The truth about where hair extensions come from and if you’re getting your money’s worth

If you’re an avid weave wearer, you probably already know that there are various origins of where hair extensions are being sold from. But, have you ever wondered what the difference is?

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Most of us have probably copped hair extensions labeled as being Brazilian, Peruvian, Malaysian, Indian, or Remy.

LA-based beauty bar owner, Riqua Hailes, traveled around the world to find actual vendors for the hair extensions she would sell. She also wanted to learn the truth about where the hair really comes from, how it’s made, and what type of weave is worth the coin.

While in China, Riqua learned that because Chinese hair is is globally viewed as “cheap” in the beauty industry, it isn’t donated hair. So, to make sure they’re still in the hair game they market their hair as Malaysian and Brazilian, while simultaneously upping the retail value on consumers.

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“Fallen hair is dead hair that naturally sheds and is collected from hair salons and hairbrushes,” says Riqua. Chinese hair is said to be fallen hair – basically, they clean it and relabel it as another origin. So if any hair you receive is being mailed from China (ex: Ali Express/Alibaba), it’s literally Chinese hair.

“One hair distributor taught me to pay attention to the smell. Fallen hair has a smell of acid and silicone that’s easily recognizable,” adds Riqua.

Hair labeled as Cambodian is also a widely used, but isn’t usually truthful, either. Cambodia is struggling economically, so many women sell their hair, bodies, and daughters for survival, according to Riqua.

Selling hair in Cambodia is a means of income. They cut the young girls’ hair and they receive about $20,000 to 33,000 riel (about $5 to $8) every 4 to 6 months (aka per haircut).

So, while we may pay upwards of $200 for a weave or extensions, the hair’s owner only gets maybe $8 for it.

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When Riqua touched down in Malaysia, it was really hard for her to even find villages, vendors, or women who even sold their hair.

“After speaking to several hairstylists in Malaysia, I learned that Malaysian hair extensions don’t truly exist,” says Riqua. “Hair labeled Malaysian is typically purchased directly from China — buyers beware,” she adds.

Yeah, you read that right. Malaysian hair extensions is another one of China’s tricks to make buyers think they’ve got some exclusive hair when it doesn’t even exist.

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Her final stop was the hair extension holy grail, India. What makes India so different from the other countries she visited is their holy rituals for the hair.

“Hindu Indians cut their hair as part of a ritual sacrifice to God,” Riqua mentions. “In a country of more than a billion people willing to sacrifice their hair for blessing, there’s never a shortage,” she adds.

Raw Indian hair for years has been used by the upper class because of its thickness, naturally dark color, and naturally wavy texture. But, recently it is becoming more accessible to everyday consumers.

After people shave their heads, Hindu temples hold private auctions to sell their hair to vendors. According to the article, they use the profits to fund community projects like housing, education, and healthcare.

In addition to to the mass amount of hair being circulated throughout India daily, the extensions are said to be the highest quality on the market.

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Indian hair, which is raw hair, costs more to produce and obtain because it’s literally coming from someone’s head. No manipulation or chemicals are used to alter the hair, unlike Chinese hair which is labeled as Peruvian, Eurasian, Malaysian, Brazilian, and more.

When you see “Remy hair,” that simply means all the hair cuticles are going in the correct direction. This hair can come from one or multiple donors.

When you see “virgin hair,” that means the hair hasn’t been chemically processed at all. So you can have hair that is steamed and altered but it is still virgin because it is not chemically processed.

Raw hair is said to be the highest quality hair on the market because it hasn’t been altered in any way. Raw hair has had no steaming done or chemical manipulation, and it is the most similar to natural hair because it is just that.

So, in summary, it’s cool to get whatever type of hair you like. Just know that all labels are not as they appear. If you want hair that will last a long time, raw is the way to go. Virgin hair can be bomb, too. It will cost less than raw hair, but won’t necessarily last as long.

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