Meghan Markle – that’s the Duchess of Sussex, to you and I – is one of the most famous women on the face of the planet. And, while that has many benefits (she can fight the good feminist fight, champion sustainability and speak up for underrepresented communities in a very big way), it also has many drawbacks. The primary one being, of course, that e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e feels obligated to comment on every single aspect of her life, be it what she says, does or even wears.
We’ve seen it happen time and time again. She’s been slated for touching her pregnant stomach, for waking up early (the absolute horror), for having “too much energy”. And let’s not forget the digital witch hunts over her fondness for dark nail polish, black dresses, and wearing a bra underneath her clothes. You know, like you’re supposed to do with underwear.
It’s always the same old story: Meghan does something, anything, and the world takes offence.
So why is the world angry at Meghan this time? Because she apparently wore hair extensions to the Invictus Games, of course.
Picture the scene, folks: new photos of Prince Harry and Meghan mingling with wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans have hit the internet. You, for whatever strange reason, have decided to ignore all the incredible athletes partaking in wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and indoor rowing. You, likewise, have chosen to ignore what Harry and Meghan have said about the power of sport in recovery and how it can help, physically or psychologically, those suffering from injuries or illness.
Instead, you’ve decided to hit 200% zoom on photos of Meghan’s head, magnify her hairline to the max and share these photos on social media – along with commentary on the fact that the duchess is probably wearing extensions or a “partial wig”. Well done you, eh? What a champ. What a brilliant bloody human you are.
Obviously, I’m being facetious. Obviously, this is the sort of granular microscopic hair analysis that’s only accessible to… well, to bullies with far too much time on their hands. And yet, because the internet is filled with such trolls, there are people who have done exactly this.
“Are these fake extensions gone wrong?” wrote one scathingly.
“Her hair isn’t terrible,” tweeted another, in the ultimate demonstration of the backhanded compliment. “So why is she wearing bad wigs?”
The worst, though, decided to criticise Meghan for not gushing over a disgruntled baby being held near her – and shoot a barb at Meghan’s ‘do at the same time.
“[She] can’t see past her new wig to even pretend to act like she’s a new breastfeeding mother right next to a real life crying baby,” they wrote, pointedly ignoring the fact that Meghan was deep in conversation with a child at the time and it would have been desperately rude of her to dash off midway through the chat to coddle a stranger’s baby. A stranger’s baby who, we hasten to add, was already being cuddled and entertained by someone else at the time. Ugh.
One publication, whom we have determined not to name and shame (primarily to prevent them getting traffic off of this), decided to run an entire article dedicated to Meghan’s “big misstep” – and even called upon so-called royal ‘experts’ to trawl back through Meghan’s public appearances and critique her hairstyles in each.
“While Meghan was the image of natural beauty [in her engagement shoot], the duchess was secretly wearing hair extensions,” they noted, presumably salivating at the thought of confirming yet another Meghan Markle conspiracy theory (and by ‘secretly’, we presume they mean that Meghan didn’t deign to wear a sign around her neck telling the world about her beauty choices).
Right. Well, naturally, we here at Stylist have some thoughts about all of this.
First things first – and it should go without saying at this point – Meghan deserves the chance to go out and just bloody be, without everyone zooming in on paparazzi photos and desperately searching for so-called flaws to comment on. It’s mean-spirited, it’s vindictive, and it’s bullying at its most basic. We aren’t here for it.
Secondly, though, why the fuck does it matter if Meghan is wearing extensions in the first place? As Stylist’s beauty writer Hanna Ibraheem put it: “You can’t even see where the extensions begin, proving they’ve been applied really well, so the comments about the appearance of her hair are completely redundant. And even if she IS wearing extensions, there’s nothing wrong with that. She just wants to have thicker hair, and she isn’t alone – ‘thicker hair’ is one of the most common hair queries among women in the UK.”
It’s true: in her book Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling says she wears hair extensions, much like, y’know, everybody else in Hollywood.
“Everyone uses hair extensions,” she says. “And I mean everyone. The stenographer who doesn’t speak in that judge show you watch. The Long Island Medium. Clooney. Castle. Everybody on the Today show, but no one in the Orange Room.”
Chrissy Teigen is also a fan. “All this hair!? Nottttttt all mine,” she wrote on Instagram, in her typical ‘keepin’ it real’ manner.
She later told R29: “Everybody has [extensions]. When I first got them, I had no idea how many people had them on the red carpet.”
And Cristina Rocha, a hair extension specialist at one of LA’s top salons thirded this ‘everyone is using hair extensions’ theory when she told Vogue that hair extensions are more common than you might think.
“To be honest, there isn’t an actress I’ve ever worked with, one a photo shoot, or in a salon who didn’t have extensions,” she divulged.
Here in the UK, though, we still talk about extensions in hushed tones. Sometimes, we don’t talk about them at all. Usually associated with the unfair and wholly negative ‘Essex girl’ stereotype (that’s an issue for a whole other time), we associate them with fakery and vapidity. And we forget that a lot of women, famous or not, are using extensions for any number of reasons: they can add volume, add length, add attitude. They can fix a dodgy haircut, allow you to experiment with a fringe (that’s bangs, to all those reading from the US), let you switch up your colour, give you the balayage of your dreams. They have the power to change your look, your attitude, even your overall style.
And they can help to boost confidence in those women who are experiencing postpartum hair loss, too.
There are lots of different types of hair loss: it can take the form of ‘thinning’ or involve a total loss of hair, it can be gradual or sudden, and it can affect both men and women of all ages.
Postpartum hair loss causes women to experience ‘shedding’ after giving birth. As noted on the Easi Hair Pro website, “under normal circumstances, each hair follicle on our head is it its own stage of the growth cycle, and hair should shed evenly from a healthy scalp. During pregnancy, however, a dramatic boost in oestrogen causes hair to remain in the Anagen or growth stage. After delivery hormones return to normal, and your hair growth cycle returns to normal as well meaning the hair ‘shedding’ that was delayed during pregnancy may happen all at once causing women to lose a large volume of hair.”
While this can be distressing, the good news is that this form of hair loss is temporary. The bad news, though, is that hair can take 6-12 months to return to its normal growth cycle. And tape-in hair extensions (the preferred method over clip-in, sew-in or bonded extensions, as they put less stress on the already-weakened hair and so cause less damage) are a good way for new mothers to get fuller, healthier-looking hair if they choose to do so.
Of course, we don’t know if this is why Meghan is wearing extensions – or if she is at all. What we do know, though, is that it’s her fucking head and she can do what she likes with it.
And if you’re not a fan of her look? Well, to quote my grandmother, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. Or, if you really find yourself forced into a position to comment on someone else’s ‘do, then make like Amy Poehler (a woman whose life lessons I have cited time and time again) and opt for the phrase, “Good for you, not for me”.
Those six little words celebrate both difference and an assertion of self, making it the ideal response to someone else’s life choices. They channel nothing but empathy, appreciation and esteem. And they make you sound like less of a dick on social media, too.
For more information on the best hair extensions for every hair type, read our beauty team’s expert advice here.
And to anyone reading this who has experienced hair loss: while the NHS offers a lot of information on the causes and possible treatments, they stress that it’s incredibly important to address the psychological impact – and they have shared a number of self-care tips to help you come to terms with what’s happened, accept your altered appearance, and boost your confidence.
These include talking about your hair loss with loved ones, or, failing that, joining a support group. For those who feel unable to speak to someone face-to-face about what they’re going through, the NHS advises going online and joining Alopecia UK’s discussion forum: here, you will be able to talk to others going through the same experiences as you.