Real vs. synthetic hair extensions: does the difference really matter?
As the world of hair extensions continues to grow, so do the varieties of materials used for hair extensions, and available styles. What once triggered a vision of a 2000s pop darling at the VMAs rocking very obviously fake hair pieces, has now given way to modern, high fashion hair extensions that blend seamlessly with natural hair. In fact, many celebrities, influencers, and TikTok superstars wear hair extensions as an addition to their everyday look
Human hair vs. synthetic hair: does it really matter?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is yeeeeeees. And here’s why:
Human hair extensions are made from a variety of types of human hair, from Asian to Indian to European. Although there are different grades of human hair depending on how the hair has been collected, treated, and sorted, for the sake of this article we will talk about remy human hair as this is the most affordable and most common type of human hair used for hair extensions, wigs, and other hair pieces.
What is remy human hair?
Remy hair refers to hair of which the cuticle (outermost layer) has been kept intact, not stripped, and aligned in one direction. This process ensures that the hair will remain smooth, shiny, and relatively tangle-free throughout its lifetime. The hair is chemically treated at a facility for color, however, for the most part, the integrity of the hair remains. This type of hair is the most desirable as it is literally made of the same material as natural hair—keratin. This not only achieves the most natural blend, but also has many more advantages below.
What is synthetic hair?
Synthetic hair extensions are made from a variety of artificial materials and contain no human hair at all. They can be made from acrylic, nylon, or polyesters, which are heated and sent through tiny micro tubes to mimic the look and feel of hair strands. Because synthetic hair is made from artificial material, it may never truly look like human hair, can be stiff or move differently, have an unnatural shine, and be more noticeable as a hair piece.
How do I know if I am purchasing synthetic hair from another company?
Synthetic hair extensions may be referred to as:
Vegan synthetic fiber from Japan
100% high heat synthetic fibers
NextGen faux fiber
These are all just fancy ways of sake “fake fibers.” You may also find that some companies taut their synthetic hair extensions as heat resistant, however, unless using very low heat, synthetic hair extensions cannot be heat styled as they will damage quickly. Be sure to read the fine print
How much do synthetic hair extensions cost?
The main advantage of synthetic hair extensions is their low price tag. Since these extensions are made from plastics and other artificially processed materials, they are a low cost to produce. Buyer beware, however. Although synthetic hair extensions are inexpensive, they will need to be replaced more often than human hair extensions and may cost you more in the long run.
Human hair extensions can cost more than synthetic hair extensions, however, the investment in higher quality extensions that last longer and look better is certainly worth it.
How long do synthetic hair extensions last?
The average lifespan of synthetic hair extensions is 1-3 months, while the average lifespan of human hair extensions can be up to a year or longer, depending on how they are used and cared for.
Can I heat style synthetic hair extensions?
No. With synthetic hair extensions, what you see is what you get. Some hair extensions come pre-styled with curls or waves, and you are limited to this style. If heat is applied onto synthetic hair, it will melt and damage. While there are some synthetic fibers that can withstand higher temperatures, this is still not comparable to the real thing.
Because human hair extensions are made with, well, human hair, it can be styled just like you would your natural hair with a curling iron, hot rollers, straightener, beach waver, and more!
How versatile are they?
Not very. Because you are unable to heat style synthetic hair extensions, you will be limited to wear them as they come.
Can I use styling products on them?
No. Product buildup is one of the main issues that cause hair extensions to matte and tangle. While human hair extensions can be washed to remove this buildup, synthetic hair cannot. Using styling products on synthetic hair extensions will cut their lifespan down significantly and is not recommended.
Can I dye synthetic hair extensions?
No. Synthetic hair extensions are made with plastics, nylons, polyesters or other fake fibers that cannot be chemically treated. They will most likely fall apart in your hands if dyed.
Human hair extensions, on the other hand, can be dyed darker to suit any changes to your natural hair color. They can also be dyed balayage, ombre, or other fashion colors like pinks, pastels, and more!
Do they look natural?
Not really. While technology has come a long way and some synthetic hair extensions may look close to the real thing, upon closer inspection, they will look different than your natural hair. Also, once the extensions begin to wear out after a few wears, they will become even more noticeably fake.