Gina Conwell knows hair. You could say that the owner of high-end hair boutique Desired Extensions was born into the beauty industry: Her parents own All-in-1 Beauty Supply, an Atlanta beauty emporium that has served local residents for the past 40 years.
Conwell began working in the family business as a sales rep in her early 20s; she tells The Glow Up that her own passion for hair began when she started working with local hairstylists:
In the midst of that, I became educated on hair loss, growing hair, styling hair—don’t let me style your hair, but I can tell you about growing your hair. And from there, I started meeting a lot of stylists telling me about how their clients were losing hair, and some of the different issues that they were having.
Conwell began researching different hair-loss issues, learning about alopecia and the effects of chemotherapy, and talking with doctors about the different ways that their patients were affected.
Identifying a market uniquely in need of quality full-lace wigs and hair extensions, she began searching for the best hair available, personally wearing various products for almost two years before beginning to sell to the public. In 2009, Desired Extensions was born as its own Atlanta storefront.
Almost a decade later, the brand is thriving, specializing in women suffering from hair loss and in need of high-quality solutions at a reasonable price point (Desired Extensions hair products start at $115). Conwell prides her brand on providing undetectable, confidence-restoring solutions for women desperately in need, regularly giving one-on-one video consultations and even making hospital visits:
I would say what drove my passion was when I started meeting women, and they were ashamed or in tears about their hair loss. And I would have women calling me sometimes saying, “Will there be anyone else in the store? Can we meet alone? Can you come to my house and meet me? I don’t even want to leave my house.” And so, that’s when I saw the seriousness of that. ...
We have some pieces that are strictly for if you have alopecia, or are going through chemo with complete hair loss. Then, we have other pieces [for] if you have a head full of hair and want to sew your piece down, or you want to clip it down. ... [But] each time a consumer purchases from us, we always do a consultation.
Conwell is also fastidious about her suppliers, ensuring that she is never without a source of the highest-quality hair and that her vendors’ preparation processes provide the best-possible experience for her clients, especially when many are already dealing with the stress of an illness. Says Conwell:
I look for [the vendors’] knowledge of hair. Are they familiar with cuticles? Are they familiar with steam-processing hair or do they chemically process hair? What will qualify a company is if they use steam processing—we don’t use any chemicals. Because companies that are using chemicals—when you see some women patting their head, and their scalp is really itchy—that is not a natural thing for extensions. People think that it’s natural, but it’s not. It’s usually that that company processes their hair extensions with chemicals, and you’re having an allergic reaction to it ...
And there’s another tip with scalp itching: Don’t use synthetic hair. Synthetic hair can make you itch, too. I always tell people: You want to use yarn to add in, instead of using synthetic hair. Dip it down in oil, and it’ll keep your hair moisturized for your whole sew-in. A lot of people don’t know that you don’t have to use synthetic hair. ... But when you use quality hair, and no chemicals have been used, no itching on the scalp.
Desired Extensions also prides itself on providing a variety of textural options: In addition to offering standard straight, wavy, curly and relaxed textures, the brand stocks both kinky-curly and a tighter kinky-ringlet pattern and also offers custom matches. “If you see that we don’t have a pattern that is your hair pattern, you send us in an image, and we can duplicate that,” Conwell says. “We can duplicate any pattern, in any texture.”
Customized wigs are also an option; they’re available in various cap constructions, which Conwell’s small staff of three will personally demonstrate and model via video chat, giving remote clients as close to a storefront experience as possible. Locally in Atlanta, clients can also book hair parties, where guests can play with Desired Extensions’ product line and get much-needed advice on not only wigs and clip-ins but also protective options and hair-loss prevention. She says:
A lot of people are getting away from sew-ins because they want to be versatile and change up their hair often—if your hair is already braided, all you need is the wig to place on, and that alleviates the stylist. And then also, some people [are] complaining about losing their edges, [because] their braids are too tight; sometimes, you’re getting the same braid pattern.
When [clients] come to me and say that they’re only losing hair around the edges, I always tell them it can be from stress, it can be from medication, and it can be from your stylist braiding your hair straight back on a regular—you’ve been getting your hair braided straight back like that for a year now. You need to change up your braid pattern at least every three months. That helps tremendously.
Education—and comfort—are paramount to Conwell, who even consults with clients who can’t afford to purchase from Desired Extensions. Because in the end, Conwell says, her priority is making women feel beautiful, especially when dealing with hair loss:
I’ve had people call me sometimes, and they say, “Well, you know, I’m unable to afford your hair at this time.” And I educate them on hair: “If you’re going to buy from someone else, this is what you need to look for ... ”
Because when you’re going through an illness—even if you’re not going through an illness, and just want to purchase hair—this is on your head; this is something that you have to wear every day. You want to feel beautiful, and you want to know that you spent your money in the right way. So I try and educate people before they even buy the hair so that you know what you’re buying, and you’re comfortable spending your hard-earned money that you worked for. I try and always make people comfortable.
I’m really easy to talk to, and I understand what people are going through ... everyone is beautiful; there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I have seen it all, and I’m here to help you ... you’re beautiful with or without the hair.