1. Choose the Right Texture
Buying quality hair is absolutely essential, but it's not enough. Selecting a believable texture is critical. "Superstraight hair with nappy roots looks crazy," says celebrity stylist Porsche Waldo of Ebony Design in New York City (Faith Evans, Mya, JoJo). "I've coined the term 'Kunta meets Becky,' " says stylist Nelson Vercher of the Rita Hazan salon in New York City (Tamia, Phylicia Rashad, Britney Spears), who also wove our opening look. If the weave is bone straight and your visible hair is tightly coiled, or if the purchased hair looks like it would never have grown out of your scalp, it's wrong. Most important, the texture should be one that complements your complexion and features. It's not that you shouldn't rock straight styles; just choose hair that looks the way your own hair looks when straightened.
* Do show some scalp or your hairline so the look is more realistic. The weave and your hair should blend together beautifully. Buying human hair by the ounce, as opposed to in a pack, is the preference of top stylists. Eight to ten ounces of human hair can cost from $200 to $600.
2. Buy Human Hair
Most celebrity stylists say no to using synthetic hair. The consensus is that it looks like plastic. It also melts under heat, so forget about curling or straightening. "It just doesn't move like human hair," says Vercher. "Too many people are allergic to it," adds celeb stylist Yusef of Paul Labrecque Salon & Spa in New York City (Solange), who created the weaves on this page and the following two. But stylist to the stars Ursula Stephen (Rihanna, Keisha Cole) has a different point of view. "It really depends on what look you're going after. Sometimes synthetic hair can work, if you know how to flip it," she says. "I have some synthetic Afro-kinky hair that I put in often. I get tons of compliments when I wear it."
* Don't choose a weave that doesn't mesh with your lifestyle. If you work out a lot, try a texture and cut that needs little heat or manipulation.
3. Cut It Into Shape
What you do with your weave after it's in is just as crucial as choosing the right hair texture. Too much hair will look like a wig. "Every weave needs to be shaped according to head size and face shape," says Stephen. Yusef adds, "Razor-cut that weave; you've got to take some of the weight out of it." Natural, thinned ends are also much more believable than blunt, baby-doll ends. "If you don't have the weave shaped correctly, it won't fall naturally," says Vercher. Weavers who can cut are few and far between. Get your weave done by the best, then have it cut and thinned only by a stylist who's a whiz with the scissors.
* Do give your weave a full brush-through daily, in order to prevent tangling and matting.
* Don't flip your head upside down in the shower when washing your weave. This creates tangling.
4. Customize The Weft
Custom-blending the color and texture of each weft, also called a track, ensures a realistic weave. Top stylists swear by customized tracks, like the ones used to create every weave featured in this story. Since a variety of textures can make up a single head of hair, one secret to achieving a look that's close to what nature gave us is to blend wavy and curly or wavy and straight textures. Not only can the texture and color be varied, but the length as well. "By placing various lengths throughout the hair, I reduce bulk," says Vercher. "I still have to cut it, but I prefer to place shorter pieces on the top and longer ones on the bottom."
* Do try an alcohol-free mousse. Apply to wet hair before you blow-dry. This will hold the style in place without weighing the hair down.
5. Handle With Care
Treat your weave like you would your real hair. Don't be afraid of it. Wash it weekly and "Give it a good comb through, daily," says celebrity stylist Lawrence Davis (Tyra), who just won an Emmy for Outstanding Hair for The Tyra Banks Show. If you don't detangle daily, the hair sheds and gets tangled in the braid, causing unnecessary hair loss when you remove the track. Human hair wefts can last almost a year if you take care of them. Deep-condition like you would your own hair. Hot oil treatments and steam treatments maintain manageability. Also make sure your own hair dries properly after you wash and condition. If not, you could encourage mildew-not a healthy or pleasant-smelling scalp condition. Invest in a hooded dryer. Clip varying sections up so that the heat can get to your hair underneath. Once your hair is dry, style as usual.
* Don't forget your brows. Black brows and blond or red hair don't mix. Have your stylist lift your brow color to better coordinate with your hair color.