If you’ve been paying attention to the beauty industry over the last few years, then you already know that wigs and hair extensions are having a major moment. While wigs and hair extensions are nothing new, quality hair pieces used to be reserved for the rich and the famous on (and off) screen. However, recent advances in the beauty world have made better quality hair pieces available to everyone—no matter your price range.
While you can find a wig or hair extensions to match any budget from as low as $10 to as much as $10,000, not all hair pieces are created equal—and the price of your hairpiece can tell you a lot about the quality. If you’re wondering if it’s worth spending money on expensive wigs and weaves when there are cheaper options available, you’ve come to the right place.
We sat down with Stephanie Nolan, the former model turned CEO and owner of XOXO Virgin Hair, to find out what goes into the price of your wigs and hair extensions.
Why is there such a big price difference between human and synthetic hair?
There are a lot of things that go into the price of your wigs and hair extensions, but one of the most significant determining factors is whether the hair you’re purchasing is human or synthetic. Human hair is exactly what it sounds like—hair collected from human donors—while synthetic hair is made up of acrylic fibers spun on high heat to mimic the look of human hair.
There is such a large gap in the price between synthetic hair and human hair because synthetic materials are extremely inexpensive to produce and can be done in large quantities with no risk of shortages in supply.
Ultimately, human hair costs more because it costs more to produce and outperforms and outlasts synthetic hair by years.
“For instance, XOXO Virgin Hair can last up to five years or more with proper maintenance because the hair is 100 percent authentic human hair with no synthetic or animal fillers,” Nolan says.
When buying human hair, you also have to factor in how the hair is sourced. If the people are being paid for their hair, the cost of the final product has to reflect the payment the donor receives. Furthermore, human hair can’t just be cut from one person’s head and placed on another’s. The hair has to be detangled, washed, conditioned, sorted, and bundled—that is another additional cost that has to be factored into the final price of human hair.
Where does human hair come from?
In theory, human hair bought and sold for wigs and hair extensions can be collected anywhere in the world. Like most products, however, there are certain countries which have perfected the process of mass producing sustainable quantities of human hair. While hair is often labeled as Brazilian, Malaysian, or Armenian, that doesn’t always indicate where the hair was actually collected.
“Human hair in sustainable quantities comes from the following countries: India, China, and Vietnam. There are even some smaller areas of the world that can provide human hair such as Laos, Indonesia, Burma, and even Slavic countries like Ukraine and small sections of Russia,” Nolan says.
Nolan says that she believes many hair brands mislabel their product simply as a marketing tactic to make consumers believe they’re purchasing high-quality hair, when in fact, many of those brands are actually selling chemically processed hair from India. While the source of your hair may not determine the quality, your best bet is to buy from brands that are transparent about where they get their product.
What is the average wholesale price of human hair?
Nolan says the cost of human hair varies according to several factors including, origin, length, and texture, but on average a bundle of human hair usually comes out to less than $100.
“The current average wholesale price for 3.5 ounces of 20-inch authentic, cuticle intact, and aligned hair is around $70 to $75 per bundle.”
Once you factor in retail markups, a human hair bundle will typically run anywhere from $100 to $225 depending on the length. The amount of bundles each person needs varies on the look they’re trying to achieve, but Nolan usually recommends purchasing a closure or frontal and two bundles to create a wig.
How do companies determine the price of bundles, closures, frontals, and wigs?
Nolan says the most significant factor that determines the cost of bundles, closures, frontals, and wigs is the quality of the hair and materials used. One example of this in action is single-drawn hair and double-drawn hair.
In an 18-inch, single-drawn bundle, half the hair will be 18 inches long, and half will vary in length between 14 and 16 inches. This creates a bundle that is thick at the top and tapers off on the ends. In an 18-inch double-drawn bundle, however, 70 to 80 percent of the hair will be the full 18 inches. It makes for a much fuller appearance.
“Single-drawn hair costs less than double-drawn hair. Double-drawn hair is thicker, meaning less hair needs to be purchased for a full look,” she says.
Nolan says that chemically processed hair is also much cheaper to buy, but it doesn’t usually last very long. If your human hair wig falls apart after just a few months of wear, chances are good the hair was chemically processed. The same goes for pieces made from synthetic hair. It’s readily available and mass-produced in factories around the world, but very few synthetic wigs stand the test of time.
The hair itself isn’t the only thing that determines the cost of hair pieces. Wigs, closures, and frontals require lace that is supposed to blend with your hairline seamlessly. High-quality lace that can go virtually unnoticed is much more expensive than the lace you’ll find on cheaply priced wigs. The final factor is the labor that goes into creating the bundles, wigs, and frontals. While synthetic wigs are mass produced in factories, human hair wigs are often made by hand which usually requires more time and money.
“The higher the quality of hair, materials used, and skilled labor, the more a wig will cost. For instance, a high-quality, cuticle intact, 20-inch, full lace wig can cost $900 or more,” Nolan says.
Why do celebrity wigs cost so much?
While $900 is nothing to scoff at, we’ve read countless stories of celebrities spending upwards of $10,000 on custom wigs and hair extensions—so what gives?
“Celebrity wigs are much more expensive than typical consumer wigs due to it being customized specifically for the celebrity, all the way down to head measurements, face symmetry, type of hair used, density, and if the wig requires any specific coloring and styling,” Nolan explains.
Can you get quality hair at an affordable price?
It’s hard to answer this question definitively because affordability is personal. While you may find a $500 wig affordable, the next person might not want to spend more than $50. No matter how much you decide to spend on your wigs and hair extensions, Nolan says to look for companies who are transparent about the quality of their product.
“The key is being honest about the quality that is actually being sold,” she says.
The next time you purchase a wig or bundle of hair, you can rest assured you’re equipped with all of the knowledge to make the best decision for you, your hair, and your wallet.
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