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Wigs 101 - The Basics About Wigs and Cancer Treatment

Learn Basic Wig Facts Before Investing in a Wig


Updated July 21, 2009

Louise Wig

Louise Wig

Photo © Pam Stephan

Wearing a wig when chemo makes your hair take a vacation can help with your self-image and improve your outlook during treatment. If you've never used a wig before, you may be wondering what your choices are. It's a good idea to visit a local wig salon and try on several wigs before you make a purchase. But before you go, here are some basic facts about wigs to get you started. Let's start your tour from the inside of the wig.

Types of Wig Bases
A wig base is the structure that fits against your head and has the wefts (hair units) or strands attached to it. The right wig base, or wig cap, can make your wig look great and help you feel confident. Only you will see the wig base - but it affects how the wig looks, styles, fits and endures.
  • Comfort Cap: a complete cap with no network to cause scalp irritation or allow bald areas to be seen through the wig hair. Strands of hair are hand-tied to the base, allowing a natural part in the hair.
  • Capless or Wefted Base: consists of an open network of woven material connected to a closed front section. Wefts of hair are added to the fabric network.
  • Lace Wig: this type of wig base has 1-2 inches of fine lace fabric around the outer edge of the cap. Strands of hair are machine-tied or hand-tied to the base, to created a very natural appearance.
  • Monofilament Base: a closed cap of fine mesh material with machine-tied or hand-tied strands. The upper front section of the cap is coated with a thin layer of latex, creating the appearance of a natural scalp.

Kinds of Wig Hair
Wig hair is available in many colors, and can be cut and styled to suit you. Either kind of wig may be repaired at a professional wig salon, if damage occurs.

  • Synthetic Hair: strands are created from polymers, which can hold a style through wear and shampoo. There are many types of synthetic wig hair and some can easily melt near heat sources. Some types of synthetic hair, such as Kanekalon, can be styled with a curling iron.
  • Human Hair: real human hair, donated or sold to wig makers. Human hair wigs can be colored, permed, cut, styled, and blow-dried, just like your own hair. These must be restyled after each shampoo.

Wigs, Wiglets and Hairpieces
You may lose all of your hair during chemotherapy and if so, then a full wig is for you. A full wig covers your entire hairline just as you natural hair has done. If you hair thins during chemo and you just need some extra thickness, consider a partial wig that is woven into your own hair. A wiglet can be added to your hair with clips or combs to cover bald spots or to add length to short hair. If you don't want a full or partial wig, but just need a little fringe to tuck under a scarf or a summer hat, try hairpieces. You can get a wonderful array of inexpensive hairpieces to go with scarves and hats - try bangs, halo wigs, headband hair, ponytails and braids. With so much to choose from, you could change your look several times a week!

Quality and Cost of Wigs
Although there are programs that can help you get a free wig to use during cancer treatment, you may consider buying one. Check with your health insurance, to see if they help with the cost of a cranial prosthesis - that's the medical term for a wig. Human hair wigs are the most expensive models you can find. High quality human hair wigs from Europe tops the price list, with hair from India and Asia a close second. Some real hair wigs are a mix of human and animal hair, which cuts the cost a little. Synthetic hair wigs generally sell for lower prices than real hair, but a high-quality synthetic wig can cost as much as a medium quality human hair wig. Wig hair is graded by strength, elasticity, and porosity. The higher the hair quality, the greater your cost, and with care, the longer you will be able to wear the wig. Consider how long you might need to wear a wig before you decide what you want to spend on it.

Plan On Keeping Up Your New Wig
Wigs and hairpieces, like your natural hair, will need care and attention to keep them looking good. Plan on shampooing, conditioning and drying your wig. Use the right products for wig maintenance - stock up on wig shampoo, wig conditioner and wig spray. Never use a curling iron on a synthetic wig, unless it is made of special heat resistant polymers. Synthetic hair can melt or frizz - and must be repaired if it's damaged. Invest in a folding wig stand if you plan on traveling with a wig. You should use a wig brush, not a hairbrush, on a wig. Brush it out gently to avoid pulling out hairs. If you use barrettes or clips on a wig, remove them overnight so crimps don't permanently bend the hair. The better you take care of your wig, the longer it will keep you looking good!

See More About
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Breast Cancer
  4. Life During Treatment
  5. Wigs And Cancer Treatment
  6. Cancer Wigs - Basics of Wigs - Cancer Wigs

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