When the German soccer team beat Brazil 5-1 in last year’s Fifa World Cup, social media was overrun with jokes about national stereotypes: Germany for its superior engineering and Brazil for its sought-after weaves.

With every tweet, Instagram and Facebook post I saw, I realised that people actually have no idea what “Brazilian hair” is. Few realise that the phrase was coined by a hugely successful hair distribution marketing campaign and has little to do with the facts.

If you’re the type of extension-wearer who doesn’t mind paying extra for the best hair on the market, you must at some stage
 have been shown a whole catalogue of extension options, all coming from exotic countries where women are famous for having lustrous locks. This hair is always presented as being “100% virgin unprocessed” from the scalps of the country’s inhabitants. But are all those women really shaving off their hair?

According to Jones, they probably aren’t. Very few Brazilians are willing to part with their locks. There are several manufacturers based in that country who import human hair from India and China and part of the manufacturing process involves perming the hair to give it the wave pattern consumers associate with Brazil. In most cases, what’s sold as Brazilian, Peruvian, Cambodian or even Eurasian hair is actually Indian hair that’s been processed.

The disturbing reality is that companies knowingly – and falsely – label their products in order to score off uneducated consumers. According to Jones, these companies wouldn’t want us knowing that as much as 90% of human hair in the market is fallen and collected from women’s hairbrushes.

A good indicator of quality is price: if a woman spends less than R900 on an extension that’s longer than 46cm, it’s probably fallen hair. Companies get away with this because consumers seek cheaper products and many are loath to investigate their precise origins.

In order to ensure that the extension you’re buying is unprocessed virgin hair, Indique has a checklist called the Flawless Test https://www.indiquehair.com/pure-since-2007 to help consumers check the cuticles of the hair, as well as identify its colouring and smell, among other criteria, helping them to avoid buying a fake “virgin Remy” item.

Next time you’re shopping for an extension, remember: knowledge is power!