Expert Tips on Wigs and Hair Loss: Community Q&A
Wigs are a hot topic in the Community at Breastcancer.org, especially in our Chemotherapy forum. Many people diagnosed with breast cancer who experience hair loss from chemotherapy find wearing a wig to be the best solution for them. But for many, wearing a wig is a brand new experience, so they have lots of questions.
To help answer some specific questions about choosing, wearing, and styling wigs, we spoke with wig expert and advocate, Carliz Sotelo Teague, founder of Wigs.com. Below, she answers real questions (edited for clarity) from our Community members who are experiencing or concerned about hair loss from breast cancer treatment.
I find my wig to be itchy, especially in warm weather. How can I address this?
Carliz: Wigs are generally not itchy. It is usually the hair wrapped or tucked underneath a wig that will cause itching. An important step to keeping your wig from itching is to wrap your hair tightly and pin it down properly, paying special attention to the ends being pinned down. This will ensure your hair doesn’t move around under the wig and poke or irritate your head. There are some lower-quality wig caps that are made with hard, scratchy materials that can be irritating. It’s always a good idea to put your wig on properly and then leave it alone. Pulling at it or adjusting it throughout the day will only increase the risk of itching.
I feel funny wearing a wig, like I’m wearing a silly hat, and like people are staring at me. How can I feel more confident and less foolish about wearing a wig?
Carliz: It sounds easier said than done, but own it! Once you feel good about the wig you have and know how to put it on properly (this is key and easy to learn), you will look great! You will look different from what you are used to, but have faith in the fact that wigs are basically a perfect hairstyle that you can put on in a snap. To ease yourself into your new look, try wearing it around the house first. Then, ease into going out, and you may be surprised how easy it is to feel confident. Keep in mind, friends and loved ones might also need some time to get used to your new style.
I want a wig that doesn’t look like a wig. What kind should I buy?
Carliz: Personally, I feel that if the scalp and hairline look natural, you will go undetected as wearing a wig. A lace-front hairline and a monofilament top will give you a part and a natural look at the forehead. This is key. Another tip: root colors make the biggest difference in making your wig look gorgeous. Even if the roots are only subtly darker, it will make a huge difference. If your wig is a bit too shiny, which happens with some synthetic hair, make sure to use a dry shampoo spray on it to bring the shine down.
What is the wig fitting process like? I’m not sure what to expect. How can I make sure the stylist I choose is doing a good job?
Carliz: It is definitely important to get a stylist who is a trained wig expert. Your first step is to measure your head, and then you should choose your style and color. This process can be done in a wig shop or online, but be sure to watch some educational videos before choosing your wig. It’s also okay if you don’t get the perfect wig the first time. Once you find the right style (or styles) for you, you’ll be all set!
I want to start wearing a wig so my hair loss isn’t noticeable at work. How can I transition to wearing a wig without people noticing a big difference?
Carliz: You have a couple of choices: 1) You can choose a wig style that is close to your current style and color. This will help you transition. You can vary the color and length, as most changes in hair go unnoticed by the people around you every day. 2) You can also start with a topper or a top piece, which will help you cover the top areas of hair loss while you transition to wigs.
How long will a wig last? Will I need to buy more than one to get me through my time without hair?
Carliz: With proper care and storage (these are key!), a synthetic wig will last for 3–5 months of daily wear. A human hair wig should last 9 months to a year.
Can I color or dye my wig?
Carliz: You can only dye human hair and should never color synthetic hair. Human hair wigs undergo extensive chemical treatment and should never be dyed lighter. Depositing darker color, or lowlights, should be the only color treatment you do. The good news is that wigs come in such a wide variety of colors, it should be easy to get what you want without needing to dye it.
Can I wear a wig while my hair starts to grow back? How do I keep my “crazy chemo curls” from poking out from under my wig?
Carliz: You can always wear a wig, with or without hair! If you have hair of any length, it’s important to securely pin it down or wrap it tightly to make sure it doesn’t poke or irritate your scalp while you’re wearing a wig. I love to put lots of deep conditioner through my hair and wrap it up under a wig cap while I am wearing my wig all day. This is my go-to deep conditioning treatment!
Is a human hair wig worth the cost?
Carliz: This is an answer that will vary based on each individual’s lifestyle and budget. Human hair moves and feels like nothing else (although some synthetic hair is pretty close!), but it is much more costly and takes considerably more effort, as you have to style it nearly every time you wear it.
When my hair grows back, what can I do with the wigs I no longer need? Can I donate them?
Carliz: Yes, you can. However, it’s important to donate them washed and ready to wear. Check with your local cancer or chemotherapy centers.
I still have some bald spots after my hair has grown back, but I’m sick of wearing my wig. Are there any other options for me, like hair extensions? I haven’t tried extensions because I’m afraid they’ll pull my hair out. Do clip-in hair extensions look natural?
Carliz: Yes, good-quality clip-in extensions can look beautiful, and they add such great volume. It’s important to note that extensions will not cover any hair loss on the top area of the head. Toppers or top pieces are perfect for this, as they are small, area-specific hairpieces that will cover any area of hair loss. In any case, you want to be mindful of any clips you use and be sure to only clip them into healthy and sturdy hair that’s not too close to the area of hair loss.
How can I buy a wig online? Don’t I have to have an in-person fitting, and try them on? How does this process work?
Carliz: While it’s helpful to have a professional help you find your first wig, it is possible to find your match on your own online. No matter where you purchase for the first time, you should measure your head to make sure you are buying the right size. Most women are average size, but this is not the case for everyone, so be sure to get this info first. You can find videos online that show you how to do it.
Once you determine your size, you should move to choosing the style you want. If it’s your first wig, you may want to start with one that’s close to the current hairstyle you are wearing or the style in which you feel most comfortable. This will ensure your transition is a bit easier.
Color is your third option to decide on. Again, it is probably best to stay close to the color you are most comfortable with. However, once you have worn a wig and feel confident wearing it, venture out and try some variations of style and color. Wigs can be so much fun and make your life super low maintenance when it comes to your hair styling regimen. Take advantage of being able to buy and wear a perfect hairstyle in a matter of minutes! Explore your options, and have fun!
— Last updated on July 27, 2022, 1:51 PM