How to save money on hair bundles: Understanding hair quality

How to save money on hair bundles: Understanding hair quality

I used to be a sales manager at a well-known hair company. They claimed to sell raw and virgin human hair bundles. Their raw hair price was incredibly low, and they could undercut most of their competitors. However, they sold a mix of unprocessed and processed hair, meaning you’re paying 20% extra for a lie. Unfortunately, their average buyer isn’t a weft hair extension professional just yet and ends up overpaying for overrated quality.

My experience is a clear example of how a hair vendor takes advantage of people who don’t fully understand the quality of hair extensions. However, you can avoid all of this if you can recognize quality.

You can truly understand hair extension quality by understanding how hair is sourced and produced

1. Truly understanding hair quality

Can you trust hair vendors? The average salesperson operates on a need-to-know basis, and their managers prefer to keep them in the dark. If they learn too much, they can easily start their own hair business and earn 10-20% profit instead of their current measly 3% sales commission.

Can you trust blogs or Facebook posts? If you google “what does double-drawn hair mean?” you’ll find that all answers say that manufacturers remove short hairs to produce double-drawn bundles. The truth is that hair of different lengths is combined to create hair bundles in a predetermined ratio. So it’s incorrect to claim that they are made by removing short hairs.

People simply make things up. You can Google “What is Brazilian hair” and get nine different answers from people who are all lying to get you to buy their products. Understanding how a hair manufacturer sources hair materials and turns them into extensions is the first step toward understanding hair quality. Getting a straight answer from a hair manufacturer is more difficult than teaching your cat to say woof.

Fortunately, Bossique is not your typical hair extension vendor. During the pandemic, the price of premium hair extensions skyrocketed. While many companies were under pressure to cut corners on hair quality, we saw an opportunity and instead improved ours. It required us to find a new source for hair material and establish relationships with manufacturers who shared our commitment to providing high-quality products. We learned a lot about standard manufacturing practices and how to identify shortcuts with testing.

We share this information with our buyers and followers so that you can grow as a hair extension professional. As a result, Bossique is probably the best place to learn about hair quality.

2. Quality Breakdown Without Labels

Labels like raw, virgin, and remy, no longer mean what they originally meant and no longer adequately describe hair quality. If you use these labels accurately, raw hair is the same quality as virgin hair. It’s the best quality hair extension available. Raw hair is cut directly from a donor, and virgin hair is the same but steam-styled.

Labels such as raw, virgin, and remy no longer mean what they used to, and no longer adequately describe hair quality. Virgin hair is essentially steam-styled raw hair, and the effect of steam-styling on hair quality is negligible. As a result, both raw and virgin hair refers to high-quality hair. When you believe that virgin hair bundles aren’t as good as raw hair ones, you’re talking about chemically processed floor hair… Not about virgin hair extensions.

2.1 Bianfa, Shunfa & Paofa

We don’t have words for raw, virgin, and remy hair in Chinese. Instead, we use words like “Bianfa,” “Shunfa,” and “Paofa” to talk about hair quality. You don’t have to remember these words, but they have to do with where the differences in quality come from, so I’ll use them as a starting point to explain them.

A breakdown of hair quality: Most human hair gets processed, which will define the hair quality
Quality Breakdown of Human Hair Bundles

2.1.1 Bianfa

Bianfa roughly means “Ponytail Hair” and is cut directly from a girl’s head. This way, the cuticles stay 100% aligned, and the hair doesn’t need to get processed. Less processing means better hair quality. These are the best quality hair extensions that your money could buy. See 05, 06, and 07 in the above image.

2.1.2 Shunfa

Shunfa roughly means “Smoothened Hair,” but also goes by the name Tiaoshun, which roughly means “picked to be smooth.” As it’s floor hair and doesn’t have aligned cuticles, it has to get processed to prevent tangling. For this type of hair quality, a worker can use a non-remy to remy machine to align the cuticles.

Non-Remy to Remy Machine

The exact percentage the process aligns is unknown, but let’s estimate it to be around 95%. This type of hair would still tangle and mainly still receives an acid bath to burn off some of the cuticles. Just enough to prevent tangling, but not so much that the hair gets very damaged. But in any case, it will be damaged, and that’s why it is lower hair quality than the BIANFA Ponytail hair. See 02 and 03 in the quality breakdown image above.

2.1.3 Paofa

Paofa roughly means “Soaked Hair,” referring to having the cuticles stripped in acid. It’s also processed floor hair but entirely skips the non-remy to remy machine, as it’s time-consuming. It’s a very destructive process and the lowest quality of human hair. However, it’s a lot cheaper to produce. This would fall under 01 in the quality breakdown image.

These names might be confusing, but you could also see them as High-End, Middle-End, and Low-End.

2.2 Bianfa – Hair cut directly from a donor

Only 10% of human hair is cut directly from a donor. It’s hard to come by, highly sought after, and in short supply. Hair collectors might collect some UV-damaged hair, hair that has been previously dyed, or hair from multiple shades of black mixed together.

So what does that mean? This impure material gets a minor chemical bath before being dyed to a more even shade of black. The differences with 100% unprocessed hair are minor, but they are fairly easy to spot if you know what to look for. The dye process is relatively short, so even the scraping test isn’t likely to pick up on it.

  • The chemicals used in the hair break down some of the melanin in the hair. This means that the hair will bleach faster than natural color unprocessed hair. In other words, bleaching natural color unprocessed hair might take 5-6 times longer than you’re used to.
  • Acetone, which is in nail-polish remover, can be used to dissolve hair dye. So you can use acetone to tell if your high-end bundles have been dyed or not.
  • Unprocessed hair will bleach lighter than #613 and remain healthy. It requires unprocessed and undamaged hair to produce healthy #613 bundles.
  • The chemicals leave some distinct smell. Real unprocessed hair has a protein-like or milky smell. You can smell the difference clearly when you iron the hair.
  • Unprocessed hair feels thick and coarse, while minorly processed feels relatively smooth.
  • Natural color hair glows red when held in front of a bright light source. The stronger the black dying process, the less it will glow.

So, keep these tips in mind when looking for the highest quality unprocessed cuticle-aligned hair.

2.3 Bianfa/Shunfa mix – Processed/unprocessed blend

Most vendors who say they sell raw hair actually sell a mixture of Bianfa and Shunfa (unprocessed and processed hair). KBL’s XR Brazilian and VIP Sister’s raw hair are examples of these blends. When writing, 30″ raw hair bundles cost about $120, while 30″ mixed bundles are worth more like $80. So it seems like a great deal when a vendor sells mixed hair under the label “raw hair” for around $100. But when things sound too good to be true…

This type of hair still gets dyed to an even shade of black. As a result, it will bleach close to #613, but rarely all the way. It’s a slight upgrade from processed floor hair, meaning it’s a decent option for people who don’t have the budget for raw hair but want a bit more quality than Shunfa.

2.4 Shunfa – The so-called virgin hair

Many vendors claim to sell virgin hair. We’ve already talked about how steam-styling doesn’t really change the quality. After all, if we steam-style some raw hair bundles to make body wave hair bundles, they are still the same quality. Typically, virgin hair is floor hair is aligned with a non-remy to remy machine. It’s then chemically processed and dyed to an even shade of black.

It’s a bit of a scary-sounding label, but you should be aware that if you’re not paying top dollar, you’re getting chemically processed floor hair. It can still be of excellent quality, and some of your clients will love it. But that’s only the case if they don’t have high-end hair expectations.

Not all shunfa is made equal. It can be processed too much or not enough. When hair is underprocessed, it will tangle. Remove too much of the cuticles during processing, making them thinner and less elastic. At this point, it will start shedding.

2.5 Paofa – Trash hair

Paofa is the lowest available quality of human hair. It’s usually sold to people on a tight budget, those needing a low-cost option for a single event, or those who feel that their trashcan looks too empty this week. It will still mostly bleach to a #27 but will look dead afterward.

3. What else is important for quality hair bundles?

We’ve talked about the quality of the hair material and how the manufacturing process affects the hair quality. There are also other essential things to be aware of, which aren’t directly related to the hair quality, but still are crucial to the perceived value of the hair.

3.1 Single-drawn or fuller

Have you ever noticed that when you bought six hair bundles of 20 inches, they’re all the same fullness? That’s because hair is made with a fixed short-to-long ratio, meaning the manufacturer has complete control over what percentage of short hairs they add to the bundles. Single-drawn bundles are roughly 10-15% fullness, meaning only 10-15% of a 24-inch bundle is actually the full 24″.

There will be differences from supplier to supplier. While higher fullness is generally better, it’s also important which ratio of short hairs is added. If a vendor’s shortest added length is 12″, their bundles will look fuller compared to a vendor whose shortest added length is 8″.

If you want proper 100% fullness for the best quality weft hair extensions, be ready to open a mortgage with your bank. An accurate 30% is generally considered quite full and targets the high-end market. These are the prices we have for our customized double-drawn bundles. As you can see, human hair weave bundles of 80% fullness are nearly double the price of 30%.

80% fullness hair is nearly double the price of 30%

99% of you will probably think: “$277 for a 20″ bundle is way too expensive!” I agree, but there’s a whole market looking for this and is willing to pay for it. Like diamonds, they’re costly, but they are still a girl’s best friend. There’s even a whole market for authentic Russian hair, where you will at least pay $900 for 100 grams of high-quality hair, and that’s wholesale price already. Not everyone thinks and sells inside the box.

Even though Russian hair is more expensive, it isn’t the “best” hair quality. It’s finer than Asian hair, making it a better match for Caucasians with fine hair. Russian hair comes in different color variations, meaning there’s less demand for chemicals to get the hair to become a specific color.

3.2 Weight

People think bundles should be precisely 100 grams, but they rarely are. Hair extensions in China are typically between 80 and 95 grams. Just make sure that you measure the weight without rubber bands.

The picture below is from a company I used to work at, and they use about 8 grams worth of rubber bands to get the bundle weight closer to 100 grams. They’re fully aware of cheating on the bundle weight but always give a basic excuse: “The white rubber bands could leave some residue in the hair, so we use the black band under there as well.” One supplier might be 5% cheaper and give you 10% less hair.

A way for hair vendors to cheat you is by adding many rubber bands
Things hair vendors do to cheat you

3.3 Length

Another way to cut corners is with the length of the bundles. The bundle below is roughly 25.7 inches. It’s close to 26″, but it isn’t 26 inches. We sell it as 24″, but we could easily sell it as 26″. Considering the price difference between 24 and 26 inches is about $10 for our highest hair quality, it’s tempting to cheat. And that’s precisely what many other vendors will do to you. But be aware that you could cut off an inch or two to create a much fuller look if you receive extra.

Measuring the length of hair extensions
Measuring Hair

3.4 Smells

You might have the best quality hair extensions, but if they smell like a wet dog or corn chips, that will be an issue. Some hair is famous for having a corn chip smell. This is mainly the result of the hair being permed. Other odors can result from coloring hair, chemically processing, or simply having some hair products in the hair. For example, when steam-styling the hair, certain products are used to protect the hair from high heat. After this, sometimes products are applied to make the hair feel softer and smoother. You can get rid of some smells quickly by washing, while others will stay longer. While it’s difficult to explain how they should smell, you don’t want to be wearing hair that makes you nauseous.

4. Vendors have many wrong answers

4.1 Vendors don’t understand hair quality

The only qualification to be hired as a sales rep for a hair company is being able to speak English. There’s no need to know much about hair because new employees are given a script with answers to the most common questions. It’s common practice for salespeople to quit, start their own hair company, and bring their old clients with them.

Hair company bosses can become paranoid about this and prefer to invest as little as possible in their employees while keeping them in the dark. So, most of what sales reps learn about hair quality comes from their interactions with foreign customers, most of whom just go with the flow and don’t do a lot of research.

4.2 It’s beneficial to lie about hair quality

Suppose two vendors source from the same factory and sell the EXACT SAME hair. Same fullness, same packaging, and same hair quality.

Vendor 1: Calls their hair “virgin hair.”
Vendor 2: Calls it “chemically processed hair” and is $3 per bundle cheaper.

It sounds much more tempting to buy virgin hair than chemically processed floor hair, so misrepresenting what you sell can be very profitable.

While most virgin hair is chemically processed, it sounds… negative. While some people don’t know that they’re mostly the same, others will. And to comfort their mind, people will be willing to pay more for a better label while sacrificing hair quality. As a hair extension professional, you should be aware of these labels and focus on the hair’s actual properties.

Most sales reps get a base salary and make more money through sales commissions. This gives employees a high drive to make sales. So when buyers ask for 12a hair or hair from a single donor, it’s much more profitable to say that you have it than explain that these are random labels assigned to hair and are void of meaning. Some people will like the sales rep’s honesty, but most will just keep looking for their made-up marketing label.

4.3 Why I started Bossique

I was a sales manager for a large hair vendor in China and got paid roughly a 3% sales commission. The boss’s profit margin was around 20%, but it increased to 30-40% by lowering the quality. This means that for a $30.000 order, I would get $900, and my boss would get $9.000 or more. While $900 is a good amount of money in China, selling products in a company where the boss is always looking for ways to make more money is challenging. It’s destructive behavior; clients ended up disappearing, making me lose out on income.

Fortunately, I am outgoing and have met many people in the hair market. I learned more about hair quality and what was going on. I quit my job and started for myself, but I only charged a 12% profit margin. This made me one of the cheapest vendors out there, and when selling for around $10.000, I would have about $1.200 I could invest back into my business.

Unfortunately, my old boss found out and got angry. He found out where I bought my hair and used threats to get them to stop selling to me. Since the old boss is very wealthy, he has a lot of influence on the market. It’s impossible to fight him straight on, but it made me want to teach people about all these deceitful practices. I’ve received support from many people, and I’m glad to say they’re now on many bad vendor lists.

Questions & Answers

How much do raw hair extensions cost?

30-inch single-drawn raw hair bundles are worth roughly $120. A Chinese hair vendor can buy 10-15% fullness hair bundles for around 660 RMB. The exchange rate between USD and CNY greatly varies and has been between 1:6.35 and 1.7.2. This means that 660 RMB is about $93-$105. Vendors will continue to include payment processing fees and a 20-30% profit margin. Therefore it’s pretty normal to pay $120-$130 for 30-inch raw hair bundles. If you’re not buying it from an Asian vendor, prices will be considerably higher.

Which hair extensions are best?

The best quality hair extensions are cut directly from a donor and are 100% unprocessed human hair. The cuticles are perfectly aligned and undamaged. This necessitates using high-quality hair materials, which are difficult to come by. It bleaches easily to #613 with a minimum loss of quality, but it may take five to six times longer than processed hair to get there.

What is remy human hair?

Remy hair has cuticles that are aligned. However, there’s some wiggle room in its meaning. Hair cut directly from a girl’s head has aligned cuticles. However, hair collected from the floor and aligned with a non-remy to remy machine is often called remy hair. The term “remy human hair” can refer to two different qualities. So keep this in mind when discussing hair quality with others.

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