How to Buy a Wig

Hair is often a tricky thing. Many times the hardest thing to do when getting ready to go out is getting your hair just right. With that in mind, wigs are often a great alternative for the person looking to get the perfect look without spending a lot of time on it. However much like hair, picking your wig can be a process, and unless done correctly can turn an otherwise time saving convenience into a vanity nightmare. So what exactly does one need to be aware of when picking out a new do?

Types of Wigs

The first step in this process is to pick out what kind of wig you want to get, as there are many different types to choose from. Picking the right kind of wig is very important to making sure that you not only like how the wig looks, but you like how it fits and feels as well. The first type of wig is the lace up wig; this type will give the wearer a comfortable yet realistic looking head of hair. These types of wigs tend to fall into two different categories, full lace wigs, and half lace wigs. The difference is in how they are laced up. Full lace wigs will have a French braid of baby hairs all the way around the scalp to make it look as if the hair is growing naturally out the wearers head. However, the half lace wigs only have this feature on the front half of the wig; this allows the sides and back to be built out of a more durable material. Because of this feature the half lace wigs tend to be more breathable and easier to apply. Naturally, with this ease and comfort you are sacrificing some of the look that a full lace wig provides. An example of this kind of wig is a full, unbothered, flawless RuPaul-esque sort of wig. Her hair is meant for professional use, hunty.

Another option that many people opt for when choosing wigs is the monofilament wigs. These wigs are built in a way that makes the hair look as if it is growing right out of a person's head like a lace front wig, but this one is even cooler ‘cause it allows the wearer to part the hair in any way they choose. This feature, along with the fact the monofilament wigs are very easy to apply and are exceptionally breathable, make them the wig of choice for most daily wearers.

A couple more examples of realistic wigs include the hand-woven or hand-tied wigs, which are made sans wefts (band-like materials that are used to hold a wig together) to eliminate the look of would be scalp netting in a stiff breeze. Of course, if one is looking for more of a party quality wig, these features would sort of be nonexistent. At any rate, no matter the wig or purpose, there is the commonality of maintenance and style-ability, if that is a word, to ensure that you get the maximum look and wear you desire for the money you are willing to spend.

One major deal breaker when trying to find the wondrous wig of your wildest fantasies is the type of material used to make that wig. Fortunately for you and your bank account there are only two choices, human hair or plastic. The advantages of human hair are pretty obvious, not only can you tease and work this type of wig like you would your own natural hair with less hassle. And, of course, the look and feel is almost as good as the real thing. Another point for natural wigs is that they can be subjected to high temperatures without melting like a synthetic wig could. The main drawback of this material is that it is on the pricey side.

Synthetic material, on the other hand, is less expensive but keep in mind that the thickness, and ultimately the price of your wig depends on the amount of wefts included in its construction. A dollar store $12.00 party wig will have anywhere from 3 – 5 wefts spaced fairly far apart. A low-quality wig will do most any costuming job, but know that your hair will probably be visible through the netting in the back. Synthetic hair can be subjected to low amounts of heat, such as the low setting on your hair dryer so long as you interchange it with the cool setting while styling. Synthetic wigs can be dyed and styled like other wigs provided you have the right tools. Please note that synthetic material tends to be less durable than its natural counterpart, lasting about 3-6 months depending on the quality of materials used.

Katie Bair's

The last step will be to measure your head to make sure that the wig that you end up deciding on fits you properly. It’s important to take accurate measurements rather than estimating based off of head size. This is because often times the size of someone's head has little to do with the measurement they end up with. To take a proper measurement you should take a flexible seamless measuring tape and place the beginning of it on your forehead right above your eyebrows. Then follow your hairline until you reach the ear area on your head, once here put the tape measure behind your ears and continue until you end up where you started at. Now you have the circumference of your head. Based on that measurement you can accurately pick a wig that is right for you.

head measurements

ultra petite/children: Fits heads smaller than 20 inches

petites: Fits heads 21 inches or smaller

average: Fits heads 21.5 inches or smaller

large cap: Fits heads 22.5 inches or smaller


Wig Care


Once you have chosen your wig the fun does not simply end. The maintenance of wigs is another piece to the puzzle. Just like real hair a little bit of upkeep can go a long way in helping you to keep your look as fresh as it can be. Much like an artist or carpenter, keeping your wig in tip top shape can require a special set of tools. The most common of these is the brush, when dealing with brushes there are several basic styles. The first is the Wide toothed comb, this comb is especially effective at getting out tangles and large knots that tend to form in wigs. The large teeth provide a sturdy and effective tool to untangle even the toughest of knots. However it is important to note that once a comb starts to wear out it is best to replace it as soon as possible. This is because if the teeth are not straight or a piece of plastic develops a rough edge then the comb could very easily start to frizz your hair instead help it.


The next tool is the narrow toothed comb. This comb is important once you have removed any knots that have formed from your daily wear. The narrow teeth allow the comb to remove any small knots that may have slipped through the teeth of the larger toothed comb. In addition to this the narrow toothed comb acts as smoothing device, making sure that the hairs of the wig lay flat and are all in the same direction.


Another tool that is important to have is a good old fashioned pair is scissors. However, one of the advantages of working with a wig is that you don't have to go crazy when it comes to buying a pair of clippers. Cutting the synthetic fibers on a wig is harder on your clippers and tends to wear them down faster. Because of this issue it is often times smarter to opt for a cheaper pair since you will end up buying a new pair sooner rather than later.


Very often you are going to experiment around with different looks for your wig. In times like these it is a hair clip that is called on to help out with the situation. The style or type of clips don’t really matter so going out and spending a lot is not necessary, however keeping the sections of hair separate is. If you can achieve this then you're all set when it comes to hair clips.


Pins are also important when making sure that your wig is primped and ready for the night. There are two different types of pins. The first are pins that help style your hair, these pins are called bobby and hair pins. These pins not only help keep the different sections of a person's hair separate but allow other sections to run perpendicular to the rest of the due. In addition to this hairpins can also double as another way to keep your wig in place on the top of your head. This is because much of their power comes not only from having two rows of teeth, but weighing a great deal more than bobby pins. The second category of pins are exclusively used to hold a wig in place on the top of a head. these pins are called quilting pins and mapping pins. Both are used to help keep a wig on someones head and stretch the limits of mesh underneath the wig. The long pins are called quilting pins and the short ones are called map pins. It is not uncommon for someone to use close to 60 plus pins when applying a wig, so make sure to keep a lot of these around when applying your due.


Part of having hair is being  able to style it, however, with a wig many people think that the array of creams, gels, pastes and pomades are off limits to wig wearers. This is not true, in fact most of the products that are available to folks with real hair are also available to wig wearers. That being said there area few things that need to be kept in mind when applying products to a wig. The first is that you need to buy special shampoo, regular shampoo is far too harsh for the synthetic fibers of a wig. Another good tip to keep in mind is that gels and mousses usually don't work too well with wigs. This is because these products are meant to work with your hairs natural oils, which is something that wigs do not have.


However even if you pick the perfect type of wig, style it perfectly and apply the perfect amount of product but apply it poorly, your wig will still make you look goofy. So what should you do to make sure that when you walk out the door you can be proud of the wig you are wearing? The first thing a person can do is to apply a wig cap, these will not only cover up a lot of the wigs meshing, but it will keep your hair neatly contained as well. Not only that but by applying a wig cap under a wig you are giving the pins used to keep the wig in place something to grab onto. Many people are concerned that they may have too much hair or that it is too thick to use a cap, however this is almost never true. However if you are struggling with this here are some tips that could help you out. First wet your hair as this will condense it and make it easier to manage. Then you should twist it into an upside down ponytail at the base of your skull and then pull it back over your head. After this simply apply the cap, many people are surprised by how much hair one of these caps can contain.


The second thing that many people neglect when applying wigs is to use hairpins and not bobbypins. As stated earlier the two rows of teeth and extra weight make the hairpin much better at securing a wig to the head of a person. To do this you should apply them all around the edge of the wig in pretty much every angle you can think of, once you have enough pins in place you should be able to shake your head, jump up and down, dance jiggle or do whatever without worrying about the wig falling off.


Finally another common mistake in applying wigs is how people put them on. Wigs should always be put on from front to back by tilting your head forward,  applying the front edge of the wig across your scalp and slowly pulling the wig back across your head and down the back of your scalp.


If you follow these guidelines, choosing the wig that fits your individual taste and style should be a fun and pleasant experience.

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