5 Key Differences Between Synthetic and Human Hair Extensions

5 Key Differences Between Synthetic and Human Hair Extensions

hand tied extensionsFor the 68% of women who are unhappy with their hair, hair extensions may improve their happiness by providing volume and length. Hair may be extended by a hair extensions salon in many different ways, including microbeaded extensions, keratin extensions, and skin weft extensions. Regardless of the technique applied, you can buy hair extensions made from natural hair or synthetic hair. Here are some differences between synthetic hair extensions and natural hair extensions:


Natural hair is composed of three layers:

  • The cuticle is a layer of protective cells that overlap one another like roof shingles. The cuticle provides much of the strength of the hair.
  • The cortex lies under the cuticle and is made from fiber-like keratin bundles. The cortex provides most of the color of the hair.
  • The medulla is within the cortex and provides the core of the hair. For fans of CSI, the medulla is the part of the hair that contains DNA.


Synthetic hair, by contrast, is typically a polymer mono-filament. This means that each strand of synthetic hair is a plastic fiber, typically acrylic, polyethylene terephthalate, vinyl chloride, polyester, or nylon.

To make hand tied extensions, fibers of the natural or synthetic hair are grouped into bundles or wefts that can be tied into your hair. The natural hair used to produce hand tied extensions is usually treated with chemicals to de-pigment the natural hair to remove the donor’s hair color so that it can be dyed. This de-pigmenting process often uses harsh chemicals that damage or remove the cuticle.

On the other hand, remy hair is natural hair that has been collected and treated in such a way as to preserve the cuticle and keep the hair cuticles aligned in the same direction. This minimizes matting of the hair bundle or weft.

Since each fiber of synthetic hair is identical, hand tied extensions made from synthetic hair are simpler to assemble, which contributes to a lower cost for synthetic hand tied extensions than natural hand tied extensions.


Since it is a natural product, hair extensions made from natural hair will vary in color, even when it is collected from a single hair donor. Hair extensions made from natural hair are colored using hair dye. Like your own hair, natural hair extensions will fade in color due to exposure to the sun or chlorine in swimming pool water.

Since hair dye does not adhere to the surface of synthetic hair, industrial dyes are used to color synthetic hair extensions. This does provide certain advantages, however. Synthetic hair extensions have a uniform color and can be found in any color or shade. Moreover, synthetic hair is resistant to color fading due to exposure to the sun or chemicals.


Natural hair extensions are typically viewed as easier to care for than synthetic hair extensions. The main reason for this is that natural hair extensions do not require any different care than your own hair. Natural hair extensions can (and should) be shampooed and conditioned. Synthetic hair extensions, by contrast, may require you to change your hair care routine since oils and conditioners may degrade the synthetic hair.


On the other hand, synthetic hair extensions may be easier to style, primarily because plastic fibers have a “style memory” that retains curls or waves that are styled into the hair extensions. Moreover, synthetic hair is not susceptible to falling or frizzing due to weather or humidity. However, changing the style of synthetic hair is very difficult since the heat from curling irons or flat irons will melt synthetic hair. Even the heat from blow dryers may cause synthetic hair extensions to melt enough to frizz or lose the set in style.

Natural hair extensions can be styled in any way that your own hair can be styled. This makes sense because natural hair extensions are made from the same material as your hair. For example, curling irons, curlers, and flat irons will not damage natural hair extensions any more than they would damage your hair. However, like your hair, natural hair extensions are affected by weather and humidity.


Natural hair extensions last longer than synthetic hair extensions. On average, synthetic hair lasts a few months, while natural hair can last several months to a year with proper care.