Particle Optimization: Faster Render Times

I want to speed up my render time. Blender crashes cause I can not use as much particles as I want. The particles are needed for hair. Is there a way to make hair without using particles? Like Alpha textures? And in making of’s I see meshes instead of hair that gets rendered as hair, is that some kind of a volumetric object thingy?

Please I need this information.
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Well, alpha textures are an alternative. You know, modeling tufts of hair as masked polygons instead of individual strands. Here’s a tutorial I saw a couple of years ago, I don’t know who posted the link. It’s done on lightwave, but the same principles should work in other 3d apps.