What is Processed Hair?
All human hair has a cuticle layer similar to fish scales. When some hairs become turned in the opposite direction they will catch with each another, lock up, and cause the hair to mat.
A majority of the cheap hair on the market can trace its roots back a factory in China or India where is it mass-processed. The incoming hair is a dire state with it already being tangled and matted. In order to correct this the hair the hair must be "processed" for cuticle stripping.
Most salons will state when asking about "processing" that this is done to "clean" the hair. However, even the most unsophisticated people know that cleaning hair is very easy to do with any cleansing shampoo. Stripping the cuticles will not make the hair any "cleaner". The cuticles are stripped because it is cost effective way for these factories to deal with tangling and matting.
Quality hair extensions are not cheap. When it comes to hair extensions you do get what you pay for. To make sure you are getting the premium hair you are paying for you need to know how to check it in order to be able to distinguish between virgin and processed hair. Below is a quick tutorial on how you can test the hair yourself.
TESTING FOR UNPROCESSED HUMAN HAIR
1. The outer layer of unprocessed human hair is composed of over lapping scales arranged in much the same way as scales on a fish. On damp hair use approximately the thickness of a single spaghetti strand. Run your finger and thumb fairly rapidly down the strands of hair from roots to ends. It will travel quite smoothly. If you do the same thing in the opposite direction from ends to roots it will feel rough causing a bit of friction. Don't get discouraged with this method, keep trying, you will begin to feel the difference after you've done it a few times. This test can also be performed on dry hair, but you must keep your fingers moist, this can't be overstated enough when testing on dry hair. On some hair it may feel like both directions are smooth. When this happens close your eyes and run your fingers going in each direction again. With your eyes closed you will be able to feel how one direction of the hair is slightly harder to run your fingers down smoothly. Remember, the smooth side is going down; the rough side is going up.
2. Use hair the size of a pencil for this method. With the hair damp vigorously rub the hair located at the top and bottom of the hair shaft. Use two hands together in a quick rolling motion. You will find the roots will adhere much stronger than hair on the ends. This test can only be preformed on bulk hair.
3. Some naturally lighter hair colors will have darker roots and lighter ends, which can make it easy to tell cuticle direction. Do not let this fool you as you cannot depend on your eyes alone to tell direction. Processed hair has a silicone layer that makes it virtually impossible to tell the actual direction by feel. Usually this silicone layer is put over hair which previously had the cuticle stripped. Silicone makes the hair feel smooth to the touch in each direction. It is still a good idea to perform these tests before install to see the actual curl pattern, as some hair changes dramatically when wet.
4. Looking through a microscope is the most foolproof way of testing for processed hair. When under a microscope you'll be able to see if the cuticle has been smoothed down (as in the picture above). It is impossible to remove all cuticles from the hair without the hair disintegrating. This is the reason it will start to tangle as soon as the coating wears off, and the remaining cuticle is exposed. The silicone layer starts to wear off right away with brushing, shampoo, and general wear and tear.