Adventures in High-Fashion Hair Extensions


Let me level with you here: I’ve never dyed my hair (Emily says that’s why there’s “no red in it,” a distinction between real and 'enhanced' brunettes I was unaware of before becoming a beauty editor), and beyond that, I’ve never really wanted to. Which is to say, I may have wanted to, but not enough to ever actually do anything about it. (Blondes may have more fun, but I'm sure I, if blonde, would have significantly less; I had to face it long ago, blond and I are never going to happen. It's a skin-tone thing.) We’re pretty happy together, my hair and I, except that sometimes, out of nowhere—a really rad looking girl with washed out Crayola-colored ombré on the street/a masterfully done mag spread/sheer boredom—I get this nagging feeling, a sort of hankering to switch up what I’ve got going on above the neck, and my hair seems like the most obvious place to begin. Wouldn’t it be neat to have a streak of lapis, hot pink, clementine, who-even-knows color? It would be...'unexpected,' maybe in a good way! But then, it would also be 'unexpected' maybe in a bad way, in a your-boyfriend’s-parents-think-you’re-trouble(d) way. And as much as I trade in “I don’t give a damn” bravado, turning chunks of your hair colors favored by Lisa Frank and tweens is a one-way ticket to a lot of preconceptions about who you are as a person. Not to mention, of course, maintenance! And hair health! (Why toss that away on a whim?) So, when a press release slid across our desks for something called Balmain Hair+, well, I had to investigate. (Hyperbole aside, I actually had to; it was an assignment. Emily: "Balmain makes hair extensions?! Go get some.")

Balmain Hair + —yes, that Balmain (the hair line is a licensee of the French fashion house, and the pieces even have little Balmain labels, like the ones hanging at Barneys)—are 100% human-hair extensions that, in my case, were clip-ins and came with a spirit guide: the wonderful Michael Angelo of Michael Angelo’s Wonderland, a tinsel-strewn, mermaid-barbie-dwelling salon and shop in New York’s Meatpacking District. When I arrived, Michael patiently matched my natural hair shade, fixing a handful of different pieces from the "Couture Collection" up and under my (blown-out, lightly teased at the root and heavily Oribe Texturizing-Spray'd) mane for a swingy, sexy, full-bodied effect. In five minutes, I had bouncy volume straight out of a Pantene commercial. And somewhat scarily, the not-my-hair hair (I'd call it "faux," but it was from another human, so it's technically "real") felt eerily like my hair, when held in my hand. On my scalp? Well...let's just say I could tell it was there. “You feel them, for sure,” Michael said. “There’s something clipped to your head." Though, as he pointed out, they're designed to lie flat, to prevent "bulk.”

I grew up thinking that clip-in hair extensions were completely cheesy, the realm of starlets who roamed gas stations barefoot and bottomed-out on tabloid covers. Wasn't this kind of ironic, then: a storied French fashion brand entering the fray? Au contraire, Michael explained, store bought hair's been around me this whole time, thickening the up-dos and blowouts of actresses and models on the red carpet, models strutting down catwalks, and basically everyone on every photo shoot. They’re a “nice, safe solution" to get added length and volume without putting pressure on the hair or head, a risk associated with the more permanent types of extensions. “It’s not really fair,” Michael told me. “There are all these things that get used behind the scenes on fashion shoots and ad campaigns that women have no idea about, and they come in here and say, ‘Oh my god, my hair is so disgusting, I see all these pictures in magazines and the hair is so great, what am I doing wrong?’ I tell them, ‘Well, you don’t have a bunch of someone else’s hair stuck on your head!’” Until now?

Though the added oomph was neat, the Balmain clip-ins offered another, more tempting opportunity: stress-free color experimentation! Whereas it would take multiple processes (/stripping) to turn a streak of my natural dark locks to my requested "Disney-aquatic blue fading into hunter green” shade (what can I say? #YOLO, etc.), doing it to my new hair extensions was risk-free and took about half an hour. Michael grabbed a Scandinavian-blonde pack of hair and a paintbrush and got to work with a series of dyes while I browsed the beauty-product selection. Twenty minutes and a quick shampoo/conditioning/blow-dry of the clip-ins later, Michael staggered the Skittle-colored extensions along the left side of my head in two tiers and flipped my real hair over it. The color was subtly visible, fading in and out of view underneath my real hair. (I have to admit I clapped a little, like an excited seal. This is how limited my experience with hair color has been.) I left the salon and wore them around all day waiting for someone to say something. Nobody did. Nick, however, did tell me, “They're really not very you,” in a way that made me hate him a little (which isn't to say he was wrong)—but hey, that's the great thing about clip-ins! Try before you buy! No regrets, that's my motto.

Want some of your own clip-in hair bravado? You can DIY dye: 

But Michael Angelo advises: “It's risky to dye it yourself—if you screw it up, you ruin the whole set of hair. If you can't find a color that matches your hair exactly, it's always better to buy clip-ins in a shade lighter and dye them darker, rather than the reverse. And if you want to go color-color, like candy colors, you need to get the hair properly pre-lightened." (This is true whether you're working with your own or extensions). He continues, "That’s really when it’s smart to use a salon. You need to bleach the hair to white, or at least as close to white as humanly possible, and then you can use Manic Panic or whatever you want at home. It’s just a matter of getting familiar with how different dyes take, and with different brands of hair... Trial and error. But going for a Crayola color is surprisingly idiot-proof, once you’ve had the bleaching done professionally." And as far as care goes, you take care of them like your real hair. If you kept your real hair in a box. Or as Michael says, "Good shampoo and conditioner, and brush them every so often."

—Alessandra Codinha

Balmain Hair + Couture Clip-Ins cost $600 and up and require a salon appointment. You can buy a selection of Balmain's extensions online ($36 and up), but for a simiilar style, try

Michael Angelo and Alessandra Codinha photographed at Michael Angelo’s Wonderland (418 West 13th st, New York, NY) by Emily Weiss on November 28th, 2012.

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  • Jill

    I've got 100% virgin hair too (about the same color, perhaps a bit darker) but people tell me I have loads of red in my hair, especially in the sunlight. I thought this was normal?
    Also, I'm really feeling the color of those extensions.

  • hannah

    YES! not only do i love the turquoise (i've had the same in my own hair a while back) but i've been going to michael angelo's wonderland for 4 years now and absolutely adore them. annastasia is my GIRL. great post, ladies!

    xx hannah

  • Sandra

    I have never colored my hair either, and I am a little older than you. I am so glad there are girls who do not dye their natural hair. My hair is about the same color as yours, maybe a little bit lighter.

  • ClosetCravings

    This is a fun way to add a little pop of color to your hair. I'd give it a whirl.
    Satisfy Your Cravings For Celebrity Style and All Things Stylish and Sweet

  • Heather Smith

    I own some Luxyhair extensions (i'd recommend 'em)......but wow, would Balmain hair feel *that much less silly* when they're hanging over the towel rack after they've been washed :)

  • V

    I Would be very interested to know where Balmain sources it's human hair... P.S. You have created a fantastic site!

  • Lucy Apted

    This is such a cool way of dying hair without the risk, admittedly I have died my hair a number of shades but this is so cool and reminds me of being a seven year old again!!

  • Couteau @VintageObserver

    Ha. The Russian girl who lives in a project somewhere unpronounceable with her (drunk) boyfriend and children has no clue she's on Into the gloss, however symbolically.

    Seriously, I think I'd worry about the clip-ons showing or falling off.

  • WonderlandBP

    V - Balmain sources their hair in South East Asia.

    ITG - Thanks for all the love! Clip-ins allow you to be a turquoise-haired mermaid, even for a day. And that's fine by us. xo

  • FashionfocusedAdmin

    I loved this! I call it my Rainbow Highlights. But I did it permainately and with several colors throughout my hair. Check out my story on

  • mia

    I had the same thought about clip in extensions but after reading this I might give them a try

  • Moa

    Hey Alessandra, where can I get that nice little sweater/hoodie you're wearing in these pics?

  • Carolyn

    Sooo where's the pic of Alessandra's finished do? Really would love to see the extensions IN her hair! Thanks for the info, def want to get me some of these here hair pieces. Lol! Love you guys!

  • merylfriedman

    Alessandra: Your hair looks GREAT with the colored extensions! Great color choice! I dunno why no one complimented you, but as long as YOU like them, go for it.

  • Mouthful of Style

    I love my clip in hair extensions! I just have to keep remember to use them on nights out. Thanks for the reminder how awesome they are to have!

    Style insights and luxury fashion business learnings:

  • Ry

    I got my super fun fashion extensions done at Sensa Salon in Seattle and they were sweet enough to answer all of my questions before I took the plunge! I've got what they called virgin hair and for some reason I'm terrified to do anything damaging. I know you're supposed to play them off like they're your real hair, but I've pretty much been bragging about them all over :)

  • Em

    I'm another virgin brunette with loads of red in their hair. Every now and then I get a hankering to trying something 'wild' hair wise, but I feel like anything other than my natural hair colour wouldn't suit me. I do love the colour streaks, has anyone tried the Kevin Murphy colour bugs?

  • Elnora Touchstone

    I hope you posted pictures of your blue to green colored hair extensions. But from how I imagine it, it sounds great! It’s different and definitely adventurous. Don’t worry about other people not liking it as much, so long as you’re happy and feel good in it then go ahead and rock it!


  • levia jack

    Clip hair extension is the great solution for the thin hairs. clip in hair extensions

  • Bonnie Boy

    While hair extensions
    are fun and can be done well, it’s best to work on finding the right type of faux-hair for your locks. Also, getting longer, fuller hair isn’t just about paying the money to have it done — upkeep is required. The bottom line is, getting a head full of faux hair isn’t just as simple as fixing your weave, no matter what

  • Sheila Mcnerney

    human hair extensions could be a good alternative for those who are having difficulty growing their hair. Also, in case you are having a tough time tackling the predicament of hair thinning, hair extensions which are made from natural hair are going to be the excellent answer. Their versatility and style quotient have catapulted them to dizzying heights of success.

  • hairextensions


    for taking the time to discuss that, I really feel strongly about it and love
    learning more on this topic.

  • Mila

    my friends and i usually use clip in hair extensions from the price is affordable and the hair is really human hair with natural looking.

    • Sarah Diedrich

      ugh, can you tell me more? i was really thinking of buying from them a few weeks ago, but stopped myself. something about having it shipped from china scares me & their website is all off. i hate to spend so much money on something not guaranteed & all the reviews i can find on them are sponsored by cc hair extensions themselves! thanks in advance! :D

  • Sheamus Warior

    The blog has offered the great knowledge I really enjoyed a lot by reading this.

  • Brad Godwins

    That is green shade hair extension is looking really nice. Hair extension is actually very good style statement but you have to take care with your original hair. Thanks for shared your adventurous pictures here.

  • Saint Paul

    The best clip in hair extensions includes the remy clip. A good remy clip in hair extensions is the one where the cuticle is not stripped off the hair. You can find clips which have virgin remy hair, for example, the Brazilian virgin remy hair clips. You would want to try on the virgin remy hair extensions. These will make you look natural and add to your looks.

  • Meggi

    For some time I use hair clips, but I found a new, if any of you use them? z