When it comes to protective hairstyles, I’ve tried just about every look you can think of: box braids, twists, and cornrows galore. But for my annual solo birthday trip a few months ago, I tapped into my Aquarius energy and challenged myself to try a fresh new look to mark a new chapter. I let TikTok influence me to get a sew-in with a closure on my natural hair, and haven’t looked back since.
“Sewn-in hairstyles” are trending for a reason. There really is an art to these extension installs and a plethora of extension options for all hair types and textures. Before my birthday, the last time I got a sew-in was in 2013. My braids were voluminous, the quality of my hair was questionable, and my stylist installed the tracks with no sense of poetry. Today, there are entire niche communities (see: #traditionalsewin, #closuresewin, #versatilesewin) dedicated to the different types of sewn-in and the stylistic secrets to achieving them.
I have coarse and fragile natural 4C hair, so an omitted sew is out of the question for now. I want to protect my hair and not damage it with heat styling tools or too much product. This is also why I wanted to choose a hair texture that mimics mine a bit. After extensive research, referrals, and a few more TikTok rabbit holes, I found the best hair extensions for my texture — and the perfect pro, Nicole Hemmings of Elevate The Salon Experience in Brooklyn, NY, to install them.
Choosing my hair extensions
I used to shy away from sew-ins because I was a bit overwhelmed by the oversaturated hair extension market. Don’t get me wrong: New York City is rich with options. But any stylist will tell you that quality is important when it comes to the longevity of your sew-in. I wanted to choose hair that would look good, feel good and could be reused for a wig.
Before leaving for my trip, I visited the Yummy Extensions boutique in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I picked out my 18-inch Raw Burma Curly ($154) bundles and closure. I had such a seamless and professional experience at the boutique and with my hair (seriously, the best I’ve ever had) that I knew I needed another dose of Yummy.
After a short phone consultation with the team, we opted for a new texture and longer length for the new season: three bundles of kinky-straight 24-inch Raw Lao Straight Blowout Weft bundles. When I picked up my hair at the boutique, a nice sales associate assured me that maintenance would be super easy—perhaps even easier than my curly bundles, which do require daily maintenance. Aside from brushing, weekly co-washing and adding a few drops of shine serum every now and then, I wouldn’t have to do much to the hair and could wear it in its natural state without much manipulation. Sold.
Install the sew-in extensions
I had already heard great things about Nicole Hemmings and Elevate The Salon Experience through social media and the local grapevine since the salon is in my neighborhood. Although Hemmings is widely known as the “Silk Press Queen,” she tells me that sewing is her first love. That love really showed in how she installed my new bundles.
Although TikTok informed me of plenty of options, I opted for a sew-in closure so that all my hair was tucked away and protected. Omitted inseams are popular—and some say healthier—because most people usually choose a texture that complements their natural texture. Even though the Lao Blowout hair looks like blown out 4c curls, I honestly didn’t feel like putting in extra work every day.
Hemmings started adjusting my closure a day before our actual appointment. She bleached the knots and toned and plucked the hairline to make it look as realistic as possible. Another trick to her signature realistic installations is her strategic weaving and use of a weaving net. “It allows me to stitch in areas where there could be a braid,” she says.
I wanted a “buss down” center parting, so Hemmings parted my natural hair in the middle of my head and braided away from the parting instead of straight down. Straight braids actually add height and volume to your look.
An advantage of the net is that it keeps the base of the cornrows firmer and makes the braids last longer – an optimal factor for the ultimate longevity of the hairstyle. A closure usually takes a month and a half to sew in, and even longer with proper maintenance, says Hemmings. She used a dab of spray adhesive to make the clasp lie completely flat and gave me stern orders to return to her chair when the lace begins to lift. “Don’t re-glue the closure yourself,” she says. “Tie your lace every night so the friction doesn’t cause the lace to move sooner.”
The results: straight hair
It’s been over a week since my install and I think I’ve found a forever texture. This kinky straight hair is a dream and extremely low maintenance. The Raw Lao Straight Blowout Weft texture is one that straightens easily but looks even better when left in its natural state. Even after a particularly sweaty morning workout or a humid day on the subway, my hair still looks great. And the setup is so flat I’ve tricked a few strangers into thinking it’s the real deal. What’s always the assignment.
The results: curly hair
Image source: Khalea Underwood and illustration by Ava Cruz
#TikTok #sewing #machine #natural #hair