What is Unprocessed Hair? Your Definitive Advice and Answers.

If you have ever been looking at wigs or looking into donating hair and heard the phrase “unprocessed” or “virgin” hair, you may be left scratching your follicles in confusion and befuddlement. I was perplexed when I first heard the phrase virgin hair uttered. What is virgin hair? What kind of illicit activities does my unkempt mop get up to when I’m sleeping?

But no, virgin hair has very little to do with what kinds of depravity your hair gets up. It refers to unprocessed hair, which would naturally beg the question ‘what is unprocessed hair?’ Essentially it means hair that has not been permed, dyed, bleached, colored, or otherwise chemically altered, nor has it been exposed to cigarette smoke. It has also not been blow-dried. There are definitely a lot of things that can sully your precious mane.

What is unprocessed hair

Why does it matter?​

So what’s the point of it all? What relevance or impact does virgin hair hold? What makes it so special compared to some well-cared-for hair that’s been on a few follicle flings?

Well, the thing is, virgin hair is highly sought after for the production of wigs. Wig makers specifically go out of their way to get their hands on virgin hair, especially from people of Indian, Malaysian and Russian descent, and naturally colored European hair.

This type of hair can be used to make very high-quality wigs and hair extensions, which appear much healthier and far more natural than most people’s real hair.

blue curly wigs
A girl with a blue curly wig

One of the most important parts of unprocessed hair is that the cuticles are still intact. But there are other factors at play as well.

Virgin hair is stronger than processed hair. Much stronger. It has been through less damage, and that means it will last much longer than other wigs. That’s the reason they’re in such high demand. And it’s not just the strength of them either.

Anything made with unprocessed hair will look much better in almost every way.​

What are the drawbacks of unprocessed hair?​

So if unprocessed hair is so fantastic, why doesn’t everyone just get unprocessed hair?

Well, there are a couple of reasons that hold people back from making that purchase. For starters, while processed hair can be dyed or adjusted or made to order, if you want unprocessed hair in your natural color, you have to wait until some are available – which may take a long time depending on if you have rare shades of ginger or blonde, for example.

That leads to the second big problem: getting unprocessed hair is difficult. The rarity means that you may find it difficult to get your hands on some. There are only a few vendors that deal with unprocessed hair, and the market is quite small. Which in turn causes the third and final major problem.

It’s expensive. I’m sure you probably realized this because of the rarity and quality, but unprocessed hair can sometimes cost up to several times what processed hair costs. Of course, thanks to the quality, the wigs made from virgin hair may be totally worth it, but that is for you to decide. Certainly they would last you much longer than other wigs would, and they would look better.

What are the benefits of getting processed hair instead?​

So if you’re reading this and wondering if you can just get processed hair instead, well, as a matter of fact, yes you can. In fact, depending on your situation or your needs it may actually work in your favor.

To start with, because the hair is already processed, and removed from the cuticles, it can be altered any way you want. You can change the color, you can change the style, you can make it curly, straight, or anything in between. It becomes anything you need it to become.

It’s also very easy to get your hands on some. You can get it almost anywhere, and it can end up costing very little. It puts less strain on your wallet.

It’s great for pretty much all your needs – if you need a wig, extensions, anything. If you need a wig for day to day use, it’s there. If you need some extensions or a small piece to cover up some spot balding, it’s there. If you need a special wig for theatrical purposes, it’s there.​

What are the disadvantages?​

Remember how we said virgin hair was much, much stronger than processed hair? Well, there’s a number of reasons why.

When unprocessed wigs are made, they are soaked in an acidic bath to strip away the cuticles and other parts. Already you can see the theme – unprocessed hair wigs are made to preserve its natural strengths, processed hair wigs are made to be artificial.

After the acidic bath, the hair is given silicon treatments to make it look as close to naturally growing hair as possible.

While there are some good benefits to doing all this, naturally there will be some consequences as well. The primary consequence is that the lifespan of processed hair is severely nerfed during this process. The hair will, in time, quickly become dried out. It will eventually start to feel brittle to the touch, and it will look unhealthy and unnatural as time goes on.

The chemicals and the stress that processed hair has been put through, even before being turned into a wig, has a long-lasting impact on the strength and life of the wig. Be wary that if you buy a wig with processed hair, you may need to replace it frequently.​

So what should you get?​

So we answered your questions, what is virgin hair and what is unprocessed hair, quite thoroughly. We’ve told you what processed hair is. But we haven’t actually talked about which one you should get for your wig/hair piece/extensions. Let’s do that now.

From our perspective, whether you get processed or unprocessed hair entirely depends on you. You should consider several things when buying a wig – primarily budget and purpose.

How much can you afford to spend on a wig? Can you afford an unprocessed hair piece? That changes things. If you can afford one, it may be wise to buy it. If you can’t, you have to ask yourself whether it is worthwhile to get a processed one or save up for unprocessed. To answer that question, though, you should first answer our next question:

What are you getting the hair piece for? Is this a temporary thing, or something you’re getting as a part of a costume? Are you going to be wearing it every day for years, a couple of times a week, or once in your life?

If you plan to only wear it temporarily, then a processed hair piece or wig should be perfectly acceptable. But if you plan to wear wigs daily, for years, you should get a virgin hair piece – it’s just got more bang for your buck.​

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