With a constant wave of new and ever-expanding pre-wedding beauty treatments—the cryofacial! The lash perm!—one option remains a frustrating catch-22: Hair extensions, which still enjoy peak popularity with brides but can actually be quite damaging. “We will always suggest that clients try to forgo extensions entirely,” notes Lars Skjoth, founder and head of research behind Harklinikken, the global clinic trusted by royals and celebs for its hair-restorative treatments. Skjoth adds that over time, the constant pull of extensions can create scar tissue in the follicle that prevents a new hair strand from ever forming.
Kelly DeWolfe, A.P.N., M.S. at Elevare MD, the airy medi spa that counts Chicago brides amongst its most ardent clients, calls the issue by its formal name: “Hair extensions can cause traction alopecia from their weight or being secured too tightly,” she explains, which can make permanent hair loss a possible result of the damage. Thankfully, protective alternatives are surfacing in the form of botanically driven scalp treatments, growth-boosting nutritional supplements, and even platelet-rich plasma injections for wellness-focused brides who don’t want to sacrifice their natural mane for a short-term look. Below, the modern guide for growing lengthy, extension-free hair.
For Rejuvenation: The Harklinikken System
According to Skjoth, natural growth takes months to support. At a minimum, it’s best to start Harlkinikken’s signature Extract three to four months before the wedding to start seeing results. So what is hair extract? Formulated based on criteria like scalp condition, oil production, gender, and severity of hair loss, each recipe is a customized concoction of plant derivatives and special ingredients derived from cow milk that are specially processed to “establish an optimal environment in the follicle and activate new growth.”
Clients can experience 40-70% more hair mass (a combination of increased number of strands and quality) in a matter of months with daily application. “A bride’s confidence due to greatly increased density, quality, and health of her own hair cannot be underestimated,” says Skjoth of his experience boosting the confidence of brides-to-be like Julieta Agudelo Patino, who committed to the Treatment before her wedding and saw stunning improvement. “Having more hair made me feel amazing and glamorous in a natural way that perfectly emulated my bridal style,” she shares of her results. An exciting bonus? The Extract has even been proven effective at reversing graying in certain cases, restoring born-with-it color to previously starved strands.
For Loss-Prevention: PRP Injections
“We all want to look our best on our wedding day, but PRP is a long-lasting fix that women love,” says DeWolfe of the in-office treatment she’s mastered for brides-to-be. PRP, which stands for Platelet Rich Plasma, uses your own biology for maximum efficacy (you’ve likely heard of its skincare cousin, the Vampire Facial). “PRP nourishes the follicle, helping hair to stay in the active growth phase longer—as a result, hair becomes thicker and shedding is reduced,” she explains.
After drawing two tubes of blood from one arm, the tubes are then spun in a centrifuge until the red cells separate from the clear PRP, which is placed into syringes fitted with tiny 30 gage needles. DeWolfe has even found a way to trick the pain response by trailing a vibrating gold beauty bar alongside injections. “Most clients say it feels more annoying than painful,” she notes. The entire process takes about 10 minutes, and DeWolfe recommends starting the first session at least three months prior to the wedding, with one treatment per month (for a series of three) until the big day. Quarterly appointments can then maintain results after the honeymoon.
For Overall Support: The Must-Have Supplements
Without constant internal support, external treatments have little value. “When it comes to growing and keeping your hair healthy, there are a number of nutrients you’ll want to focus on in your diet or in supplemental form,” says Dr. Charles Passler, the NYC-based nutritionist to celebs and supermodels like Bella Hadid, Adriana Lima, and Naomi Watts.
- Omega 3: “I recommend omega 3 fatty acids to improve the health, flexibility, and shine of hair—these also help promote the health of your scalp and reduce dryness and flaking.” When selecting a fish oil supplement, it’s important to find a source that hasn’t been damaged by free radicals & contaminants—Passler recommends “Omega” by PURECHANGE as a quality option to take away the guesswork.
- Collagen: To boost proteins essential for growth, studies are still rolling in on the benefits of drinking powdered collagen. “Combining Collagen Protein supplements that are mostly hydrolyzed along with synergistic ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid will provide you with optimal nutritional support for hair,” says Passler. A tasty lavender-and-lemon sip of Vital Proteins Collagen Beauty Water provides both, plus a dose of gut-friendly probiotics.
- Organic Mushrooms: Traditional Chinese Medicine is booming thanks to its ability to combine the benefits of long-forgotten ingredients that recharge the body’s internal systems. Om Beauty’s medley of eight powerful medicinal mushrooms works to support lustrous hair thanks to naturally occurring beta glucans and antioxidants which stimulate cellular restoration.
For Day-to-Day Protection: Reduced Heat Damage
It’s no surprise that the less heat is applied to strands, the better—but brides may not realize how often damage is inflicted. Whether it’s daily smoothing sessions with a flat iron or bouncy curls by way of a wave iron, every degree of added temperature amplifies breakage. One way to reduce the burnout? Simply air-drying hair can be hugely beneficial for strength and length—though the speed at which water is removed is just as important.
Since wet strands are weak strands, microfiber hair turbans like Louvelle’s adorable Bird-of-Paradise-printed wrap and the luxe waffle adaptations by Aquis are gaining a cult-like following for their ability to wick moisture away at double the speed. Plus, the retro look provides a perfect selfie opportunity for pre-party festivities spent luxuriating in the bridal suite.
For Color Repair: Bio 8
If you’ve committed to coloring your hair, the constant stress of peroxide and processing can weaken strands over time. As a holistic solution, Bio 8 Repair recently launched as the first color-safe hair growth system for hair loss, and salons coast-to-coast are snapping up its buzzy new system to reinforce clients’ final looks post-dye job.
“I love that hair is finally catching up to skin care and body care,” says Cheryl Santucci, Director of Esthetics at Chicago’s palatial Mario Tricoci Spa. “Women understand that what they do now helps preserve their health, and Bio 8’s color safe, holistic approach beautifully prevents hair thinning and loss to provides optimal hair growth.” Even the packaging, made from recycled ocean plastics, is part of a larger plan for a more mindful future—an attitude that any wellness-minded bride can get behind.
Photo: Cristiano Ostinelli