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It’s the hair secret that celebrities like to keep quiet about, I discovered at a top salon a couple of weeks ago. “I want my hair to look like hers,” I said pointing to a picture of Sienna Miller’s sparkling goldie-locks in Grazia. Not too much to ask, I thought, as she and I had similar hair lengths and I was at one of the most expensive colourists in London. “No chance,” came my stylist’s reply. “Hair can only look that good with extensions.”
He went on to break it to me that practically every other famous face in the magazine, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth, Angelina, even cosy Sandra Bullock, plus all the fashion models, was significantly better endowed in the hair department than me. Not due to a gift from God or shampoo, but thanks to extra hair, perfectly matched to her own, and stuck or clipped in so subtly that only an expert eye could spot them.
I’m not just talking about Posh Spice’s bob-to-Barbie hair aka the World Cup 2006, or Katie Price’s current witchy mop, but a little extra help for everyone else, too: from Heidi Klum to Katherine Jenkins plus a few boy bands. These days, hair extensions or wefts, (the less permanent version, which clip or stick in) are as ubiquitous as a manicure — but they are designed not to show.
Which is why Cheryl Cole found herself crushing a thousand hair dreams this week after it was revealed that her luscious chestnut mane is not simply the result of shampooing with L’Oréal Elvive Full Restore 5, but thanks to oh-so-subtle hair extensions, which cost thousands. Although the Advertising Standards Authority threw out complaints of deception because the message “styled with some natural extensions”, flashes up for two seconds during the commercial, we still feel cheated. In the half-minute dazzle-fest of Cheryl’s swishing hair, who ever noticed the small print?
I want some extra locks for myself and head off to the King’s Road to find an expert. “Anyone who is anyone has had them,” says Jonathan Long, a celebrity stylist and director of the Lockonego salon. “There is no celebrity hairdresser out there who doesn’t have a set of wefts in his bag.”
Long tells me that the Jordans of the world, or anyone who wants a permanent change, opt for the full extensions that are individually bonded to the hair with a resin, cost £1,400 for a full head, grow out with your hair and require monthly checks. For less of a commitment, choose a row of wefts, he advises, showing me what looks like a washing-line of rather alarming strands of orange and blonde hair, that he has carefully picked to match mine.
And yes, the hair is real, imported from Europe or India, although I decide not to think about that too much. There is a synthetic option, but most of the top stylists stick with real hair, says Long. I can have the wefts clipped in or glued in with the hair equivalent of Copydex, which can hold them in for about two weeks and washes out with special lotion. (You can wash it along the way, gently).
“Stylists love wefts because they make the hair so thick that you can create an entire new style almost instantly,” says Long. And he’s right — in half an hour, during which he lays the wefts around my head in layers, then cuts and styles them into my own hair, he turns me into my very own version of Sienna meets Abbey Clancy. The cost of £160 is of course significantly more than a £3.22 bottle of L’Oréal Elvive Full Restore 5. But looking in the mirror, I have to say: It’s worth it.