Rapunzel, Rapunzel…Let down your Beautiful…Hair Extensions?
Going to Great Lengths™
An Interview with Nikki Ray, Sr. Stylist at Salon AKS
By Michelyn Camen
I come from three generations of hair obsessed women. They slept on hard pink rollers, went to the “beauty parlor” every Saturday, teased and backcombed, permed and straightened; my mom owned a collection of wiglets, ponytails, wigs and falls that could stock a wig shop. Maybe that’s why she had Nubest & Co., one of the finest hair salons for children (and insanely expensive back in the day) cut my hair into the notorious “Dorothy Hamill” wedge (supposedly wash and wear, but hideous) -trying to spare me the family’s hair insanity. Instead, it fueled my genetic obsession to “long” for glorious, glamorous hair.
I have good hair, not great hair. I wear it long; at least six inches past my shoulders. It’s a lot of work. My natural hair is not my crowning glory; it does not seductively sway in the breeze (instead, it just looks messy) or cause interesting foreign men to hand me roses. It was not my best asset- that is until I went to Nikki Ray at Salon AKS, who is undoubtedly one of New York’s hair extension magicians. Nikki uses the Great Lengths™ system to take hair from lacking to lush. This system is used by hundreds of celebrities and women throughout the world (including Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Jennifer Aniston) who want added volume and length with minimal upkeep. And how do I look now, you may ask? Well, at a recent Beauty News staff meeting, I was recovering from food poisoning; wan and pale. However, all of my colleagues kept telling me that I looked like a goddess. Voila! Three generations of family angst just ended!
BN: What is the Great Lengths hair extension system and why is it different than other methods?
NR: Great Lengths is a patented system of attaching hair extensions which not only preserves the state of your hair but helps it grow because the bonds are formulated from a protein compound. Our hair is made of protein and the protein bond which is affixed with a heat process can help stimulate growth of your natural hair.
BN: What type of hair is used and why?
NR: The hair is Indian hair, all human hair. Indian hair is used by Great Lengths because it starts out unprocessed; the cuticle layers are facing in the same direction, which means it won’t tangle. Indian hair is easy to process (color), the hair still maintains its quality and can be washed, set and styled as if it was your own .
BN: I heard that European hair is the best type of hair, is that true?
NR: Not necessarily, most European hair is very fine and is not available in large quantities. The hair for extensions is best if not chemically processed, which is unusual for European hair. Indian hair is superior but primarily because of the high demand for straight and strong qualities.
BN: How long does it usually take to go from “Pixie” to “Rapunzel”? It took me 3 hours.
NR: It can take about 2-6 hours. It took 3 hours with your hair because you needed mostly volume; your natural hair was long.
BN: Who is a good candidate for Great Lengths?
NR: The perfect candidate would need to have at least 4-5 inches of growth. The hair also has to be in good condition in order to support the bonding technique. If your hair is broken and frazzled this may not be the best system for you.
BN: Is this technique adaptable to ethnic hair and baby fine Caucasian hair?
NR: Great lengths extensions are great for almost any hair type. Baby fine hair is not the most suitable hair type for this method, because the bonds can sometimes be seen through the hair.
BN: Why do clients ask for permanent extensions?
NR: Clients want to add length to their hair, add volume, or would like a combination of both. This system is great because it can be cut, treated, and basically is low maintenance.
BN: How do you match color?
NR: There are 40 colors in the sample swatch to help choose the right color. I blend up to five colors. This is great for women who have highlights because I can imitate them perfectly. Most of my clients just come in for one process or to touch up their roots …so easy.
BN: Please explain how the hair is attached or put onto the client
NR: The hair is attached by separating small sections and applying Great Lengths hair strands. The strands are attached with using cold fusion technology forming a protein bond. Heat is applied and attached to the client’s natural hair.
BN: What is the down side; does the clients’ own hair weaken or break?
NR: There is no down side, only the initial investment.
BN: How often do you recommend your clients change hair?
NR: Depending on the at-home care, maintenance, and the client’s rate of hair growth, hair can be kept for up to 6 months
BN: Is it difficult to maintain?
NR: As long as the correct products and maintenance techniques are used the extensions are easily manageable. I explain in depth the maintenance process and give each client a copy of instructions, i.e. use sulfate free shampoo, etc.
BN: What products do you recommend?
NR: Clients should use a sulfate free shampoo; Jonathan Antin (www.sephora.com) makes good ones. I also recommend L’oreal Series Expert Lisse Extreme shine perfecting serum, Volume Extreme conditioner (www.drugstore.com), and a special product from Great Lengths called Anti-Tap Water (www.salonaks.com). It’s important to use sulfate free products, because sulfates can break down the protein bond over time.
BN: Have you seen a surge in non celebrity clients coming to you for hair extensions? It’s pretty expensive.
NR: Yes, because it is a method that looks very natural and last a long period of time. So non-celebrity clients can justify the cost for the results.
Salon AKS is located at 689 Fifth Avenue, 10th Floor. For an appointment and complimentary consultation with Nikki Ray, call 212.888.0707 or visit www.salonaks.com. For more information on the Great Lengths™ system, visit www.greatlengths.net.