Synthetic vs. Human Hair: Overview, Similarities, and Differences (2024)

Human hair

Synthetic vs. Human Hair: Overview, Similarities, and Differences (1)

Published By: Kennedy

Last Updated: August 12, 2022

There are many hair options to choose from, but they all come down to 2 main categories – synthetic and human hair. This article will give you an in-depth understanding of the differences between these two options.

Synthetic Hair vs Human Hair

Synthetic hair is made of artificial fibers that are formed to act as real hair strands. It is the cheapest hairpiece option on the market and also the lowest quality. It is low-maintenance and is usually bought for temporary use.

Human hair is actual hair that comes from real people. It is more expensive and of higher quality than synthetic hair. Human hair lasts for a long time and is the most similar to one’s own hair.

Synthetic Hair

Synthetic hair is composed of artificial hair strands of plastic – usually acrylic or nylon – that are made into ultra-thin fibers and chemically processed to mimic real hair.

Synthetic hair comes in many different assortments of colors and textures. However, the color or texture cannot be changed as human hair can with products like dye and relaxers. It also cannot be straightened with heating tools because it will melt.

Read more: What are Synthetic Extensions Made Of?

Synthetic hair is relatively low maintenance because it is meant to be worn in one style and tends to matte severely over time – depending on the quality of the hair. Synthetic hair is also less costly than human hair, costing as low as $10, which makes it popular among those that need an affordable option.

Synthetic hair does not last as long as human hair and tangles more frequently due to what the strands are made of. This hair usually lasts a couple of weeks, because it tangles and mats much easier than Kanekalon hair. It is also not as soft as human hair, making it appear unnaturally shiny.

Also read: What is the Difference Between Kankelon and Synthetic Hair?


  • Affordable – Synthetic hair is much less expensive than human hair. It is the more affordable option, costing as little as $10 for wigs or extensions. Synthetic hair is made of artificial fibers which makes it easier to source- so even the highest quality hair is still much cheaper than human hair.
  • Low-maintenance – Synthetic hair does not need to be taken care of as human hair does. Synthetic hair holds its shape very well, so it does not need to be styled every day. It is the ideal hair for someone who doesn’t mind wearing one style all of the time.
  • Ethically-sourced – Synthetic hair is made of plastic, and not taken from a human scalp. It is the safer option to choose if you want to be sure that you are ethically sourcing your hair. Human hair is sourced from donors, but sometimes it is stolen, and it is hard to tell where it came from in any case.


  • Low-quality – Synthetic hair is much lower quality than human hair. A lot of the time, you can tell if the hair is synthetic. The hair has an unnatural shiny look to it and is stiffer than natural hair. You also cannot dye or bleach the hair using chemicals. You also cannot use heat on a lot of synthetic hair or else it will melt. Altogether, synthetic hair looks much less natural than human hair.
  • Shorter lifespan – Due to its low quality, synthetic hair does not last as long as human hair. Many synthetic hairpieces only last a few wears. Part of the hair’s short lifespan is because it mats and tangles easily. Synthetic hair is not made to be worn for a long time – hence its low price, so it takes much more effort to keep it looking nice past the 2-week mark.

Human Hair

Human hair is hair that has come from real people’s scalps. It is separated into different categories of hair – the main ones being remy, virgin, and raw hair.

Remy hair is human hair that has been processed. The word “remy” simply means the direction of the cuticle of the hair. It is hair with strands that are aligned from root to tip in the same direction. Remy hair is sourced by one or multiple donors and is not stripped – leaving the cuticles intact. It is processed to be smooth and sleeker than non-remy hair and is less likely to knot and tangle.

Virgin hair is human hair that has not been processed by chemicals or dying. The strands are healthier than remy and non-remy hair and last longer. Virgin hair is steamed and processed, to ensure the hair texture is all the same pattern or to alter the curls.[1]

Raw hair is human hair that has not been processed in any way. It is the most natural form of hair on the market and the most expensive. This is the healthiest hair one can buy and comes from a single donor.

The lowest quality human hair is hair that is none of the above. It mostly comes from fallen hair – or hair that people have collected from their brushes, bathtubs, floors, etc. that have fallen from their heads over time. Low-quality human hair is usually very cheap and does not last long.


  • Natural-looking – Human hair is much more natural-looking than synthetic hair. It is very easy to mistake human hair for being someone’s own hair. With human hair, you can closely match your natural texture and color with what you purchase.
  • Longer lifespan – Human hair lasts much longer than synthetic hair. Depending on how well the hair is taken care of, it has the potential to last over a year.
  • Versatile – Human hair is very versatile in the ways that you can style it. With human hair, you are able to dye, bleach, and apply heat to the hair without destroying it. You can also style the hair more often than you could with synthetic hair.


  • Expensive – Human hair is much more expensive than synthetic hair. Many times, you will at least be spending $100 on a wig or set of bundles.
  • High-maintenance – Due to the fact that human hair needs to be treated as such, it requires much more maintenance than synthetic hair. The hair needs to be washed and conditioned in order to stay healthy and last longer. It also needs a product to keep it looking shiny and voluminous.


  • Synthetic hair is less realistic
  • Human hair is more expensive
  • Synthetic hair cannot be chemically altered
  • Human hair is more versatile
  • Synthetic hair is always ethically sourced


  • Both can look like natural hair
  • Both need some maintenance

How can you soften synthetic hair?

Synthetic hair is not real hair, so using a product that is made to soften artificial fibers can help to soften the hair. Fabric softener is a product that can be used to soften synthetic hair. Using a fabric softener will help to detangle the hair, remove dirt and oils, as well as improve its softness.

Another product that softens synthetic hair is a hot-air brush. Hot airbrushes have metal prongs that heat the hair and help smoothen it out. Conditioner that is specially made for synthetic hair can also help to get rid of dryness and stiffness.

The Final Word

Both synthetic hair and human hair have their pros and cons. Choosing which is right for you is based on what best fits your lifestyle and preferences.

Synthetic vs. Human Hair: Overview, Similarities, and Differences (7)

Synthetic vs. Human Hair: Overview, Similarities, and Differences (8)


I have always had a love for writing and have been blogging for about 3 years now. I have a passion for teaching what I have learned over the years, especially about hair. I have had almost every hairstyle - typical of a cosmetologist’s daughter- including the big chop in 2015. With all the knowledge I have gained, I feel it is my duty to help others on their healthy hair journey. I believe education can be fun, and I strive to make it fun to learn about beautiful black hair.

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Synthetic vs. Human Hair: Overview, Similarities, and Differences (2024)


Synthetic vs. Human Hair: Overview, Similarities, and Differences? ›

Human hair wigs need regular washing, conditioning, and styling, similar to natural hair. Synthetic wigs are easier to care for as they maintain their style even after washing. However, they can become easily damaged with incorrect styling techniques or exposure to heat.

What is the difference between human hair and synthetic hair? ›

The difference between synthetic and human hair wigs is in the fiber. A synthetic wig can be better at holding it's style even after washing. Human hair wigs are made out of real human hair so they look and feel real, but they also have to be re-styled after washing just like real hair.

What is the difference between synthetic and natural wigs? ›

Human hair wigs are made from natural, human hair fibres. As a result, human hair wigs offer the most natural look and feel – this is the key difference between synthetic hair and human hair. The hair is soft and has a shine and movement that is hard to replicate synthetically..

How to differentiate between human hair and human hair blend? ›

Look and Feel

100% Real Virgin Hair has a more natural appearance and a softer texture. They blend seamlessly with your natural hair, giving it a more realistic look. In contrast, human hair blends, which are a mix of real human hair and synthetic fibers, often have a slightly glossier and less natural feel.

When hair extensions are in can you tell the difference between human hair and synthetic? ›

Feel the texture of the hair. Human hair extensions should feel soft and smooth, while synthetic hair extensions will often feel coarse or wiry. Check the shine of the hair. Human hair extensions will have a natural shine, while synthetic hair extensions will often have a more artificial shine.

How to tell if hair is human or synthetic? ›

Take a small piece of the hair product and burn it. Human hair will turn into ashes and have a smell similar to burning feathers or barbecue. On the contrary, if the product contains synthetic fibers, it will melt into solid form and come out with a strong chemical smell.

What are the advantages of human hair and synthetic hair? ›

Human hair extensions are more expensive than synthetic hair because they last much longer, often up to and over a year – they can also be washed, styled with heat, and worn permanently. However, if you are looking for a short-term hair extension fix, then Synthetic Hair Extensions are an excellent choice.

What are 3 advantages and disadvantages of synthetic wigs? ›

Synthetics offered a lot of benefits to me.
  • Pros. Easy to style. Synthetic wigs easily bounce back to their original shape after washes because they come pre-styled. ...
  • Cons. Cannot be colored. Traditional hair dyes won't adhere to the synthetic fibers, and the chemicals will melt the wig. ...
  • Pros. Adaptability. ...
  • Cons. Cost.

Does synthetic hair last long? ›

A synthetic wig will last about four to six months (not as long as a human hair wig). They can be a bit shinier than a human hair wig, but there are ways to fix that when styling a synthetic wig. Synthetic hair wigs have a set color and style that stays the same.

What is the difference between real and fake hair wigs? ›

Genuine human hair will be more fine and smooth in texture while synthetics tend to be rough with thick strands. Synthetic hair also has an unnatural shine to it. Original human hair will also have a shine to it, but it is more toned down and natural looking.

What are the differences in human hair? ›

Fine hair has the smallest circumference, coarse hair has the largest circumference, and medium hair is anywhere between the other two. Coarse hair has a more open cuticle than thin or medium hair causing it to be the most porous.

What are the similarities and differences between human hair and animal hair? ›

Human and animal hairs show similarities in having an outer cuticle, cortex and medulla. The outer surface of the hair is covered by scales. Though there are similar morphological features, the scale pattern provides distinguishing characteristics between animal and human hairs.

How does synthetic hair burn? ›

The Flame/Burn Test

If the hair singes and burns upwards while smelling like burnt hair – it is real. If it sort of melts into a ball and smells like burning plastic – it is fake.

What is the difference between synthetic and natural hair? ›

Distinguishing between the two is essential when making a purchase. One key method is by examining the texture and feel. Human hair feels natural to the touch and can be heat-styled, whereas synthetic often has a more artificial texture and lacks heat resistance.

What advantage does human hair have over synthetic hair? ›

Human hair has greater durability than synthetic hair. Synthetic hair is often more expensive than human hair. Synthetic hair is less expensive than human hair. If the cuticle of the hair has been removed, you typically cannot condition it.

Is synthetic hair more durable than human hair? ›

Typically, the opposite is true. With proper care, human hair wigs can last a year while synthetic wigs need replacing after 4-6 months.

What is a disadvantage of synthetic hair? ›

Disadvantages of synthetic hair:

Not heat resistant – In most cases you can't use any heated appliances or the wig may melt. Prone to frizz – Static builds up in the hair and causes ends to frizz – the hair can tangle and become unmanageable. Not flexible – You can't change the texture or style.

Is synthetic or human hair better for braids? ›

Human hair is lighter than synthetic hair because it is void of plastic fibers, so the style won't feel as heavy. If having a more natural look is important to you then opting for human hair will be a great option for you. Unlike some synthetic hairs, human hair does not require chemicals in the manufacturing process.

Does synthetic hair look fake? ›

Some synthetic wigs may have an unnatural shine, making them look obviously unnatural. Human hair has a more natural luster, so overly shiny wigs can be a giveaway. If your wig looks shiny or artificial, use dry shampoo to reduce shine.

Is human hair as durable as synthetic hair? ›

Human hair is not as durable as synthetic hair.


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