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If you recently got (or are planning to get) hair extensions, it’s important to make sure you’re washing them with the right products. As Mane Addicts hair stylist Kathleen Riley explains to Elite Daily, “Since hair extensions aren’t getting the natural oils from your scalp, they’re more inclined to become dry faster than your natural hair,” so she advises choosing a shampoo that’s moisturizing and made without sulfates. Since most conditioners are inherently moisturizing (and always made without sulfates), you’ve got more flexibility there.
Aside from using the right shampoo and conditioner, there’s a lot more you need to know about caring for your hair extensions. For instance, Sara Clemente, a senior stylist and extension specialist at Warren Tricomi Salon in Greenwich, CT, says not to use products that contain too much oil on your scalp, “as it will make your scalp oily which can cause the extensions to become a bit looser,” she tells Elite Daily. She echoes Riley by noting that “extensions tend to dry out,” so she says it’s fine to use oil on the ends of your extensions to “help keep them looking natural and shiny.” Another tip from Clemente? “I always suggest conditioning the pony tail down. Even without extensions.”
Both Clemente and celebrity hair stylist Rita Lowery, who also spoke to Elite Daily for this article, caution against using products that contain drying alcohols, such as dry shampoo and hair spray. Lowery notes that alcohol-heavy products can make your hair look dry and dull, while Clemente says, “Dry shampoo (spray) affects the extension attachment more than anything else,” since most are alcohol-based. With sprays, “you don’t have as much control on the direction of where you’re spraying it [...] spraying it all over your head multiple times will without a doubt, dry the adhesive out (how extensions are attached). Tape-in extensions will unstick, keratin bond extensions will be broken down — basically the attachment method gets destroyed,” she warns. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use any dry shampoo at all, though; simply invest in a dry shampoo powder (and you can find a list of the best alcohol-free dry shampoos here).
Other ways to protect your extensions include brushing your hair frequently, about three times a day. “Brushing will make or break your hair extension experience,” Clemente says. “Not brushing will cause matting (extreme knotting) at the base of where the extensions are attached.” She also warns against going to sleep with wet hair, and suggests putting your hair into a loose ponytail or braid before bed to prevent your extensions from becoming knotted. And don’t wash your hair too often, advises Riley. “The least amount of washing and heat styling, the longer your hair extensions will last,” she says.
Finally, to shop the best shampoos and conditioners for hair extensions, plus some other great, extension-friendly products, scroll on.
The Best Shampoos & Conditioners For Hair Extensions, According To Our Experts
1. Lowery’s Pick: Best Shampoo & Conditioner For Hair Extensions
“Recently I came across NYK1 shampoo and conditioner, which works great on extensions,” Lowery says. “[The shampoo] is good for extension maintenance, as it’s a salt and sulfate-free shampoo, which is important to keep your hair moisturized, keep hair color from fading, and to help keep the hair healthy and shiny. The conditioner keeps the hair from drying and gives the hair a shiny, gorgeous, healthy balance.” In addition to being great for extensions, this duo is also amazing for chemically treated hair (e.g. highlights, Brazilian Blowouts, et cetera).
2. Lowery’s Pick: Best Deep-Cleansing Shampoo For Occasional Use
Lowery recommends using a deep-cleaning shampoo on your style about two to four times a month. She loves the OUAI Detox Shampoo, saying, “It washes out all the buildup we have from styling products and overall daily buildup of oils and pollution. Plus it is made with apple cider vinegar, which is amazing for the scalp. It’s great for use with extensions.” Be sure to pick up a refill pouch to keep under your bathroom sink; that way, you can keep refilling your original bottle whenever you run out as a way to cut down on waste.
3. Clemente’s Pick: Best Shampoo & Conditioner For Hair Extensions
“A great product, which can be bought in a duo, is Color Wow Sulfate Free Color Security Shampoo and Conditioner [...] It is color-safe, sulfate-free, and gives your scalp a good clean. The conditioner is amazing, [too]. It moisturizes the way it should, without weighing the hair down or leaving a yucky residue,” says Clemente. And with the light, soft-sided, flip-top tubes, this shampoo and conditioner take up less room when you toss them into your gym bag or carry-on.
4. Riley’s Pick: Best Prestige Shampoo & Conditioner For Hair Extensions
IGK Bad & Bougie shampoo and conditioner are Riley’s picks. Both products are made with hydrating coconut oil and amla oil, which contains antioxidants like vitamins C , while both ingredients are amazing for strengthening, protecting, and moisturizing your hair. (The conditioner has the added bonus of shea butter for even more nourishment.) The formulas are vegan and cruelty-free, and contain no sulfates, parabens, mineral oils, or gluten. And though these are a pricey investment, you do get a full liter of each, so they’ll last you months.
5. Riley’s Pick: Best Drugstore Shampoo & Conditioner For Hair Extensions
Riley does offer another alternative, which comes at a much more budget-friendly price point. OGX’s Pearl shampoo and conditioner are both made with sea kelp and pearl extract to promote softer, more lustrous hair, so they’re great for keeping your extensions looking shiny and smooth. Both products are sulfate-free, and ring up at just under $7 each. Can’t beat that.
& Here Are Some Other Expert-Approved Products For Hair Extension Maintenance
Best Leave-In Conditioning Spray
“Redken One United Leave In Conditioner is magic in a bottle,” says Lowery. “It’s a must for any extensions. The main ingredient is coconut oil and it is super lightweight. I use it on dry hair after styling for controlling frizz and in wet hair for protection and added silkiness before brushing. Nourishing and [protecting] and conditioning, this product does it all.”
Best Oil For Your Ends
Though Clemente cautions against putting oil on your scalp, she does suggest using argan oil on the ends of your extensions to keep them looking shiny and prevent them from drying out. “Something that everyone should have, whether you are someone with extensions or not, is a good argan oil. A little goes a long way,” she says. This one is USDA-certified organic and rings up at just $13, and can be used on your face and body, too.
Best Brush For Blow Drying Extensions
Select your brushes with care, since you want to be gentle on your extensions. “My favorite brush to blow dry extensions with is Olivia Garden Ceramic + Ion Speed XL - 1 3/4,” says Clemente. “Ceramic round brushes are always great to use with extensions as they do not pull as much as a bristle,” she explains. You can pick this one up in a few other sizes, too.