Deciding which wig fits your needs and budget

May 7, 2011 |
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Not surprisingly, your biggest consideration before shopping for a wig should be price for the initial purchase and in finding out the long-term cost to maintain it. A wig is expensive, and even good ones need replacing every year or two. You may also want a “hair and a spare” for times when you want a different hairstyle, or as a back up if something happens to the one you have. The price of the wig depends on its quality and on what it’s made of. The most common wigs are made of the following materials:

#Human hair: Wigs made of human hair are the highest quality and the most natural looking (and feeling). They usually start at around $1,200, and maintenance costs average a comparable amount per year.

# Animal hair: A wig made of goat or horsehair is a popular, cheaper alternative (in the low hundreds of dollars). Wigs are also made from other animals’ hair, such as yak. These wigs also require maintenance similar to that of natural human hair.

#Synthetic materials: This is the cheapest option — such wigs are available for around $50. Wigs made of synthetic materials are the easiest to care for because the color and shape last longer. However, these wigs are also the least natural to the touch and eye.
Combination of human hair and synthetic materials: Wigs often consist of both human hair and synthetic materials. The downside is that human hair needs to be maintained differently than the synthetic fibers.

The price of a wig also depends on whether it’s been hand- or machine-made.

#Machine-made wigs: This is the cheaper option. Strands of hair are sewn into a net base singularly or in groupings tied to a netting. They look very realistic when the hair falls in the style in which it was sewn, but if the wind blows or you pull the hair up, the netting below can be very visible and obvious. These wigs are normally used for costume parties rather than as hair replacement systems.

# Hand-made wigs: These wigs are more expensive and more realistic-looking. Each strand is sewn individually rather than in strips to make the hair fall and move more naturally — in fact, you can style hand-made wigs as you do your own hair. Remember that the real cost of a wig made of human hair can add up to a few thousand dollars a year when you weigh in the purchase, replacement, and maintenance costs. You may also want to have your wig washed at the shop, because shop equipment probably can do a more thorough job of it than you can, and careful washing and drying can help extend the life of your hair system.

Finding a specialty shop

After you’ve determined how much you plan to spend, you have a better idea of where to shop. Some specialty shops may simply be out of your price range, but you never know until you ask. If you know someone who wears a hair replacement system, that person may be able to recommend a shop in your area. But if all your friends are skittish about discussing what’s on top of their heads (a common problem for the new wig candidate), you may have to resort to opening the phone book and calling around. Look under both “Hair Replacement” and “Wigs” for shops near you.

Most specialty shops have full services, from sales to fitting and repairs all under one roof. Salespeople who are skilled and knowledgeable about the various products they sell generally work at the stores, but remember that they’re still, first and foremost, salespeople who have a product to sell. Ask the following questions before you sign on the dotted line:

How long has this shop been in business?

* Is the owner of the shop here? What’s his background in replacement?
* How long have you (salesperson) worked here?
* Do you have any references I can talk to?
* What are the total costs, including fitting and adjustment costs?
* How often will I need maintenance on this product? (If the answer is “none,” you’re in the wrong shop! Every wig needs regular maintenance.)
* How long does a wig usually last? (If the answer is “forever,” run! Most wigs last only a year or two.)
* What kind of materials do you use?
* What attachment systems do you use, and which ones do you recommend?
* Do you have a warranty? (In case hair starts falling off the minute you leave the shop)
* Are your wigs hand- or machine-made? Who makes them?

Choosing a style

Choosing a new hairstyle can be a bewildering task. Should you go radically different from your current color and style and buy something that looks like you magically woke up one morning with a new full head of hair? Or should you go for a gradual increase of hair and buy several wigs, each one a little fuller than the last, so no one will notice? In general, you should choose a wig in the same way you choose a  hairstyle: it should be a color that suits your skin tone and a style that suits your face shape. A stylist or wig salesperson can help you find the right style.

An Internet search for “hair replacement systems” returns hundreds of thousands of possibilities! The advantage to Internet shopping is mainly the cheaper cost and the extra privacy. You can choose a design, fill out and send the special forms for fitting requirements, and finalize the sale in a matter of minutes.

Hair weaving and hair extensions are sometimes employed to conceal hair loss or thinning hair in men and women. However, one must be cautious as hair that is braided too tight can cause traction alopecia and some glues and bonding materials can also chemically damage your hair.

Hair weaves and hair extensions are terms used to describe non-surgical hair additions consisting of human hair, synthetic hair or a combination of both. They are added to existing hair or scalp through a variety of techniques and as they are dependent on the existing hair, they need reattaching or tightening as the existing hair grows.

Thus, a hair weave is an attachment of false hair and hair weaving refers to the process of braiding false hair to somebody’s own hair in order to conceal hair loss or to increase volume, thickness and length.

If done by a professional, the average hair weave lasts for about two months. One can opt for a partial hair addition or for a full one.

Hair weaving can be used in combination with hair transplant surgery, and this is becoming popular with men and women who do not wish to appear “under construction” while in public – especially as successful hair transplants can take up to 2 years to complete.

Buying online: Worth the risk?

Internet may be difficult if you’re a novice. And then when it comes in the mail, what do you do with it? How do you attach it? Does it feel custom made for your head? Very doubtful! If you can’t try a wig’s fit before buying, try sizing your head by trying on a series of baseball caps and matching them up with wig sizes. Many of the wigs come in a series of standard sizes ranging from small to extra-large, so you may increase your chances of ordering a better fit if you have some idea of where you fall in that spectrum.

Here are some tips:

1) if you are looking for long hair (which is what I currently have) — definitely spend the money on real human hair (with the cuticle intact). I tried several long synthetic wigs (even the “new generation” and “heat resistant” synthetics) and they looked great — for about a month. After that the ends get “knappy” (for lack of a better word) and it gets very, very tangled all the time. The human hair is just like, well, hair.

2) look for wigs with a “monofilament” top — or in the less expensive wigs, a flesh colored mesh piece — where the hair parts. These look most natural and really does look like your scalp showing. If you are caucasion — look for the lighter wig cap. If you are african-american — look for the darker wig cap.

3) you don’t have to spend a lot to look great! The wig that I had on in my picture cost $39.99 and I swear I had so many compliments on it — even women wanting to take my picture so that they could show their sylist what they wanted (it was then that I was very tempted to just take my wig off and ask the lady if she wanted to try it on! But, I didn’t want to embarrass my husband.)

4) Benefits of synthetic hair — wash with any mild shampoo, shake out and let air dry. No styling required. Very easy maintenance.

5) drawbacks of synthetic hair — Not as durable. Can melt or singe with a sudden blast of heat — say, from leaning too close when opening the oven. Or if your mother should accidentally wash your hair on extra hot, sanitary setting in the washing machine.

6) Drawbacks of all wigs — wind, roller coasters, and water sports create challenges. But, there is double-stick tape for that. : )

If you aren’t happy with your wig

If you’re not comfortable with your new hair after a few days or weeks, try to figure out why. Consider the following questions:
* Is your hair system uncomfortable? Is it too hot, heavy, or itchy?
*Are you sweating too much?
* Is the adhesive or attachment that you’re using uncomfortable?
* Are you self-conscious or worried about your wig falling off?

After you figure out exactly what’s bothering you, go back to the specialty shop where you purchased it, or contact the shop if you bought it online. If it’s a problem with comfort or the adhesive, you may be able to have the wig altered to correct the problem.

In a short time, the nerve endings on your scalp will get used to the feel of the wig on your head, and you won’t even know you have it on. If you wear glasses, you may remember how difficult it was to adjust to them in the beginning; something on your head is just as hard to get used to at first. As for self-consciousness, just give yourself time. Wearing a wig takes getting used to, like everything else.

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