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Are clip-in hair extensions really worth it? Our beauty team investigate

best clip in hair extensions
EYNTK about clip-in hair extensionsHearst

Hi there. If you’ve made it to this page, you’ve probably ummed and ahhed about getting hair extensions for a while. Right? There’s no denying that the length and thickness of extensions are what make them lust-worthy additions to our beauty regimen. But, there's a tiny issue. They can be real spenny – as in, we’re talking triple figures.

So, for babes on a budget, clip-in extensions are a strong option. Whether your hairdresser got scissor happy or your limp lengths are looking for some extra va va voom, a set of clip-ins are an affordable solution that can help achieve the look you’re after.

According to Lucie Jones, hair extension specialist at The Loch, clip-in hair extensions are an easy way to add some temporary inches and volume. "They’re very simple to install, making them an ideal option for those new to extensions or those who want to experiment with longer hair before committing," she says.

However, there are a lot of questions circling the big wide web about clip-in hair extensions. Which type should you go for? How can you find the perfect colour match? How do you apply them? Yuuup, there are a few things you need to take into consideration before you achieve those Rapunzel-like locks, or a Barbiecore pony.

So, to take the guesswork out of the equation, here's everything you need to know about clip-in extensions...

Human remy VS synthetic: which is the best?

When shopping for clip-ins, there's one big debate: natural or synthetic. There are many differences between the two, so here’s the lowdown...

"Synthetic hair is very different to human hair; it’s shiner because it has been chemically treated," says Jones. Because of this, they tend to look more obvious (slightly doll-like) compared to the matte finish of natural lengths. "You also shouldn't wash or style them with heat as the synthetic fibres will melt, causing the extensions to lose shape and ultimately become unusable," she continues.

However, synthetic extensions still add volume and length while being considerably cheaper compared to human hair extensions. So, if you’re looking for an affordable starting point, opting for a synthetic weft may be a wise choice.

While a more expensive option, Remy extensions can be treated like your natural hair so you can style them using heat, wash them and keep them for longer. When a brand uses the term ‘Remy’ it essentially means that human hair has been sourced from various locations – the most popular being India, China and Europe – and that the cuticles of the hair strands are still aligned. This means that each strand will fall in the same direction and will stay tangle free.

Above all, remy extensions will look completely natural and blend seamlessly with your own lengths. They also tend to be much lighter and easier to wear, compared to synthetics, which is something to keep in mind if you have fine, damaged hair.

How do you apply clip-in extensions?

Applying clip-in extensions on your own may take a little playing around before you nail the perfect placement. But, before you start clipping, it’s crucial to properly prep your hair.

"Start by brushing your lengths so that there are no tangles. Then section your hair into neat rows [we’d suggest using the back of a rat tail comb to get a straight line] so that you can secure your clip-ins evenly," says Jones. Doing this will prevent the clip-ins from pulling and help keep the seams hidden in your natural hair.

At this stage, Jones suggests gently backcombing your roots as this gives the clips more grip and prevents them from sliding out. "This step is especially important for fine, soft hair," she adds.

Working from the nape of your scalp up, take the longest width extension [the one with the most clips] and line them up against the parting of your hair. "Don’t attach the clip-ins too close to the hairline or they’ll peep through your natural lengths," says Jones.

Once you’ve fastened all the clips, section off another chunk of hair and apply the next extensions piece. Keep working your way up until all the hair has been used. Some kits also come with single-clip strands which you can use to frame the front of your face.

How should you look after clip-in extensions?

If you want your extensions to remain in good quality, they’ll require a little TLC. They aren’t high maintenance, but they’ll need a bit more effort than a comb here and there.

"Hair extensions don’t receive natural oils from the scalp that keep them soft and healthy, so it’s important to do regular masks and use a heat protection spray to avoid dehydrating and breaking the hair," advises Jones.

Washing them every two-three wears with a hydrating, sulphate-free shampoo will also keep the strands sleek and tangle free. Just like you would your normal hair, give them a thorough shampoo and conditioner and let them air dry.

You could also apply a leave-in conditioner to prevent straw-like ends and minimise frizz. There’s something a little weird about it (kinda feels like caring for a doll), but a gals gotta do what a gals gotta do.

When it comes to brushing, Jones stresses the importance of being gentle. "If you’re too rough with them they won’t last long; however, it’s also important to brush extensions more than you would your own hair to keep them free of tangles," she says.

To avoid pulling and snagging, use a soft-bristle brush, and make sure to hold your extensions to prevent them from pulling on your roots.

Are clip-in extensions bad for your hair?

So, what’s the low-down when it comes to damage? Clip-ins themselves won’t cause damage, it all comes down to how you apply and wear them.

"If you wear clip-ins every day this can lead to breakage and even traction alopecia [a condition where constant strain on hair follicles can cause hair loss]", explains Jones.

It’s also worth noting that, typically, synthetic extensions tend to be much heavier than Remy wefts. While yes, they are cheaper, synthetics will create more tension on your hair follicles which can cause damage. To avoid unnecessary strain, avoid wearing clip-ins for long periods of time and never (we repeat, never!) sleep in them.

Remy extensions behave just like your natural hair, so often they’ll attach to your head without feeling heavy. So, for the sake of your strands, it may be worth investing in human hair. Once you get past the initial pocket sting, trust us, it’s worth the splurge.

"But if you are tempted to wear clip-ins every day, you’re better off considering semi-permanent extensions [like tape-ins] that are intended for longer use. These are lightweight, gentle on the hair and easy to wear in your day-to-day life," she adds.

Cheque pls. Now, what’s the damage?

The price of clip-in hair extensions will vary depending on the brand, style and whether you’re opting for natural or synthetic wefts. Synthetic clip-ins are significantly cheaper than natural hair, with many of the big brands starting at around £30. Real human hair extensions will vary in price, but you’ll likely be looking around the £100+ zone. High-quality extensions will be made from 100% human remy hair, and will come with multiple attachments, sizes and shades so that you can find the perfect match.

So you’ve well and truly been clued up on EYNTK about clip-in hair extensions, now, it’s onto the fun part. Here, we guinea-pigged ourselves to test out the leading clip-in extensions around. No thanks needed.

The best clip-in hair extensions, tested by our beauty team

Best clip ins for a high-volume pony

best clip in hair extensions
Keeks Reid

Acting Beauty Director, Keeks Reid: If you have dreamt of a pony reminiscent of Ariana Grande circa thank u, next then this super inexpensive ponytail is perfect. The amount of hair is ideal for swishing and I found it really easy to attach to my little bun. It wraps around and secures with Velcro and comes with two hair pins, but I did use nine in total just because my biggest fear is my fake hair falling out *again* (my pigtail extension fell out during the On the Run Beyonce and Jay Z tour so you could say I have undiagnosed trauma from it).

This comes in 30 shades, so you’ll find your match if you have any version of natural hair colour. You can use heat on this up to 180 degrees Celsius but as long as you detangle after use and store properly the style should stay intact.

LullaBellz Mini Grande 90s Bounce Wraparound Pony

Best clip-ins for textured hair

Elena Chabo

Beauty Writer, Elena Chabo: I never even considered clip-in extensions growing up, because, with my curly loose afro hair texture, I just didn’t think it was an option. So seeing curly clip-in brands emerge in the last few years was really exciting. The brand I went for, Ruka, has the widest range of lifelike textures in human hair I’ve seen.

These were such a high-quality and beautiful blend with my texture. I was also really impressed with just how much hair you got! They were really easy to put in for a novice. Some of the bands could have done with an extra clip here and there to prevent sagging but that would be easy enough to sew in, and pretty good if that’s the only downside.

They all come in brown-black, which is understandable given the number of textures and potential waste in stock. So, you may need to factor in dying them to your colour or having them dyed. This is something I don’t mind at all as I’d much rather have the manufacturing money go into broad textures and quality; which it clearly has.

It’s really special to now be catered to in this space I was excluded from, and to get to see my own hair texture tumbling around my shoulders without my real hair needing to be tucked under a wig.

Ruka Spring Fling Clip in extensions

Best human hair clip-in pony

best clip in hair extensions
Clare Stephenson

Beauty Writer, Clare Stephenson: Pony clip-ins have always fascinated me – mostly because I’ve never seen one that looks real. The pigtails of old (which were most likely bought in Claire’s) would look shiny, plastic-y and come in about four shades. We’ve come a looong way since then and, thankfully, the big shot of the extensions bizz, Beauty Works, now exists.

I’m a big stan of the brand’s remy clip-ins, but if you’re after a dramatic pony with a lotta swish, this is a cool innovation that deserves your screen time. Tie your hair up into a sleek pony and use the elastic band to secure the extensions, instantly adding inches and volume without weighing down your head.

The extensions behave just like your natural hair, so you can plait, straighten, curl and wave them depending on the style you’re creating. And because I’m a loyal obsessive to a slick-back pony, I LOVE how I can still use my beloved Got2b Glued Gel to smooth down flyaways at the front, while my XL extension parties in the back.

Beauty Works, Super Sleek Invisi Ponytail

Best synthetic clip-ins

Keeks Reid

Acting Beauty Director, Keeks Reid: I cannot explain how much I love this hair piece. It was a real go-to for me when I was in a phase of not knowing wtf to do with my hair. If you have ever gotten a weave with a leave-out this is that but in clip-in form.

You just need to section out the part at the crown of your hair that you want to keep out (it should look like the shape of a U hence the name), then braid away the rest before securing the hair. Once my hair was bone straight it blended well but as a word to the wise, you do need to make sure your hair is super glossy as the synthetic hair is on the shiny side. I used dry shampoo to dull it down and create texture.

Easilocks x Jordyn Woods U Part

Best clip-in pony for a natural look

best clip in hair extensions
Elena Chabo

Beauty Writer, Elena Chabo: I’ve been a lover of synthetic hair shop ponies for years! A really quick and easy style for me without using heat on my curls, slicking them into a bun and popping on a pony. This ClipHair ponytail is the first human hair one I’ve tried and at first, I was doubtful as wraparound ponies don’t tend to stay secure on me, but thanks to the clips this one did.

It was pretty easy to put on, staying secure all day. I’d love to see a drawstring pony option from the brand, as wraparounds are hard to use with textured hair, as it won’t be concealed underneath the pony. But I managed to get mine into the smallest bun I could and attached to that.

I went for a lighter shade knowing it would be easier to dye darker than to bleach, and after dying and washing the pony had a wavy texture which I really liked but would be easy enough to blow dry straight.

It wasn’t the thickest fullest pony but that meant it looked quite natural despite the XL length. It malts more than my synthetic ones but not terribly. I do think the price is pretty high for the amount of hair, compared to my full head of clip-ins

Clip Hair, Straight Up Wrap Around pony

Best clip-ins for fine hair

best clip in hair extensions
Clare Stephenson

Beauty Writer, Clare Stephenson: Fact: when I first got my hands on these human hair extensions, it took me five minutes to put them down – I couldn’t stop stroking them! Seriously, if you want wildly soft, good-quality clip-ins, these are the crème de la crème.

Made with 100% remy human hair, the extensions seamlessly blended into my natural lengths; they’re not synthetic looking and shiny, but still have a glossiness to them which keeps them looking realistic.

It’s probs quite handy that I already have a good amount of hair on my head, but the clips stayed out of plain sight (even as I moved my hair about throughout the day) and remained flush against my scalp.

But above all else, oh-em-gee, I was incredibly impressed at how lightweight they felt. Not once did they tug or snag at my scalp. In fact, once the compliments had died down 😎 I forgot I even had them in – which is a lovely change, as many heavy wefts have me popping paracetamol by midday from a banging headache.

The brand’s colour-matching game is also very *very* strong – which, when you’re dropping triple-figures, is essential. It offers 37 shades (yup, counted them myself) so whether you have highlights, lowlights or balayage, you can find the perfect match. Better yet, when your extensions arrive, they come with a sample strand so you can test the colour before opening the packaging. Srsly, just take my money.

Foxy Locks, Elegant Silk Seamless Clip in Human Hair Extensions

Best clip-ins for thick hair

best clip in hair extensions
Lia Mappoura

Beauty Assistant, Lia Mappoura: As a certified hair extension virgin, I was intrigued to get my hands (and head) on the Molly-Mae-approved Beauty Works Deluxe Clip-in 20 Inch Extensions. Not to mention the masses of help my scraggly, lacklustre bob could do with…

The lengths come in a pack of three – two with four clips and one with three – and so, I divided my little-to-no strands into sections. Now, seeing as my hair is super fine, I did find the clip-ins difficult to install. The expectation: Hannah Montana; The reality: Billy Ray Cyrus.

While the soft, thick tresses seem to work wonders on others, I don’t think they are well-suited for us sprawled stranded girlies. My short lengths couldn’t hold the weight and because I don’t have much hair (have I mentioned that, yet?!), it was difficult to hide the clips.

However, the quality is A1 – there’s no denying it! Perhaps this novice beauty assistant needs her very own hair installation assistant?

Beauty Works, Deluxe Clip-in 20 Inch Extensions

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