Synthetic vs. Human Hair Wigs: Which Fiber Type is Right for You?

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An important choice you’ll make when buying a wig is the fiber type. The two main options are affordable, low maintenance synthetic wigs, or pricier, more natural-looking human hair wigs. But overall, there are actually five wig fiber types you can choose from:

  • Synthetic wigs
  • Heat-friendly synthetic wigs
  • Wigs with a blend of human hair and heat-friendly synthetic hair
  • Human hair wigs

Each wig fiber type has pros and cons. When deciding which type is best for you, you can think about your lifestyle, the climate where you live, your budget, and how much time you want to spend caring for and styling your wig.

Below, we discuss different wig fiber types and their advantages and disadvantages so you can choose the option that best suits your needs.

Watch this video from the experts at Wigs.com, a Breastcancer.org partner, to learn about the difference between human hair wigs and synthetic wigs.

Synthetic wigs

Synthetic hair wigs are made from strands of man-made materials, such as plastic or acrylic. Synthetic hair fibers are made to closely resemble the look and movement of human hair.

Synthetic wigs are widely available, more affordable than human hair wigs, lightweight, and easy to take care of. They also come in a wide variety of colors and styles. A synthetic wig will last about four to six months (not as long as a human hair wig). They can be a bit shinier than a human hair wig, but there are ways to fix that when styling a synthetic wig.

Synthetic hair wigs have a set color and style that stays the same. If you have a curly synthetic wig, for example, those same curls will bounce right back into place after you wash it. You can’t dye synthetic hair wigs, and you can’t use heat tools like curling irons or flat irons to style them. Because heat can damage the synthetic fibers, you’ll even want to be careful with using a hair dryer on a synthetic wig.

The permanent color and style of a synthetic wig can be a perk or a drawback depending on your needs. If you want to just put on your wig and walk out the door, you might find the set style of a synthetic wig convenient. If you like to style your hair differently day-to-day, you might prefer a wig fiber type that you are able to style. But because synthetic wigs are more affordable, you may consider buying several so you can conveniently switch up your look for different occasions.

Pros of synthetic wigs

  • Lower cost ($30 to $500)
  • Easy to take care of
  • Easy to style
  • Set style can be maintained through washes
  • Wide variety of colors and styles
  • Long-lasting vibrant color
  • Lightweight

Cons of synthetic wigs

  • Can be shiny
  • Shorter lifespan than human hair wigs (four to six months)
  • Can’t be dyed
  • Can’t be curled or straightened with heat tools

Heat-friendly synthetic wigs

Heat-friendly synthetic wigs have all the perks of regular synthetic wigs with the added ability to style them using heat tools. This option will give you the convenience of a synthetic wig with the flexibility to occasionally change its look. And just like the set style of a regular synthetic wig, the styling you add to a heat-friendly synthetic wig will also bounce back after you wash it.

Heat-friendly synthetic wigs are made with man-made materials that are more resistant to heat than regular synthetic wigs. However, they are still prone to damage at high levels of heat, so it’s best to use curling irons, flat irons, and hair dryers on low heat settings (below 275° F) when styling a heat-friendly synthetic wig. The fibers can also begin looking course or frayed over time with frequent heat styling, so it’s not something you’ll want to do often.

Pros of heat-friendly synthetic wigs

  • Lower cost ($30 to $500)
  • Easy to take care of
  • Ability to style with heat tools on low heat (no higher than 275° F)
  • Set style can be maintained through washes
  • Wide variety of colors and styles
  • Long-lasting vibrant color
  • Lightweight

Cons of heat-friendly synthetic wigs

  • Can be shiny
  • Can’t be dyed
  • Shorter lifespan than regular synthetic wigs (two to three months)
  • Still prone to damage from high heat or frequent styling with heat tools

Wigs with a blend of human hair and heat-friendly synthetic hair

Another type of wig blends human hair with heat-friendly synthetic hair fibers. This is done to balance the benefits of synthetic hair wigs with the more natural look of human hair wigs. Blended wigs move and feel like human hair but are more lightweight and vibrant in color like synthetic wigs. Blended wigs can be styled like human hair and will hold their styling through washes like heat-friendly synthetic hair wigs.

Pros of blended hair wigs

  • Longer lifespan than synthetic hair wigs (six to 12 months)
  • Ability to style with heat tools on low heat (no higher than 275° F)
  • Set style can be maintained through washes
  • Wide variety of colors and styles
  • Long-lasting vibrant color
  • Lighter weight than human hair wigs

Cons of blended hair wigs

  • More expensive than synthetic wigs ($400 to $2,000)
  • Not as lightweight as synthetic wigs

Human hair wigs

Human hair wigs provide the most natural look and movement of any wig fiber type. The trade-offs? They are more expensive, less lightweight, and require more maintenance and time for styling.

Human hair wigs have the longest lifespan of any wig fiber type, often lasting beyond a year depending on how often they are worn and how well they are maintained.

There is a high end type of human hair wig called Remy hair, in which the strands of hair are all lying in the same direction. Remy hair wigs are less prone to tangling and provide a silky, smooth look to the hair fibers.

Pros of human hair wigs

  • Long lifespan (one year or more)
  • Natural look, feel, and movement
  • Ability to style as you would natural hair

Cons of human hair wigs

  • Expensive ($700 to $3,500)
  • Require more maintenance for care and styling
  • Less resistant to humidity and weather than synthetic wigs
  • Color can fade over time

Knowing which hair fiber you like can help you to choose a wig that is perfect for you. You may find that you prefer a synthetic wig daily, but for special occasions, you want to opt for a human hair wig. Having a couple of wig fiber options may be your best fit.

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Carliz Sotelo Teague Wigs.com

Carliz Sotelo Teague founded Wigs.com in 1999 and has been a wig wearer and passionate advocate of wigs since. Her passion and mission is to provide a convenient, supportive, and educational platform for those who are affected by hair loss and turn to alternative hair.