Hair extensions might seem like a new invention but in reality hair additions have been around as far back as the Egyptian times when both men and women work wigs. Since then hair pieces have been in and out of fashion ever since.
In 1800 fake hair was frowned upon and women left their hair to be natural until the Romantic era was in full swing when women wore elaborate Apollo knots. Come the mid Victorian era and hair pieces were used a lot more extensively. Then strangely in the early 20th century Edwardian women wore false hair additions to create the pompadour hairstyle which looked like a woman was wearing a teapot on her head. How that became fashionable I don’t really know!
Around the 1920’s less hair was the big thing so hair pieces took a dive around that time and it wasn’t until the 1940s when long hair came back into fashion and women starting indulging again. Then in the 1960’s big hair was back with a vengeance. Coils were the in thing or the updo as better known to us were seen of many women, this was created by very extravagant human hair pieces. Willow Grove Wigs made from real or fake hair were commonly worn around this time too and carried on into the early 70’s. Come the 80’s and big hair was in but only natural hair. Famous singers wore wigs but that was about it.
You see them everywhere; they allow celebrities to go from short hair to greater lengths in an instant. Some look awful while others blend so well that no one would ever suspect; but have you ever wondered where the hair used in extensions comes from? Is it from human sources? What kind of process does it go through before it is attached as an extension? This article will address some of these questions and offer a couple of other insights into the world of the hair extension industry that may interest the average, information seeking, consumer.
First, we should establish that there are many companies that send buyers out to acquire hair for hair extensions and, without sounding biased to one brand or the other, I will just say this... not all hair extensions are created equal, so, buyer beware!
There are three basic categories of hair that is used for hair extensions.
• Synthetic - Hair made from synthetic fibers that are less likely to tangle with your natural hair but is very susceptible to melting due to heat from hot dryers and irons.
• Animal - In particular, the animal hair that is widely used for extensions comes from the under-belly of the Yak. It is claimed that this type of hair, because of its texture and look, has the most suitable structure for use as a match for chemically relaxed and treated African-Ethnic hair. One major drawback is that from there are those who will experience or develop allergic reactions to the Yak hair.
• Human - This hair may come from a variety of geographical regions. A word of caution: There are companies that will claim that the product you are receiving is from a human source but on final analysis, it may be shown to contain animal hair or synthetic fibers, as well. The reason this is allowed to occur is due to the technicality that if a collection of hair joined to form an extension strand contains at least one human strand in the mix, by legal standards it can be marketed as human. So, when researching where your particular extensions come from, always make sure that you are guaranteed that what you are buying is 100% human hair.
Now that we have categorized what the basic types of hair extensions are made of, we can look a little further into how the human hair, used in hair extensions, is collected.
Human hair collected for extensions can be categorized as:
• Remy: Meaning that all the hairs still have their cuticle layers intact with each strand faced in the same direction (this creates a natural fall to the extension, keeps tangling to a minimum, and allows light reflectivity for shine). Ideally the donor of this type of hair has a long braid cut from their head so as to preserve the quality of the cuticle layers following the same direction. Because of the care taken when gathering Remy hair, it tends to be more expensive to purchase but is the most desirable and suitable hair to use.
• Non-Remy: Cuticle layers are not aligned in the same directional flow. These strands are usually collected as naturally shed, fallen hair that is collected from hairbrushes. As you can imagine, this confused mixture of hair is very prone to tangling and matting due to the cuticle layers of the individual hairs not following in the same directions. To rectify this, these hairs are often subjected to acid treatments that remove the cuticle layers from the hair shafts, leaving behind a product that is weakened and dull looking. A silicone is then added to the hair to make the dull, stripped hair shinier. Over time this silicone erodes and washes away, leaving the Non-Remy tresses in their post-chemically treated, compromised condition. Being of lesser quality, this hair is less cost prohibitive than that of Remy hair but typically, produces a less desirable result.
Hopefully, I've shed a bit of light on where hair extension hair comes from, how it's processed, and created a platform where those of you that may be interested in getting an expert hair extension service performed will be able to make thoughtful decisions about the products that are used on your head.
The History of Willow Grove
As a Hairdresser and specializing in the Trading of Hair and Application of Extensions, I found that hair quality and the origin of donors is of the utmost of importance to determine quality. The quality of your hair extension hair will determine whether or not they look real, and how long the hair lasts. Please note, the following regions detail the process used to match hair extensions for people of Caucasian origin.
There are a large number of hair extension artists claiming to use virgin Russian hair for many hundreds even thousands of dollars, when in actual fact they are selling good quality European hair sourced from donors with origins in South America, Italy, Eurasian etc . This hairs cuticle has been harshly processed to strip out the very thick texture and dark colour pigments. To mimic western hair (Caucasian), the hair is re-tinted using fabric colours not hair colours to achieve the desired shade.
Hair sourced from donors of Indian, Asian and Chinese donors is a very course hair strand and grows naturally very dark and very straight. The hair is processed using the same method as European hair only more harshly. The pigments are stripped back to nothing then a short lasting silicon coating is added for a more realistic texture. For this reason Asian hair is usually the cheapest and most unnatural looking hair available on the market only lasting for the short term.
Raw Virgin Russian Hair
Raw virgin Russian hair has NEVER been chemically treated and is Caucasian hair so the cuticle is not processed and stripped unlike Asian and European hair. The hair reacts beautifully to salon products and remains silky even after lighting and colouring. Raw virgin Russian hair is widely known as the "creme de la creme" of hair and of the finest quality. The hair not only looks the most natural but also last for years not months. Russian hair is softer, finer and more compatible with western hair allowing the hair move naturally with more volume which means less extensions and less potential damage to your own hair.
Due to the scarce nature of sourcing raw virgin Russian hair the initial cost can be significantly more than European and Asian hair. People only compare prices directly, however volume and durability should also be an important consideration. You may find that over the long term you can purchase raw virgin Russian hair for the same price as Asian or European hair when allowing for how long the hair will last and how many extensions you need. Chemically treated hair is flat and lifeless needing more hair to produce the same affect as non treated hair. In addition to volume, raw virgin Russian hair will last for years not months so the only cost is the cost a hair extension artist will charge for uplifting the extensions. Many well known brands do not offer uplifting due to the poor quality and durability of the product they use. If hair extension artists or salons claim to offer raw virgin Russian hair but can only guarantee the product for less than six months it is more than likely a false claim.
Quick Facts: Asian/European hair extensions
- Hair only last in original condition for a short period
- Not recommended to colour as hair becomes even more porous
- Does not look real
- Not recommended to swim
- Frequently tangles
- Maintenance is very high
- Needs to be styled often
- Looks natural Can be coloured
- Swimming causes no damage
- Hair does not tangle
- Maintenance is very low
- Hair can be left to dry naturally
- Last for years if well cared for
- Need less as hair has more volume
What Are Hair Extensions?
Hair extensions started being used in the 1980s, but because of poor results and high expense, were abandoned until about 5 years ago. Their popularity has been boosted by all the celebrities who now use them.
What are hair extensions?
Hair extensions are hairpieces that can be attached to your natural hair or scalp; they enhance the thickness of your hair or the length. There are several kinds, but the most popular ones are
· Strands, small clusters of about 30 pieces of hair
· Wefts, slightly larger curtains of hair, joined at the top and free flowing at the ends. The best wefts are hand-made, not machine-made.
· Braids and dreadlocks, which are pre-wound.
Some are synthetic and some are made of human hair. The natural hair of Caucasians is different from that of Asians or Afro-Caribbeans and you should choose an extension that will match your own hair.
They come in many varieties and can be pre-colored, pre-highlighted or pre-permed with curls or a body wave. Depending on how it was attached, you may need to have your hair extension re-done after 6 or 8 weeks, or it might last up to 4 months. Re-attaching will always be periodically necessary because our natural hair continues to grow, the bonding agent becomes loose, life happens, and you'll need to re-adjust and refresh your hair's appearance.
How are hair extensions attached?
· Strands are woven, glued, or clipped to your natural hair. If they're clipped, you can take them off easily any time. If they're glued, various bonding agents may be used and care must be taken to protect your scalp and natural hair.
· For wefts, your stylist will make a small corn row or weave in your natural hair, and sew the weft to this weave. This method uses no chemicals.
· Braids are usually woven in with your own hair and again no chemicals are used.
What kind of hair extension would best suit me?
That's a very personal matter and should be decided between you and your stylist. There are extensions for every kind of hair, even thin and baby-fine hair. Your stylist will assess your hair type, discuss how you would like to look and whether it's possible given your particular circumstances and hair status, and explain alternatives. When an extension is decided upon, she will personally customize it to match your hair, will attach it, explain how she's doing it, and give you information on how to care for it.
How do I care for my hair extension?
· Hair extensions can be shampooed, styled and brushed the same as your natural hair, but don't try to alter their color. This should be professionally done.
· The most important thing is to be gentle with it so as to preserve the bond attaching it.
· Use a soft bristle brush and brush out tangles from the bottom ends up towards your head.
· At night, to avoid matting, tie it up or braid it if it's fairly long, and never sleep with wet or damp hair.
· Avoid using any silicone-based products or conditioners on the extension where it is bonded to your natural hair, as this will make the extension slip off.
Does it hurt to get a hair extension?
No, not when it's properly done. In the first day or two it will feel a little heavy perhaps, and this added weight on your head may feel slightly uncomfortable until you get used to it. The process of attaching it should not hurt at all. If it does, something isn't right. Sometimes if the cornrow method is being used, the weaving might be done too tightly, pulling too hard on your scalp. This can even cause headaches. But you should not accept this. The weaving doesn't have to be so tight that it's painful.
You may come across stories of how a person's hair was broken, burned, or otherwise damaged by their hair extension. The odds are that this person had it done by an untrained stylist, or one with little experience.
Do your homework
Since the demand for hair extensions is growing, more varieties will become available and research will give us more methods of creating and using them. The hair styling industry is not regulated, so do some checking and reading. Many websites recount personal experiences and have Frequently Asked Question pages.
Choose a stylist with training specifically in hair extensions, and with plenty of experience using them. Ask to speak to other clients who have purchased hair extensions, to hear what their experiences were like.