Since at least 2000 BC, men and women have been wearing wigs. Myriad different materials have been used to create them, ranging from palm fibers to wool, to horse, goat, and yak hair, to modern synthetic fibers. But throughout all history no material has been as desirable or as sought after as the strong, glossy fiber that is human hair.
What Is a Human Hair Wig?
As its name suggests, a human hair wig is made from 100% real human hair, gathered from willing donors and washed, tied, and styled into a wig that looks just like a real hairdo – because it is. These wigs can be styled, cut, colored, and worn just like a person’s natural hair and are usually crafted from hair sourced from India and China.
But My Natural Hair Doesn’t Look Asian!
No problem! Human hair wigs come in all colors, from raven black to platinum blond and everything in between. It also comes in all human hair textures, including straight, wavy, curly, and kinky, making it suitable for people with all hair types. Even ethnic hair colors and textures are possible.
This is because most hair goes through a coloring, texturizing, and styling process where it is fashioned to match the different ways in which natural hair grows. Hundreds of years of practice have given wig-makers the touch of a master in recreating these looks, and the result is that you never have to worry about your color or texture not being available because of a lack of donors.
Are All These Wigs the Same?
No, just because two wigs are both made from natural hair does not mean they’re the same. These wigs differ according to the way the hair is harvested, how it was treated before that time, and what was done with it afterward. Three important terms to know are:
- Virgin: Virgin hair has never been permed or dyed – either before the hair was harvested or during the wig manufacturing process. This kind of hair is prized for its strength and health. However, it is also the rarest and comes in the least number of colors and textures. Because it is generally donated by Indians, you will most often find this kind of hair in dark brown or black wigs that are either straight or wavy.
- Remy: Remy hair consists of strands that are and always have been running the same direction – which is essential for the wig’s longevity. The cuticles, or outermost layer of cells on each strand can snag and bind with each other if the strands are running opposite directions. Remy hair is harvested from tip to root, immediately bound at each end to secure it, and attached to the wig base the same way, for a smooth and tangle-resistant hairdo.
- Non-remy: Non-remy hair is almost never labeled as such, but it is characteristic of cheap wigs, and is seldom apparent until you have worn the wig for several weeks or months. Non-remy hair may be made from cuttings that fell to the floor and were gathered up later, or from other types of disarranged hair. It’s main drawback is that the cuticles either snag each other and cause the hair to constantly tangle or are removed entirely and replaced with a silicon coating that feels smooth upon first inspection, but which quickly wears off and leaves the strands weak and dull.
When Might I Want A Human Hair Wig?
Both human hair and synthetic wigs look and feel great, but human hair wigs have a distinct advantage in certain situations. If you are debating between the two, you may want to consider these wigs if you need any of the following:
- You need your wig long-term
Some wig owners only need their wigs for a relatively short time. Chemo patients, for example, generally only need their wig to last the duration of their treatments, plus a few weeks while their hair grows back in. However others, such as alopecia patients, may wear a wig for the rest of their lives. Human hair wigs are stronger and last longer than synthetic wigs, making them ideal for those looking for a long-term solution to hair loss.
- You love to wear your hair in many different styles
Human hair wigs can be styled with hair driers, curling irons, and straight irons, just like naturally-growing hair. Normal synthetic wigs (heat-resistant varieties excepted) cannot withstand these temperatures and are not meant to be restyled, while human hair wigs allow much more flexibility.
(Please note, however, that frequent exposure to heat is damaging even to natural hair. Use heat styling sparingly to increase the life of your wig.)
- You want to cut or color your hair
Like natural hair, human hair wigs can be cut and colored. While this is usually unnecessary due to the broad assortment of styles and colors in which wigs are now available, if you love to frequently update your style, human hair wigs will allow you to do so.
- You want as realistic of a hairdo as possible
Real hair can sometimes be a source of frustration to those who have it when it frizzes in the humidity, goes limp when wet, or gets tousled in the wind. However, hair that always stays perfectly in place regardless of the environment can look artificial and betray the secret of your ‘do.
- You are frequently exposed to heat
Sudden bursts of heat or steam can cause synthetic wigs to melt. If you have a hobby or vocation that frequently exposes you to extreme temperatures – even to common sources, such as ovens and stovetops – a human hair wig is a better option.