Beauty

Covet celeb hair? Now you can rent hair extensions, mail them back

March 28, 2014 at 10:45 AM ET

TODAY's Rina Raphael models her hair extensions.
TODAY
Tough job: I tried out rental hair extensions at Nelson J. salon in Los Angeles.

If, like me, you read way too much Us Weekly in the checkout line — (What? It’s there) — you probably harbor the same burning question: How do these stars have so much hair? Is there not one even one real housewife with a mousy mane?

The truth is most of them wear extensions. And not the kind being pulled on in Jerry Springer episodes. They have real human hair, sewn or clipped in for red carpet appearances.

(You know what I have for special events? Crest Whitestrips.)

So I was curious when I learned that Nelson J. Salon in Los Angeles is offering a new client service: for $75, customers can experience the joy of temporary fake hair, then simply mail it back — a sort of Rent the Runway for hair extensions. It’s certainly one of the more interesting items you can send through the U.S. Postal Service. (Note: I do not recommend performing the last step in public, lest strangers think you’re mailing your ex a dead rat.)

“Clients are always saying ‘we want more hair’ or ‘I wish my hair was longer, fuller,’ but they don’t want to commit to it,” founder Nelson Chan told us of his salon offerings, which might possibly branch out to new locations in the future. “We just made it easy: (Clip it in), then just mail it back and that’s it. Netflix style.”

Brunette before and after extensions
Nelson J. Salon
A brunette before and after Nelson J. extensions.
Nelson J. salon
Nelson J. Salon
Blondes can have more fun, too.

It works just like any other hair appointment: They wet your hair, blow it out, then spend a few more minutes cleverly disguising between five to seven pieces of hair extensions in varying length, before curling it like a soap opera star's. Worried they won’t have your color? They have enough shades to satisfy Rihanna, with a wide range of highlighted pieces. Which is good, because the clientele can’t afford to look less than fabulous. They’re what you’d expect: brides, bridesmaids, friends looking to upstage the bride, Oscar attendees and many, many actresses.

Part of the appeal of the service, of course, is that it’s temporary. Full, sewn-in extensions are expensive, require upkeep and can be harsh on sensitive hair.

“This doesn’t hurt your hair,” said Chan, adding that “you can mix it up — put in or take out as many you want.”

TODAY
TODAY
Hairstylist and salon owner Nelson Chan works his magic.

Customers can wear the extensions — and even sleep in them — for several days, though one can just as easily remove and re-insert them at will. The hair is on loan up to a week, at which point customers can send it back in a self-addressed stamped envelope. No L.A. traffic required.

The only danger, of course, is that you might not want to give them back. Nelson J.’s service acts almost like a gateway drug to hair extensions, and many repeat customers just end up buying the hair — for roughly $200.

As Chan quickly transformed my hair in 20 minutes, I was taken aback by what a difference some dead locks could make: I was like 50 percent more attractive. I looked prettier, healthier — heck, even nicer. The salon knows this, which is why they’ve set up a Sears-like portrait studio in the back, so that clients can take home some hot shots of themselves. (The actresses love this.)

When the makeover was complete, I couldn’t stop touching my hair. I was like the Juan Pablo of my own body. It was addictive. It was likely why, an hour later while going through security at LAX, I got stopped for an additional pat down. Did they maybe think I was a celebrity? Or Jeff Goldblum's new girlfriend? (Hey, a girl can dream.)

TODAY
TODAY
I don't usually look like this.

Not exactly.

“Ma'am, please step over. I need to pat down your hair,” said the TSA officer.

“How did you know?” I whispered in horror. “Is it ... obvious?”

“This is L.A.,” she sighed. “We know these things.”

After the TSA head massage, I went on to enjoy a wedding weekend filled with people telling me how much they appreciated me more with long hair. It therefore wasn’t too surprising when I called the salon a week later and admitted: 

"I’m addicted. Can I keep them?"

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