Human Hair Wigs vs. Synthetic Wigs
A common misconception of first-time wig buyers is that human hair wigs look more realistic than synthetic wigs.
What if we told you that isn’t true?
There are lots of differences between the types of wig hair.
Figuring out which type you need before you start shopping will help you choose a wig that looks great and works for your lifestyle.
How many types of hair fiber are there?
First time wig buyers often assume there are only two types of wig hair, human and synthetic, but that’s wrong! There is a third type: heat-friendly synthetic.
You can’t restyle traditional synthetic wigs. They come pre-styled, and you’re married to that look forever because any heat source - hair dryers, curling irons, straighteners, even an open oven! - will melt your wig.
Heat-friendly synthetic wigs were invented to combine the low cost of a traditional synthetic wig and the styling versatility of a human hair wig. Go ahead an style you heat friendly synthetic wig however you want.
Or, you can always restyle if you decide that 80s permed bob wasn’t such a good idea after all…
How often do I switch up my look?
Most human hair wigs can even be colored and recolored. Just make sure to find a stylist who specializes in coloring human hair wigs!
Synthetic wigs are a lot less versatile. They can be trimmed, but can never be heat styled to change their texture, and they cannot be colored.
If you’re happy sporting the same hairdo every day, a synthetic wig might be the right choice for you. Like to change things up? Go for an adaptable human hair wig.
What’s my budget?
Budget is a key factor in figuring out which wig you should buy.
Are you experiencing hair loss because of a round of chemotherapy treatments? Consider a budget-friendly synthetic wig.
Losing hair because of stress or post-pregnancy hormone imbalances and want something you can wear every day that will last a long time? Human hair wigs are more expensive, but they last much longer than synthetic wigs.
How often will I wear my wig?
Even with daily use, human hair wigs can last up to a year. Synthetic wigs, on the other hand, typically last 4 to 6 months. Heat-friendly synthetic wigs have the shortest lifespan, usually only two to three months.
With any hair fiber, wearing your wig less often will keep it looking newer, longer. The same goes for washing your wig: the less you do it, the longer your wig will last.
Synthetic and heat-friendly synthetic wigs usually only need to be washed every four to six wears. Human hair wigs need to be washed either after each wash or at the very least as often as you want to restyle it.
Something to keep in mind, washing your wig puts stress on the hair fibers and will cause them to break down faster.
If you’re particularly concerned about the longevity of your wigs, consider buying two at one time. This will allow you to rotate your wigs and significantly extend their lifespan.
Which type of hair loss do I have?
Depending on the type of hair loss you’re experiencing, your natural hair may or may not grow back. Knowing the type you have can help you figure out how long you’ll need to be wearing a wig.
Human hair wigs last a year or more, so people who need to wear wigs for extended periods might find them to be the best choice. If your hair is already growing back, or you know you won’t need to wear a wig for very long, a four to six-month synthetic wig could be a more economical choice.
Where will I wear my wig?
Do you live in a hot and humid or damp and rainy climate? Just like with your natural hair, human hair wigs can become frizzy or flat.
Synthetic wigs, on the other hand, are great for weather extreme climates because they hold their style no matter what.
If you live in a challenging climate and you’re set on buying a human hair wig, go for a shorter, more manageable style. You’ll spend less time maintaining your style.
If you’re an outdoorsy person (hello, fellow gardeners!), wearing a human hair wig in direct sunlight will fade the color over time. When you’re wearing your human hair wig outside, try to wear a scarf or hat to protect it.
How much energy do I have?
Are you experiencing fatigue from chemotherapy or another health issue? Synthetic wigs require significantly less upkeep than human hair wigs.
Synthetic wigs have “style retention.” That means that after you wash and dry your wig, it will bounce back to the original style it came in. Not only that, but they come pre-styled so you won’t have to spend any time styling them whatsoever.
Another time-saving bonus? Human hair wigs require deep conditioning once a week on top of their regular shampoo and conditioning regimen. Synthetic wigs can be washed less often and never require a deep condition.
PROS AND CONS
Human Hair Wigs
- Adaptability: Human hair wigs can be curled, permed, straightened or colored whenever you want, just like natural hair. However, you should talk to a stylist before changing your human hair wig. They’ll be able to teach you the best techniques for styling and maintaining your wig.
- Naturalness: Human hair wigs are...wait for it...made of human hair! They’re guaranteed to look and feel completely natural.
- Texture: Human hair wigs come in the same variety of textures as real hair: curly, natural, straight, wavy, thin, thick, fine, etc. If you choose a human hair wig, you’ll always be able to find something that matches your natural hair exactly.
- Durability: They may cost more, but human hair wigs last two to three times longer than synthetic wigs.
- Styling: Human hair wigs are labor intensive. They take skill and effort to style. Always consult a stylist before attempting to style a human hair wig on your own.
- Upkeep: Like with natural hair, these wigs need to be washed, deep-conditioned and re-styled regularly to maintain their natural luster.
- Weight: Human hair wigs typically feel heavier than synthetic or heat-friendly synthetic wigs of the same style and length.
- Cost: Because they’re made from real human hair, these wigs can be significantly more expensive.
- Delicate: Human hair wigs incur damage from brushing, teasing, backcombing, washing and using heated styling tools. Ask yourself before you restyle your human hair wig, is it too soon to do this yet? (Because you know that it’s delicate...)
- Color-matching: It’s almost impossible to replicate an exact color match with human hair wigs, even when you’re trying to purchase a backup of the same wig.
- Weather Dependency: Like your natural hair, human hair wigs become frizzy, limp, or dry depending on the weather.
- Ease: Because they come pre-styled and bounce back to their original shape after washes, synthetic wigs are exceptionally easy to care for.
- Naturalness: It’s almost impossible to tell the difference between a high-quality synthetic wig and a human hair wig. Really, it is.
- Weather Resistance: No matter the weather, a synthetic wig will hold it’s style. Take that, humid East Coast summers.
- Low Maintenance: Synthetic wigs require almost no upkeep, which is helpful if you’re experiencing fatigue from health issues.
- Versatility: Because of the low cost, you can purchase multiple synthetic wigs to try out different styles, cuts, and colors.
- Cost: Traditional synthetic wigs will almost always be the lowest priced option.
- Variety: Synthetic wigs come in the widest array of colors, both natural and ‘fantasy’ hues.
- Lack of Flexibility: DO 👏 NOT 👏 RECOLOR 👏 SYNTHETIC 👏 WIGS. Traditional hair dyes won’t adhere to the fibers, and the heat from the chemicals will melt the wig. Not a good look.
- Shininess: Low-cost synthetic wigs, usually wigs under $100, can develop an inhuman shine.
- Less Versatility: Synthetic wigs can’t be heat styled or worn while baking brownies (or cookies, or cakes, or anything…)
- Longevity: Synthetic wigs don’t last as long as their human hair counterparts, typically only four to six months.
Heat-Friendly Synthetic Wigs
- Versatility: Heat friendly wigs were invented to be styled. Curl away, ladies.
- Cost: These wigs are the middle ground in terms of price point. They’re less expensive than human hair but more expensive than traditional synthetic wigs.
- Style Retention: Like traditional synthetic wigs, heat-friendly synthetic wigs have style retention (even after you’ve restyled them!). After you wash and dry, they’ll bounce back to their most recent heat-styled look.
- Weather Resistant: Through rain, shine, or snow, heat-friendly synthetic wigs will hold their shape.
- Naturalness: These wigs almost never develop the “unrealistic” shine a standard synthetic wig can.
- Texture: If you frequently restyle your wig, heat-friendly synthetic wigs can become “scratchy” and develop a permanently frizzy look.
- Styling: Heat-friendly synthetic wigs are more difficult to style than their human hair cousins. Put down the curling iron and set up an appointment with your stylist before attempting to style one of these on your own.
- Longevity: These wigs have the shortest lifespan, usually only two to three months.
- Coloring Options: Like traditional synthetic wigs, you CANNOT recolor a heat-friendly synthetic wig.
Feel like you’ve learned everything you need to know about wig hair fibers? Browse our Wigs section and start the hunt for your next look.