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Remy Hair Extensions

Remy hair extensions – untangling the mystery of good hair.

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What are remy hair extensions?

If you’re new to wearing hair, you might wonder why the term ‘remy hair extensions’ keeps coming up. There’s nothing mystical about what remy means – all the hairs in a bundle, weft or wig are running in the same direction – from root to tip. So, why is this important? Did you know that hair is covered in tiny cuticles that flow in one direction? Picture it like scales on a fish or tiles on a roof. When hair is all pointing in the same direction, the cuticle layer is the hairs force field, a shiny shield that protects the hair. But if the cuticles run in mixed directions those harmless little scales become your worst nightmare. They rub against each other to create a backcombed effect, but not in a glam, tousled way. No, the hair knots and matts and no amount of combing or brushing, conditioner or oil will fix it.


If only hair didn’t have cuticles…


You can buy hair that has the cuticle stripped off. So, even if it gets mixed up, it shouldn’t tangle. Good, right? Wrong! The cuticle extends the life of the hair, and gives it shine and a natural lustre. It’s an important part in what makes hair beautiful. If the cuticle wasn’t important, all commercial hair would have the cuticle removed. Leaving the cuticle intact makes the hair difficult to work with, and therefore more expensive to produce. But, removing it strips it of its integrity and compromises the quality, making it less valuable.


diagram to demonstrate the different directions of remy and non remy hair

So, remy hair extensions are guaranteed to be good?


Afraid not. Remember, remy just means all the hair is pointing in the same direction.  You should only buy remy hair extensions but being remy isn’t the only thing to look for when choosing hair. The ethnicity, care taken during manufacturing and the draw of the hair all add to the finished result. If you’ve learnt just one thing so far, it should be this – all good hair extensions are remy but not all remy hair extensions are good.   

Before I go any further, I need to take you on a small detour to tell you about silicone.


If you do a quick image search for ‘remy hair extensions’, what do you find? Page, after page of sleek, shiny hair extensions in every colour, texture and curl pattern known to man. Yet, for all their differences, there’s one thing they all have in common – they’re shiny. So shiny in fact that some of them look like Barbie hair. Coincidence? No, silicone.


The silicone used to treat hair extensions is a slippery, shiny, heat resistant liquid polymer – perfect for taming frazzled tresses. Used sparingly it will give mediocre hair a healthy bounce and glow. Added generously, it will transform the driest, dullest hair into spectacularly glossy locks. Sounds great, right? It would be if it wasn’t for one thing – it washes off. Then the hair reverts back to its drab, and probably knotty natural state.


So, Remy hair extensions have gorgeous, healthy cuticles? You’d think so…


Euro, European grade, European style remy hair extensions have a foot in both camps. It’s Asian hair that has MOST of the cuticle removed. But why would you remove only some of the cuticle? Won’t it still tangle if it gets mixed up? Yes, it will but this hair doesn’t have the cuticle stripped because it isn’t remy, it is remy.


6 stages of cuticle damage from healthy to severely damaged under a microscope
Click to enlarge

There are two reasons for removing only some of the cuticle layers. Firstly, it makes the hair easier to process using gentler methods. The result? Less damaged hair. The second reason is the hair becomes finer, more like European hair. This means it’s more saleable, and can be sold for a better price. Silicone coats the hair, making it shiny and soft. But, soon enough the silicone washes away. The hair becomes duller and after a few short months, it will start drying out, breaking and be prone to split ends. You can reapply hair as many times as you like. But, weren’t you looking for good quality hair?


That said, this hair is great if you’re on a budget, get it for a fair price and know what you’re buying. But this isn’t always the case. Lots of hair vendors and salons hike the price up and market this hair as European. How can you tell if hair is genuine European? Real European hair is scarce and fetches a similar price to Russian hair. If hair is coming out of packets, that all look the same – same length, colour, texture, density – it’s Asian.


Non-Remy Hair Extensions


Non remy hair extensions are almost exclusively made from ‘standard’ or ‘fallen’ hair. But what is standard/fallen? You’ll be sorry you asked…


You know that you lose hair every day, that hair is constantly going through a cycle of growing, resting, falling out and then growing again? Standard/fallen hair is shed hair collected from brushes, plug holes, drains, etc. Yuk, right? Some women will save their shed hair for years, keeping it in a bag until they have enough to sell. It doesn’t end there though. It’s also collected from rubbish dumps, balled up hair that has been thrown away.  The hair is teased apart and sorted according to length. This is the poorest quality hair. It comes from multiple ‘donors’ and contains many textures and colours. And, just in case I need to clarify, it isn’t remy. To make it manageable, manufacturers remove most of the cuticle by soaking the hair in an acid bath. It’s then bleached, coloured, curled/waved/straightened and smothered in silicone.


Because not all the cuticle was removed, when the silicone washes away, the hair will tangle so spectacularly, the only thing it will be good for is the bin. So, why don’t they just have done with it and remove all the cuticle? Because this takes more time, and time is money. As with all things, you get what you pay for when buying hair extensions.  


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