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A human hair weave is a hair extension made from 100-percent human hair rather than horse hair or synthetic hair. These weaves are sewn, braided, or glued into a person’s own hair to give the appearance of having longer hair. Human hair weaves are usually acquired from people who sell or donate their hair for extra money or a good cause, respectively. Only hair in decent condition is accepted for this purpose, because the process of turning hair into a weave is damaging in and of itself. Many people prefer to use a human hair weave rather than other materials due to its natural and realistic look, feel, and the way it can be heat-styled.
Human hair weaves can be worn in several different ways, but the most popular and permanent ways are sew-ins, braids, and glue. For sew-ins, the stylist first braids some of the customer’s hair across his or her head and underneath the crown so that it is normally invisible. Next, patches of the human hair weave are sewn into the braid with a hair-colored thread. The application method is similar with glue-ins, but the human hair weave is literally glued onto the braided hair. Braids work differently and do not require glue or thread; the stylist simply braids the weave into the client’s hair.
Sometimes human hair weaves are made from hair willingly given to support cancer patients or other people who no longer have hair. In many other cases, the hair is given out of desperation or as a sacrifice to a religious figure. Some poor countries are filled with women who grow their hair out and then sell it to support their families. These women typically sign a contract stating what they can and cannot do with their hair — for example, no dying or heat styling — and then line up at a factory to have their heads shaved after months or years of growing out their locks. In some countries, the hair is willingly given as a sacrifice to a spiritual being, but collected and sold by the temple where it was offered.
Once the hair is collected, it is sorted, dyed, and coated with chemicals to make it shiny and manageable. The hair must be in the healthiest condition to undergo this harsh process without breaking, but after the process it is very damaged and appears healthy only because of its silicone lining. When a human hair weave finally reaches the customer, it might last weeks or even half a year, depending on how healthy it was and how well the customer treats it. Every wash rinses out a little bit more of the chemicals that make the hair shiny and soft, eventually revealing severely damaged human hair that must be thrown away.