That Pretty Little Thing
The fast fashion industry has long been known for making eye-watering profits from our hard-earned cash. Brands such as Pretty Little Thing and Boohoo rely on cheap products that are fashionable and promoted by an army of highly-paid influencers. These products may not have a long shelf life but they are designed to portray the very latest in modern fashion. Therefore, they seem highly desirable to a young and impressionable consumer.
The con is simple. Source cheap products and even cheaper labour. Spend six figures on the hottest Instagram influencer; who will in turn pedal your products to their unsuspecting following. The product lasts about as long as a Twitter Trend and the consumer is now dependent on a consistent supply of cheap goods from your brand to emulate the lifestyle they see on social media.
So, what’s this got to do with hair extensions you ask? Well, it seems that the hair extension industry is now using the same blueprint to rack in millions in profits and shows no signs of slowing. Beauty Works has become a giant of a brand and has just signed a huge deal with influencer & Love Island contestant Molly Mae. Despite her recent controversies, the ‘tone deaf’ reality star has really put Beauty Works on the proverbial map with her success. Selling not only hair extensions but a range of styling tools.
Long hair – But at What Price?
But what is really going on here? How did such a niche industry like hair extensions, grow enough of a market to create super brands like Beauty Works? As ever with any corporate story there is exploitation afoot. And this comes in many forms here. There is the usual exploitation of cheap products and cheaper labour. It’s well documented that hair donors do not receive much, if any money at all for the hair they grow for years and then cut. It’s then produced with cheap and efficient labour in places such as China and Vietnam.
But even with all that, you still have to create a dependance from your consumers in order to keep them buying, more and more. You can see how that works with fashion; we have to wear clothes every day. But surely, we don’t have to wear hair extensions every day? Well, when the product itself is ruining your natural hair...then yeah you will probably have to. And if it doesn’t last very long, you’ll have to replace and replenish. And now you have a consistent supply.
Ruining Your Ends
Let me be very clear. Excessive straightening will permanently damage your hair. Anything that uses a high heat such as straightners or curling irons, will change your hair at a molecular level. Cumulative damage means the natural wave of your own hair will die. Never to return and can only be cut out. So basically, over-styling equals bad, we can all agree on that.
Now imagine you order a set of Beauty Works hair extensions to thicken out some damaged ends. I won’t go into details here about processed human hair is made (that’s a whole other blog), but the hair you are buying has already been irreversibly damaged beyond repair. According to Rolanda Johnson Wilkerson Ph.D, “Hair is made up of a protein called keratin. Keratin in hair has a natural twist in it called the alpha helix. This twist is present in all hair – straight or curly. If you heat keratin to around 419-45 F (215-235 Celsius), the alpha helix starts to melt.
The hair you’ve ordered.... it has no alpha helix. It’s dead and is going to require a lot of heat tools to style it, which in turn will keep your own hair in a really bad condition.
Going In for the Kill
So, what do Beauty Works do to seal the deal? They sell you a whole range of 200+ degree styling tools to keep you dependent on their products and keep you buying. If you do try to remove the hair extensions, you’d have to have the big chop to have any hope of retaining thickness in your own hair. That’s not to say that hair extensions themselves can’t damage your hair. They can and you should continuously assess your own hair underneath. But if you start with a damaged product in your hair, you’ll get stuck in a cycle that is designed not to let you out.