Lately I’ve received an influx of emails inquiring about the role of wigs and weaves in a natural hair care or transitioning routine. Folks want to know if they’re a safe way to protect their hair and achieve growth- – especially if boredom or frustration has become an issue. I’ve never worn a weave and must admit that I don’t know much about them, although I have seen several natural YouTubers achieve great lengths with them.

I recently caught up with celebrity stylist Shedelle Holmes, a hair extensions expert that has styled for Naomi Campbell, America’s Next Top Model, and NY Fashion Week to name a few. She dished on traction alopecia, her fav products, and the potential benefits of incorporating weaves into a natural hair routine.


CN:
How often do you work with natural hair? Are any your clients naturally curly underneath their wigs/extensions.

S: I work with natural hair on regular basis and believe it or not, the majority of my clients are actually natural under their weaves! I love working with texture- – I look at it more like a mini-project, rather than a challenge, no sweat! However, I find that it’s not always easy to convince a new client that natural is best when wearing a weave and I have to instill in them “healthier hair care”. It can be a bit hard for them to adjust to, but once I explain the benefits they begin to warm up to the idea. My clients love the fact that they’re natural now. Your hair is so much stronger and healthier in its natural state!

CN: What is your favorite product line, and why?

S: I would have to say I have favorite products from different lines. I’m a big fan of Ojon, Rene Furterer and Kerestase. Ojon for its moisturizing benefits, Rene Furterer for it hair growth treatments and scalp purifying properties and Kerestase for its amazing heat protectant products and shampoos.

CN: I see you’ve worked with the lovely Naomi Campbell! We’ve all seen the alarming pics circling the web- – years of keeping up with industry standards has obviously taken its toll on her edges. Can you tell us about traction alopecia… care, styling in the presence of it, prevention, etc.?


S: Yes, I’ve had the opportunity to style Naomi for Bravo Tv’s Rachel Zoe Project (Season 3) and she is a very sweet person! Traction alopecia is a condition that mainly effects African American women and is a condition Naomi is suffering from. It is a result of excessive pulling along the hair line due to constant braiding or weaving and can even occur with the use of chemicals such as relaxers. The best way to avoid traction alopecia is to cease further pressure to the hair and hair follicles. If the pulling is stopped before there’s scarring of the scalp and permanent damage to the root, hair usually grows back normally. Keep the hair as unrestricted as possible and allow your hair to flow freely. If you’re suffering from a mild case of traction alopecia, it can take up to 6 months to achieve healthy re-growth. Avoid using chemicals such as relaxers and/or color during this time.

A great scalp treatment is Rene Furterers RF 80 for sudden hair loss. Applied once a week for 3 months the RF80 stimulates hair growth.

When weaving, the braiding pattern is the most important factor. It determines the amount of tension the client will feel and how flat the weave will lay against the head. The edges of the hair are the most vulnerable to breakage and pulling, that’s why the braiding pattern is key to reduce tension around this area. The best way to protect the edges of your hair is to avoid braiding it in and leaving some out, enough that you have coverage.


CN:
With that in mind, do you have any advice for naturals or transitioners seeking to use weaves or lace fronts as a protective style (preparation, maintenance, moisture, etc)? Is it a recommended way to achieve growth?

S:
Wearing wigs and weaves can definitely be beneficial to your hair when transitioning from a relaxer or even if you’re already natural! It allows for growth, protection from hot styling tools and even protection against environmental factors such as UV rays from the sun.

The key to wearing a weave is to consult with a professional stylist who is knowledgeable and skilled. When weaving, the braiding pattern is the most important factor. It determines the amount of tension you will feel and how flat the weave will lay against your head. The edges of your hair are the most vulnerable to breakage and pulling, that’s why the braiding pattern is key to reduce tension around this area. The best way to protect the edges of your hair is to avoid braiding it in and leaving some out, enough that you have coverage. Cleanse your scalp once a week and make sure to apply a leave-in conditioner directly to your natural hair before sitting under a hooded drier and allow your braids to dry completely. I recommend my clients to keep their weaves in for no longer than 6 weeks-2 months.

Wigs are a convenient styling option but can cause hair loss and tension around the hairline. The severity of hair loss around the edges can vary depending on the type of wig you’re wearing. Lace front wigs can do major damage if it is not put on or removed properly. Overtime, daily use of the adhesive or tape can begin to thin out the hair line and/or deplete it.

If you’re wearing a wig that has clips on the inner lining to keep it in position, it may be best to have your stylist remove the traditional wig comb clips that snap and replace them with the wired wig combs. This way, there won’t be any pulling along your hairline. Also have your stylist customize the wig further by lining the inner part with silk or satin. This will help maintain your hairs moisture. Remember, take the wig off at night, let your hair breathe when your home!


CN:
Tell us about your salon and how the Average Joe can get an appointment with you.

S:
I’m currently freelancing at Chelsea’s five-star salon Loft26Salon in NYC. I absolutely love it there! Its a relaxing experience for clients and a great work environment. I will be opening my own boutique salon in 2011, so I’m super excited about that! Clients can contact me directly for an appointment, just visit my website!


Have you worn extensions since going natural? Did you use them during your transition?

Share your experiences… the good and the bad!