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Natural Human Hair vs Synthetic Hair Extensions

Real human hair extensions are the best type of hair extensions since they look and feel natural, and can also be treated very much like your own hair. Synthetic hair generally looks fake, feels unnatural, and cannot be treated and styled in the same way as human hair, since it will not react in the same way. Essentially, synthetic hair is plastic and will melt under high temperatures, and therefore hairdryers and straightening irons cannot be used.

However in terms of quality, the common misconception that people make is that all human hair extensions are the same. Many people believe that if hair extensions are made from human hair, then the hair must be of good quality. However, this is not the case. Real human hair extensions vary massively in terms of quality, and therefore hair labelled ‘100% human hair extensions’ can be very misleading as it certainly doesn’t indicate that the hair will be of high quality.

The quality of the extension hair plays a large part in determining whether or not the extensions will look real and will also effect the way the hair feels, the way it moves, the way it falls, how it behaves, and ultimately how long the hair lasts. The finest quality hair comes from Russia and Europe.

Remy hair is a term which is often confused in the hair extensions industry. The term originally referred to the process of sorting raw hair into same direction to ensure wigs remained tangle-free. Nowadays the term usually refers to hair that has been collected from ponytail cuttings, where the cuticles remain intact and are aligned in the same direction from root to tip. Remy hair is also known as ‘cuticle correct hair’. However, the term ‘remy’ is widely misused in the industry and hair is often labelled as remy when it is not. This makes it very difficult for the consumner to know exactly what they are buying.

Types of Human Hair Extensions

Unprocessed Non-Remy Hair: POOREST QUALITY

Non-remy hair is the most common type of human hair available, and is usually collected in Asia. It is also known as ‘fallen hair’, ‘brushed hair’ or ‘combings’. Many women in China and India gather hair from their hair brushes and sell it to hair collectors. Hair is also gathered from salon floors. The roots and tips are all mixed up in non-remy hair, and therefore tangling is a problem (to learn more please read about Human Hair Structure).

There are two types of non-remy hair – ‘unprocessed non-remy hair’ and ‘processed non-remy hair’ (see below). With unprocessed non-remy hair (left), the cuticles are still present, but because the hair is aligned in different directions, the hair is prone to constant tangling. It is extremely difficult to brush, and even after brushing the hair will continue to tangle. This is the cheapest and lowest grade of human hair extensions.

Processed Non-Remy Hair: LOW QUALITY

This hair is subjected to intense chemically processing to reduce friction and tangling. The hair is stripped of its cuticle by initially soaking it in an acid bath. This causes the hair loses its shine and vitality, so the hair is then coated in silicon oil. Unfortunately this gives the hair a synthetic feel and an unnatural shine (rather like doll’s hair).

At first the hair feels soft and silky, but as soon as the hair is washed the silicon begins to wash out, and the hair quickly loses its sheen, and becomes dull, dry, rough and brittle. The hair is now exposed, revealing remnants of the destroyed cuticle, which inevitably causes the hair to tangle and mat. Every wash will worsen this condition, and very quickly the hair begins to take on a consistency similar to horse hair.

Indian Remy Hair: MEDIUM QUALITY

Indian Remy Hair is considered medium grade hair. It still has its cuticles intact and the roots and tips are aligned in the same direction. Indian Remy hair is usually regarded as highly ethical as much of the hair is collected from Hindu Temples where woman, children and sometimes even men have their hair shaved in prayer or as a sacrifice to God. The Temple then sells the hair and the money that is made is funnelled back into the local community.

Indian hair can often be quite coarse in texture, and is naturally very dark in colour. Therefore the hair is usually processed to soften the texture, and it is difficult to produce blonde colours without the hair deteriorating in quality. The minimal amount of processing the hair has, the better the quality.

European Hair: HIGH QUALITY

European Hair is very high quality hair. Genuine European hair should not be confused with hair labelled as ‘Euro Hair’ or ‘European Style’, which is actually lower quality hair that has been heavily processed to appear like European hair. European hair usually comes from Southern European countries such as Italy and Spain. The hair is collected by taking raw ponytail cuttings, ensuring that the cuticles of the hair are correctly aligned. It is beautifully glossy, extremely soft, fine in texture, and usually naturally wavy. Besides colouring the hair to produce a wider range of colours, it is left unprocessed and remains in its natural, healthy condition.

Dyed Russian Hair: HIGH QUALITY

This exceptionally high quality hair comes from Eastern Europe. It is naturally very straight, beautifully silky, very strong and extremely durable. Naturally this hair is very dark but is specially dyed to produce a wide range of colours. It is very similar to our Virgin Russian hair, the main difference being that this hair is pre-dyed and is slightly heavier and denser per strand.

Virgin Russian Hair: BEST QUALITY

Virgin Russian hair is undoubtedly the finest hair in the world. Diet, genetics and climatic factors all contribute to this hair being the most beautiful hair in the world. It is incredibly soft, shiny and very silky. The hair is collected by taking raw ponytail cuttings, ensuring that the cuticles of the hair are correctly aligned. The hair comes from the Cold Siberian regions and Northern territories of Russia and remains in its raw, purist state – it has never been coloured or chemically treated in any way. All the colours are natural and it is available straight or naturally wavy. This hair is rare but very sought after. Very few hair extension artists use it because genuine Russian hair is extremely difficult to source.

Differences Between Low Quality & High Quality Human Hair

Many salons that offer hair extensions use lower quality hair because it is cheaper, and it allows them to offer hair extensions at relatively low prices to attract customers. Unfortunately however, the truth is that cheap hair extensions are a false economy, since not only do they lack quality but they do not last. At best they are only suitable for temporary clip-in hair extensions. They are certainly not suitable for more permanent types of hair extensions, since the quality of the hair deteriorates so quickly that is would need replacing regularly.

It is important to be mindful of hair extensions advertised at very low prices, because undoubtedly the hair will be of low quality. This is fine so long as the customer understands exactly what they will be getting and is not concerned with the longevity and condition of the hair extensions.

Good hair suppliers are also hard to find, which is another reason why many salons use low quality hair.

In China there are over 600 hair extension factories, where very often low grade human hair is stripped and heavily processed to make it feel finer and softer, and then labelled as ‘European Style’ or ‘Euro Hair’. Companies use these labels to mislead consumers into believing that they are buying a higher quality product than it actually is.

Due to this type of hair being so widely available, many people have come to expect that this is the normal and accepted standard for human hair extensions and that all extension hair is the same. However, if you have tried both low grade and high grade human hair extensions before, you will know that there is a distinct difference in quality.

The cost of human hair varies for a reason, and ultimately you do get what you pay for. The best quality hair is expensive but is well worth the investment as it looks and feels real, is incredibly soft and beautiful, it lasts so much longer and can be reused for multiple reapplications, therefore making it much better value.

How To Spot Poor Quality Hair

It is much easier to detect poor quality hair after the installation, as through wear, regular washing and styling, the condition of the hair will rapidly deteriorate. It is difficult to spot poor quality hair before it has been installed, because initially the hair feels soft and silky. However, here are a few things to look out for:

  • The FEEL – it feels unnaturally silky, similar to doll’s hair
  • The LOOK – hair tapers towards the tips (single drawn) and has an unnatural shine
  • The SMELL – the hair has a synthetic, plastic smell – it smells ‘manufactured’
  • The LABEL – the hair is labelled as ‘European Style’ or ‘Euro Hair’
  • The PRICE – cheap hair is a sure indication of poor quality hair