If you wear hair extensions then you will be well versed by now in the benefits of human hair versus synthetic. (For those who don’t… Human hair is more expensive but can be heat styled like regular hair as well as lasting longer than the synthetic stuff.) But did you know that human isn’t the only “real” hair on the market? Brace yourself…
It may sound strange but yak hair (yes you read that right, yak as in the bovine) has been a hot topic of conversation amongst hair stylists of late. Yak soft underbelly hair is “harvested” for hair extensions, wigs and weaves because of its textural similarity to human hair. And it sells, on the cheap, like hot cakes.
Take a quick preamble on Ebay and you’ll see that yak hair is readily available in wefts and weaves in white, brown and black as well as a rainbow of different tinted colours. You can even find prosthetic yak eyebrows! It’s definitely a thing.
So is this a creepy trend or something with more longevity? Yak hair has actually been used for years, as well as being structurally similar to human hair it reacts to styling products and heat styling in a similar way too (it’s a close match to “relaxed” afro Caribbean hair). It can be grown and harvested in massive quantities and so has become a staple in inexpensive extensions. Dwane Johnson (aka The Rock) admitted to wearing a yak hair fake beard in his film Hercules last year!
The verdict from extensions expert James Henderson, UK Trade Ambassador for Great Lengths is less than encouraging however. “I would certainly never use Yak hair products in my salon. It is an inferior quality product that has been known to cause allergic reactions. Whilst structurally it is similar to human hair, it won’t colour, style or fall like your natural hair, leaving you with a product that make look very unnatural. Inferior quality pre-bonded hair extensions also often have inferior-quality bonds too, which could damage your hair at the roots, making it fragile.” Instead Henderson recommends 100% Human hair to his clients. The Great Lengths extensions that he offers have polymer bonds tested by a consultant trichologist. “Why risk it when you know you could have an exceptional result?”
So what about the ethical side? Some women struggle with the idea of wearing another human’s hair so yak hair may be a fantastic alternative. Saying that if you are Vegan or even vegetarian you may not have the stomach for it. Mimi Bekhechi, Director of PETA (the animal rights campaigners) issued the following statement to InStyle on the production of yak hair extensions:
“Most yak hair originates from countries such as China where there are virtually no laws to protect animals, so such abuse occurs without any consequences.
The animals are led into individual pens, their legs are tied and then fistfuls of hair are torn from their bodies. The terrified animals repeatedly lurch in pain. Farmers actually believe that this cruel method promotes hair growth and have no consideration for the terrified, pain-wracked animals.
We urge consumers and hairdressers to stick with the luxurious, animal-free hair extensions that are readily available and that replicate human hair without harming a hair on an animal's head.”
But before you start returning (or buying into more) yak hair extensions, look out for ‘Yaki’ extensions too. Confused.com?? Some people are allergic to yak fibres but still wanted the look and feel of actual yak hair. ‘Yaki’ hair is human hair that is treated chemically to look like actual yak hair without the allergy issues. Human hair that looks like yak hair that looks like human hair…. Hmmm.