Your hair is your largest cosmetic feature. For that very reason, the appearance of your hair (real or otherwise) has the ability to singlehandedly transform your look. Drab to diva, demure to vixen, your hair can take your look to places you didn’t think possible. Using wigs and hair extensions is a fun way to experiment, without making a permanent commitment.
The easiest way to switch up your look is by popping a wig onto your head. Straight, curly, long, or short, a wig gives you the option to completely change the look of your hair with absolutely no commitment. Breaking it down even further, there are different levels of quality in a wig. A costume wig—typically employed during Halloween—is usually bold (think oddly colored and textured), inexpensive, and not meant to be worn for very long at all. These wigs are always synthetic, and can be worn for a few hours to add some drama to your look. The next step up in quality is the synthetic wig, made from simulated hairs. The synthetic wig can closely resemble the appearance of natural hair, and can be worn for longer periods of time than its costume counterpart. Last but not least, human hair wigs (made with real human hair) are the most natural-looking, and often cost the most money.
Extensions can add length, volume, and color to your hair, with very little commitment. Extensions are hair clusters (both faux and real), bonded to existing hairs on the head to alter the appearance of the hair. Extensions can be attached physically, via braiding, or chemically, via keratin glue bonds that are activated with heat. If an extension is physically bonded, it can be taken out at any time. If the bond is a chemical one, expect wear to last 4-6 weeks, depending on the type of hair that you use.
One of the hottest trends to hit the hair extension world is the feather extension. These are available in a number of sizes, shapes, and colors, and are oftentimes attached with a tiny bead looped through the top of the hair shaft, close to the scalp.
Most women who are faced with hair loss opt for at least one wig and alternate wearing the wig(s) with hats and scarves.
What should I do to prepare for hair loss?
Make sure you will need a wig. Not all chemo causes hair loss.
If your hair is long, consider having it cut short so that switching to a wig or other head covering will be less noticeable.
Hair generally falls out 2-3 weeks after your first chemo treatment.
Once it starts falling out, consider having your head shaved (use an electric razor to avoid cuts).
This can make you feel more in control and keeps you from waking up to find itchy hair all over your pillow.
If you still need something to catch the hair, you may want to buy a Mesh Cap.
Hair usually grows back about six months after chemotherapy ends. Your new hair may be curlier or straighter, thicker or finer—or even a new color. Usually this change is short term; with time your hair will very likely go back to the way it was before treatment.
After hearing they will lose their hair, some women rush out and buy a real hair wig.
Many regret it: In addition to being expensive, real hair wigs require a lot of upkeep. Synthetic wigs are much easier to maintain and they look and feel natural. With the money you save you can try different style synthetic wigs—even different colors. As one of our customers wrote:
Choosing a color.
As we age, a lighter color is often more flattering and gives a softer, more natural look.
Chemo can make your face look pale. If you have black hair, consider choosing dark brown for a more flattering look.
If you’re a brunette and going grey, consider choosing a wig in a lighter shade of brown, possibly with subtle highlights.
White is very flattering, too.
Be adventurous! Now is your chance to experiment without paying for a long, expensive salon dye job.
Check the wig return policy and your insurance policy.
Make sure you can return the wig within a reasonable length of time without a restocking fee.
Check your private insurance policy. With a prescription from your doctor for a “cranial prosthesis”, it may help cover the cost of a wig.
Medicare does not cover the cost of wigs, but they may be a tax-deductible expense.
How do I make sure that my wig fits comfortably and correctly?
Carefully follow the directions that come with the wig.
If you wear glasses, remove them before trying on the wig.
Be sure to shake out the wig vigorously before putting it on.
Consider investing in a Wig Hugger. This cushioned gel band ensures that the wig is positioned comfortably and securely on your head.
The Cool Comfort™ Wig Liner is another helpful item. Chemo can make your scalp sensitive, and the Wig Liner offers good protection. Made of a special soft cotton/poly fabric, it also wicks away perspiration to keep you cool and comfortable while wearing your wig.
How do I style my wig?
Before styling, always tuck all of the hair behind your ears.
Bring forward only as much hair as is needed to make the wig look natural.
If needed, have a hair dresser trim the bangs and thin the wig to make it look more natural.
Shorter wigs—use a brush sparingly; your fingers will work better. Use Wig Styling Crème for hold, if desired.
Long, straight wigs—spray lightly with Wig Conditioner and brush with a Wig Brush, starting with the ends first, before styling.
For touch-ups, lift hair with a Hair Pick, included in our Wig Styling Kit. The Kit also includes a Wig Brush, a Collapsible Wig Stand for drying wigs and other useful items.
For a more natural look, don’t try to have every hair in place.
Use scarf bands and other hair accessories as you would with your own hair.
The Materials of Wigs and Hairpieces
As for all products made by human hand or machine, the quality of a wig or hair addition is determined by (1) the component materials from which it is made, and (2) workmanship. The best product is made from the best materials, to a high-quality standard of workmanship.
The foundation material of a wig or partial hairpiece-the material to which the hair or synthetic fibers the simulate hair is attached-is usually a silk, cotton or synthetic netting or gauze. Synthetic materials may better resist damage from perspiration and excessive skin oiliness. The foundation material must be light in weight but strong enough to serve as a base for the finished product.
The “hair” of the wig or hairpiece is either natural hair or synthetic fibers that simulate hair. Synthetic fibers of high quality are very acceptable substitutes for natural hair. They are superior to human hair in that they are lighter in weight, dry faster after wetting, and hold styling patterns and color longer than natural hair. High heat, as might come from a hair dryer or permanent waving tool, may damage synthetic fibers.
Human hair is often preferred to synthetic fibers because it is “natural”. It may be more expensive than synthetic fibers because of supply shortages. Human hair provides a range of selections on the basis of color, texture, caliber and straight/curly/wiry shape that match the client’s hair. Before it is used in making a wig or hairpiece, human hair is stripped of its outer, protective cuticle (see Hair Science: How and Why Hair Grows). If left in place, cuticle shatters into scaly projections that cause hair fibers to adhere to one another in knotty tangles.
Several techniques are used to attach synthetic fibers or human hair to the foundation material:
Hand-knotting, the most expensive technique, is used in the highest quality products;
Looping (fiber is looped through the foundation material as one would do when sewing a garment, then sealed to prevent undoing of the loops);
Punching and sealing; and,
Machine wefting, the least expensive technique, used in less expensive ready-to-wear wigs.
Ready-to-Wear or Made-to-Order?
Enter “wigs” as a search term on the World Wide Web and you will find dozens of sites offering ready-to-wear wigs. Ready-to-wear wigs are also widely available in stores and mail-order catalogues. Most of the ready-to-wear products are made for off-the-shelf immediate wearing. The customer fits the wig to his/her head by making adjustments according to instructions provided by the manufacturer. Synthetic fibers, human hair or a mixture of both are used in ready-to-wear products.
Semi-custom wigs are also available as ready-to-wear products. The semi-custom product is usually hand-knotted and made in different sizes and shapes to better accommodate to an individual’s head.
A person who wants or needs a wig of the highest quality that addresses all of his/her individual esthetic and physical requirements should consider purchasing a custom-made wig. The advantages of a custom-made wig are high quality, precise fitting to head measurements, adaptation to facial esthetics and selection of hair to best complement the person’s ethnicity. The major disadvantage is cost, which is substantially higher than the cost of a ready-to-wear product. The selection, fitting and attachment of a custom-made wig is best done with professional guidance and supervision-for example, under the guidance of a cosmetic surgeon or a skilled and experienced cosmetologist.
Unlike wigs, which are whole-scalp, long-term solutions for hair loss, hairpieces are partial-scalp products which frequently have a limited period of usefulness before they must be replaced. The most common reason for having a hairpiece is to cover a bald spot, which is usually due to androgenetic alopecia (male- or female-pattern hair loss). Because androgenetic alopecia is progressive, a bald spot changes in size and shape over time. A partial hairpiece that covers an area of hair loss today may provide inadequate coverage as hair loss progresses.
Because areas of partial hair loss are unique to each person, there are few satisfactory ready-to-wear partial hairpieces. A hairpiece must usually be made to order to meet the esthetic and physical requirements of the individual man or woman. The fitting and creation of a high-quality partial hairpiece requires skill and experience. A physician specializing in hair restoration can refer patients to a trusted professional. Hairpieces may also be available directly from cosmetologists who have the requisite training and experience to properly fit a hairpiece and assure its quality and workmanship.
Problems and Their Prevention
Itchy scalp and excessively oily scalp can occur under wigs and partial hairpieces. The problems are best prevented by keeping the scalp clean by washing as often as necessary. Allergic reactions to adhesives are uncommon; if a reaction occurs, it should be brought to the attention of a physician.
Traction alopecia-temporary or permanent hair loss caused by constant excessive traction on hair and the hair follicles from which they grow-is a potentially serious complication of hair additions and extensions. Partial hairpieces and hair extensions that exert excessive traction on the natural hair to which they are attached may inadvertently be a cause of hair loss (see Hair Loss and Its Causes and the section Physical, Chemical, Thermal and Radiation Injury). Careful fitting and attachment of the hair addition by a skilled professional decreases risk for traction alopecia.