How to Choose the Right Hair Mannequin for You

- For an a.i. assisted mannequin selector, use this new mannequin selector -

For definitions, and more about the wonderful world of styling mannequins, read on!


HairArt's Guide to Choosing Hair Styling Mannequins for styling students and educators

QUALITY: The Key to Elevating Your Cosmetology Education or Getting the Most Out of a Special Styling "Bootcamps"

When it comes to honing your hair styling skills, the importance of a high-quality mannequin head cannot be overstated.

And we're not just saying that because we manufacture and sell the best human hair mannequins on the market today.

You want a styling head as close to a human hair model as possible to get the most from the expensive trainings courses you're taking to become a first rate stylist.

Whether you're a budding stylist or a seasoned professional demoing skills to students, finding the right hair mannequin for your needs greatly enhances your hair learning or teaching experience.

In this guide, we'll delve into the intricacies of selecting the perfect styling mannequin.

Part 1: Unraveling the World of Mannequin Hair Types and Quality

Understanding the Basics of Hair Types:

Mannequin heads come in various hair types: human hair (which has several grades and types), animal hair, and synthetic hair (plastic).

Each type has its distinct characteristics and implications for your practice sessions.


Human Hair Categories:

We have two major sources: Asian hair, and European hair.

Within the realm of human hair, there are three key quality categories: virgin hair, processed hair, and Remy hair. 

The Origins and Quality of Human Hair

Human hair utilized for mannequins predominantly originates from Asia, with China, India, and Korea emerging as the primary sources gathered from living donors.

HairArt mannequins are famous because we use our human hair wig grade  European hair for some of our mannequins, like the Emma model, ensuring that elements like balayage and lifting accurately mimic real human hair models.

An Investment in Quality: 

Students on a budget see $40 long hair mannequins on Amazon and wonder why a HairArt mannequin with 14 inch hair can be over 2x the cost. One answer is results: if you're spending $1500 on a 3 day balayage bootcamp course but try to save money by getting a pre-lifted overprocessed mannequin with no cuticles, you're not going to see real results. 

Add to that if a mannequin has synthetic strands or animal hair mixed in, you'll destroy high end cutting shears by cutting them.

It's important to recognize the tangible difference in outcomes between a discounted online mannequin and a top-tier one in terms of authenticity and performance.

Categories of Human Hair Quality

The classification of human hair quality is crucial for selecting the right mannequin. Our focus lies on three quality categories: virgin hair, processed hair, and Remy hair.

To grasp these distinctions, let's delve into the biological makeup of human hair.

Section 2: Understanding the Composition and Varieties of Human Hair

Hair's Structural Composition:

Human hair primarily comprises proteins organized into three structural components: the cuticle, the cortex, and the medulla.

The cuticle, akin to shingles on a roof, envelops the hair and safeguards its internal structure. HairArt mannequins use cuticle intact hair to prevent tangles, and to offer a true to human experience. 

Processed Hair:

Processed hair, often termed "tangle-free" hair, is a prevalent and cost-effective choice for mannequins. This hair undergoes a sanitization process in large containers. To prevent tangling, the hair cuticles, which naturally align from root to tip, are removed using an acid. A laminate product is introduced to emulate the cuticle's function, ensuring a vibrant appearance faking a real cuticle or cuticle-intact hair, but with the ability to use a lot of long processed hair from mixed batches cheaply.

This is an especially common type for long haired mannequins because it's a process that makes human hair affordable.

POINT: If we were to make an 18 - 24 inch long hair mannequin using unprocessed virgin European hair, we'd probably have to charge around $900 just to procure that quality and volume of hair!

A good single batch unprocessed European hair wig in a lighter real blonde can cost thousands of dollars, so getting a lot of long blonde human hair at a price point that makes sense for a training mannequin requires a compromise.

Processed Hair part 2


Over time, chemically treated processed hair can become fragile. We don't recommend processed hair mannequins for heat styling, coloring, or color deposit since it's heavily processed Asian hair, but these mannequins can be great for updos and styling.

Virgin Hair

Virgin hair signifies hair untouched by coloring or perming treatments.

This high-quality hair type is ideal for color lifting.

HairArt's European hair mannequins like Emma, Steve and others have cuticles intact and are industry favorites for coloring and balayage classes due to its untarnished cortex and true-to-human-model-results.

HairArt mannequins featuring Virgin European hair offer an unparalleled experience for hair coloring educators, ensuring optimal results and realism.

Remy Hair

Remy hair in wig talk stands as the pinnacle of human hair quality, but often means quality Asian hair. It retains aligned cuticles, often described as "Virgin Remy" if uncolored. 

so looking for Virgin European Hair with Cuticles intact is the highest grade possible.

Hair Varieties and Blends

Animal Hair

Certain mannequins incorporate animal hair, typically sourced from animals like horses, camels, and yaks. While less costly, these mannequins might exhibit higher hair density. Used for inexpensive styling and cutting practice, they lack the compatibility with chemical treatments like human hair.

Synthetic Hair Mannequins

HairArt doesn't make these or blend with synthetic to save your shears.

Direct-from-China mannequins on Amazon are often a blend of human plus synthetic making them unsuitable for heat, processing, or cut styling.

Synthetic hair mannequins, considerably budget-friendly compared to their human hair counterparts, are suitable updos styling, and braiding.

Hair Blends: 

Hair blends, a cost-effective(read "cheap") approach, combine synthetic, animal, and human hair to create mannequins. Reputable vendors (hint, us) transparently disclose composition ratios. (100% Human Hair, 80% Human Hair etc.)

Be careful though, many other manufacturers don't and undisclosed blends can lead to a waste of money even if the mannequin is cheap.

Part 2: Hair Length, Layering, and Density

Understanding Hair Mannequin Factors

Cosmetology mannequin heads vary GREATLY in price, making it challenging to understand the factors contributing to these differences.

As previously discussed, the type and quality of hair comprise the foremost element influencing a mannequin's cost.

Another significant cost factor is hair length, so let's look at that in detail.

Mannequin Hair Length Measurements:

Hair length is typically measured from the crown, situated at the head's upper back, to the ends. (We have a video on our Mannequin product pages explaining how to measure mannequin hair length)

By positioning the measuring tape from the crown down to the hair's rear tip, you get the overall crown-to-ends measurement.

Hair Layers and Why They're Important

Layering is a prevalent feature among mannequin hairstyles, involving the blending of shorter and longer hair strands. When examining a layered hairstyle, it's evident that hair from the top doesn't necessarily extend to the bottom uniformly. If a mannequin boasts consistent-length hair grafts around the head, dramatic layers emerge.

Generally, mannequins are designed with longer hair on top and shorter strands at the back and nape. This technique creates a natural layered effect. Mannequins described as "one length" exhibit no layers, often known as a "blunt cut." Such non-layered mannequins are less common.

Hair Density and Implants

Hair density, the closeness of each hair graft, significantly influences a mannequin's cost.

Lower-cost mannequins usually have lower hair density, suitable for basic hair cutting classes.

However, advanced styles or updos may necessitate higher density, which is why we have mannequins like Competition 20 2x density.

Hair grafts are typically implanted at a 90-degree angle or angled toward the back. While this isn't the natural growth pattern, certain mannequins mimic the human hair growth direction.

This alignment is particularly important for bob cuts, ensuring that the bangs fall forward. An easy distinction lies in examining the hairline: standard implants rise straight up, while natural implants angle downward and to the side.

HairArt's Olivia, Bianca, and Emma mannequins are used in international blunt cut competitions and by advanced blunt cut instructors because of how we implant our hair. 

Part 3: Exploring Mannequin Head Types and Usage Scenarios

Manikin vs Mannequin vs Hair Doll vs Practice Doll

The terms "manikin" and "mannequin" are both correct spellings, but their usage can vary. "Manikin" is typically employed for medical or anatomical models, while "mannequin" is commonly associated with display figures seen in clothing store windows. Mannequin heads fall between these definitions, leading to the interchangeable spellings. Some vendors or stylists call these "practice dolls" or "Hair Mannequins" or cosmetology mannequins and while there's no industry-wide right or wrong, we at HairArt call these Hair Mannequins.

Varieties of Mannequin Heads

Cosmetology mannequin heads come in various types, each tailored to specific needs and uses, prices vary and some are more expensive so you don't want to use an updo mannequin meant to be used over and over as a cutting mannequin!


Artistry in Hair Mannequin Creation: the HairArt difference

The outside of cosmetology mannequins is made of rubber and the inside is filled with polyurethane. The hair is permanently attached to the head.

HairArt's mannequins have hair woven into the head base by skilled hair experts, watch this on Instagram to see how they're made!

Light makeup is hand painted on the face as well as eyes and brows.
The head is about 12 inches tall and has a circumference of about 21 inches.
This is slightly smaller than an actual human head.


The Standard Female Mannequin Head

The most common type of mannequin head on the market is the standard, medium-length, human hair, female version. There are endless versions of our Olivia, Emma, and Bianca, but none have our quality cuticle-intact European hair.

“Slip-On” Mannequin Heads

Another variation is the "slip-on" mannequin head. The lower part of these mannequins serves as a holder for a hairpiece resembling a mask.

Despite assumptions of affordability, these are not cheaper due to the significant cost of hair and labor, but they are marginally better for the ecology.

Competition and Shoulder-Based Mannequins

Some mannequin heads feature a shoulder base, designed for competitions, styling demonstrations, and educational purposes. These models stand independently and can even include pierced ears. HairArt mannequins generally come with human hair eyelashes for impact.

Diverse Ethnic and Gender Representation

Mannequins are available in both male and female versions, catering to various ethnicities and hair textures. Male mannequins, often used in barbering schools, may even incorporate beard features, or have a bald spot for learning comb-overs! Male mannequins are generally slightly larger than their female counterparts.

Ethnic Mannequins with Texture Variety

Ethnic mannequins offer options with curled, textured, or straight hair. It's important to note that these mannequins are crafted using Asian hair, which may involve chemical perming for curled variations.

Exploring the “Quad” Mannequin

A unique type of mannequin head is the "Quad," like the HairArt Tammy Hair Mannequin. This model boasts four different hair colors, designed for hair coloring practice. One quadrant typically features gray hair.

Miniature Mannequins for Specialized Needs

Recently introduced miniature mannequins, while less popular, fulfill specific purposes. HairArt Miniquins are crafted with 100% human hair, providing smaller cute alternatives for children and hobby styling. When shopping for these miniquins, pay attention to measurements, as they can closely resemble larger versions in photos.

Makeup and Bald Mannequin Varieties

Not all mannequins come with hair. Some are dedicated to makeup practice, facials, massage, or eyelash extension training. These mannequins are fashioned with a softer rubber resembling facial skin. Additionally, there are bald mannequins suitable for wigs, display, photography, and cranial studies. (HairArt has a shouldered and shoulder-free version)

Elevate Your Cosmetology Education or Education Training Content with the Perfect Mannequin

In the world of hair education, choosing the right styling mannequin can make all the difference.

From hair quality to length, layers, and density, every detail contributes to a comprehensive learning experience.

While exploring the diverse types of mannequin heads, remember that your choice will shape the way you practice and refine your skills.

HairArt mannequins, with our commitment to premium hair quality and craftsmanship, invite you to feel the difference; real hair gives true results.

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