One of the most common questions from clients that have been “shopping” around for Russian hair extensions is “How do I know if I am getting 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.
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.
Russian hair is a real luxury
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.
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.
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.
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 that said all of their hair 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, advertise that all hair, irrespective of colour, was double drawn Russian virgin is a big red flag.
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.