Letting your hair down, with a little help

PARIS, June 23, 2006 (AFP) – Forget designer handbags and couture frocks, these days style-conscious women are spending big on the latest luxury accessory, human hair extensions. Hot on the heels of celebrity torchbearers like Victoria Beckham and Paris Hilton, women are paying up to 1,000 euros (1,250 dollars) to have someone else’s hair stuck to their heads.

“In a few hours a client can have the sort of length it would take years to grow. That’s why it’s so attractive,” said Eric Roman, an upmarket Parisian hairstylist who honed his extension techniques on top catwalk models.

“Women see stars like actress Sharon Stone, who went from short to long for her role in ‘Basic Instinct 2’, and they want to do the same without waiting for months,” said Roman.

Ethnic women have long used hair extensions to create braids or sleek styles as an alternative to chemical straightening, but new techniques and improved hair quality have propelled the trend into the mainstream.

A decade ago most hair strands were synthetic, screamed fake and were a definite no-go zone for women wanting a subtle look.

These days human hair is widely available and affordable.

“In the past t