It’s hard not to get excited when searching hair extensions on Alibaba. A couple clicks and you get access to thousands of vendors and manufacturers promising “direct access” to “100% Virgin”, “unprocessed”, and “all human” hair for jaw dropping prices. Where did these vendors come from and how come you didn’t know about Alibaba sooner?! You did, under their other name: The Beauty Supply Store.
To truly understand the extension industry and who’s selling to you on Alibaba, let’s rewind and recap how we got here:
1960s - 1980s | The Beauty Supply Era
By successfully convincing the US to ban all hair from China, Korea creates a hair extension monopoly. With virtually no competition, beauty supply stores spring up all over America selling low quality processed hair that is cheap to make and high in profit.
1980 - 2000 | The Indian Hair Era
Independent boutiques (ie. Extensions Plus, Paulines, Indo Asia etc..) begin sourcing hair directly from India, the source of 95% of the world's virgin remy hair. With consumers finally having access to long lasting and natural looking hair, the beauty supply store watched their client bases and revenues dwindle.
2000s | The False Marketing Era
Korean manufacturers respond by selling the same low quality product, but now with a “high quality” stamp on it. Discovering there are no industry regulations or penalties that prohibit lying to consumers, the list of false marketing terms grow. It’s effective, but consumers begin to catch on and realize the beauty supply = low quality hair, regardless the name.
Today | The Alibaba Era
Korean manufacturers, suppliers to the beauty supply, find another home: Ali Baba. Using the internet to directly connect with consumers, stylists, and hopeful local distributors, Korean suppliers are able to find a legion of private outlets to distribute the SAME low quality hair, making it very difficult for consumers to identify the good hair from the bad. Unreputable suppliers from India, China, and other parts of the world began joining in on the action, making it more confusing than ever to identify the quality of hair being purchased.
Although Alibaba has turned the extension industry into a true “wild west”, if you can sort through the weeds, have enough patience, and enough money, it is possible to identify a reputable supplier. Just be sure you ask the 3 questions you should always ask before buying hair.