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Synthetic Vs. Human Hair Extensions

by
author image Pamela VanderWerf
Pamela VanderWerf is a writer and editor with experience in public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism. She graduated from Indiana-Purdue University and resides in Los Angeles, where she writes on design, health, consumer issues, fashion, lifestyle and real estate, among other topics.
Synthetic Vs. Human Hair Extensions
Hair extensions take tresses to the next level. Photo Credit Ralf Nau/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Hair extensions can transform even the finest and shortest locks into lush, luxurious tresses, and long, flowing, celebrity-style hair is no longer found only on celebrities -- it can be seen on women from all walks of life. Whether the hair is synthetic or human, extensions provide volume, length and undeniable glamour. While hair extensions may be applied either at home or attached in a salon environment, the key decision is whether to opt for the synthetic or human hair product.

A Global Marketplace

Human hair destined for hair extensions is obtained from many different countries, including Russia, China, Brazil, Peru and Malaysia. Human hair is classified as Remy for its uniform quality, with strands all facing the same directions, and it is defined as virgin if the strands have not been colored or permed. Hindu temples in India are an important source of human hair, with devotees donating their tresses as part of religious rituals. Because of the high cost of human hair, synthetic hair extensions have emerged to fill the budget gap, and these man-made beauty products are now designed, manufactured and sold in countries around the globe.

The Real Deal

Human hair extensions are the first choice of professional stylists, as the hair is natural looking and can be both colored and styled to meet a client’s preference. A more expensive option than synthetic extensions, human hair extensions offer greater versatility and require greater care. This hair can be styled with a blow-dryer, curling iron, hot roller or ceramic straightener, and styling products can be used as well. Gentle washing and conditioning is required, and human hair will last a year or more with the proper treatment. Clip-ons are removed for sleep, while salon applications using glue, thread or heat remain in place for several weeks.

Fabulous Fakes

Synthetic hair extensions are the first choice for many women, as they are affordable, long-lasting and low maintenance. Created from plastic fibers, these extensions are created in straight or curly styles and require little upkeep to maintain the look, which will not be affected by humidity or rain. The style is baked into the synthetic fiber, which generally provides a less natural-looking texture, look and feel than human hair does. Synthetic hair can become matted if washed or slept in, and it cannot be dyed, so color matching is important when purchasing extensions. Most synthetic hair products cannot be heat styled with curling irons or blow-dryers without damaging or melting the hair, but new technologies are being introduced that can withstand heat to a certain degree.

Real or Faux

Whether you choose clip-in extensions or opt to have a salon professionally attach your new hair for a semi-permanent style, both synthetic and human hair options are available for these applications. Synthetic clip-ins are quick to apply and fall at the low end of the pricing scale, while a full head of human hair locks professionally affixed in the salon is a lengthy, expensive process. To decide which product is best for you, consider your lifestyle needs, then examine style, length, method of application and budget constraints.

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