I have put this not-so-quick-guide together, to try and steer you through the endless maze of where to start when you are looking to buy a wig. I hope you find it useful,
Resident Wig Expert
Where to start…
There are so many choices aren’t there? It can be an incredibly daunting experience to buy your first wig. I think the very first question you need to ask is:
Do I really need a wig?
Most people think because I work with wigs, that I must think they are the answer to everybody’s prayers, but the advice I would give to my mother, sister or best friend, is not to go in to one unless you really need to. There is nothing worse than being rushed in to making a decision and I believe it is essential you take the time to do your homework and be fully informed about ALL the options before committing to a wig.
I have seen many women wearing full wigs, who could in fact have been better suited to ¾ pieces or even less, but they didn’t know they were available. I recently saw a lady who had been wearing a topper for 5 years, which she was renting at enormous expense and she didn’t need it at all. She had been told she needed it by a girl in a very successful salon(who in my opinion was more more interested in her commission than doing right by someone), but in fact all she needed was some light cosmetic coverage. There are many options.
This should be your first port of call and probably will be. There are so many great volumising products on the market – shampoos, mousses, serums, lotions – don’t be frightened to experiment and keep a written record of things you like/don’t like and any observations you make about the effect of the products on your hair/scalp. Try concealers like Couvre, dermamatch, Fullmore and Toppik – they all make the hairs appear denser and stop light reflecting off a bare scalp. Cosmetic options often take skill and practice to perfect, but many people find them enormously useful.
For many people, this is the next step. Again, I would urge anyone who is contemplating extensions to really do their homework and be very selective in whom they go to. The whole subject of extensions is one that I tend to shy away from, because I have seen more harm than good come of them, but I do accept, for many women, who have got the balance right, they are a life line. If the extensions are too heavy or left for too long, they can cause traction Alopecia, which is a trend now amongst celebrities who are wearing long, heavy extensions and almost permanently. They can also be very expensive, as you not only pay for the initial setting up, but regular refreshings and these are sometimes required as often as every fortnight.
Hats With Hair
It is possible to buy a hat, which comes with synthetic hair. Sometimes this is sewn in, sometimes this is attached with Velcro and you can put it in to other hats. A great idea for when you need to pop something on super quick – to answer the door for instance. I particularly like the hats with hair, for children. They are relatively cheap to purchase and there are lots of shops that sell them on line.
Hair Pieces/Add ons
Unfortunately for many women, a full wig is their first step, instead of a last resort, which I would prefer it to be. Girls, don’t rush it, please look at all the other options first.
There are many hairpieces available to purchase and these are also known as toppers, units, systems, enhancers, wiglets, falls, add ons, etc. They vary greatly in price and quality, starting from low-end pieces, which you could buy on market stalls, thro to custom made pieces from the finest wig makers. So you are looking at spending anywhere from £1 to £1000.
Pieces are attached in a variety of ways, from glue, to clips to bands to Velcro to grips to being weaved in…the list of possibilities is endless.
Synthetic pieces tend to be more popular because they are significantly cheaper and easier to cope with in how you care for them. They are easy to buy - you can cut them down if required and do a bit of D.I.Y on them and you won’t go far wrong. The down side is that they are heavier and hotter and as they are made of an artificial medium, they will never be perfect.
Human hair pieces are a different ball game, better fitting (when they are custom/hand made) lighter, shinier, easier to handle, but price wise they are coming in at a premium and need more care, but the quality…again…depends on the hair you buy!!! Ugh, this subject is so complicated!!
When Is Human Hair Not Human Hair?
When it has had all its ‘human’ qualities removed. This is a process of removing the cuticle, which truly PAINS me to say, has become incredibly popular over the last decade. The result is hair you can (Wha Hey!) sleep in and swim in and that is light, but won’t tangle. It will also look dead and flat (it has no cuticle to reflect shine) and will need silicones etc to make it look like the hair it was once!
These are similar to hairpieces, but have a section of elastic webbing, which, once the little piece is in place, you would then slide your own hair through the spaces in between to ‘integrate’ with the piece. Sometimes you can do this at home, but it is big business for salons, producing these systems and either sewing or micro linking these in – there are lots of different ways it can be done. In my experience, integrations look superb at first, but for the wearer they are uncomfortable, it can be hard to wash hair properly, regular salon visits will be required and as you will be wearing it 24/7, you will find it will wear out quickly. Traction Alopecia is also an issue here…sorry!
Wigs vary in price from about £20 from a very low-end dress up wig to £6,000 for a high-end human hair wig. What’s the difference? It’s STAGGERING!!
These are improving and the ranges are getting better and better every year. Care is minimal and you can play with these wigs and make mistakes without too serious repercussions. The only big NO NO is heat and this includes heat from bedside lights, an oven etc that will melt the artificial fibres and cause frazzling.
Because of the artificial materials used, they tend to be hot, heavy and itchy and you really need to wear a wig liner, tho few people do. Fit can be an issue too.
Cheaper wigs will be all wefted, which is rows of hair sewn together, which leaves big gaps. More expensive wigs will be monofilament or part monofilament, designed so it looks like the hair is growing out of the scalp. You can also purchase synthetic wigs, which have a micro skin top. Here, the hair is tied in to a nylon base and a coating of thin latex is applied, creating the effect of a natural scalp/parting.
With regards to size, synthetic wigs all come with Velcro tabs, which are helpful for improving fit. Fortunately most women have an average size head and can therefore fit the majority of wigs, which cater for this size (21-22.5”). If in doubt you can measure your head with a tape measure going around the forehead at the hairline, under the hair, behind the ears and around the nape of the neck. If this is too difficult to do by yourself, it’s a good idea to have someone help you.
Most people choose wigs, which are closest to their natural style, but when shopping for a wig also take in to consideration how easy the wig will be to look after, your face shape, eye colour and complexion (with and without make-up). Whilst there is always a great temptation to steer away from your ‘old’ hair and go for something dramatically different, in my experience this rarely works, as women just want to look ‘normal’ and not stand out in a crowd.
Again, can be purchased off the rack or hand made. Sometimes you can buy blends of both synthetic and human. If you are having a wig made for you, this will usually involve three visits – one for a consultation and to make a mould of your head, one to check the foundation (base) for fit and one to collect the wig. Sometimes they are all one length (a la cousin ITT!) and require you to take them to a good salon to be cut and sometimes they are ready to wear.
Bases tend to vary from cotton type bases to suction bases to coarse nets to finest lace bases…. Ideally you want a very light base, which will let as much air thro as possible.
If a competent wig maker has measured you, the wig will fit well, but you may like to use double sided tape or glue (which comes in every conceivable type and strength you can imagine). You can wear the wig all day, over night, for a few days or for a few weeks, but note with the latter, we are talking about bonding and extra precautions are necessary.
It is possible to sleep/swim in your wig, although most women choose not to because of the expense of replacing it. Many women buy two human hair wigs and wear them in rotation.
Repairs are sometimes necessary and good handling is essential to maintain the longevity of the wig. Fine lace bases can snag easily and will need repairing straight away to prevent tearing.
The disadvantages to buying human hair hand made wigs are simple – they are more expensive and more care is required in terms of looking after them. If you are sold a human hair wig, you WILL be told you need special tools and Equipment. I was recently contacted by a lady who had bought £500 worth of ‘essentials’ from a reputable wig maker. In actual fact, the real cost she should have paid is about £70.
The advantages? You can have anything made from the size of a penny up to a full head of hair and fit should be perfect as it is designed for you. You can have any colour, any density, any length, any texture and you can style it as your own. If you are having European, Virgin hair, you should be prepared to work at keeping it looking good. Often when your wig arrives it is not looking as good as it could and you need to be prepared to get it in to condition for a couple of weeks (this is because of the chemical processes the hair itself is put thro).
The wig will be light, airy, cooler than anything else you could have and if used with bonding can be worn 24/7, swam and slept in.
The subject is enormously complicated and I have barely scratched the surface of the endless list of possibilities, but rest assured if your desire is to have a natural head of shiny, bouncy hair, which is comfortable and ‘part of you’ – it can be done, but what you put in, you will get out and I want you to avoid making expensive mistakes. People WILL always try to sell you things you don’t need and for every single piece of advice you receive from now on, I want you to ask yourself ‘Does this person have anything to gain?’ Almost all wig salons/people/stores/shops/consultants have some vested interest in steering you towards buying something.
I do not sell anything EVER nor do I promote anything. I am here in the UK and 99% of the people I advise are overseas. You know what…I have a vested interest too! It’s true! I have a vested interest in each and every one of you and giving you the most honest advice I can, because when you feel good, I feel good!