Synthetic hair is more commonly referred to as a wig, or as hair extensions. Anything that is not constructed from human hair is categorized as synthetic.
Generally speaking, you can flat iron synthetic hair providing you take all of the necessary precautions.
Synthetic hair must be flat ironed at a much lower temperature than natural hair.
This is because the plastic fibers are prone to melting, unless they are constructed from heat-resistant fibers.
So what is synthetic hair?
It is strands of hair constructed from man-made fibers such as plastic polymers. These strands are very thin and are designed to mimic the look and feel of natural human hair. Hundreds of these synthetic fibers are then woven together to create weaves, extensions, and wigs.
Commonly used materials in the construction of synthetic hair fibers include acrylonitrile, acrylic, PVC, polyethylene-terephthalate, silicone, silk, vinyl, and single filament polyester. Some manufacturers will use cellulose and naturally occurring polymers to create synthetic hair.
How do you flat iron synthetic hair?
You should first place your wig onto a Styrofoam wig head on top of a stand and secure it in place with pins. This will allow the fibers to lay naturally and loosely as you begin to straighten it.
If you do not wish to purchase these heads, you can use ordinary household objects to prop your wig on. These include a clean toilet plunger, a large soda bottle that has been filled to prevent it from toppling over, or a camera tripod.
You will then need to brush through the wig with a specific wig brush, or a wide toothed comb. Begin at the ends and work your way up to the crown, focusing on one small section at a time.
Use a comb that is only used on wigs. This is because the natural oils in your hair can cause damage to the synthetic hair.
Do not brush your hair once it has been made wet. This will result in frizziness and potentially incur damage to the synthetic hair fibers. If you notice any tangles, gently detangle them with your fingers.
Using hot water
Heat a pan of water on the stove. It should reach a temperature of between 320 and 356 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water is not hot enough the wig will not straighten and if it is too hot, the hair could melt.
Pour the hot water over your wig. Try to pour from the crown so the water evenly drips down the length of the hair. If you are dealing with a very long wig, you can submerge it in hot water for 10-15 seconds before pulling out and replacing on its stand.
Leave the wig alone to stand and dry. If you are in a rush, you can pop the wig in front of a fan to increase the air circulation. Alternatively, you can use a hairdryer but please ensure it is set to a cool temperature.
If your wig is very curly, you may need to repeat this process a couple more times. Do not attempt to repeat the process before the wig is completely dry.
Move the wig and wig stand to the bathroom. Close as many windows as possible and shut the bathroom door. The idea is to trap as much steam inside the room as is possible.
Turn the shower on to the hottest temperature and allow the steam to build up in the bathroom. Gently brush the wig with a wig brush or wide toothed comb, starting at the ends.
When condensation begins to appear on the wig you should pull it out of the bathroom and store in a cool and dry place.
Using a hairdryer
Section the hair so only the bottom segment hangs free. Tie the remaining har into a loose bun at the crown and secure it in place. Take note of the seams where the hair fibers are sewn into place in rows. These are known as wefts.
You should spray the loosely hanging section of the hair with water to prevent the hair from overheating. Gather sections of around 2 inches wide.
Brush these fibers with a wide toothed comb or wire brush to ensure there are no tangles.
Turn your hairdryer to the warm setting. Place the brush underneath the hair fibers and move it down as you move the hairdryer. Repeat this process for all sections of the hair.
Using a heat-resistant wig
These are wigs made specifically for handling higher temperatures. It will be clearly stated on the exterior of the packet whether this is the case or not. If there is no mention, assume the wig is not heat-resistant.
Similarly to the hairdryer method, you will need to separate out the bottom section of the hair and secure the upper sections in a bun.
Brush out any tangles in a small section of the loose hanging hair. Starting at one side of the wig, brush from the ends up to ensure the fibers are tangle free.
Spray this section of the hair with some water and turn your flat iron onto the lowest heat setting.
This should be a temperature somewhere between 320 and 356 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent damage from being incurred to the fibers. Some wigs can handle temperatures up to 410 degrees Fahrenheit, but most cannot.
As you would with natural hair, run your flat iron gently down the length of the fibers. You can go over this section a few times until it is lying flat, but take care not to overheat the hair.
Repeat this process for all sections of the hair in the low portion. Once you have done this, move up a weft or two and let the hair on that row hang loose. Repeat, moving along the hair and up a section once each has been straightened.
Allow the hair to cool completely. Run the wide toothed comb through the hair to ensure the hair fibers lay right and are tangle free.