When buying a dress, many consumers pay little attention to the percentage of cotton the textile contains. But when it comes to hair extensions, consumers tend to zoom in on the percentage of human hair. It is a commonly held belief that 100% human hair is far better than a mixture of human and synthetic hair.
In contrast to this, industry professionals say “100% human hair is not always the best choice.” A chief designer for a hair company known for producing the highest quality Remy hair had this to say about human hair extensions, “Depending on the style, how long you plan to wear, in what type of environment, which methods of styling and so on a proper mix of synthetic hair fiber can do better than 100% human hair.”
100% Human hair extensions work best when a client desires to wear a short to medium length straight hairstyle or a tight, curly style that requires daily maintenance with styling products such as hair gel. (In order to keep the shape of the curl tight and for it to return to its original shape after it has frizzed out, the hair must be able to absorb and release moisture freely.) However, when a client wishes to have long, straight hair or a long, straight style with a small portion of the hair waved, 100% human hair may not be the best choice.
After human hair is collected from a donor the hair must be treated at a factory before it can be used. First, the outer most layer of the hair is removed by a series of acidic chemical agents in order to smooth the surface of the hair; this process also eliminates unwanted residues and microorganisms. Imagine peeling away the outer layer of an onion; the two processes are very similar. After the chemical bath, hair is then bleached and colored. After the hair has gone through all these processes, just like your own hair after being heavily treated, it looses thickness, body and is prone to dryness.
To compensate for this natural result, blending small portions of the synthetic hair fiber or organic protein hair brings an optimal solution. Human hair absorbs moisture from the air in a humid environment, causing any waves created in the morning to loosen by the afternoon. When you wish to establish a longer lasting wave, some portion of the hair extension should be able to repel the moisture and retain the shape of the wave. Man-made synthetic hair does exactly that.
If a proper proportion of different synthetic hair fibers are mixed, they create a supporting frame for the human hair fibers; the hair is then able to retain its style for a much longer period of time. In general, the average consumer is not familiar with the different synthetic hair fibers that are used in the modern market. The fact is that not all synthetic fibers are cheaper than human hair.
- The Cyber hair, for example, was developed by a Japanese company, and is well known for its superior quality and its use in high-end toupees and women’s wigs.
- The Ultima, developed by the Kaneka Corp. of Japan, was originally manufactured using bovine based proteins. Since its structure is recreated to mimic that of human hair it ab-sorbs moisture and curls in a similar manner to human hair. In some aspects it feels better than its human counterpart.
- The Futura, also by Kaneka, is a high-temperature hair fiber that can tolerate high heat styling tools in a similar method to human hair.
Contrary to public belief, these products can be as expensive as or more expensive than processed human hair. While synthetic fiber is used mainly for economic reasons, it is also used because of specialized functions that make it capable of fulfilling the customer’s needs.
Despite these facts, hair companies have failed to educate their consumers and have driven the industry to believe that percentage of human hair is the ultimate standard of quality for hair ex-tension products. Marketing efforts have focused on the purity of human hair as opposed to advocating the advantage of a golden mix of synthetic and human fibers. Eugene Park, the executive vice president of Oradel, a leading wig company, says,
“Our own hair grows in different thicknesses. When you look carefully, one person may have several different thicknesses of hair growing from their scalp. Some are limp; others are strong. The biggest challenges for hair companies are to find that golden ratio of different fibers to mimic our own natural hair according to ever changing hair trends.”
A similar trend occurred in the textile industry quite some time ago. For a while, emphasis was on 100% cotton and marketing strategies played up the quality standard. When consumers started to realize that 100% cotton was not the best for all styles, the focus changed from type of textile alone to type of textile in combination with style. Consumers eventually realized that a blend of cotton and other materials, such as polyester, provided the optimal results.
Recently, an NBC affiliate in Richmond, Virginia, Rachel DePompa, aired a news story titled, “Is your weave faux-real? Bargain weaves may be a hair don’t.” DePompa stated in her report, “…the right hair is human hair. Most human hair extensions fall into two categories: virgin hair, which is completely unprocessed, and Remy hair, which is processed with the cuticles intact. Remy extensions are considered the gold standard, and prices start at more than $100 per pack.”
As the report continued she introduced her investigation,
“Instagram has ads offering Remy hair extensions for less than half the price. Is it too good to be true? Armed with a hidden camera, we visited several beauty and wig stores to see if Remy hair extensions could really be purchased for a fraction of the cost.”
DePompa thought she had struck gold but then found that the extensions for under $20 were not true Remy. While Brandi Covington-Windom, the woman interviewed for the article, stated that “It’s not going to be presentable, so pretty much you’ve wasted your hard-earned money,” we think there’s more to it than that. While the old adage “You get what you pay for” remains, the question of “is the product truly inferior because of human hair percentage” is still on most consumers minds. No, a $20 package of extensions is not likely to look as good as real human hair, but it also won’t look as good as the perfect blend. It’s common sense that as the quality of a product increases so does the price. It’s the same with cars: there are luxury cars, but there are also economy cars that are luxurious. In line with that, there are some hair products that are luxury products, and there are some that are economical but still have luxurious qualities. One company executive said, “We try our best to make Remy-like quality hair at a price range the consumer can afford.”
There are different purposes for every product, and the longer lasting, higher quality products are going to be more expensive. However, it is possible to get good quality, long lasting hair with a blend. Depending on your style, real human hair may not look as good as the perfect blend. A frustrated beauty store owner, who wished not to reveal her name, had this to say on the topic and on DePompas article,
“Even though reports as such may dampen our desire to promote the hair extension market, Rachel’s report is based on the facts and is mostly right. I really wish hair companies, retailers and hairstylists [would] help consumers to turn their focus from 100% human hair to each unique function of [a] hair extension product.”
What the debate comes down to is that, just like in the textile industry, there are different materials that work best for different styles, and sometimes it’s best to mix it up.