Extensions and Wigs Meet a Growing Client Need

By Marti Farber

You color hair, you cut it, you straighten it and curl it. You blow it into beautiful styles.

But when your clients' hair begins to thin or even fall out, it can pose challenges that might prevent you from doing your best work and giving your clients the looks they want.

Hair extensions and wigs can be your answer both to helping clients love their hair and to bulking up your bottom line.

Wigs are the answer for three distinct groups of clients—those who want a quick change or love a variety of fashionable looks, those who are experiencing thinning hair to the point that they can no longer wear their hair in the way they desire and the 40 million women who are experiencing medical hair loss from chemotherapy, alopecia or other medical conditions that can cause temporary or permanent hair loss.

You can get into the wig business with an investment ranging from about $1,500 for an initial consultation kit.

You'll want to make sure you have wigs in several styles, colors and fibers, including synthetic (least expensive), human hair (mid-priced) and European hair (the best quality); wig stands; color rings; scarves for when they don't want to have their wigs; sleep caps; brushes and home care products. With that minimal inventory, you're ready to solve a major challenge that many clients are or will be experiencing as they get older.

To help these clients maintain their privacy, it's important that you have a private room or an area curtained off that's warm, cozy and comfortable with soft, non-fluorescent lighting. There, you will conduct their consultations, fittings and wig styling services and educate them about caring for their wig, so they never feel exposed without their own hair.

Marketing your wig business doesn't have to be complicated or costly, either. Start simply by letting your current clients, friends and family know you are offering this important service, and share the news via your social media and website. Once you're feeling confident in your ability to service these clients, hold an open house or event as an introduction. You can also contact local hospitals and oncology centers to let them know you are available to help their patients feel more like themselves as they recover.

If you have the passion and the compassion to help these special clients, many resources are available in medical hair loss classes.

Hair extensions are a great service for a multitude of clients looking for fashion or to solve a specific hair challenge and one of the most versatile services in your portfolio. Considered primarily for adding length, they are a multi-use solution that are also perfect for thickening hair, creating volume, adding spot volume or density in one specific area or adding chemical-free hair color and/or texture—on a temporary or more permanent basis. Allowing for the ultimate customization, there's an application technique to fit the need, budget and desired styling option for every client.

And don't think of extensions as just for women. I recently met a stylist who had just applied them to a guy who wanted Justin Bieber's heavy side bang and didn't want to wait for his own hair to grow.

As with wigs, an intro kit for permanent extensions can get you into the business for less than $600, and the ability to make money, depending on the cost of the hair and the time for the service. In addition, hair extensions require special care products that won't cause them to come loose, so you have both ongoing product sales, as well as monthly styling and tightening services. Then, every two to four months, you take them out and start all over.

Of course, clip-in temporary extensions are also very popular and can be sold as both a special occasion styling service, you put them in and style them, or as a retail product.

Again, training is key for success with hair extensions. First, with numerous application methods available — from tape to bonding, clips to links — it's important to experience them all to determine which is best for you, the time you want to spend on an extension service and the service fee you can charge.

For example, using some application techniques for individual strands might require a four-hour service. Before committing, you need to ask yourself if you're comfortable spending half a day with just one client. If not, then look for a faster technique. Second, you will want to learn placement, styling and after-care techniques. And third, you will need to learn how to adjust, maintain and care for the extensions while they're on the head.

The number of women who are experiencing thinning hair and hair loss is on the rise, but these clients still want to look fashionable and wear their hair in their desired styles. When you offer them wigs and extension services, you solve what might seem like a hopeless problem, earning their unending loyalty.

Marti Farber is national sales manager for OnRite, a company specializing in men's and women's hair replacement, Gemtress Wigs and Ultratress Hair Extensions. For more information email at mfarber@onrite.com and go to gemtress.com and ultratress.com for information on products and education.