s time to get your hands dirty. Ahead, the proper way to wash your wigs and extensions at home, from proper detangling to post-wash styling.
Step 1: Detangle the hair before cleansing.
Whether you’re washing your natural hair, wigs, or extensions, it’s always best to detangle before cleansing. In some cases, massaging shampoo through already tangled hair will lead to even more tangling and, ultimately, breakage. Considering how expensive some extensions and wigs are, you want to avoid this at all costs.
One of the best tools I swear by for detangling extensions is none other than the Tangle Teezer. Though it’s intended for natural hair (which, from my experience, it works wonders on), the flexible bristles make it an ideal tool for hair extensions as well because it doesn’t rip through the hair or even worse, pull it out of the wig base.
Step 2: Saturate the hair with cool to lukewarm water.
Wetting the hair makes it easier for the shampoo to suds up and do its job; even more so if your wig or weave is human hair because water will help the strands to better absorb the cleanser. Separate the hair into sections under running water to ensure that it’s wet from root to tip. This may seem like a no brainer, but you’d rather be safe than sorry.
Lewis also recommends doing the bubble bath method for extensions by dunking them into a bath of shampoo mixed with water to cleanse while minimizing tangling.
Step 3: Gently cleanse with a small amount of shampoo.
One thing that you want to avoid doing when washing your hair extensions is excessive rubbing and lathering, which could quickly lead to tangling. Use just a dime to quarter-size amount of shampoo and gently massage the hair from root to tip.
For added security, you can do this in sections if you’re working with a lot of hair. When rinsing, you’ll know it’s time to move onto the next step once the water runs clear as it’s going over the hair. The same rule applies if you’re using the bubble bath method.
Pro Tip: On lace wigs, be sure to massage the shampoo a bit into the lace to get rid of any wig glue, makeup, etc. that you may have applied directly to it.
Step 4: Follow up with a conditioner.
Conditioner is key to keeping your wigs and extensions in tip-top shape. Your conditioner doesn’t have to be heavy, but it should be hydrating enough to ease detangling. What I love about the Matrix Length Goals conditioner is that the consistency isn’t so rich that saturating hair feels like a chore. But a little also goes a long way so I’m ultimately saving money because I don’t have to replenish as often…and it’s already affordable, to begin with!
Step 5: Apply a leave-in or detangler.
While conditioning does a fantastic job of bringing your extensions back to life, leave-in ups the ante and makes post-wash styling even easier. Whether your plan on straightening, curling or leaving the hair in its natural state, this will always help more than it hurts. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.
I recommend the Matrix Length Goals Extensions Perfector because it’s lightweight, restores shine and protects hair against heat for up to 450 degrees if you’re planning to use a flat iron, blow dryer or other hot tools.
Step 6: Allow the hair to dry overnight (even if you plan to heat-style).
While it’s fine to blow dry your wig or extensions with a heat protectant, air-drying ensures you maintain the integrity of the hair longer. The best way to air dry is by placing the wig on a mannequin head and letting it do its thing. If you’re washing clip-ins, lay them flat on a towel.
Step 7: Slay!
Washing your extensions and wigs once every 1-2 weeks isn’t optional if you want to keep them looking like new. Your hair will have body, movement, and look as vibrant as it did on day one. More importantly, it will remind you that cleansing is always worth the effort.
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