Rihanna with dark brown long weave

What Is a Weave? ATH’s Resident Hairstylist Reveals All

Want to know what is a weave? Consider this your beginners guide to weave care 101...

A weave is a type of hair extension application method, in which hair is braided into cornrows first, then after, wefts of human or synthetic hair are sewn into these cornrows.  Weaves originated in Egypt, where people would use human hair or sheep wool and attach them to their heads.

Unlike other hair extensions, weaves are directly sewn into your hair to add volume, length or colour. This type of hair extension is popular because it’s the most permanent and seamless, as the hair is literally sewn into your own hair and cannot come off.

Ever seen a celeb strutting down the red carpet with a pixie crop one day and Rapunzel-worthy tresses the next? More often than not, the secret to their versatile styling is simply: a weave. Intrigued? Discover everything you need to know about weaves, below.

How is a Weave Fitted?

Naomi Campbell in orange dress at AmfAR gala with long curly hair what is a weave
Naomi Campbell is known for her waist-length weaves. Credit: Rex by Shutterstock.

When you’re getting a weave done, you’ll usually have your hair cornrowed flat to create a seamless base, and then bundles of hair will be attached to the base using the sew-in method.

What is the Difference Between A Weave and Hair Extensions?

In general, all weaves are a type of hair extensions. The only difference between the two is the method of application.  With a weave, your hair is braided and then hair wefts are sewn onto the braids. While hair extensions are applied strand by strand to hair.

How Long Does a Weave Last?

The recommended length of time to keep a weave in is one-two months. However, it’s important during this time to have your weave touched up every two to four weeks.

Do Weaves Damage Hair?

While weaves are said to be a protective hairstyle, if they aren’t installed properly or worn too long, they can damage your hair underneath and cause breakage.

If your hair is strong, and not too dry or damaged, then long-term weaves (i.e. a full head of extensions) can be a viable option. “If you’ve got brittle strands due to heat damage or over-styling, try a half-weave,” suggests Elena.

Only adding extensions to half of your hair (usually the bottom layer) will limit the amount of hair that needs to be braided to hold an extension. The weight of these extensions can tug on the roots, damaging fragile hair.

What Types of Weaves Are There?

Different types of weave hair extensions
Credit: Rex by Shutterstock

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to getting a weave. Depending on what you want to aesthetically achieve, there are a few different options to consider.

Weaves vary from different textures to the wave patterns. They can be straight, tightly curled, wavy or deeply waved.

“Speak to your hairstylist about what look you’re going for and they can best advise what technique would work,” says Elena. Ultimately, it’s the style you choose that will determine what type of weave can create that look.

Can You Have a Weave on All Hair Types?

“In general, yes,” confirms Elena. The two main techniques for creating a full-head weave are: sewing extensions directly onto pre-braided hair, or sewing a weave into a hairnet that is placed over cornrowed hair.

“If you have thicker, stronger hair, then go for a conventional sew-in weave. If your hair is on the thinner side, a better option would be a net weave as it will give more volume to the look,” says Elena.

The downside to using a net weave, however, is that you are less able to take better care of your real hair underneath the net. “If your hair is quite fragile or prone to breaking, net weaves should be avoided if possible. The strain on the roots from this technique can result in hair damage,” Elena advises.

What Tools Do You Need to Look After a Weave?

Model Jourdan Dunn backstage at fashion show with curly ombre hair what is a weave
What is a weave and how do I care for it? We answer all your queries. Credit: indigitalimages.com

Get ready to update your hair routine as this technique requires some new haircare tools. The most essential? A low sulphate shampoo.

We suggest washing your tresses with the TRESemmé Colour Shineplex Shampoo. Gentle enough for everyday use, this product can also be used on coloured hair. A bonus if your weave contains colour-treated extensions.

“For styling purposes, a paddle brush is the most effective tool for gently brushing your weave so it doesn’t get tangled,” says Elena. “I would also recommend tying your tresses into a silk headscarf while you sleep. This will help protect your locks overnight and keep them in place.”

Her final recommendation? A tail comb. “Just in case you need to gently scratch your scalp under a weave cap. It’s a secret stylists trick!”


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