It’s always an exciting occasion when you’ve saved up enough money to buy some new virgin hair bundles or a lace-front wig – but there’s always anxiety too, particularly when buying from a new vendor. You’re about to invest R5 000 in hair, but what if it isn’t real?

In order to help you avoid getting scammed into paying top dollar for hair which isn’t top quality, we’ve put together some red flags you should look out for before (and after) you’ve broken the bank.

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1. Smell it

Virgin hair is actual real hair taken from a human donor. Therefore, the hair you purchase should not have a strong factory or beauty-store smell to it. A whiff of pungent chemicals is a red flag that the hair has been processed at some stage which is a no-no for virgin hair.

2. Check for excessive shedding

All hair bundles and wefts will shed, the same way our own natural hair sheds from our scalp does – but it shouldn’t be excessive. A few loose strands after a comb or finger run-through is the most you should expect. Too much shedding is a red flag – don’t buy it!

3. Double-check the length

Virgin hair extensions are generally measured in inches worldwide, and you should expect your bundles to be about 1.5 inches (3.8cm) longer than stated. For example, if you measure a 16-inch (40.6cm) bundle of straight hair it will measure out to be roughly 17.5 inches (44.4cm).

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4. Ask for a sample

Before buying your bundles or wig, be honest with the sales clerk about your concerns and ask for a sample piece of the hair. Then take the hair home with you and…

5. Burn it – yes, burn it

Okay, just one or two strands! When set alight, virgin hair quickly burns completely and smells like your natural hair if burnt. Synthetic hair, however, burns very slowly and smells of burning plastic.

6. Curl and straighten it

Like your own natural hair, your virgin hair extensions are meant to take to heat in the same way. Using a ceramic curling or straightening tool, test if the hair curls or straightens nicely. Don’t forget to spray a bit of heat-protectant spray when using heat tools on your bundles.

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7. Wet the hair

All virgin-hair textures tend to naturally curl or form a wave when wet. Even your bone-straight hair should have some sort of a wave texture to it after a wash. If this doesn’t happen, the hair is fake.

8. Bleach it

Real virgin hair remains silky and soft even after a bleach application, so you can easily fully dye or ombre your virgin hair extensions. Synthetic and processed hair tends to tangle and become really dry after bleach application.

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PS: If there’s an array of colours to choose from – run! Virgin hair should always be sold in its natural colour, which is probably dark brown or black. Once you’ve bought the hair, then you can dye it whatever colour you want. Just be aware that once you’ve added chemicals to it, it ceases to be virgin and becomes processed hair.