Human hair

Synthetic vs. Human Hair

Published By: Kennedy

Last Updated: June 20, 2022

There are many hair options to choose from, but they all come down to 2 main categories – synthetic and human hair. This article will give you an in-depth understanding of the differences between these two options. 

Synthetic Hair vs Human Hair 

Synthetic hair is made of artificial fibers that are formed to act as real hair strands. It is the cheapest hairpiece option on the market and also the lowest quality. It is low-maintenance and is usually bought for temporary use. 

Human hair is actual hair that comes from real people. It is more expensive and of higher quality than synthetic hair. Human hair lasts for a long time and is the most similar to one’s own hair.

Synthetic Hair

Synthetic hair is composed of artificial hair strands of plastic – usually acrylic or nylon – that are made into ultra-thin fibers and chemically processed to mimic real hair. 

Synthetic hair comes in many different assortments of colors and textures. However, the color or texture cannot be changed as human hair can with products like dye and relaxers. It also cannot be straightened with heating tools because it will melt. 

Read more: What are Synthetic Extensions Made Of?

Synthetic hair is relatively low maintenance because it is meant to be worn in one style and tends to matte severely over time – depending on the quality of the hair. Synthetic hair is also less costly than human hair, costing as low as $10, which makes it popular among those that need an affordable option. 

Synthetic hair does not last as long as human hair and tangles more frequently due to what the strands are made of. This hair usually lasts a couple of weeks, because it tangles and mats much easier than Kanekalon hair.  It is also not as soft as human hair, making it appear unnaturally shiny. 

Also read: What is the Difference Between Kankelon and Synthetic Hair?

Pros 

  • Affordable – Synthetic hair is much less expensive than human hair. It is the more affordable option, costing as little as $10 for wigs or extensions. Synthetic hair is made of artificial fibers which makes it easier to source- so even the highest quality hair is still much cheaper than human hair. 
  • Low-maintenance – Synthetic hair does not need to be taken care of as human hair does. Synthetic hair holds its shape very well, so it does not need to be styled every day. It is the ideal hair for someone who doesn’t mind wearing one style all of the time. 
  • Ethically-sourced – Synthetic hair is made of plastic, and not taken from a human scalp. It is the safer option to choose if you want to be sure that you are ethically sourcing your hair. Human hair is sourced from donors, but sometimes it is stolen, and it is hard to tell where it came from in any case. 

Cons 

  • Low-quality – Synthetic hair is much lower quality than human hair. A lot of the time, you can tell if the hair is synthetic. The hair has an unnatural shiny look to it and is stiffer than natural hair. You also cannot dye or bleach the hair using chemicals. You also cannot use heat on a lot of synthetic hair or else it will melt. Altogether, synthetic hair looks much less natural than human hair.
  • Shorter lifespan – Due to its low quality, synthetic hair does not last as long as human hair. Many synthetic hairpieces only last a few wears. Part of the hair’s short lifespan is because it mats and tangles easily. Synthetic hair is not made to be worn for a long time – hence its low price, so it takes much more effort to keep it looking nice past the 2-week mark. 

Human Hair

Human hair is hair that has come from real people’s scalps. It is separated into different categories of hair – the main ones being remy, virgin, and raw hair.

Remy hair is human hair that has been processed. The word “remy” simply means the direction of the cuticle of the hair. It is hair with strands that are aligned from root to tip in the same direction. Remy hair is sourced by one or multiple donors and is not stripped – leaving the cuticles intact. It is processed to be smooth and sleeker than non-remy hair and is less likely to knot and tangle. 

Virgin hair is human hair that has not been processed by chemicals or dying. The strands are healthier than remy and non-remy hair and last longer. Virgin hair is steamed and processed, to ensure the hair texture is all the same pattern or to alter the curls.[1]

Raw hair is human hair that has not been processed in any way. It is the most natural form of hair on the market and the most expensive. This is the healthiest hair one can buy and comes from a single donor. 

The lowest quality human hair is hair that is none of the above. It mostly comes from fallen hair – or hair that people have collected from their brushes, bathtubs, floors, etc. that have fallen from their heads over time. Low-quality human hair is usually very cheap and does not last long. 

Pros 

  • Natural-looking – Human hair is much more natural-looking than synthetic hair. It is very easy to mistake human hair for being someone’s own hair. With human hair, you can closely match your natural texture and color with what you purchase. 
  • Longer lifespan – Human hair lasts much longer than synthetic hair. Depending on how well the hair is taken care of, it has the potential to last over a year. 
  • Versatile – Human hair is very versatile in the ways that you can style it. With human hair, you are able to dye, bleach, and apply heat to the hair without destroying it. You can also style the hair more often than you could with synthetic hair. 

Cons 

  • Expensive – Human hair is much more expensive than synthetic hair. Many times, you will at least be spending $100 on a wig or set of bundles. 
  • High-maintenance – Due to the fact that human hair needs to be treated as such, it requires much more maintenance than synthetic hair. The hair needs to be washed and conditioned in order to stay healthy and last longer. It also needs a product to keep it looking shiny and voluminous. 

Differences

  • Synthetic hair is less realistic 
  • Human hair is more expensive
  • Synthetic hair cannot be chemically altered
  • Human hair is more versatile
  • Synthetic hair is always ethically sourced 

Similarities

  • Both can look like natural hair
  • Both need some maintenance 

How can you soften synthetic hair?

Synthetic hair is not real hair, so using a product that is made to soften artificial fibers can help to soften the hair. Fabric softener is a product that can be used to soften synthetic hair. Using a fabric softener will help to detangle the hair, remove dirt and oils, as well as improve its softness.

Another product that softens synthetic hair is a hot-air brush. Hot airbrushes have metal prongs that heat the hair and help smoothen it out. Conditioner that is specially made for synthetic hair can also help to get rid of dryness and stiffness.

The Final Word

Both synthetic hair and human hair have their pros and cons. Choosing which is right for you is based on what best fits your lifestyle and preferences. 

Kennedy

I have always had a love for writing and have been blogging for about 3 years now. I have a passion for teaching what I have learned over the years, especially about hair. I have had almost every hairstyle - typical of a cosmetologist’s daughter- including the big chop in 2015. With all the knowledge I have gained, I feel it is my duty to help others on their healthy hair journey. I believe education can be fun, and I strive to make it fun to learn about beautiful black hair.

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