Learn how to wash human and synthetic clip-in hair extensions and wigs.
Dipping your toe in the world of hair extensions and wigs is a great way to experiment with length and colour, plus it can protect your hair from over-styling. However, if you’ve been wearing yours for a lengthy amount of time you might be wondering how to wash hair extensions to keep them smelling fresh, looking shiny and feeling tangle-free.
Adding ‘wash extensions’ onto the bottom of your bulging beauty to-do list, right next to ‘wash make-up brushes’, is understandable, but if you don’t make a habit of cleaning them, it can shorten the lifespan of the hair with oil and product build-up leading to tangles and unavoidable knotting.
Here’s your full guide to washing your hair extensions and wigs at home, so you can wear them for months to come.
How often and how to wash clip-in extensions
Base your clip-in extension wash routine on the frequency you tend to wash your own hair before it starts looking and feeling greasy. For instance, if you have naturally straight hair that gets greasy quickly and you wear your clip-in extensions every day, you should wash them every three days. This will stop them from becoming greasy from the transfer of sebum and product build-up from your own hair.
However, if you’re a weekly washer, every 10 days or so is fine. “If you use clip-in hair extensions for occasional wear only, wash them when you feel the product is starting to build up or the texture becomes more matte,” suggests celebrity hairstylist Jay Birmingham.
To cleanse your clip-in extensions without shortening the wear time, Birmingham has this advice: “I would always recommend a sulphate-free shampoo on all hair extensions, to avoid stripping the colour.
“Then, when washing the extensions, instead of rubbing the hair together, work your way down from root to tip in a smoothing motion and rinse with lukewarm water.” This routine will make sure you avoid tangles when the hair dries and shedding at the base of the weft.
To prevent a rough texture, you’ll want to add a nourishing mask (like the Beauty Works Argan Oil Mask) to the end of your hair-wash routine and work from the lengths to the ends with a wide-tooth comb. For best results, let your hair bundles air-dry if possible.
If the hair is dry but the weft is still a bit damp, blast it with a hairdryer on low heat before you clip back in and style to avoid any mouldiness or odours.
How often and how to wash a wig
Firstly, with wigs, the amount you wash them really does depend on the amount you wear them.
“For example, wigs worn daily should be washed weekly and wigs worn occasionally can be washed monthly,” says Yomi Onashile, founder of The Wig Bar. “Basically, when the hair starts to lack movement due to product build-up, it’s time to wash and hydrate.”
It’s key to use the right shampoo for the level of cleansing required so you don’t strip the hair. Only use a more clarifying shampoo on your wig if it has a lot of product caked on – if it doesn’t, Onashile suggests a mild cleanser that will lightly remove oils and allow the conditioner to soak in.
“If your wig doesn’t have a lot of product build-up but has an issue with dryness, a gentle moisturising shampoo will lightly cleanse while opening up the hair cuticles to allow for deep hydration and moisture,” she advises.
Similar to clip-ins, it’s really important to allow your wig to air-dry fully before throwing it back on your head. If you don’t have a wig stand, towel hooks are great for allowing it to hang dry, just place a towel beneath it to catch the drips.
“Air drying helps avoid long-term heat damage which can lead to split ends and excessive dryness,” warns Onashile. Once fully dried, you can apply a heat protector serum and begin styling.
Do you need to wash synthetic hair extensions and wigs?
Yes, but you can’t treat it the same way you do human hair extensions. Firstly, you’ll need to detangle hair completely before you get the hair wet as synthetic hair is likely to stretch and distort if it gets too tangled.
To wash synthetic hair, you need to use cold or room temperature water, as the fibre can change if water is too hot, and a super gentle shampoo (kid and baby shampoos work well).
Fill a basin with a little shampoo and lots of water and soak your wig for around 30 minutes to cleanse then gently squeeze and pat the water out before air-drying. There’s no need to add conditioner or styling products to synthetic hair as they won’t be absorbed by the fibres.
Main image: Getty