Hair extensions are given grades, meant to indicate their quality. Unfortunately, these grades–starting at A (or 1A) and going up to AAAAA (or 5A) or higher–are not regulated and may not be consistent from brand to brand. Additionally, there is some disagreement about what these grades mean. By learning the specifics of each, you will be able to distinguish between 100% human hair, Remy hair, and Virgin hair. Furthermore, by looking at the length of strands in your hair extensions and evaluating the overall quality of the hair, you can determine the grades of hair extensions for yourself.
EditDistinguishing Between 100% Human, Remy, and Virgin Hair
- Make sure it is 100% human hair. All graded hair extensions (1A and up) should be composed of 100% human hair. Unfortunately, many companies may include strands of animal or synthetic fibers. The best way to determine if hair is 100% human is to look for cuticle scales under a microscope. You can also test for synthetic fibers by seeing if the hair is easily damaged (melts) by heat styling.
- Look for Remy hair. “Remy hair” refers to 100% human hair extensions in which the strands are arranged in a unilateral cuticle direction. Remy hair is collected in such a way that strands of hair stay aligned in the direction they grew. For instance, this can mean holding the hair in a ponytail and cutting it off.
- Keeping the cuticles in the same direction reduces tangles and helps hair to last longer.
- If the hair becomes matted in 2-3 weeks, you will know that it’s not real Remy.
- Identify genuine Virgin hair. Virgin hair is 100% human Remy hair that has never been chemically treated or processed. This is the highest quality hair you can buy. There are essentially six ways to verify that what you have purchased is authentic virgin hair. These are:
- The presence of split ends. If there are zero split ends, this means the hair has been acid washed.
- You can feel the cuticle. If you hold a strand between your fingers and slide your hand down, it should be smooth. If you try to move the other direction, you should feel tiny ridges.
- The hair will often be lighter at the tips than at the roots (though not always).
- The hair that is stitched to the track and reversed (often called the mustache or beard) is very soft.
- The hair has not been coated with silicone. It should not have a shiny residue.
- It smells like hair. The chemicals used to disguise non-Virgin hair smell a bit like corn chips.
EditLooking at Strand Lengths
- Measure the length of the strands. According to some sources, the grade of hair extensions does not indicate the quality of the hair at all, but rather the length of the strands. For example, in a bundle of 18 inches (45.72 cm) hair extensions, not every strand will measure the full 18 inches (45.72 cm). The higher the number of strands per bundle that measure the full length, the greater the grade of the hair. Look carefully through your bundle to evaluate the proportion of full-length hairs to shorter-hairs.
- Grade A (1A) hair will have 50% or less full-length strands.
- Grade AAA (3A) will have around 70% full-length strands.
- Grade AAAAA (5A) and up should have at least 90% full-length strands.
- Distinguish between single-drawn and double-drawn. Single-drawn hair bundles, and bundles that are essentially gathered together once, and then trimmed to the desired length (such as 18 inches/45.72 cm). This process results in around 50% of strands that are the full-length of the bundle. Double-drawn hair bundles are processed twice, achieving closer to 90% of strands that are full-length. Fold a bundle of hair extensions in half and look for shorter hairs popping out. If you see this, most likely the hair has been single-drawn.
- If the non-uniform length of hair does not bother you, single-drawn hair is a more cost-effective option.
- Both Remy and non-Remy hair can be either single or double-drawn.
- Compare the thickness of different bundles. The higher the proportion of full-length hairs in a given bundle are the thicker the bundle will be. Furthermore, higher grade double-drawn hair should have a completely uniform thickness from top to bottom. If the bundle of hair seems to grow thinner towards the bottom, it is of a lower grade.
EditEvaluating the Quality
- Rate how much it tangles. Unfortunately, evaluating the quality of hair extensions is difficult to do just by looking. In most cases, getting a sense of bundle’s quality will require some wearing time. One of the factors when determining the grade of hair extensions involves tangle. Hair bundles with the majority of strands moving in a unilateral direction (such as Remy hair) will tangle much less easily. In other words, the more easily your hair becomes knotted or tangles, the lower the grade.
- See how long it lasts. With proper care, hair extensions should last for a while. The length of time that the hair stays shiny, healthy, and natural-looking is reflected by the hair’s grade. Here is a basic guide:
- Grade A (1A) hair should last around one month.
- Grade AAA (3A) hair should last 3-4 months.
- Grade AAAAA (5A) can last anywhere from 8-12 months.
- Gauge how the hair responds to coloring. The highest quality hair extensions (5A and/or Virgin hair) have had the least amount of chemical treatment. This means the hair can be successfully dyed. Lower grade hair extensions will not respond as well to coloring, and may only be able to move within 3-4 shades of their original color without significant damage.