A Beginner's Guide to Wigs and Hairpieces
For some of us, wigs are a part of everyday life. Whether you are bravely fighting a cancer battle, or have been wearing them for years as a fashion accessory, there are some that have mastered the art of wearing a wig, not only gracefully, but fiercely.
But for many others, it is a place full of scary unknowns. How do I wear one, which one do I wear, will I look like I'm wearing one, CAN I wear one? It can seem very black and white, but it is not.
History of the wig
The wearing of wigs dates back centuries. In ancient Egypt, it was more comfortable for Egyptians to not have any hair of their own, so they would shave their heads and wear wigs when they wanted to present themselves to the world. It wasn't just the women either, men also wore wigs. What the wigs were made out of depended on social status. They were made out of everything from human hair, to sheep's wool, and even, vegetable fibers.
In America, founding fathers wore wigs to cover premature balding and wearing a wig became a symbol of the upper-class and elite. Wigs lost popularity in the 1920's as women started wearing their own hair in sleek bobs. What goes out of style almost always comes back in, and it did in the 1950's. Wigs are also very popular in the black community as a means of being able to style and wear their hair without the use of harsh chemicals. Iconic stars, like Diana Ross and Tina Turner, made wigs glamorous by wearing them and people followed. Whether black or white, it was a means of convenience, as well as, style.
In the 1990's, wigs became unpopular among women of all races as the trends geared more towards braids and pixie cuts.
Today, we are in an "anything goes" kind of style. I believe that, as long as you feel beautiful, that is what is in style. May celebrities of our time,such as Kylie Jenner and Zendaya, both famously and proudly wear wigs, while other celebs, such as Lupita Nyongo, have been seen wearing their natural hair. You are also allowed to switch it up and not commit to any one things. That is probably the biggest difference between today and yesterday's standards.
Types of wigs/hairpieces and basics on how to use them
These are what most people think of when they think of a wig. They range from cheap, Halloween costume quality to really expensive, high-end. Sometimes, celebrities will come out with their own lines, such as beauty Raquel Welch. Full wigs come in so many varieties these days. There are also lace front, full-lace, and freestyle wigs, that allow you to part the wig anywhere making the result closer to looking like natural hair that is growing from your scalp. To start, you put your hair in a wig cap, which are readily available both online and in beauty supply stores. You don't need to do this, but I think it makes it easier to put the wig on and to keep your hair from falling. Of course, the result will vary based on the quality of the wig itself, as well as, whether it's a flattering cut and style for you. Also wig position is key when wearing a full wig, be it a regukar, no lace wig or lace front. Here is where you experiment. You don't want it too far down or too far back, so consider working with your natural hairline to find where the wig suits you best. I have very limited knowledge about lace-front wigs. I know there are several people that will glue and/or tape them on and some people (I believe) even apply makeup to the lace to help it blend in with the skin. Of course this is the most dramatic way to change your hair by using a wig.
This is what I am most familiar with because I wear one of these everyday for my performing job. Basically, the name says it all. It is the back three quarters of a wig and they are designed so that you have your own hair in the front. I buy them in straight, curly, and wavy styles so I can switch up the texture of my hair. Often, the ones that I purchase can't be styled so I like to have a variety. It is also very important to get as close as you can to your hair color. This just takes some trial and error. I have found though that if you are unsure between 2 colors, the light one is usually best if your hair is one color, as it looks more natural for your roots to be darker than lighter. If you hair has darker roots, you may have a little more leeway to go darker or lighter. To put one of these on, I will separate the front part of my hair and tease the back 3/4 of my hair to give the combs something to stick to. I think the wig feels more secure if I secure the hair under the wig in a low bun but you can also wear it down if you choose. Although these normally come with combs attached inside, I tend to also use a few straight pins to secure it along the base of the wig. Then you just style the front part of your hair as usually. I sometimes wear it back to make it like a half up, half down hairstyle or leave it and blend the wig with my hair. These also tend to get better with a little age and will look more like real hair after a few wears. These take a little experimenting but this is my personal go-to. (See pictures below)
If you are unsure of where to start, ponytails are a great place to start. They usually attach by either a jaw clip or a drawstring. I have been known to remove the jaw clips and use bobby pins. I also use a couple of bobby pins with the drawstring ones too to give it a little extra support. To wear one of these, you put your own hair in a bun and attach this to give the illusion of a ponytail. These also come in an array of colors, textures, and lengths. When choosing a color, you choose just like you would a 3/4 wig. If you have dark roots, you can get a shade lighter or match your roots. If your hair is evenly colored, just match it. If in doubt, go a shade lighter as it will look more natural than if it darker.
I personally don't ever use these, but I've known a few women who love them. I have always had a hard time blending them into the cut of my own hair. But with the right hairstyle, this could be the perfect option for you. Usually you get a long strip and/or shorter strips of hair that you place throughout your own hair. A lot of times, they can be styles with your regular hair to be curly or straight.
Watch these simple, easy-to-follow 3/4 wig/hairpiece tutorial!!!
Caring for your wigs
I can't speak for everybody, but this is how I care for my synthetics wigs. The ones I purchase are pretty inexpensive ($25 to $60 range) and I get every bit of my money's worth (and then some) from them. Being a magician's assistant, I wear them 6 days a week and they go through a lot of abuse (I have to wear hats, hoods, I change costumes, They get stuck in my sequined costumes, I'm stuffed in boxes, they get wet, etc...)
I don't have any experience caring for human hair wigs so you'll want to follow special care designed for them. But here are some tips that work for me and get me the most life out of my inexpensive, synthetic hairpieces.
- Fill a basin/sink with lukewarm water with a squirt of baby shampoo and swish the wig around.
- Empty and refill basin/sink with clean, cold water and rinse thoroughly. Repeat a couple times.
- Refill basin/sink with cold water again and put some liquid fabric softener and let wig soak for a while (a few minutes to a couple hours.)
- Rinse a little but don't worry about getting all the softener out.
- Use a towel to get excess water out and let air dry (takes a day or so.)
- If it is a wavy style (a lot of mine are), I brush it out after it has dried and use hot rollers (DO NOT use a curling iron or straightener!)
- After the rollers cool, take them out and tousle the hair. I like to separate each curl so it doesn't look like porcelain doll hair. Spray lightly with (I find this works great with my synthetic wigs, I know wig experts are cringing right now.) I can also use it on my real hair that show when I wear the 3/4 wig. Kenra Dry Oil Control Spray
- If it is a straight style, gently brush it when it has dried. You can also use hot rollers to smooth it out but it may not curl.
- With really curly wigs, just tousle them after they dry. don't brush them.
- I revive them from time to time with a few spritzes of one part fabric softener to 3 parts water in a spray bottle.
- I wash them every couple weeks or so but if you don't wear them as much, you might be able to get away with once a month or less. Do what seems right for your wig.
Like I said, I am not a wig expert, but these tips have worked like a charm for me. They have helped me get a lot of mileage out of very inexpensive 3/4 wigs. I have tried all kinds of things and have ruined a couple of wigs in the process from experimenting, but these things have worked for me time and time again.
Me wearing some of my favorite styles :)
Wigs and hairpieces aren't that scary. There can be some trial and error but any of us who wear them have gone through it. We have all acquired tricks of our own to make the make them work for each of us. Start small and build up your courage.
Where to buy
I buy a lot of my 3/4 wigs on Ebay and, most recently, on Amazon. I find them to be so much more affordable than on websites that sell wigs. I also find there is a much better selection of styles and colors and an ease to narrow down what your criteria is. With careful though t and a little knowledge, purchasing online isn't so scary. I have only bought one 3/4 piece that I wasn't able to make work with my hair and I passed it onto a friend of mine whose hair was perfect for it.
Below I have included a link to Amazon where you can purchase my personal, all-time favorite 3/4 wig. I have bought them in various colors over the years. The quality for the price cannot be beat!
Questions or advice
Please feel free to message me with any questions and I will help in any I can! <3