The most popular and commonly available form of hair is known as premium hair. It is sold in most beauty supply stores or online. The roots and tips of hairs are interwoven in premium hair which causes tangling. This is due to the opposing cuticle layers catching onto one another. However, as it is the most inexpensive type of hair, it is a best seller.
Premium hair comes in two types:
Regular premium hair: generally the least expensive type of hair. The cuticles are present in different directions and the hair is prone to tangling.
“Tangle-free” premium hair: this is obtained by chemically removing the cuticles using an acid bath. This process reduces the friction among hairs, leaving the remaining hair tangle-free. In order to give the appearance of natural healthy hair, a laminate is applied to the hair to give it a shiny and silky look.
Synthetic fibers are made of various different materials and contain no human hair. Synthetic fibers come in weave (weft) and single strands (bulk) for braids. They do not last as long as human hair because they can be easily damaged by friction and heat. The quality of fibers varies greatly. Depending on quality, they may never look like human hair, as they can be stiff and move differently from human hair. Synthetic fibers are much less expensive than human hair. Heating appliances such as curling irons, flat irons, and straightening combs generally should never be used on most types of synthetic hair. There are some newer versions of synthetic fibers that are more resistant, human-like fibers that can be heat processed allowing for heat styling.
Futura is a type of synthetic fiber that can withstand heat up to 400 °F (200 °C), and can actually outlast human hair. It is very similar to human hair given it is tangle-free and has a natural sheen. It can be straightened or curled, however, it takes longer to set and futura cannot be colored. It is sometimes sold as a human hair blend.
The human hair shaft is made up of dead, hard protein, called keratin, in three layers. The inner layer is called the medulla and may not be present. The next layer is the cortex and the outer layer is the cuticle. The cortex makes up the majority of the hair shaft. The cuticle is formed by tightly packed scales in an overlapping structure similar to roof shingles. Most hair-conditioning products attempt to affect the cuticle. There are pigment cells that are distributed throughout the cortex, giving the hair its characteristic color. The cuticle is a hard shingle-like layer of overlapping cells, some five to twelve deep, formed from dead cells that form scales which give the hair shaft strength and protect the inner structure of the hair. The hair cuticle is the first line of defense against all forms of damage; it acts as a protective barrier for the softer inner structures, including the medulla and cortex.
A packet of 10-inch premium hair
The cuticle is responsible for much of the mechanical strength of the hair fiber. A healthy cuticle is more than just a protective layer, as the cuticle also controls the water content of the fiber. Much of the shine that makes healthy hair so attractive is due to the cuticle. In the hair industry, the only way to obtain the very best hair (with cuticle intact and facing the same direction) is to use the services of “hair collectors,” who cut the hair directly from people’s heads, and bundle it as ponytails. This hair is called virgin cuticle hair, or just cuticle hair.
*Hair extensions made of true virgin, raw (cuticle hair) have the most durability and ease of use as the integrity of the hair has not been broken or altered by the method of collection. This continues to be true if this hair is then simply wefted or sewn on a track, without any processed chemical or steamed done on the hair.
Human hair industry
The selling of human hair for weaves, wigs, and other hair styling products is an industry that generates hundreds of millions of dollars annually and is growing as a large export economy in some Asian countries, such as India, at a rate of 10–30 percent annually. In India, a large portion of the hair is sourced from Hindu temples where the hair is donated for religious practices, particularly in honor of the Hindu god Vishnu. This hair is highly sought out for its ‘virgin’, untreated qualities, as well as its great length. From there the hair is cleaned and the color can be altered for international style tastes. Most of the hair used in Human Hair products comes from India since India has a culture where people go to certain temples to shave their hair as an offering to God. The Venkateswara Temple, Tirumala alone collects over 1000 tonnes of human hair every month. Hair collected at major temples is now auctioned on the Government of India’s e-auction platform. Until 1940, hair collected at temples in India was considered waste and burnt. In the early 1940’s, Korean and Chinese vendors realized that making human hair wigs was vastly profitable and that wigs were in great demand, and hair donated at temples India was a good source of human hair as the heads and the tails of the hair could be kept intact and not mixed. By the early 2000’s demand for human hair products grew exponentially especially in the USA and many factories in India were started to keep up with the demand. By 2010, Chennai, India emerged as the biggest hub of Raw Indian Hair products mainly because of its proximity to the temple in Tirumala.