Kerry Potter wanted more oomph to her fine hair and body for her thinning ponytail. She tried out a new salon hair extension service that offers volume instead of length

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I’ve always been a bit sniffy about hair extensions, viewing them as the preserve of girl bands and reality TV contestants. They’re just so… obvious. I’m a low-key fortysomething mother-of-two not a TOWIE cast member - so why would I be interested?

Well, it turns out I know nothing. Hair extensions, I discover, can be both subtle and chic, especially if you have them to create volume rather than length. Hadley Yates Salon in Covent Garden, London, which opened in 2022, specialises in exactly this, using a “hair filler” technique to add thickness; “making the unnatural natural”, as founder Hadley, formerly of Hershesons in Harvey Nichols, puts it. Now this I am interested in - I have fine hair which is prone to lankness and requires a boring amount of blowdry time to give it sufficient volume. The thought of spending fewer precious minutes wielding a hairdryer in the morning is appealing. As is having a ponytail with a bit more oomph. Hadley’s hair filler clients include Zoe Ball, Carol Vorderman and Claire Sweeney, all of whom look fabulous on the salon’s Instagram, which I find reassuring.  

I'd also been impressed by an Instagram post by Get The Gloss contributor Dr Tara Swart (brain the size of a planet) about why she'd gone from a long bob to Pochahontas locks overnight with extensions. As a neuroscientist, who practises gratitude and manifesting, she'd always gravitated towards neuroplasticity techniques to grow and reinvent herself.  So what had drawn her to this dramatic outer reinvention? "What is going on inside is not always reflected on the outside and vice versa," she explained. Hair extensions were an 'extension' of the new 'her'.  

"I have always, always wanted long hair but mine just doesn’t grow past shoulder length. I thought long and hard about taking this step," she said. "Growing up, the only Disney Princess I identified with was Princess Jasmine, but the second I saw Pocahontas, I wanted to be her! I am so glad I tried this and have been surprised by how much it has impacted how I feel." 

 And with that, I decided to pop my hair extensions cherry.

Hair extensions for volume – how they can help

My hair lacks body but hair fillers can help with a variety of hair loss and hair thinning problems:

  • Post Covid hair loss. It’s an underreported side effect but Covid can make your hair fall out – this happened to me the first time I got it, a vicious bout. It was alarming to end up with fistfuls of hair, mid-shampooing, in the following weeks.
  • Post-partum hair loss. Falling oestrogen levels in the months following childbirth can mean all the lovely hair you gained during pregnancy is soon down the plughole.
  • Menopause-related hair thinning. Again blame those pesky hormonal dips. The lady sitting next to me in the salon said this is why she started having filler extensions and that “they’ve hugely boosted my confidence”.
  • Post-chemotherapy hair loss. Extensions can help here too but Hadley Yates Salon advises you to wait a year after the end of treatment.

Midlife women are the main demographic for Hadley’s salon, which specialises in extensions but provides a full service, so cuts and colour too. On the day I visit, everyone in a chair is my age or considerably older and they’re all very stylish. Absolutely zero TOWIE vibes.

Hair extensions for volume – how it works

I had a consultation with Jack (extensions and cut ) and Georgina (colour) a week before the big day. This allows them to order in extensions that will match the colour (once Georgina has re-highlighted it) and texture of my hair, and decide on how many will be needed.

The extensions are, I’m told, 100 per cent traceable and ethically sourced from India, from people who cut their hair for religious reasons and donate it.

On the day, Georgina highlights my hair (formerly at Harrods Urban Retreat salon, she’s exceptionally good). Then Jack, an alumnus of Daniel Galvin, roughly blow dries it. He then applies 30 extensions, in three different shades, to my hair; 10 around each side, and 10 at the back. He takes an extension, holds it onto a section of my hair of the same width, and uses a small, heated wand to melt the keratin resin bond at the top of the extension to stick it to my hair. He assures me that you won’t see any of the joins. I do find myself compulsively touching the small bumps where the bonds lay over the next couple of days, but you soon get used to them (and they’re so small that your hairbrush doesn’t catch them).

The extensions are extremely long when they’re applied, so for a brief surreal period I have waist-length hair. But once they’re all in, which takes less than an hour, Jack cuts them to length and spends some time ensuring the real and fake hair blends seamlessly together. He does an amazing job. Then it’s blow dried and styled.

Hair extensions for volume – what is the cost?

OK, it’s not cheap and the price varies hugely depending on the size of the job. My extensions (30 in total) and cut cost with Jack cost £375, while the colour (a full head of highlights) with Georgina cost £230. So that’s £605 in total.

If you only needed 10 extensions put in, that would cost about £150. Prices with Hadley start from £425, and if you go from, say, a Mia Farrow pixie cut to the full Rapunzel, it can reach £3000.

Hair extensions for volume – how long it lasts

I’m told to book in for three to four months’ time to have them removed (you can’t reuse this type of extension), which takes about 30 minutes. It will apparently be obvious when they start to go a bit ratty. I’m told almost every customer has new ones applied – a lady sitting on the chair next to me in the salon warns: “It is totally addictive”.

Hair extensions for volume – after care

Here are Jack’s tips for keeping your extensions in tip-top condition:

  • Use a sulphate-free shampoo
  • Sleep with your hair in a low ponytail or plait to avoid tangles
  • Avoid chlorine or saltwater as they will degrade the extension – something to consider if you’re a keen swimmer
  • Use a soft bristle brush and brush from root to end twice a day
  • Avoid using oils or extreme heat directly on the bonds (a hairdryer is fine though)

Hair extensions for volume: my verdict

Image: Kerry Potter after hair extensions

My hair looks great that day - but then it always looks great when you’ve had a good cut, colour and blow dry, doesn’t it?  It was hard to tell how much of an impact the extensions alone had made.

My salon chair neighbour told me that it’s when you first wash your hair that you really notice the difference and she was absolutely right. It’s immediately apparent how much thicker and more lustrous it now looks. It takes just a couple of minutes to blow dry it and doesn’t fall flat as the day progresses. My ponytail is now more glossy show-pony than sad, elderly Shetland.

The extensions help with the overall proportions of my face. More hair somehow diminishes my double chin when I look at myself in profile. I mean, it’s still there but there is a better hair/ chin ratio.

Two weeks on and, I’ll be honest, I am a teensy bit disappointed that hardly anyone has noticed my new look, including my family. My mother is usually eagle-eyed but… nope. One colleague comments that my hair looks swishier but that’s it. (Admittedly, I haven’t yet had a night out with friends, where I think it may well have come up in conversation.)

But, on reflection, isn’t this a sign that the extensions have done exactly what they were supposed to do? They’ve made my hair look better, but in a way that’s hard for the casual observer to pinpoint. Filler extensions are basically a tweakment for hair – you don’t really want anyone to clock what you’ve had done, you just want them to think you look well. So on that criteria, they absolutely deliver. Am I addicted? Hmmm, come back to me in three months’ time.