What is a weave? ATH’s resident hairstylist reveals what you need to know before committing

Samantha | 20 February 2018
Ciara with long blonde hair walking outside at fashion week

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

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. Not familiar with the term? A weave is essentially a form of hair extensions. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge, we suggest reading up on our comprehensive guide to “what is a weave?” before you commit.

“Weaves are used to add volume, length or colour to the hair,” reveals ATH’s resident hairstylist Elena Diaz. “There are several weave-application techniques that can be used to achieve different looks.”

Decoding the ins and outs of this method, Elena shares her expert know-how (and after-care commandments) on how to achieve the perfect weave…

What is a weave? ATH breaks down the basics


What is a weave black model with long hair backstage at Balmain show
Wondering what is a weave? We break it down. Credit: Indigitalimages.com

What types of weaves are there?

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.

“Speak to your hairstylist about what look you’re going for and they can best advise what technique would work,” says Elena. “Generally, extensions can be sewn into the hair section by section or woven into pre-braided strands.”

Ultimately, it’s the style you choose that will determine what type of weave can create that look.

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.

What type of weave is best for long and short term styles?

“Weaves can generally last anywhere from 6-12 weeks,” reveals Elena. “The main factor in deciding what type of weave to go for is usually your current hair condition.”

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.

Black model backstage with braid and tendrils what is a weave
Weave wonders. Credit: indigitalimages.com

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 hair net 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.

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

What tools do you need to look after a weave?

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


TRESemmé 7 Day Smooth Shampoo


We suggest washing your tresses with the TRESemmé 7 Day Smooth System 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!”