From Synthetic to Human Hair: Comparing Different Material Options for Braids


As a woman with naturally curly hair, I’m constantly looking for effortless looks that give definition without requiring a lot of work. Braids truly caught my attention a few years ago as a protective alternative that could also change up my appearance. But when I first started out, I had a lot of questions about the different braid material options and how they might affect things like cost, care requirements, and style longevity. To assist other ladies who are curious about braids in choosing the best option for their requirements, I will examine both synthetic and human hair materials in this post and compare their benefits and drawbacks.

Synthetic Hair

Synthetic Braiding Hair

My earliest braids were installed using synthetic knotless braiding hair. This material was appealing as an affordable first foray into the braided style world. Installation only took a few hours at my local salon and cost under $100 total. I loved that synthetic promised low-maintenance, lasting weeks before any signs of thinning or fraying appeared.

But after far too many retightening sessions that were needed before the two weeks that were promised, I started to notice some disadvantages. No matter how well I moisturized, synthetic hair tended to frizz up much faster than I had anticipated. Furthermore, the strands were not flexible, which made it difficult to update the style other than by simply retightening. When it was finally time to take the braids down, I also noticed a significant increase in hair loss. For me, synthetic fell short of the longevity promises it made, even though it was an excellent entry-level option at a reasonable price.

Hair Braiding Extensions

For my next braid experiment, I opted to splurge on human hair braiding extensions instead. Knowing the enhanced potential for longer-lasting styles, I chose quality micro links in a color resembling my natural shade. Installation with tiny interlocked bonds took longer at roughly 8 hours but created a seamless look indistinguishable from my own hair.

I was immediately enamored with human hair’s softness and organic movement as opposed to synthetic. Nothing felt rigid or plastic-like. During refreshes, sections were simply moisturized and combed out rather than having entire sections retightened. The best part is that these looks remained polished and defined for six whole weeks before requiring any kind of touch-up. There was also less shedding during removal. Although it cost twice as much at first—roughly $250—I thought the investment was worthwhile because there would be little upkeep required in the long run. In my opinion, human hair is the best because of its longevity and versatility!

Human Hair

Caring for Different Braid Materials

Naturally, compared to human hair styles, maintaining synthetic braids needs less attention. Since synthetic is not a porous material, I found that it tolerated frequent rough brushing and washing without becoming damaged. Human braids, however, require more careful techniques. Using a wide-tooth comb and warm water, gently detangle them to prevent matting and maintain their smooth texture.

I also changed to lighter leave-in sprays and oils on synthetic hair that don’t weigh it down instead of heavier hydrating products. However, for human braids, softer texture was restored in between washes with heavier moisturizing deep conditioners. Protective styles also have an impact on maintenance; loose braids allow the scalp to breathe more easily than tightly wrapped installs, which call for scalp cleaning. I learned how to extend the maximum lifespan of a style by being aware of the unique requirements of each material.

Incorporating Both Materials

These days, I actually prefer blended hairstyles that thoughtfully combine elements of human and synthetic braiding. Compared to all-human installs, small touches of human woven into primarily synthetic knotless styles significantly reduce costs. This combination enhances my natural texture and gives me fullness and movement.

The intervals between professional visits are also prolonged by synthetic bases under human crochet styles. Alternatively, adding human highlights to slightly accentuate synthetic twists adds lushness without requiring a lot of upkeep. I can get beautifully defined results with blended braids for less than half the cost of sets made entirely of humans. Blended styles offer the best of both worlds by matching the strengths of each material to distinct braid sections.

Synthetic braids

Common Challenges Compared

Sometimes problems with braids can occur, such as tangling, frizzing, or sore scalps in both synthetic and human hair. These difficulties, however, vary according to material characteristics. Because of their stiffness and frequent need for retightening, synthetic styles tend to tangle in the middle sooner. On the other hand, human hair can occasionally get single-strand knots from excessive manipulation, which can be fixed by gently pulling the hair apart.

Synthetic hair installed tightly causes more chafed scalps than looser human hair that “breathes.” In addition, frizz affects synthetic braids more quickly than lusher human hairstyles, which are more understanding of infrequently neglected lazy wash days. I can more effectively prevent and manage problems proactively by using cautious application and care routines because I am aware of each person’s vulnerabilities.

Finding Your Braid Balance

I think the ideal braid scenario combines the benefits of both synthetic and human materials after much trial and error. Even so, blended styles offer glam looks at reasonable prices. But as one gained experience, they realized that their budgets and braid needs also changed. All-human hair installations can be more appropriate for special events than more subdued blended looks for daily wear.

All in all, braids gave my natural curls the low-maintenance protective styling I desired. Important lessons about identifying synthetic versus natural hair traits and care were learned through experimentation. Finding specialized solutions based on factors like time, activities, and budget is made possible by this knowledge. My well-rounded braiding routine capitalizes on the advantages of both approaches for fuss-free adaptability to every hair journey season.

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