The winning Extension Specialist of the Year Look

Fresh from her win at Salon International, we caught up with Helen Richardson of The Butterfly Effect Hair in Louth, Lincolnshire to see just how it’s sinking in and to get the details on her creation.

What made you enter the competition? 
I felt like it was a good year to enter and I had a lot of encouragement from family, friends and my clients. I’ve never entered a competition before but I really wanted the challenge and having seen how it was run for the last 2 years I was comfortable with what I needed to do.

What was the inspiration for your look?
I’m a Game of Thrones and braid addict so it made sense to channel Khalessi – I love her braids.

What were the main challenges for you in creating this look?  
Firstly making sure the tubes were hidden well and then getting the braids even and symmetrical. The time constraint was worrying me a little.  I’m a perfectionist and whilst I create a lot of plaits I had not had much opportunity to practice on my model’s hair as she lives so far away.

So how did you create it?
My model was my hair bestie Sarah Louise of Too Perfect so we used her own-brand of hair extensions.   I went over on Saturday to hers and applied a full head of 150 strands in 20” in her Tiny Tubes range, colours 10, 14 and 22 blending throughout. I alternate the colours take a row at a time and see how it looks as I continue through the application. I love this application method as it can easily be re-fitted, they are comfortable to wear and a hit with most of my clients, so I was really confident to use them here.

Before During After

Once applied I cut and blended then, layered around the front to frame her face and added a small graduation from her natural hair to the ends of the extensions - extensions are cut differently to natural hair so I was scared about this part being checked and knew I had to spend extra time on this to get it right.

As we only applied the day before, Sarah’s hair was fresh so I only needed to spritz it with a heat defense before setting to work on the braids. Working from the top right with the first three-strand braid into the centre and gently teasing the hair to be pancaked to make it bigger and flat to the head. Replicating on the other side to then join up in the centre and checking the tiny tubes were concealed.

With small clear elastic bands to hold the plait, I then pinned the two braids together and wrapped some hair around to hide the elastic and pins. I then added more hair from behind and did a very loose braid straight down the middle, again tying with a small clear elastic.

I then brought the two bottom braids from the sides to the middle and joined it all together taking out the extra elastics and then wrapping a small section of hair around it to conceal them again to look pretty and finished.

The look was completed with cascading waves down the free flowing hair created with my favourite tool – the Nicky Clarke Diamond Shine Wand, before finishing off by tweaking small areas to make sure the tubes were covered, the braids were even and finishing off with some Wella hairspray.

What were the finals like? Exciting and scary.   Having some of the best in the business check over my work was daunting and when I saw the HJ stage for the first time, I nearly had a panic attack. I love a challenge and I certainly gave myself one by making sure I complete my finished look in the allocated time.

I had a lot of support there on the day, with my two salon girls Tayla & Leanne, my friend Annabel and my mum – all cheering me on!

Extension Specialist of the Year in competition area


What were the judges looking at and asked you about? The judges all asked about the method I used and why I had chosen it.  They checked my cut and asked about colours I had used and why.

How does it feel to be crowned this year’s winner? I still can’t believe it I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I’m totally shocked and on cloud nine - it’s amazing!   My daughter wanted to take the trophy to school to show and tell bless her! ❤️❤️   The trophy is currently in my home salon next to a gorgeous bunch of flowers bought by my husband, Jason, for when I got home.

My amazing flowers and my award and the cutest little card from my own little princess ❤️😍😍

A post shared by Helen Richardson (@helenbutterflyhairrichie) on

I’ve had some lovely messages from everyone – fellow finalists, other extensionsist and of course my friends and clients – it’s a little over whelming!

What does this mean for you in the future?  I can’t wait to open my new salon at the end of the month.   This is my new challenge and something I have been planning a while - the shop is coming together nicely.   Keep your eyes peeled over on social we’ve posted some sneak peeks already.

Most of my salon work is hair extensions and the odd plait in finished looks when I get chance, so I can only see more of this.

I’m really looking forward to judging the entries next year!

If you could offer some words of advise why should someone enter next year?   What tips would you give them from your experience? Give it a go. I never in a million years thought I would win! It was a brilliant experience and I would definitely do it again. And I would tell people to get creative. Look outside of the box and be daring. Let your creative juices flow.

Helen Richardson Final Look

Follow Helen on Facebook and Instagram to see more of her work.


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