Learn the Hair Types Used in Manufacturing Hair Extensions
Hair extensions can be created from several types of hair including human hair, synthetic hair or a mixture of both.
When selecting hair extensions, you will need to choose from human hair, synthetic hair or a combination of the two. By understanding the benefits of each type of hair, you will be able to pick the right hair extensions for you.
Whether you want hair extensions to help disguise hair loss, add volume to thinning hair or just make a fashion statement, most experts recommend hair extensions created from natural human hair. Human-hair extensions can be washed, colored, styled and otherwise treated like your own hair. Of course, since they are made of human hair, these hair extensions look more authentic than synthetic extensions do.
"We use real 100 percent human hair," says Giovanni Mele, owner of Giovanni & Pileggi salon in Philadelphia. "Most reputable salons use human hair because it looks and feels more realistic and is easier to maintain and care for. Synthetic-hair extensions also are an option but are more limiting in what you can do with them."
The hair for human-hair extensions comes from all around the world. New York City trichologist Elizabeth Cunnane Phillips says, "The most common type of human hair used in extensions tends to be European, followed by Indian and Asian."
European hair is thin and shinny, making it a top choice for hair extensions
. Asian hair can sometimes be too thick, so it is processed and thinned out using chemicals that can damage the hair, resulting in lower-quality extensions. Indian hair is usually similar in structure to the hair from Europe and therefore a popular option.
"Remy hair is the most often used and is the highest-quality hair," says Ron King, L'Oreal Professionnel stylist and spokesman and creator of Ron King Invisi-Tab Hair Extensions. "Remy hair still has the cuticle layer that all flows in the same direction as natural hair would."
Remy hair is often considered the best quality for hair extensions because the cuticles are not stripped. With other types of hair, an acid bath is used, which strips the hair cuticles, and then a layer of silicone is added to give the hair a shiny, smooth look. But the silicone eventually wears off when the hair is washed, causing the hair extensions to get dull, matted and tangled. Preserving the cuticles in Remy hair allows the manufacturer to create beautiful, natural-looking hair extensions that are extremely shiny, silky and soft -- as well as tangle free. Although Remy hair can be found in a variety of places around the globe, Indian Remy hair is the most popular.
In recent years, some concerns have developed about how the human hair in hair extensions is being procured. Horror stories exist about hair being harvested from corpses, young girls in Russia being forced to shave their heads and women in India not knowing their sacrificed hair is being sold by Hindu temples to be used for extensions. Because some of these stories are actually fact and not fiction, the ethics of hair extensions have been called into question.
While many hair extension distributors and manufacturers have developed ethics policies, reportedly only about 25 percent of hair imported into the United States for hair extensions is considered ethical. Because the origins of most hair extensions are untraceable, the only way you can be assured that ethical hair extensions are being attached to your head is by purchasing synthetic-hair extensions.
Synthetic-hair extensions have come a long way over the past decade. Created from synthetic (man-made) fibers, synthetic-hair extensions are far less expensive than their human-hair counterparts. Keep in mind, however, that maintenance costs will be pricier. Synthetic hair can be burned with heated styling tools and can tangle easily if not cared for properly.
For a period of time, some hair extension companies were making hair extensions out of a mix of both human and synthetic hair. Unfortunately, this was not a wise option, since the different hair types demand different care and treatment.
In most cases, to get a realistic, full head of extensions, you should stick with high-quality, ethical human hair. For hairpieces or short-term wear, synthetic hair can look authentic and be a more affordable option.