Stylist Liz Stelmach has found her niche. The owner of Ardmore’s Salon Ziza specializes in hair extensions and enhancements, which now make up 40 percent of her business. She uses only real hair, which comes from around the world. “Synthetics have limited usage and shelf life,” she says. “I have different grades of Indian, Italian and Russian hair, along with others.”
It’s important to have such a wide variety, as hair extensions are never a one-size-fits-all proposition. “We have to match the texture of a client’s real hair,” says Stelmach. “I can’t add thick hair extensions to a client with naturally thin hair. It has to look believable.”
Which means everyone should be convinced you were born with it. And believable comes at a price: A full head of extensions starts at $1,500, along with maintenance, which typically requires salon visits every three to four months.
If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative that requires less maintenance, Stelmach likes clip-in extensions, which are easily taken on and off, can last a few years, and start at just $450.
Some go with this option to give their hair more fullness and body. Clip-in bangs can provide that Audrey Hepburn look without any cutting, and colored extensions “help bring a richer dimension to the hair,” says Stelmach.
Stelmach also has customers with hair loss due to the side effects of chemotherapy and other medical issues. “Women can sometimes suffer from male pattern baldness,” says Stelmach, who also offers wigs and custom hairpieces. “We have a private room at the salon where I go and meet with clients.”
Blame flamboyant Aerosmith frontman and American Idol judge Steven Tyler. When Jennifer Zirilli and Melissa LaLiberte got their first shipment of feathers at La’lli Hair Lounge in Ardmore, they assumed it would be their preteens and teenagers snatching up the trendy hair extensions. “We were surprised when our adult clients started requesting them,” says Zirilli. “But, really, why not? Hair is supposed to be fun.”
Instead of the hot pinks and bright turquoise colors that are favorites of the younger set, moms are opting for more natural colors that blend better with hair. It helps that Zirilli and LaLiberte know how to place the extensions discreetly on their adult clients, so they can be easily hidden from view.
Prices for clip-ons begin at $20 for the first extension and $10 for each additional piece. Most clients get three for the full effect.
Attached to the hair with natural keratin bonding (never glue), the feathers last up to three months, and they can be shampooed and blow-dried like natural hair. “Hair is an accessory, too,” says Zirilli. “It’s fun to change it up with no major commitment.”
Stylist Jason Nichols isn’t big on trends. Sure, there are certain looks that are popular among celebrities every season, but they don’t translate to everyone. “When clients bring in a picture of a hairstyle, I always ask them, ‘Do you like the hairstyle or do you like their face?’ It’s two different things,” says Nichols, a senior stylist at Salon Chemistry in West Chester.
Nichols would much rather customize the look to the client. “It would be easy for me to cut the same celebrity style on everyone,” he says. “That’s not my job. It’s my job to be an expert at knowing what style will work best with your face and the texture of your hair.”
While he encourages clients to bring in photos, he also hopes they’ll be open to hearing why something might not be the best option and allowing him to come up with a compromise.
That in mind, Nichols sees a “trend” toward easy, effortless hairstyles—something he can definitely get behind. “You shouldn’t be a slave to your hair. People don’t have the time for it,” he says. “If a client goes home and they can’t style their own hair, then I’ve failed. Doing your hair shouldn’t be a chore.”