Your go-to guide for mastering Hollywood’s hottest type of hair extensions

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From the biggest names in music to the most beautiful women in Hollywood, if you’re looking to the A-list for some hair inspiration, bear in mind that it might not be their own.

Whether it's Rihanna talking hair length switch-ups in Vogue,  Tyra Banks going weft-free on her TV show , or Gabrielle Union's au naturel updo (chronicled on her  Instagram ), weaves are entertainment’s best kept secret for transitioning from short haircuts one week to long-flowing locks the next.

To be honest, weaves have always slightly concerned (and confused) me, thanks to tabloid tales of high profile cases of alleged resultant hair loss and receding hairlines . Plus, the sheer volume of choice that’s out there is somewhat overwhelming to get my head around. From clip-ins to glue guns and tracks to threads, which type of weave is actually best for your hair in the short-term and also the long-term too?

I asked 2013 Afro Hairdresser of the Year and former Weave Stylist of the Year  Charlotte Mensah  and one of the most renowned Trichologists around, Philip Kingsley 's team to shed some light on the topic. From its risks to daily maintenance, if you’re looking to change your hair length fast, let this be your go-to guide for doing it in the safest and healthiest way possible.

Why get a weave?

“A weave is a wonderful way to create a new style as it gives you the opportunity to add length to your natural hair,” says Charlotte. “Even more importantly, weaves give your own hair a healthy window to rest, grow out a relaxer and add fullness and body to your hair.”

What are the different types of weaves?

Deciding which type of weave is right for you depends on a number of factors: how long you’d like it to last for, the length and amount of volume you’re hoping to achieve, for example. The choice can sometimes be confusing, so if you’re considering a weave anytime soon, Charlotte’s provided the following as a handy hair how-to to follow:

Sewing: "Hair is cornrowed, then wefts of hair are sewn onto the braided hair."

Strand by strand: "Hair is divided into small sections, each braided an inch or more, with extensions then sewn or wrapped with thread to secure it."

Interlocking: "This is a variation of the sewing technique but without the cornrow. Micro-thin weft is sewn onto your loose hair."

Fusion: "Strands of human hair are attached to sections of your own hair with a keratin-protein bond that matches your hair colour."

Bonding: "Wefts of hair are glued to the shaft of your hair close to the scalp."

What is the best type of weave to get?

“Having over 25 years’ experience with weaving hair, I have found that the best and safest option is the sewing weave as this method works well with most hair types,” says Charlotte. “Stay away from bonding as this can also result in traction alopecia or balding in certain areas of the scalp," she cautions.

“If you’re considering wearing a weave, you need to be aware how important it is to maintain the condition of your natural hair. The better the quality of hair, the more natural it will look. Less is best when it comes to the amount of hair used - many women make the mistake of adding too much.”

How should you style and maintain your weave?

Charlotte advises the following to make sure your weave stays in optimum condition:

Daily: "Moisturise and condition your weave and scalp with a light natural oil like MIZANI Comfiderm Scalp Oil , £9.85."

Weekly: "Weaves need to be cleansed frequently to look fresh."

Monthly: "Visit your stylist every 2 to 4 weeks so he or she can groom and refresh your weave."

MORE GLOSS: 20 ways to simplify your afro hair care regime

How long should you leave your weave in for?

“The recommended length of time to keep a weave in is two months," says Charlotte. "Full head weaves and tracks should be touched up every 2 to 4 weeks. You should also leave a 2 to 4 week gap in-between weaves and it’s essential to have conditioning treatments done before, during and after your weave,” she adds.

What are the best types of hair to use?

“There are a number of brands such as my own Charlotte Mensah Bespoke ones, Virgin Indian, Remy hair extensions, Brazilian and Peruvian," says Charlotte. "These are all reusable and of the highest quality. Temporary brands are not reusable and they do tend to tangle. You can purchase these from local hair shops and online stores."

Also check out American Dream  hair extensions, which counts super stylists Trevor Sorbie and Guido as fans.

What are the risks?

According to the experts at Philip Kingsley, “The biggest potential problem is traction hair loss (known as traction alopecia) and breakage because of the pulling involved. The breaking and receding hair can be fairly obvious. Hairs can often snap off, but with consistent use your hairs can actually be pulled out from the follicle and if this is done repeatedly, your follicles can become permanently damaged and your hair can stop growing back.

“Unfortunately, the more breakage and loss that occurs, the more hair extensions are put in to compensate. This can become a vicious cycle and leads to further volume reduction and damage.

“Another drawback is shampooing; it is more difficult to do so and there is an extra risk of tangling the weaved hair into the natural hair, leading to poor scalp and hair hygiene and flaky, itchy scalps.”

MORE GLOSS: How to wear hair accessories like a grown up

How can you treat traction alopecia?

“At first, traction alopecia from hair extensions, weaves and incorrect styling is reversible; you can stop the process or take them out and your hair will grow back,” explains Philip Kingsley's team. “However, over time, irreversible damage can be done if the hair starts to grow back and is pulled out again and again. This happens because the constant pulling of the hair from its follicle eventually weakens the growth of the hair, which can cause your hair to grow back finer and even not grow back at all.

“In terms of dandruff, there are many effective treatments available to help remedy this, such as my  Flaky Itchy Scalp Toner , £20, which is a leave-in Scalp Toner with an anti-microbial and anti-flaking formula. It provides immediate and long-lasting relief from irritation. If you are concerned that over-the-counter treatments aren’t working, I’d suggest booking an appointment with a Trichologist.”

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