One of the most common questions from clients we get that have been “shopping” around for Russian hair extensions is “How do I know that the salon is selling me real Russian hair”. The sad reality is that most salons in London and Manchester that say they are selling Russian hair, AREN’T. They are using Chinese and Indian hair and passing it off as Russian to unsuspecting clients and for the most part, it works. The problem for clients is that short of doing a DNA test to determine the origin of the hair, there is no way be for a client to be 100% certain. Clients who are new to hair extensions don’t have anything to compare it to and probably didn’t have the time to have consultations at a few different salons while the more seasoned extension wearer isn’t aware that they don’t have Russian hair and that something better exists. But if you know what to look for there are a few clues which can help you to identify all the salons masquerading Chinese and Indian hair as Russian.
5 Ways to Identify Real Russian Hair
Chinese and Indian hair is cheap because it's readily available in large quantities. China and India account for 38% of the world’s population while Russia only accounts for 1.89%. Over the past 4-years demand for Russian hair has skyrocketed and supply, due to the time it takes hair to grow, has not been able to keep up. The impact is that the price per KG which is denominated in USD has increased 35% and the purchasing power of GBP (because of Brexit and COVID-19) has fallen 20% making real Russian hair for UK salons more expensive than it has been at any other time in history. Salons who offer “competitive” prices because they buy their hair in wholesale or in bulk are a big red flag. The concept of buying Russian hair in at wholesale prices or in bulk simply does not exist. You cannot buy Russian hair in bulk or wholesale any more than someone can buy gold, silver or diamonds in bulk or wholesale. Russian hair, like precious metals, are a commodity. It is a rare commodity which is becoming rarer every day. The hair seller knows it so if you don’t buy it at their price someone else will. Why would he sell it cheaper? After it isn’t like the hair has a past due date. So, if you see a salon offering a full head of 22” Russian hair for around £800 you can be confident in knowing that this isn’t Russian.
2. Price Differential Between Lengths
Another tell is the price differential between the shorter and longer lengths. If the salon’s price relationship is linear (equal amounts between different lengths) then this can be a clue that it isn’t real Russian hair. Longer lengths cost much more than shorter lengths. Anything more than 20” is likely to attract a length premium of 30% of more, so it stands to reason that the price difference between lengths should not be in equal increments.
3. Mass Market Products Line
Salons and online suppliers that offer Russian hair extensions products, tapes, clip-ins and wefts, in a myriad of colours and lengths, ready for next-day-delivery are not selling real Russian hair. In order to understand why this determination can be so easily made, it is important to understand why it does not make sense to create a mass market extension line from Russian hair.
There simply is not enough Russian hair stock to supply all of the sellers around the world who claim to use Russian hair as Real Russian hair is extremely scarce, but scarcity alone doesn’t eliminate the possibility of someone producing a mass market Russian extension line.
II. Hair colouring and processing.
For a mass market line to work everything needs to be exactly the same. If someone buys an 18” clip-in, in colour X5, all the X5 18” clip-ins must be the same colour and same length. This cannot be done by hand and must be done in a factory with specialised machinery. When you colour hair at an industrial level (large quantities) you lose about 25% of the hair in waste and subject the hair to an aggressive acid and colouring process. Not only is this uneconomical it makes no sense to subject soft, silky hair to a colouring process that removes the very qualities that Russian hair is sought after for. By the time the colouring process is done, it doesn’t look or feel like real Russian hair, to an experienced buyer.
If a business is stocking wefts, i-tips, clip-in and tapes, each in 60 colours and 3 lengths, we are talking about 720 separate “products”. The seller will need each one of these products in sufficient quantity to be able to offer quick delivery. The amount of Russian hair required to do this is staggering and when coupled with the amount of money a salon or supplier would have to tie up in inventory for a mass market Russian extension product line, it becomes prohibitive from a cash flow perspective.
As the hair extension industry is unregulated, it is falls upon salons and companies that sell hair extensions to behave ethically towards their customers. Of course, this doesn’t always happen and one of the most common ways to mislead customers into thinking you are offering a better product than you are, by using specific terminology. A good recent example of this is a company with two London based salons who claimed that all the hair they use in the salon, tapes and clip-ins, including blondes, was 100% double drawn Russian virgin hair. Now those within the industry know that, recently, it has become harder and harder to source Russian virgin hair and that double drawn is the most expensive hair as it labour intensive to comb out the short hairs and more hair needs to be used to achieve the thicker ends. As a result, the demand for double drawn is actually quite low and it makes no sense commercially to offer double drawn as “standard”. So, to flat out and advertise that all hair, irrespective of colour, was double drawn Russian virgin was either a gross oversight on their part or they were purposefully trying to mislead the public. As this is a hair extensions company that claims to be specialists with 8-years of experience, it seemed obvious that this was not an oversight and because their claims were so outrageous and potentially harming the hair extension industry, the Advertising Standards Agency (“ASA”) and Trading Standard Office (“TSO”) were notified. On the back of the ASA, the company was forced acknowledge that they have made false and misleading claim and partially removed some of instances where they called their hair 100% Russian Virgin Double drawn (although many of these claims still remain on their website and in their video). The point of all of this is that while the public should have the utmost confidence in that they are getting the type of hair that is being advertised in many situations they, unfortunately, are not. Therefore, it is important to do your research so you can pick up of the little red flags.
5. Hair Appearance
While the above clues can all be used before you step foot in a salon, it is also helpful to know what to look for when handling Russian hair. To the touch Russian hair is soft and fine while Asian hair coarser and heavier. Hair should not be unnaturally shinny. While shiny hair compared to normal scalp hair may impart a feeling of quality and be construed for Russian hair, it shouldn’t. Shiny hair simply means that the hair has been covered with a silicone layer. This gives it a simulated healthy look and while in the beginning the hair seems shiny and beautiful, after a few washes the silicone layer starts to wash away and the colour fades leaving the hair with a dull matt appearance.
What Makes Russian Hair Russian?
Hair that transits through Russia or that is purchased from Russia does not make it Russian. Geography, genetics and diet define what is Russian hair. Hair from the south of Russia, the far East or Mongolia is not the same as Russian hair. It is thicker and coarser. True Russian hair is an excellent match in terms of softness, thickness and texture for Western women, but it is considered to be the best because of the Russian diet. With hair, diets greatly influence both hair growth and hair quality. The Russian diet is high in nutrients and vitamins and low in sugar, salt, and processed animal fats and this promotes the growth of luxurious and voluminous hair.
If anyone reading this article ever has any questions about the hair they are considering purchasing from other salons or suppliers, please feel free to contact us. We are always happy to offer advice.