When I originally wrote this article, I had a pair of Karina Interlocking free standing hair combs in tortoise brown, snugly nestled on either side of a messy French Twist bun at the back of my head.
Until Karina stopped producing them a few years back, I wore the Karina Interlocking combs for years. I loved them for my own medium thick, naturally curly/wavy hair.
Note: Karina interlocking combs are now officially out of production. Similar combs are available from Camila.
Besides interlocking combs I also adore all types of Condor clips, banana or tong clips and assorted jaws, claws and alligator style clips, but because of the nature of my hair condor clips do not hold my hair as flat to my head as combs.
Many times I will resort to a big fat bun held in place by a giant claw or jaw. While the style works for me, I feel at times like a space alien with a big knob on the back of my head.
The beauty of the old Karina Interlocking combs is that they hold my hair twists very snugly to the back of my head giving me a more human appearance.
Pilot Error Challenges
Which is why I have spent some time experimenting with every type of interlocking combs that we sell at HairBoutique.com
Although the vast majority of our customers who buy the Karina Interlocking combs love them and buy more, a very small number of HairBoutique.com customers have emailed us or called to report that they are "defective because they do not lock when placed in their hair".
The first time I heard this feedback in an email, I was alarmed and immediately had a HairBoutique.com customer care rep go through the Karina storage bin and try to lock all of the combs.
Every single set fit together perfectly they way they were designed to interconnect with the teeth forming the connection between the two combs. Whew. I was relieved.
Anyone who knows me or shops with HairBoutique.com knows that we make every effort to only sell the best hair accessories we can find, at the best values.
So while the vast majority of customers loved and raved about the combs, every once in awhile we still would receive phone or email feedback that the combs didn't "lock".
Which raised the question whether the product was defective or if the problem was based in how the combs were applied to the individual wearer's tresses.
Even more puzzling, did this mean that the interlocking combs only work on some lengths, types and textures of hair or again, did it mean that the style was a factor? (Shown to the side, Karina Square hinged hair comb in tort.
After subjecting some of the folks at HairBoutique.com with different hair lengths and textures to a random locking comb test it was discovered that the Karina Interlocking Combs work for many types of hair. Although some of the test subjects were initially guys, they were all good sports about the comb testing because they knew how frustrated I had become with this entire topic.
One of the male customer service reps even admitted that he personally preferred the Karina version of the combs to the Camila version because as he pointed out "the Karina version is lighter and more comfortable against the back of the head". (Camila free standing Interlocking combs in tort).
The HairBoutique.com customer care rep in question has medium textured hair with a slight wave. His hair falls to the top of his shoulders and he wears it in a ponytail. (Camila free standing Interlocking combs in black).
I put the Karina combs into his hair by first forming a loose twist. The combs locked strongly and held in his hair for several hours nonstop. Although he was looking a little sheepish about the combs in his hair, he also told me that they felt "really comfortable" and "were holding tightly".
I personally think the Camila combs are nice but they are bigger and bulkier than the Karina combs because of the ridge along the bridge of the comb and I find them less comfortable against my head. However, many who test the Karina combs with the Camilla combs find that the teeth on the Camilla Interlocking combs are spaced much closer together and thus lock much tighter in the hair.
Besides being larger, having teeth that are closer together and having a bigger, more pronounced comb bridge, the Camilla models are more expensive at $9.00 per pair.
Interlocking Comb Mysteries Unraveled
Not only did I personally purchase and try out all of the various interlocking combs that HairBoutique.com currently sells (Karina, Camilla, France Luxe), I required several of the employees to test and wear the combs as well.
I also asked one of the wives of a HairBoutique.com employee to try all the different interlocking combs in her very curly, medium length hair.
Although she's admitted a preference for the combs that are physically hinged together at one end, she has also confirmed that she has been able to wear both the Karina Interlocking and Camilla combs in her hair for many hours at a time.
Note: Please note that HairBoutique.com only sells brand new, unworn hair accessory items.
Any items used in the testing of this product were purchased specifically for testing purposes and the items in question will not be resold through HairBoutique.com's Marketplace.
Every type of both free form and connected interlocking comb we sell were tested by a variety of people and heads. The results were interesting and enlightening from a number of viewpoints.
Key Challenges With Interlocking Combs
Since there is a very wide range of hair types, lengths and textures here at HairBoutique.com, we finally figured out that there are basically two key challenges with the combs.
1. Learning how to use and wear the combs properly, including creating a compatible hair style for the combs to lock onto. 2. Identifying the most compatible hair lengths, types, textures and styles to work best with the combs.
Interlocking Comb Definition
Although they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and styles, there are basically two types of interlocking combs.
Maybe interlocking is not the right description which may cause some of the problems. Maybe they should be called interwoven or interconnected.
Although the combs snugly "lock" together in my hair, maybe it is better to call them something other than interlocking since they don't have a key and they are not fused together physically.
I have always called them interlocking combs because that is what Karina and the other manufacturers like Goody call them.
Note: Over the years versions of free form, no hinged, interlocking combs have been available at various times from from Karina, Goody, Camilla, Caravan and even France Luxe.
Free Form Interlocking Combs
There are the free form combs that consist of a set of two combs that are not attached in any way to each other. The freeform style of combs operate on the principle that the teeth of the individual combs will make contact with each other, forming a sandwich around the strands "locking" or "interconnecting" the combs in place into the hair.
In essence the combs are designed to have enough width between the teeth so that hair will snuggle between the teeth on each side of a matching comb and form a type of "comb lock" around the hair.
Hinged Or Fused Interlocking Combs
The other types of interlocking combs actually are fused together at one end by means of a small round metal rivet that acts as a type of "hinge" to hold the combs together.
The hinged combs are easier to use since each side of the comb is already positioned by means of hinge. The free form combs like those combs from Karina are much harder to use and do take some practice.
Although the free form combs do work for many people based on the hundreds of happy customers that have bought the Karina combs over the years, they do not work for some people.
Just like hairsticks will not work for some people and some types of hair slides won't work for others, not all hair accessories will work for all type of hair.
Some people have reported that while they have used Goody, Karina and Camila free form combs, they have a preference for one specific brand.
Learning To Wear The Combs Properly
The first challenge is learning to use the combs properly. I will be the first one to tell you that it takes a little practice to learn to position them snugly against that head and get the teeth positioned so that they lock together in harmony with the hair.
My own hair is approximately 5 inches below my waist, medium thick and naturally wavy. It is also chemically highlighted which makes the texture rougher and a little wiry. I have found also that the combs work best on my hair when it is not freshly washed and more slippery.
When my hair is one or two days past shampoo day the combs work fantastically for me.
Although I have worn the combs as top to bottom brackets around a big chunk of hair, I have found that the combs intermingle tightest, feel the most comfortable and look the best when I position them to the side of a messy French twist or loop of hair in the middle of my head.
Compatible Hair Lengths, Types & Textures
Although every tester was always able to get the combs to lock in their hair, testers with hair that was shorter than the top of the shoulders had a harder time keeping the combs locked tightly into their hair.
(Shown above, hinged Camila locking comb in denim hue).
Conversely, all of the testers with shoulder length or longer hair not only had an easier time putting the combs into their hair, but keeping them in for extended periods of time.
The testers with super soft, slippery, fine or thin locks had the most challenging time with the combs.
As a result of the testing of the combs I would not recommend that anyone with chin length or shorter strands try the free form interlocking combs like the Karina or the two versions of the Camilla.
This is also the case with fine, thin, or overly soft or slippery tresses. I would absolutely NOT recommend these free form combs for anyone with fine, thin or slippery locks.
For shorter, fine, slippery or softer strands if you have your heart set on trying locking combs I would recommend the smaller locking combs like those made by Camilla.
(Shown to the side, larger version of Camila locking comb in light tort hue).
Someone with shoulder length or longer strands that are fine, thin or stick straight might do better with the larger version of the locking comb.
Please keep in mind that the difference between free form interlocking combs like the Karina and the locking combs is that the Camilla locking style combs have a permanent joint at the bottom of the comb that helps to anchor the combs in the hair.
(Shown above - 4 1/2" version of the Camila hinged locking comb).
Ironically, while I find the Karina free standing interlocking combs perfect for my medium thick, super long, wavy tresses, I could not wear the small locking combs. They did not fit around my thicker wad of locks.
The larger Camilla locked comb did fit and hold well but was not as comfortable on my head as the Karina. (Shown to the side above - Camilla hinged locking comb in Nautica theme colors).
Comparison Of Combs
The Karina combs retail at $5.50 for a set. Although the Karina combs are made in France, they are made by pouring liquid plastic into a special mold. Hair accessories made by the mode injection method are designed to be functional but inexpensive.
Karina targets their entire line of hair accessories towards the "bargain range" of hair accessories. They do not try to hide the fact that they are inexpensive and made with cheaper plastics.
Hair accessories like those made by France Luxe and Laurent Olivier are hand made from beginning to end. They are also much more expensive and have a completely different look and feel to them. France Luxe hair combs are made from the highest quality of all natural cellulose sheets.
Each France Luxe comb is hand cut from a pre-drawn pattern from the cellulose sheets. Once the comb is cut from the sheet, it is then hand crafted through a series of refinement and polishing steps until it is finished.
A injection mold accessory like those from Karina takes mere minutes to create while a hand crafted piece like France Luxe accessories can take days to finish. As a result the cost of an injection mold piece versus a hand crafted piece will be radically different.
You Get What You Pay For
Karina hair accessories were created to fill a certain need and market. Many people, myself included, wear casual or inexpensive hair accessories that cost $3-6 around the house, while gardening or running errands. They switch the top of the line versions for special events or evening affairs.
Karina does not pretend to offer anything but what it does. The prices tell the entire story. A $5.50 set of two Karina Interlocking combs will not have the same quality, thickness, polish or precision as an $18.00 France Luxe comb. In fact, to buy two France Luxe combs would cost $36.00 compared to the $5.50 for the set of Karina combs.
Why my fascination and frustration with interlocking hair combs? Because they are one of the most challenging hair accessories that either I or HairBoutique.com have ever had to deal with. It used to be that hairsticks were the big challenge. Customers would buy them by the boatload and then complain that the hairsticks were defective because they did not work in their hair.
After we switched to selling the Mei Fa version of hairsticks that has a miniature instruction card, the "user error" concerns completely disappeared. Just as I was relaxing into the comfort of having solved the pesky hair stick usage dilemma we started experiencing random and similar issues with Interlocking Combs.
Don't Drink The Coffee If It's Too Hot
A good friend of mine used to manage a fast food restaurant that sold coffee. Because the bulk of the customers insisted on scalding hot coffee, the restaurant served it that way. They also posted signs all over the restaurant that warned about the really hot coffee. In essence the signs warned customers NOT to buy the scalding hot coffee if there was a risk that they might burn themselves.
HairBoutique.com has encountered the same problems with these Interlocking Combs. Although the vast majority of our customers love the combs and ask that we carry them, the very few customers that have problems putting them into their hair, or have hair not well suited for the combs, are warned carefully NOT to buy the combs.
Not only do warn our customers about the risks of buying the combs, we specifically post that the combs are non-returnable.
Why? For a long time we would give the customers the benefit of the doubt that the combs were defective and take the combs back. Ultimately we discovered that a few people claimed the combs were "defective" when in reality they did not have hair that was compatible with free form combs. Unfortunately the only way that they could try the combs was to put them into their hair to try them out.
The bad news? Once hair accessories are worn, health codes prevent us from being able to resell them.
Thus when a customer returned the combs they had already been worn. And even more unfortunately, when tested, the combs were 100% functional as they were designed to be worn. HairBoutique.com lost money on every set of returned combs.
My first thought about the combs, to avoid having any unhappy customers, or mounting financial losses, was to completely stop selling the interconnecting combs. We removed them from our store for several weeks. Instantly we were contacted by email and phone by many long time customers who were desperate to find the combs again.
After explaining the dilemma to one customer on the phone she advised me to definitely restock the combs but post a very clear warning and a no-return policy on the combs. That way, if people wanted to take a risk, it was their choice.
While I would love to say that my original customer had a brilliant idea, there are still random challenges. Every once in awhile, even with the posted comb warnings, someone will buy the combs, try them and not like them, which is one of the risks we specifically warn against.
Recently a woman from Georgia sent an ongoing stream of sarcastic emails over a set of the interlocking combs, which makes me wonder if she gets any work done at her real job, or prefers to have her company pay her to obsess about a $5.50 purchase instead.
Interlocking Combs consist of two combs in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors that may or may not be attached to each other. Depending on the length, texture and type of your hair, Interlocking Combs may or may not be a feasible hair accessory for everyone to wear.
Interlocking Combs are a fabulous hair accessory when worn with the proper hairstyles but can be a very challenging option when worn with hair that is too short, too fine or too thin.
- Revised Publication Date: 12/06/11