Have you ever wondered about the origins of your supposed 100% virgin hair extensions? Many times we’re told that they are the best quality Peruvian, Indian or Malaysian tresses money can buy, which is why we pay a serious arm and a leg for bundles – you know, the investment you’ll be glad you made twelve months down the road.
But what happens when the high quality hair you thought you bought quickly diminishes by tangling or matting? Well, this happened this same situation happened last year to Riqua Hailes, owner of Just Extension, a chain of salon that specializes in hair extensions in the Los Angeles area. After purchasing a few bundles from Hailes’ store, a client returned explaining that the hair she just purchased a month prior had transformed into a matted, tangled mess.
After inspecting the hair she purchased from a supplier in China, Hailes wanted the real information regarding the hair she had bought. “I’m not going to pay $10,000 for $200 hair extensions,” Hailes told Refinery 29. “I picked up the phone, I told China I was getting on the plane, and then I went, and I brought the girl.”
That was the start of Just Extensions, a documentary Hailes made about her six week trek through China, Cambodia, India, Brazil, and Peru last year to find out just how hair extensions she was purchasing were being sourced and processed. Just Extensions, investigates the answers for the hot-button questions that come to all of our minds: how extensions are created and why some cost more than others?
Hailes recalled many shocking happenings during her time thousands of miles away from Los Angeles. She watched workers dump “fallen hair” – the strands and split ends that flutter off women’s heads every day – and drop them into buckets where they were then soaked into a germ-killing solution. After, she witnessed the hair being mixed with synthetic fibers to create extensions marketed as Brazilian or Indian hair. Crazy, right? In Brazil, she also discovered horse tails being sold as extensions.
“I want them to know where their hair is coming from, so they can put a value on that,” Hailes said. “I’m not saying you can’t buy fallen hair; there’s a use for that. However, I don’t want to pay $500 for that and I don’t want you to pay $500 for it either.”
Throughout the six weeks, Hailes also meets men, women and children in India who shave their heads as a religious rite and many other individuals who use this booming cash cow of an industry as a means of feeding their families. Ultimately, Just Extensions is real and raw, answering the questions we’ve all had regarding the precious virgin hair bundles we cash out on.
Just Extensions is now available on iTunes.
Watch a clip of the documentary below: