When shopping for hair extensions, some of the terms can be confusing for beginners. If you’re new to hair extensions…hearing the word Remy for the first time is bound to draw a blank stare. If you checked out our other post here you learned a little about remy hair, but let’s take it one step further: let’s explore the real difference between remy and non-remy extensions…and introduce you to a dark side of hair extension manufacturing you probably don’t know about.
It’s All About the Cuticle
First of all, lets quickly look at the outer anatomical structure of a single human hair. The cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair.It is a hard, shingle-like, or barb-like layer of over-lapping cells some 5 to 12 deep (like shingles on a roof or layers of a pine cone, or, a fish hook barb…all facing in the same direction) The cuticle layers all point toward the end of the hair shaft. They are the protective barrier for the softer inner core structure of the hair. When the cuticle is damaged, the hair tangles easily, looks dull, and has a rough texture. The cuticle layers cannot be seen by the naked eye, but they can be felt. If you slide your fingers along a single hair from the end towards the scalp, the hair will feel or rougher because you are going against the direction of cuticle growth and lifting up the little cuticle barbs . If you slide your fingers from the scalp to the ends of the hair, in the direction of cuticle growth, it will feel smooth.
Remy hair (sometimes spelled Remi) means that the cuticle layer for the hair extension is still intact. The hair has been collected from donors (women with long hair) and is processed into extensions with all the cuticles facing in the same direction. Just imagine a long ponytail being cut off and extensions made out of it. This results in premium hair extensions that will last much longer than chemically altered non-Remy hair.
Hair by Handful
All non-Remy hair is collected in great bunches, from anywhere, mostly from the hairbrushes of ladies and girls that have long hair and daily clean their hairbrushes and sell the hair. Needles to say, that collecting hair like this leads to the cuticles being mixed up and facing in different directions. If this hair with intact cuticles were to be made into extensions, they would tangle hopelessly and no one could comb through them, because the cuticles being like little fish hook barbs, will grab and tangle with the opposite facing fish hook barbs on the other hairs… making a literal birds-nest of tangled hair! Often times this hair comes from impoverished countries that literally have a black market for human hair who take advantage of women for huge profits. This is why it’s amazingly important to only purchase from manufacturers who source their hair directly and ethically. Read more about this disturbing harvesting in China and Russia here.
Fun Times With Acid
Now back to where we left off with the production of this non-remy hair. So the hair industry simply takes this randomly collected hair and soaks these big bunches of loose hair in huge acid baths to strip the hair of many layers of cuticle. This also makes the hair shaft thinner and more “European” looking since Asian hair is thicker and straighter. After the acid bath, the hair is then covered with a thick coating of silicone to make it shiny and beautiful to look at and touch, hence the term “silky soft” and “Tangle free”. But, after only a few hair washings, the silicone washes off and the hair tangles again because the remaining cuticle layers still left on the hair shaft will slowly start to hook against the other hair shaft cuticles again.
Non-Remy hair is the hair you will buy from most beauty supply stores or other sellers that sell “normal” hair extensions. Non-Remy is ok for clip-on hair, since this hair will not be washed very often as you take it off before washing your own hair. Of course, is cheaper to manufacturer non-Remy than it is to collect Remy hair. That is why the price of this hair is very, very low. At first it might seem like a bargain, but for semi-permanent hair extensions, it can turn into a maddening experience. Unfortunately, there are also many sellers who call their hair Remy and just sell “stripped hair”.