Synthetic Hair vs. Human Hair
When selecting a wig it is often difficult to know where to begin. With oodles of styles, colors, brands and wig types, picking out a wig for the first time can seem, to say the least, overwhelming. Understanding the differences between human hair wigs and synthetic wigs is a good starting point for selecting the perfect wig. Choosing between human hair and synthetic hair is one of the most important decisions you will make when selecting a wig.
Natural hair wigs are created from harvested human hair, so they look, feel and act just like your own hair. Synthetic wigs are created from man-made fibers using specialized technology to give the overall appearance and feel of real hair. There is a misconception among first-time wig buyers that human hair wigs are “better” or of higher quality than synthetic wigs because they are made of real hair; this is not the case. If a synthetic hair wig is of high quality, it is often difficult to discern the difference between the two hair fibers. There are, of course, differences, but they lie beneath the surface.
1. Styling Versatility. Many human hair wigs can be colored, permed and styled just like your own hair. Keep in mind that it is important to take your wig to a stylist who is experienced in dealing with human hair wigs if you wish to alter the style.
2. Texture. Human hair wigs come in a variety of textures, so you can match your own hair texture very closely.
3. Longevity. With proper care, human hair wigs can last a year or more when worn daily.
4. Natural Look. Human hair wigs feel great and can look incredibly natural.
1. High Maintenance. Just like real hair, human hair wigs need to be washed, deep-conditioned and re-styled frequently.
2. Cost. Because they are harvested from human hair, they are typically more expensive.
3. Color Variation. It is difficult to replicate an exact color when you replace a human hair wig or wish to purchase a back up of the same style. Human hair wigs of the same color will vary slightly from wig to wig because each wig contains hair harvested from multiple people.
4. Reacts to Weather. Like your own hair would, human hair wigs react to the weather and can become frizzy, limp or dry depending on the weather.
5. Color Fading. The color of a human hair wig will oxidize or fade with exposure to light.
6. Fragile. The hair will incur damage if subjected to harsh brushing, back-combing or overuse of heated styling tools.
7. Weight. Human hair wigs can feel heavier than synthetic wigs of a similar length and style.
8. Styling. Human hair wigs are more labor intensive and require more effort and skill to style.
1. Easy Care. Synthetic wigs are easy to take care of. Because synthetic wigs have something called “style retention,” they never have to be styled. You simply wash, dry and then shake them out, and the wig will return to its initial style.
2. Style Memory. Synthetic wigs hold their style regardless of the weather.
3. Versatile. You can try out various colors and styles without the need to see a hair stylist by purchasing multiple synthetic wigs.
4. Large Color Selection. The sky is the limit where colors are concerned. You can choose from an array of natural colors, as well as several fantasy colors.
5. Cost. Synthetic wigs are relatively inexpensive.
6. Low Maintenance. They require very little maintenance. This is important to consider if you are experiencing health issues and not feeling well.
7. Natural Looking. If purchasing a high quality synthetic wig, it is very difficult to tell the difference between a synthetic wig and one made from real human hair.
1. Shine. Some economy or budget synthetic wigs (typically those under $100) may have an unnatural shine.
2. Longevity. Synthetic wigs and toppers do not last as long as human hair wigs. They typically last about 4-6 months with daily wear.
3. Less Versatility. Synthetic wigs cannot be straightened or curled with heated styling tools unless it is a specifically designed "heat friendly" synthetic wig.
4. Cannot Change Color. Recoloring is not recommended for synthetic wigs and traditional hair color will not adhere to the fibers.
Heat friendly synthetic wigs are a special type of synthetic wig that can be styled with heated styling tools. They come with many pros and cons that set them apart from both synthetic and human hair wigs.
1. Style Versatility. Heat Friendly Synthetic Wigs can be styled and restyled to allow for versatility.
2. Style Retention. Like traditional synthetic wigs, heat friendly synthetic wigs have style retention; after they become wet and air dry, they will return to their most recent heat-styled look without having to be styled again.
3. Realistic Looking. They are typically less shiny than other synthetic wigs.
4. Consistent. They will not react to weather.
5. Cost. If you must have a wig that can be heat-styled, heat-friendly synthetic wigs are typically more cost-effective than human hair wigs.
1. Texture. Heat friendly synthetic wigs can become nappy if they are restyled excessively or exposed to abrasive actions (such as your head against a pillow or seat back).
2. Longevity. With a lifespan of only a few months, they do not last as long as human hair wigs or traditional synthetic wigs.
3. Cannot Be Colored. Like traditional synthetic wigs, recoloring is not recommended.
4. Advanced Syling Skills Required. They can be more difficult to style than human hair, so they can be a challenge for some individuals to manage.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
While there are pros and cons to each type of wig, considering the following questions when deciding between a Human Hair and Synthetic Wig can help to determine which type if hair fiber to go with.
What is your budget?
Knowing your budget is a great way to determine which type of wig fiber to choose. When undergoing cancer treatment, money can sometimes be tight and the need to choose a wig within your budget can be a crucial deciding factor in deciding on a wig. Synthetic wigs can be very budget friendly, especially if you don't plan to wear your wig daily. A high quality synthetic wig can look very natural and can be washed less frequently than a human hair wig, requiring you to spend less money overall on shampoo, conditioner and styling products. Human hair wigs are typically more expensive, but they do last longer, which offsets some of the added expense.
What type of hair loss do you have?
Depending on the type of hair loss that you have, your hair may or may not grow back. If you know whether or not your hair will grow back, this could help determine how long you will need to wear a wig. Because human hair wigs can last a year or more when properly cared for, women who need to wear a wig for an extended amount of time may find that to be a better option. If your hair is starting to grow back already, or you know that you will not need to wear a wig for very long, a synthetic wig that lasts 4-6 months with proper care may be the right choice for you.
Do you experience fatigue from chemotherapy or other health issues?
Synthetic wigs require less maintenance than human hair wigs, and therefore require less energy to style and care for. This allows you to save your energy when necessary. When washed, synthetic wigs will return back to their original style after air drying, while human hair wigs will require straightening or curling after being washed and dried. Human hair wigs also need to be deep conditioned, washed and re-styled frequently just like your real hair.
Where will you wear your wig?
The weather can affect the style of a human hair wig, causing strands to frizz or go limp. If you live in a hot and humid or very damp climate, consider wearing a synthetic wig that will hold its style better in most climates. If you are set on a human hair wig, try a wig with shorter, more manageable strands to help you have an easier time keeping your style looking great, even in less than desirable weather. Also keep in mind that frequently wearing a human hair wig outdoors in direct sunlight can also attribute to fading and alter the color of your wig.
How often will you wear your wig?
With daily use, human hair wigs can last a year or more, while synthetic wigs typically last 4-6 months (Heat friendly synthetic wigs usually only last approximately 3 months). Wearing your wig less frequently will help to extend its lifespan. How often you need to wash your wig will depend on how often you wear it, which affects the amount of care you need to provide for your wig. Most synthetic wigs only need to be washed every 6-8 wears, but human hair wigs may need to be washed more often in order to re-style the wig. Washing and styling the wig frequently can put more stress on the fibers, causing them to break down more easily.
Do you like to frequently change up your look?
Human hair wigs offer the versatility of changing your style from day to day. You can take human hair wigs from straight to curly and back again using heated styling tools. Many human hair wigs can also be colored by a stylist experienced in customizing human hair wigs. Synthetic wigs can be trimmed by experienced stylists to your liking, but cannot be heat styled to change the texture and cannot be re-colored. What you see is what you get when it comes to the texture, style and color of a synthetic wig, which attributes to the ease of wearing a synthetic wig.
More Wig Information
- Wig Buying Guide
- Synthetic Wig Care
- Selecting Your Wig Color
- All About Wigs: FAQ's
- Wig Style Guide
- How Wigs Are Made
- How to Wear a Hair Topper
- Videos: How To Wear a Wig
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Comments, Questions & Ratings
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Jana (Posted on 04/30/2019)
I disagree that you cannot straighten or curl synthetic wigs. Most synthetic wigs these days are heat resistant and can be ironed or curled with your heated tool under 200 degrees. I straighten my wig every night after everyday wear with a clothes steamer Even when I’ve purchased a wig and didn’t find it smooth enough all I use is a clothes steamer which makes it super smooth.Hair iron or hair steam iron doesn’t do a good job.Its useless. Lately I’ve discovered also after styling your wig smooth it with hair serum or smooth spray which will leave your wig even more super soft and will stop it from detagling less. Also if You don’t like your curly synthetic wig,and want it straight ,pour boiling water on it and that will turn your wig straight permanently followed by the above instructions for smoothing. Synthetic wigs can last longer than 6 months depending on density or how much they shed I’ve had to purchase several wigs to find one that I’m happy with. (Posted on 02/27/2019)
Thank you so much for the good advice. I just bought my first wig, I'm not so confident so I went for the human hair one wish cost me quite a lot 1,350 euros. So hopefully is going to last me a good few years. (Posted on 11/28/2018)
Human hair is so so so much nicer. But these celebrities are taking Hair from poor Indian women and acting moral. Very few celebs don’t have fake hair at this point. Iggy azalea has gorgeous natural hair. But when she’s old she’ll prob get extensions too. (Posted on 08/30/2018)
I wanted to thank you so much for writing such a detailed article I have been looking and debating with this for over a year due to Neurological issues, I can not have my own hair at this time. I was all for only having natural hair, but understanding not only the cost, but maintenance. With my illness Synthetic is the way to go for me. The only thing I did not see answered here that I would have liked to is, whether natural or synthetic do you have to use special shampoo and condition? (Posted on 11/21/2017)
I have been selling wigs for 25 years everyone wanyd a human because they think they are better but they don't understand if you buy human hair and don't spend a good amount of money your going to be very unhappy all these human hair wigs you see online for less then $500 your wasting your money it's a mix of all hair textured put through a machine and sprayed with silicon once it's washed a few times it's a matted mess then if you buy a good human hair you still have to style it daily in my opinion Wigs that you can put heat to is your best option thry are affordable and they look and feel real just like any women who goes to a salon every 6 weeks to 3 months you should change your wig think about it if you went too a salon for a. Cut and color it's $200 you should buy a wig for under $100 every 3 months and you will look fabulous if you still want humsn plan on spending $700 and up anything less your wasting money and your human will need changing every year the hair is great but constant brushing pulls it from the cap just like your own hair sheds so when it comes you wigs buy the heat resistant ones for around $100 don't buy a wig for $20 your buying plastic obnoxious shine Halloween quality look me up (Posted on 09/23/2017)
This was really helpful! Just bought a couple of synthetic wigs and they look really great. Also, I guessed oppositely on the wigs.. lol. I guess that's a good thing. (Posted on 06/11/2017)
This was very helpful, I'm going through chemo treatments . I've already bought a synthetic , I know now that I made the right choice for my needs. (Posted on 03/23/2017)
This really helped. Am a first time wig user/buyer and i also intend to use it occasionally, with your tips am going for synthetic. Also help with information on how to care and maintain wigs. Thank you very much. (Posted on 01/15/2017)
Thanks so much for this helpful article. I was going to buy a human hair wig but now I think I'll go with synthetic. (Posted on 01/07/2017)