Is bigger really better? Call it the Dubai effect, but when it comes to your mane, we’d argue yes. Here’s how to nail it, without pulling your hair out. Pun intended…


Turns out there’s quite a lot you can blame Instagram for, really. What started with Disney-shaped engineering of unrealistic expectations about hair has evolved into an evermore filtered – and insidious – reality of perfect manes swishing back at us from every screen. And I, for one, am anything but immune to its effects, having been born sadly lacking in the follicular department. Not entirely lacking, obviously. I do have some hair to call my own. The rest I can now buy. And trust me, I should know.

The finished result

You may well not be a complete stranger to hair extensions. In all likelihood, you’ve probably dabbled with a clip-in here or a weft there in your time. And far be it from me to teach you to suck eggs, but here’s where I respectfully suggest that Brit brand Beauty Works’ offering really is top of the line. Huda Kattan, Olivia Palermo and Nicole Scherzinger are all fans, and hair supremo Jen Atkin – who The New York Times dubbed “the most influential hairstylist in the world” – collaborated on a massively successful range with the company last year.

Allow me to elaborate: not all hair is created equal. And trust me, I should know. Beauty Works prides itself on its exceptional quality. That means hand-selected, 100 per cent real, raw human hair. It’s also what is known in the biz as ‘double drawn’ – meaning it’s specifically processed by hand to ensure all hair lengths are the same so it looks fuller. And if you’re wondering about its provenance – good girl – it’s purchased from around the world and based on strict ethical standards. Good to know, right? No dodgy procurement methods here, thanks. Don’t want that on your conscience – or on your head.

Extensions in the lift

Beauty Works – and Pastels – also offer pretty much every kind of application technique going, so if you’re a nano bond kinda gal, or more of a stick-tip type, you’re in luck either way. And, of course, it goes without saying that hair of this quality is reusable and can last for years if you look after it. So it’s an investment. So much so that the cost-per-wear is almost invisible to the naked eye.

In short, I was blithely confident in my decision, knowing I was in both good company and hands. Translation: I had calculated that it was highly unlikely I’d be walking away with any of my past follicular follies. And let me tell you, over my decade-spanning experience with extensions, there have been a few.

Bald patches from the strain (aka ‘traction alopecia’); application lines that were so obvious I looked like I was wearing one wig on top of another; wefts that had both a mind and colour of their own, falling out at the most inopportune of moments, like on a dance floor… and all that entirely separate to my initial introduction to them, which involved wood glue and a salon of questionable repute in the backstreets of Soho.

Extensions on the town

Not one to give up without a fight, however, my love affair then meandered into monofibre; for all intents and purposes, fake ‘Barbie’ hair, which, I’ll be honest, I loved and still love. It holds a curl like no other, is super low-maintenance, and gives you an obscene amount of volume. But, alas, three problems: one, it isn’t available here; two, it’s essentially plastic so you can’t use intense heat on it (I did once. I melted it into dreadlocks); and three, it did look borderline unnatural. Plus I couldn’t tie it up. It had to go.

THE TREATMENT So after a bad weave, a good weave, and some tapes that I couldn’t get out again for love nor money, I finally – thankfully – found myself here in Pastels Salon, in the capable chair of Karl Warner, an impeccably dressed, cheeky chappy from south London whose colouring skills preceded him, and whose love of a gossip and a tea made me feel instantly at ease. As did his previous celeb client list back in the UK – I’m sure if you ask him nicely, he’ll tell you exactly who they were.

Post-colour, Karl weaves in Olivia’s, er, weave

Talented colourists who specialise in blonde are notoriously few and far between in the UAE, so I did a little dance when he revealed my creamy shade after about an hour and a half of foils and the like (Dhs585). The other thing about many other types of extension application is that it can take an entire day of sitting in the chair before you can leave, hair swishing behind you, but with a decidedly numb backside. I opted for a weave (Dhs750 to put them in); one, because I find it gives more volume; and two, because I’m impatient. Given that Karl’s a whizz with a needle and thread, it was only around another hour before I was out, colour perfectly matched and blended to my extensions (Dhs5,400).

THE REALITY It’s been six weeks since I was Beauty Worksed and the proof of the pudding is this: I’ve booked in next week to have my colour redone and my extensions tightened. Can’t get more of a recommendation than that, really.

Email or call +971 4 399 5016 to book at Pastels Salon, Ritz-Carlton, JBR, Dubai

Photos: Jason Lloyd-Evans and supplied