The Differences Between Human Hair and Synthetic Hair

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There are countless styles, colors, types, and brands of wigs on the market today, and first-time wig buyers often feel overwhelmed.

You may have heard that real wigs are more natural and realistic than synthetic hair, or that human hair wigs are much more expensive than synthetic wigs.

However, what if I tell you these aren’t the fact?

Learning the basic knowledge of human hair and synthetic wigs is crucial in choosing a suitable wig. Now let’s talk about the differences between them to help you make the right choice whilst buying wigs online!

human hair vs synthetic hair

The Difference Between Synthetic Wigs and Human Hair Wigs?

Human Hair Wigs

Human hair wigs are made from real human hair, the most common on the market is Remy hair, which the scale does not stripped by chemical and root-tip traveling in the same direction.

On the other hand, the Non-Remy wigs mean the hair whose roots are not aligned. Non-Remy hair cuticles need to be stripped by acid processing before making a wig, so it can easily cause tangles.

Most types of real human hair are Chinese, Indian, and European. Chinese hair is hard and straight, not easy to curl, so it is a little difficult to do styling. Indian hair is softer, with small curls, and the hair is easy to break after chemical processing. European/Caucasian hair is the most appreciated due to its fineness therefore it is also more expensive on the market.
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The Pros of Human Hair Wigs

  • Versatility: The human hair wig could be colored, curled, or straightened into whatever you like. However, you would be wise to seek the help of a hairstylist who is very proficient in handling wigs.
  • Natural look: The human hair wig is made from real human hair, which guarantees looks unbelievable natural and real.
  • Longevity: Human hair wigs are more durable and can last for 2-3 years with the right care.

The Cons of Human Hair Wigs

  • High maintenance: As with natural hair, the human hair wig requires regular washing, deep conditioning, and restyling to maintain its natural shine & style.
  • Cost: Human hair wigs are usually more expensive because of the hair materials.
  • Colour: Each human hair wig is made up of multiple people’s hair and it is almost impossible to copy the identical color, even if you buy a replacement from the same wig store.
  • Reacting to the weather: Just as natural hair, human hair wigs will also become frizzy or dry in response to the weather.
  • Weight: The human hair wig is usually heavier than synthetic wigs of the same length. Perhaps, you would prefer a lighter “crown”.

Synthetic Wigs

Synthetic hair has made huge developments in recent years with technological advancements. In some cases, it is almost difficult to tell the difference between human hair wigs and synthetic wigs – the naturalness and comfort are almost the same as that of real human hair.

Synthetic hair wigs are made of artificial (man-made) fibers, such as Kanekalon, polyester, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), etc. Today, Kanekalon is the highest quality synthetic hair available on the market, closer to human hair in terms of shine and movement, but other materials will be brighter and more unnatural texture.

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The Pros of Synthetic Wigs

  • Price: Traditional synthetic wigs are almost always the least expensive alternative, heat resistant synthetic wigs can be more expensive, but they are all much cheaper than high-quality real hair.
  • Ease of use: Because they are pre-styled, there is no need to do any styling before you wear them; the pre-styles, such as waves, curls, and straights, are permanent and will regain their original style even after washing.
  • Naturalness: High hair grade wigs look as natural and real as human hair wigs, in fact, you won’t see them as synthetic wigs unless they are carefully inspected side by side with human hair.
  • Little maintenance: Generally, you only need to wash it once when you wear it about 7 times and it requires little maintenance, which is helpful if you are already tired of the previous hair busy work.
  • Weather insensitive: Synthetic wigs do not frizz or dry out no matter what the weather does, and keep their style all the time.
  • Versatility: Due to the low cost, so you can try switching between different styles, cuts, colors, brands, or even you can buy several synthetic wigs at once.

The Cons of Synthetic Wigs

  • Unnatural: Some low-cost synthetic wigs can give off an unnatural or bright shine.
  • Longevity: Synthetic wigs’ longevity is actually no longer than that of a human hair wig, typically only 4 to 6 months.
  • Less versatile: You can only own its pre-styled type and cannot use heated styling kits, such as curling irons or tongs, to style it.
  • Color is fixed: It is highly discouraged to re-color a synthetic wig because not only will the dye not adhere to the synthetic hair fibers, but the heat of the chemicals can melt the synthetic wig, so you are better to choose a color you will always like.

Heat-Friendly Synthetic Wigs

One of the major downsides of synthetic wigs is that you can only own its single re-styled type, however, the heat-resistant synthetic wig is the perfect alternative to it. It is made from special synthetic fibers that can withstand the wear and tear of heat up to 350°F/180°C., curling it, blow drying it or flat ironing it to achieve different hairstyles.

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The Pros of Heat-Friendly Synthetic Wigs

  • Versatility: The heat-friendly synthetic wig was invented, and now you can curl it or straighten it just like real human hair.
  • Naturalness: Compared to traditional synthetic wigs, it gives off almost no unrealistic and brighter shine.
  • Style Retention: Like the traditional synthetic wig, they have the ” memory” feature that they will spring back into their style after washing and drying the wig.
  • Price: These wigs are mid-range in price, cheaper than human hair, but more expensive than traditional synthetic wigs.

The Cons of Heat-Friendly Synthetic Wigs

  • Longevity: Heat-Friendly synthetic wig has the least life span in comparison to human hair and traditional synthetic wigs, usually only 2 to 3 months.
  • Coloring: Like conventional synthetic wigs, you can’t re-color heat-friendly synthetic wigs.
  • Styling: It is harder to style a heat-friendly synthetic wig than a human hair wig, Before styling, it would be better to consult an experienced stylist to avoid emptying your pockets.

Human Hair Blend Wigs

Human hair blend wigs are made by mixing human hair and synthetic hair together. The fiber ratio varies from different sellers, such as 50/50 mix, 20/80 ratio, and so on. It not only has the advantage of easy-to-use and low-cost synthetic hair wigs, but also the natural look and feel of human hair wigs.

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The Pros of Human Hair Blend Wigs

  • Naturalness: Human hair wigs are highly regarded for their natural movement, and you get that similar natural movement from human hair blend wigs!
  • Styling: Human hair blended wigs blend with synthetic hair, which offers a wide range of colors, curls styling options, and better retention of wig styling.
  • Lightweight: Because of the synthetic material, they are lighter than 100% human hair wigs, which would be a good solution if you wear a wig every day.
  • Wallet-friendly: Human hair blend wigs are much cheaper than 100% real human hair, so they are budget-friendly.

The Cons of Human Hair Blend Wigs

  • Lifespan: Because synthetic hair and real hair wigs have different lifespans, the former lasts at least 1 year, but the latter is usually 6 months, so you will notice that the synthetic hair will fall out before the human hair.
  • Reacts to weather: Human hair can get a little messy with varying weather, which would also make your synthetic hair prone to getting frizzy or even curlier.
  • Difficult to Maintain: Because they are made up of two fibers, and therefore it requires hair care products designed for both hair fibers. Furthermore, it is a time-consuming process.

Things to consider when choosing human hair or synthetic wig

What is your Budget?

The budget is a key factor in determining which wig you decide to purchase. If wig quality is your only consideration, then the human hair wig is by far the best choice. If you are considering the cost of your next chemotherapy, consider purchasing an affordable synthetic wig or human hair blend wig.

The time you’re willing to spend?

Synthetic wigs have “style retention”, allowing them to bounce back to their original style after washing and drying your wig. Not only that, synthetic wigs are pre-styled, so you don’t need to spend any (or a little) time styling them.

On the contrary, human hair wigs require more maintenance, you need to restyle them after washing, in addition, human hair wigs need to be washed after 1-2 wears and deep conditioning once a week, while synthetic wigs can be washed less (6-8 wears) and never need the deep conditioning.

How often to change your style?

If you intend to change your style once a week like natural hair, curling, straightening, and coloring, then a human hair wig is the right choice for you, just make sure to find a stylist who is dedicated to you.

On the other hand, a synthetic wig may be right for you if you are willing to keep the same hairstyle for a long time. You can also consider heat-friendly synthetic wigs to benefit from the naturalness and versatility of real human hair and the convenience of synthetic hair.

How long will you wear the wig?

Human hair wigs can be used for 2-3 years, traditional synthetic wigs usually last 6-12 months, and heat-friendly synthetic wigs can only last 2-3 months. So if you know that your hair will come back in a few months, then a synthetic wig would be an economical choice.

Consider buying two or more wigs at a time if you are particularly concerned about the longevity of your wig, which will allow you to replace your wig with another one, extend its lifespan.

FAQs about Human Hair and Synthetic Wigs

How to tell if the hair is real or synthetic?

The flame/burn test is a 100% accurate method, by pulling a strand of hair from your wig and putting it on top of a flame. Human Hair burns and leaves dark ash that turns to powder when crushed, and the smell is consistent with burning feathers.

The synthetic fiber burns and melts quickly, emitting black smoke, it melts and then becomes a hard black bead that can’t turn to powder when it is crushed.

How to tell if the hair is real or synthetic

What is the difference between the heat-resistant synthetic wig and the human hair wig?

Remember, only heat-resistant synthetic wigs is allowed to be heat styled to change the curl pattern, but, even heat resistant fibers are difficult to style because synthetic fibers are more resistant to change. Also, synthetic hair cannot be colored and does not last as long as human hair.

How to tell if a wig is heat resistant

You can distinguish hair fiber types based on their shine, the brighter, the greater the likelihood that the wig is not heat resistant. In addition, heat-resistant wigs are generally smooth and very soft in texture, if the fiber feels a little rough, it may not be heat resistant.

Can you straighten synthetic hair wigs?

Different from human hair wigs, the synthetic wig cannot withstand the high heat caused by irons. Unless a heat-resistant wig, straightening synthetic hair with a straightener can cause irreversible damage to the hair strands.

To Sum Up

Please take a deep breath, well… today we have learned all the differences between synthetic wigs and human hair wigs, both of them have their own advantages and disadvantages, which you should find the most suitable wig for you without always spending more money. For more questions about synthetic wigs and human hair wigs, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Author: Charity Nasike


Charity Nasike is a passionate wig wearer and basically has diverse knowledge related to wigs' care and maintenance. When she's not writing, she's either in the kitchen trying out new recipes or on social media advising fellow ladies tricks to apply on their wigs.

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6 thoughts on “The Differences Between Human Hair and Synthetic Hair”

  1. Hi Lisa, thanks for the awesome post on human hair versus synthetic wigs. I learned so much about wigs in this post. I know that movie studios will often use wigs to make their actors and actresses look like the characters in the movie. Do you know if they use synthetic wigs or human hair wigs more often? 

    • Kevin, thanks for stopping by.

      Yes, it is true that many actors/actresses in movies are wearing wigs to shape their roles, generally, they wearing lace real human hair wigs instead of synthetic wigs, as the former will be more natural and realistic. In addition, synthetic wigs are usually applied in cosplay role-playing and parties.

  2. I thought I knew about wigs, but you gave me a master class here. All these blends and combinations make the market have a product to match every need. I wasn’t aware there were so many options. And there are among the synthetic ones, some really affordable too. Thank you very much for this post.

  3. This was very interesting. Would a wig (of either human hair or synthetic hair) slow hair growth if you wear it every day? I live in the semi-desert and it can get very hot and humid here in the summer. Can it be uncomfortable to wear a wig in hot temperatures, causing you to sweat for example?

    I like both human hair and sythetic hair wigs. The synthetic ones look very real to me. I wouldn’t style them too much, to ensure longer durability. I think that if you styled a wig too often, even if it’s made of human hair, it would last less long, wouldn’t it?

  4. I thought it was all the same but now that I read the article I realized that there is a big difference between human hair and synthetic wigs.
    It’s great that you’ve shared such a detailed and extensive post.
    I often see on TV that people use wigs and I was always interested in how they make it look so good.

  5. Thank you for your very interesting article about wigs. The only time that i wore a wig was for the Christmas parties….that was definitely a synthetic one from a party shop. It was bright white if i remember correctly!

    To tell you the truth i really prefer the natural look, yet saying that, those wigs in your article look so real and fun to wear.

    On Instagram recently i saw wigs that looked so real with an easy slip-on, slip- off procedure. As simple as that!

    During the summer i would wear these short sport caps that were so tight, that when i took them off, they would tear the sides of my head so much that I’m almost bald at the sides now. So a wig could cover that up.

    I’ve wore synthetic extensions when i was much younger and boy did they make me sweat, like i was in a sauna or something, especially in the Summer months!

    I would definitely use the human hair blend wigs, due to the light weight and wallet friendly.

    Can you buy multicoloured wigs as i’ve always wanted to die my hair like the colours of the rainbow? Now that would be a classy!

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