This brand new extensions technique is ideal for those with hair loss, thinning and shedding. But is it really as good as it sounds?
I have worn extensions on and off for more than a decade and have written about them for almost two. I can spot extensions a mile off, even when expertly applied by the best in the biz.
In that time not a huge amount has changed in the hair extension world. Yes, the quality of the hair has got better and the knowledge of how to apply them - especially when using hair extensions for volume rather than just length - but there hasn't been a revolution, until now. Meet Combline - a new system that allows extensions to be placed straight onto the parting line as well as on the hairline around the face, giving people whose hair has been too fragile or thin to take extensions before the chance to have them. They can be used to fill gaps where hair has thinned due to hair loss. Unlike conventional hair extensions, Combline doesn’t use traditional bonds so the way the hair is attached is almost completely invisible, again meaning they can be applied where other extensions cannot because you won’t be able to see them.
I stumbled across Combline on the Instagram feed of hair extension doyenne, Inanch Emir. And if anyone is going to be leading the way with this revolution in hair extensions, it would be Emir. She is responsible for plumping up the hair of every A-lister you can think of, although is often sworn to secrecy. However, you will see the likes of Maya Jama, Rochelle Humes and Alesha Dixon in her Fitzrovia salon in London. I booked in to try out Combline.
What is Combline?
Combline was developed in Australia and tackles the main pain point that has existed in the extension world – being able to place extensions in areas where hair has thinned or fallen out without being noticeable and causing further damage. Emir trained in the application process in LA. She tells me that of all the hair extension training she has ever done, this was the most vigorous. “The procedures were really tight and if you don’t pass the test then, unlike with some other areas of hair extensions, you are not allowed to use the system.” There are currently only 11 salons in the UK that carry out Combline - you can find them on the handy salon finder on the Combline website.
How does Combline work?
Uniquely, Combline extensions don’t have any kind of bond at the top, the hair is completely loose. Normally, strands of extension hair are grouped together with a small blob of glue at the top. This glue is heated up with a tool that looks like a micro hair straightener and then the glued end of the extension is moulded around the natural hair by being rubbed between the stylists' fingers. The extension ends up looking like a transparent grain of rice attached to your natural hair. They are placed in rows under where hair can fall over the top so they're not noticeable. But even with the most skillful application, f you were to tie your hair up you might be able to see the bonds. And if a hair extension were to fall out you would notice it (it would look a bit like a rat's tail falling out of your hair).
For Combline, Emir gathers together a few strands of completely loose hair (no bond at the top), places them against one or two of your own strands, fans the hair out, then very lightly backcombs it using a special Combline tool. Then, the tiniest bit of adhesive comes out of the tool. The hair is combed again and that process intermingles the extension hairs with the natural hair attaching it without a visible bond. They are pretty much invisible as you can see on my hair in the video below.
Why have Combline extension over regular extensions?
This is really down to the state of your natural hair. If you have a full head of hair with no hair loss patches or thinning but want extensions for added length and full-on glam volume, Combline isn’t what you need. Combline is for people that have previously never been able to have extensions because they are too heavy for their delicate hair and would cause damage. Or because they need 'thickening' extensions on the parting, the crown, or around the face where conventional bonds would be seen.
Emir adds: “I don’t add length to hair using Combline either, because that would put too much pressure on the natural hair. If a client wants longer-looking hair, I use my regular way of applying hair extensions." however she can combine the two using Combline around the front or on areas where the hair is compromised and her normal method at the back and where there is more natural hair.
"It's also great for men who are thinning at the crown who don’t want to wear toppers or use hair fibres, for women who have experienced hormonal hair loss or for anyone who has lost their hair after medical treatments. So as long as there is a bit of hair there.”
What are the advantages of Combline extensions?
- They are invisible and can be applied to the hairline and parting
Combline can place hair extensions where no other method has been able to before. “With other extension application methods you have to leave about 1.5 inches from the front of the face because otherwise the bonds would be visible," says Emir. "I can’t apply them to the baby hair around the front of the face or on fine strands of hair because they are too heavy and will break the hair. With Combline I’m applying individual hairs to the client's hair and it’s much more seamless.”
- You can combine them with regular extensions using Combline around the front of the face to add fullness and her regular application method everywhere else for length and volume.
- You can upcycle previous hair extensions - any brand of hair extension can be applied with the Combline technique. If you already have extensions, when you have them removed, you can keep the hair, take them to Emir and she will cut off the bond at the top and reuse it for Combline.
- No removal process - conventional hair extensions need to be removed professionally because the adhesive needs to be dissolved professionally. If it's not done properly it can damage your natural hair. Combline requires no removal process because the hair will just naturally fall away so it is far kinder.
What are the disadvantages?
- More upkeep - because Combline doesn’t glue hair onto hair in such a robust way the extensions shed quicker so you will need to go back every four weeks for a top-up.
- No added length - you can’t add reams of length to your hair but then that’s not what this is about. This is about making thin and very fine hair look fuller and thicker.
How long do Combline extensions last?
Hair extensions applied using Combline don’t have the longevity that conventional extensions do and they shed more quickly. You will get at least four weeks out of them before needing a top-up appointment. Emir also adds that if you have curly hair (she can apply curled extensions so it works for all hair types) you may get less time because curly hair requires more brushing and therefore there is more chance of shedding.
Combline: our verdict
“After two pregnancies I still have thinning around my temples so I was intrigued to see if Combline could make this area look fuller. Emir colour matched the perfect shades for me and a week later I was back for my appointment. Many extensionists follow a set placement guide but Emir only ever places extensions where they are needed. This ethos is even more crucial for Combline to ensure that it’s as undetectable as possible.
"Because I only have two areas that need attention, my appointment only takes an hour - excessively quick for extensions. Emir tells me that she recently did a full head of Combline for a client who had finished cancer treatment and it took seven hours but that the results were amazing.
"I could instantly see the difference but struggled to find or see where the hair had been bonded in. You can feel them with your fingers, of course, but other than that they are completely undetectable.
"My extensions lasted beyond the four weeks but I’m quite disciplined and not touching my hair and I only wash it once a week so I wasn’t disrupting it too much so by the time I went back after seven weeks I still had quite a few extensions left and required less of a top-up."
The aftercare: "For 24 hours after the initial application Emir advises not to touch your hair to allow the hair to settle in. So there’s no washing, brushing or tying it up. After that you do everything as normal. Because the hair isn’t bonded in such a permanent way there is an initial stage of shedding. And let me warn you now, you may feel like you’re losing more than half of the hair that she has put in but you’re not. I had about three days of shedding and after that, it stopped.
"Style your hair as you always do, avoiding hard bristled hairbrushes. I use the Mason Pearson Boar Bristle Brush, £115 or Emir Inanch has her own Gold Class Styling Brush, £30. I also found that harder hairbands like Invisibobble could get caught up in the extensions so I stuck to Slip Skinny Silk Scrunchies, £39. There’s no need to use a different type of shampoo but Emir says for the integrity of your own hair and to get the best out of the extensions it’s always good to use a gentle shampoo and conditioner. Emir has formulated her own Gold Class Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner, £15 each, but she also recommends Philip Kingsley.
The cost: Price is dependent on the length of the hair extension and how much you need so have a complimentary consultation so that you can get a price specific to your treatment. I bought one bag of hair, which cost £100, and lasted me two appointments. Emir’s time and expertise start from £400. However, she is training her assistant in the technique so soon there will be another option apart from Inanch herself.
SJ had Gold Class extensions using the Combline method at Inanch London by Inanch Emir , 220 Great Portland Street, London, W1W 5 QP. 020 7383 7607