If you have natural hair, you probably know the wonders of a protective hairstyle. The goal is to promote length retention and prevent hair breakage by keeping your ends out of the way, giving strands a rest from daily handling. While not all protective styles require hair extensions, they’re a fun way to switch up your look, add length and volume, and stay flawless on the go. Whether it’s classic straight-backed cornrows, Zoë Kravitz-style curly bohemian braids, passionate twists, butterflies, wigs or more, there is a plethora of synthetic hair extension options and humans to achieve the desired style. If navigating the online hair market feels overwhelming, don’t worry. Before, TZR talks to expert hairstylists to bring you the best hair extension brands to buy braids, wigs and weaves.
According to the natural hair expert, Nigella Miller, lifestyle and budget are the key factors to consider when choosing between synthetic and human hair extensions. “I always ask my clients where do they live? Are they physically active? Do they have time for daily maintenance? Allergies to a certain type of hair? These are all things to note when advising the best options. Synthetic hair is more affordable and effective on a budget, but human hair is lighter, safer on the scalp, and can be reused if properly cared for, although more expensive.
Dhairius Thomas, a celebrity hairstylist whose clients include Justine Skye and Jazmine Sullivan shares, “Human hair comes to market at a higher price but is worth it for those who want a more natural look in their extensions. It can be treated as if growing from the scalp and styled with heat tools. However, synthetic hair has just as much versatility with texture but cannot be styled with heated tools – it must be modified by soaking the hair in hot water.
Choosing Between Human Hair Vs. Synthetic Hair
As the hair industry continues to grow, consumers are switching from synthetic hair such as kanekalon (a higher quality synthetic fiber) to braided styles due to possible sensitivity resulting from the alkaline-based formula. Pro tip? “Soak your synthetic hair in apple cider vinegar to get rid of the alkaline lye shield that coats the hair, which causes itching, redness, and irritation,” adds Thomas. If time doesn’t allow it or DIY isn’t your jam, there are chemical-free synthetic brands that cut down on time.
When opting for human hair, treating your hair with TLC is essential to ensure the longevity of the unit and the style. “Human hair should be treated as if it were your own,” says Miller. “The same regimen that’s used on your hair is what you should be doing for extensions because it’s real hair. That means taking the time to shampoo, condition, deep condition, and detangle. Use a protectant thermal and all the necessary tools to protect your hair follicle from extension, especially in human braids, because your hair is intertwined in the braided hair.
Renowned celebrity natural hairdresser, Felicia Leatherwood, who kills Issa Rae’s crown, advises, “A good water-based leave-in conditioner spray is always good for human hair extensions. This helps keep human hair soft and manageable so it doesn’t tangle too easily.
You should also be careful with your own hair, as protective styles can be damaging if proper measures are not taken to nourish and support hair growth. “Pay attention to your edges when wearing protective styles, wrap your hair at night so there is no tension on the hairline or anywhere else on the scalp. Touch up your hairline after two to three weeks, depending on the flexibility of the protective style, and be sure to apply any growth aids while wearing braids, weaves, or twists, because it’s the best time to reach your scalp,” says Leatherwood.
Human hair brands to buy
Seen on A-listers, Naomi Campbell, Lizzo and Rihanna, this celebrity trusted mark is this girl when it comes to quality hair. The New York-based company sells lavish lace wigs, frontals, closures and bundles in a variety of collections to suit your every mood. Hair is an absolute investment, prices start at $130+ for a set of their True Signature line, but with proper care it can be worn again and last for years. Take note, when styling human hair, don’t go overboard with the products. “Lightly add shine and hold sprays if needed, but keep in mind that too much product can cause buildup. A penny of Bio-silk can leave hair looking fresh and hydrated for a few days,” says Thomas.
Finding extensions that perfectly mimic your natural hair can be a challenge. Enter, Heat Free Hair, a premium line specializing in natural textures, ranging from Type 3 curl designs to Type 4 coils. The site also offers a quiz to help customize the best product, design and style based on style. life and budget. Whether you prefer woven bundles for a weave, clips for instant volume and length, or a U-shaped wig, this line will have you ripping off without putting pressure on your hair.
Made from 100% raw hair, XOXO offers ponytails, bundles, HD frontal wigs and more in stunning textures from straight to curly. Founder Stephanie Nolan doesn’t play around – each collection goes through intensive quality control and is tested for tangles and shedding before it hits the market, which is reflected in the price. As someone who has bought and worn hair for years (yeah, it retains its original texture after washing and heat styling), I can attest that the attention to detail is second to none. Come on, if Solange rocks XOXO, then you know it’s high end.
With its mantra, “No curls left behind,” this black-owned and operated business is on a mission to let your natural beauty shine through. Offered in seven textures, three of which are exclusively for hair types 4A to C, Kinkistry is one of the few brands to ensure that all patterns of the frizzy hair spectrum are represented. Feeling experimental? Try the Kinknesis U-part wig, a 100% Peruvian glueless unit designed to match the look and volume of natural blow-out hair. Add a few tendrils using a loop wand for a whole new ‘do’.
Synthetic hair brands to buy
“My favorite brand of braided hair is Darling Textured Hair Extensions because it offers different textures and colors, the hair is pre-stretched and looks like human hair,” Thomas shares. If your protective styles include braids, hooks or faux-locs, the brand’s ready-to-wear extensions will have you looking flawless right out of the box, no handling required. Prime? The online brand is sold in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa, among other countries, perfect for global naturalists on the go.
You know that itchy feeling you get when you wear synthetic hair? The worst. Luckily, Latched and Hook offers the ease of synthetic hair without scalp irritation. With non-toxic, chemical-free hair in an array of eye-catching colors (think custom-dyed lime green and bubblegum pink), you can create bold looks without breaking the bank or breaking the bank.
One of the highest quality brands across the pond is The Headdress. The UK-based company, launched by hairstylist Tracey Amaka, is known for its incredibly soft pre-stretched and pre-colored hair blends, eliminating the manual labor needed for braiders to achieve custom colors on synthetic hair. The current selection includes five shades: Golden Hour, Tanned, Spiced, Sandy Beach and Warm Nights, the perfect blends of honey, blonde, red and dark brown shades that look great on all skin tones.