Wigs 101: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your First Wig | Guest Blog

In her last article, guest blogger and wig coach, Tia Maria gave us some tips and tricks on where to start in your wig buying journey. However, there is so much to learn and know about wigs. In this article, Tia goes much deeper, giving you more information, more advice, and supplying you with all the information you will need to purchase your first wig…or your next!

Step #1: Choosing Your Wig

There are so many wigs available, how do you ever narrow down the choices to the best ones for you?! Let’s break down the first set of questions you need to ask yourself, plus the deets you need to make some choices. I’ve outlined several questions you will need to ask yourself when purchasing a wig in the last article. Let’s build on that here and help you gain more understanding to make an informed purchasing decision.

Wig Fiber/Material

“What is the price range you are willing to spend on a wig?” and “Do you want synthetic fibers, human hair, or do you have no preference?”

In most cases, price is tied to the type of fibers you want and the type and amount of finishes you desire. For the sake of clarity, let’s lay out some terms and define them in the way that I will be discussing them here:

  • Human Hair – Human hair wigs are made of “natural hair”. That hair can be of Indian, Chinese or European origin. Some wigs even include animal hair like yak.

  • Human Hair Blends - Human hair (30%) and synthetic (70%) mixed in most cases. This hybrid can offer the convenience of synthetic and a more “natural” look that you can get from human hair wigs.

  • Synthetic – A variety of manufactured fibers of various textures – also referred to fake or faux hair.

  • Name brand wigs – Some name brand wigs are referred to as medical wigs as they are made for those who are wearing wigs for medical reasons. Name Brand Wigs come “ready to wear” with high end finishes.

  • Affordable wigs – Wigs that you can find in a Beauty Supply Store and online, customizable, and often come in a wide variety of textures.

Human hair wigs are going to be priced higher than wigs with synthetic fibers. Name Brand or “medical wigs”, are going to be more expensive than affordable or beauty supply store wigs. Why a price difference? Human hair is more expensive because it’s “real” hair and obviously cannot be mass produced like synthetic fibers can. Moreover, if you want a human hair wig that is the same texture and color as your bio hair – depending on your ethnicity and the color - it can drastically impact the price.

Name brand/medical wigs come as close to “ready-to-wear” as possible. They can have high-end finishes and comforts including bendable ear tabs, monofilament caps, and hand-tied lace fronts, to name a few.

Affordable wigs have come a long way in the last few years. They can come with many of the same high-end finishes as name brands. Still, there are many great additions and differences that set the price. One huge difference is the market and demographic that is available for affordable wigs versus name brand. This topic can be complex, and I have a video specifically discussing it. For our purposes today, the biggest difference is the ability and sometimes necessity for customization. Affordable wigs may need to be plucked, the part could require setting in a particular way, and lace fronts may need to be cut to your head shape and preferences, etc.

Maintenance/Care

“How much time do you have to spend on a wig?”

Some wigs require more time and effort than others. Depending on your preferences, available time, and skill, the price of the wig you choose, may be influenced.

For example, because human hair wigs are made of natural hair, they behave like bio hair. A benefit is that they can be styled, straightened, and curled, just like bio hair can. Still, they can have disadvantages for some people. They are susceptible to water, heat, humidity, sun, etc. - just like bio hair would be. This could require more time and effort and at times more skill than you currently possess. If you do not have a lot of experience or time to style your wig, you may want to consider synthetic.

I primarily deal with synthetic wigs for 3 reasons.

  1. Human hair can require you to glue your wig down. As a migraine sufferer, I need to be able to remove my wig quickly and as needed, so glue is not ideal.

  2. I don’t have the time or desire for regular styling. Synthetic wigs come pre-styled and because they are fibers, they maintain that style - unless you change it by using heat or some other method. They can get wet, it can be hot, and it will maintain the same style it was when you put it on.

  3. I love variety!! Human hair wigs can be desirable and beautiful, but they can often be costly. This can limit your ability to have various wigs and various styles.

Understanding your comfort level, available time, and your experience with wigs will help you determine what would work best for you.

COACH TIP: For example, if having a wig that looks as close to what your bio hair would look like is important, human hair may be the way to go. If you desire the wig to look like “real” hair but you don’t have a lot of time or experience, a synthetic wig will offer you the “put it on and go” features. If you are comfortable with a bit of customization and you value variety or want your wig to look the same each time you wear it, then an affordable synthetic wig or human hair blended wig could be the better choice.

Hair Style, Texture, and Length

“What are your preferences when it comes to hair style, texture, length, and color?”

Wearing wigs really broadens your hair style, texture, length, and color options. Refer to or make a list of textures, lengths, styles, and colors you would like to explore. Understanding your preferences will be beneficial in the wig purchasing process.

COACH TIP: If you are new to wigs, have limited time, or not that comfortable wearing wigs in public, I suggest you choose a similar color to your own, pick a style that will be easy for you to manage based on your lifestyle, and go with a wig that is a manageable length and texture.

The longer the wig the more maintenance and upkeep it will require – no matter what it’s made of. When it comes to a synthetic wig, the type of “texture” can mean more or less maintenance. I have several videos discussing this topic further – but for the most part silkier and curly wigs tend to tangle the most. Yaki (chemically relaxed hair texture) textured wigs, wigs with some “grip” to the fibers, and/or a wavy styled wigs are usually the easiest to manage. This is not a hard and fast rule but a basic guide for you to make your choice.

Wow! That was a lot of information! The more you learn and the more experience you have with wigs, I promise a lot of this information ill make more sense and your wig choices will be easier to make.

Step #2: Purchasing Your Wig

Now that you have decided on the wig you’d like to purchase, there are three vital steps that you do not want to skip. Completing these steps PRIOR to purchasing a wig will save you time, money, and disappointment.

  1. Measure your head. After you have put in all the effort to pinpoint a wig you want to purchase, you want to ensure as much as possible that the wig will fit when you receive it. The wig cap of a wig can come in various sizes. I will be honest with you wig sizing can be inconsistent and vary between brands and even in different wigs from the same brand.
    One way to be sure if you are getting a wig that will fit you is to know your measurements. Here’s a chart and guide to measuring your head and understanding your wig size. More name brand wigs often come in specific sizes that can include petite, average, and large. Not every brand or every style will have all three options available. So be sure to double check the size you are purchasing. Affordable wigs do not often come in “sizes”. This is partly because they are made to be customizable. Therefore, the next step is crucial.

  2. Check out reviews. How a wig looks online or in stock photos versus how it looks on you can be very different. There are so many quality wig reviewers and educators on YouTube that can be very beneficial for you. If you find a wig that you would like to purchase, search that wig on YouTube and watch a few reviews.

COACH TIP: When you are watching a wig review, I suggest you watch several reviews so that you can get a well-rounded idea of the wig and if it will work for you. Wigs can look different in various lighting and can look completely different from person to person. The first, and most important review to watch, is from a reviewer providing you with thorough information. I have a video outlining what you should learn from a quality wig review - as not all reviews provide you with the important information you need.
If possible, find reviews of the wig in the same color, or color family, to the one you are considering. Try to find a reviewer that is close to your skin coloring and has similar features to you. Be sure to ask a reviewer what their head measurements are as well as their height. Height can drastically affect how a wig lays, especially regarding length. Watching these various types of reviews will give you a barometer as to whether that wig is right for you. Please keep in mind, the wig may not look or lay the same on you as it does on them, so the next step is critical.
Read the fine print. Understand the shipping information as well as what the return and exchange polices are. You can do everything I suggest, and when you get your wig, it still may not work for you for whatever reason. Therefore, it is so important that you understand what the company’s policies are in the event you need to return a wig (if the company allows it). Whether or not a wig can be returned could be a very important factor, especially if you are purchasing a wig that is expensive and/or if you are on a limited budget.

Step #3: What to Do When Your Wig Arrives

You have purchased your wig and now it has arrived. There are a few things you want to do – before you remove any tags or cut the lace. Be sure that this is the wig you purchased, and it is in the color you desired. Mix ups happen so be sure this is the correct wig before you proceed. Next, you want to remove it from the packaging and take off the netting (if necessary) and inspect the wig. Look over the cap construction and fibers to be sure it’s up to par.

Once you determine this is the correct wig and you are satisfied with the quality, shake out the wig a bit. Though most wigs are packaged well, they still need to be shaken to loosen the fibers.

COACH TIP: I often try the wig on quickly - tags on, lace intact - for a basic idea of how they wig looks on me. Keep in mind that you may need to “play” with the wig or customized it a bit, to get it to a place where you feel satisfied. Putting in on can give you a basic idea as to whether the color, length, style, and fit will work for you. Keep in mind wigs that are customizable and have lace fronts that require you to cut them, can fit slightly tighter while the lace is intact.

If you are satisfied with the initial look and fit, go ahead and take the tags off and get ready to put on the wig. Before putting on your wig you want to consider wig security. There are several features and items that contribute to how well your wig will stay on when you wear it. Wig caps, whether they are nylon, bamboo, mesh or another material, can be a big part of wig security. They also help contain and protect your bio hair and can provide a layer of comfort between your head and scalp and the wig.

Some wigs will come with combs and adjustable straps that can be Velcro, hook and eye, or a pulley system (similar to a bra strap). Many name brand wigs do not come with combs, as many are used for medical reason where combs would not be necessary or would be uncomfortable. In that case a wig grip is the way to go. Not all caps and wig grips are created equal, so I made videos talking more about wig caps as well as reviewing and comparing a variety of wig grips.

Finally, you want consider wig placement. A common mistake for newer wig wearers is to place their wig too far forward or two far back. If you aren’t sure where your wig should be, check out the little trick I shared in the last blog. Remember, don’t be afraid to shift the wig around until you feel the wig looks and feels the best.

Step #4: How to Make Your Wig Look Natural (and what you will need)

This is the last step in your wig purchasing – and wearing – journey. For many, making your wig look as natural as possible and feeling comfortable and confident in it is an essential part. I shared a list of wig tools and products you are going to want to have on hand that will help your wig look as natural as possible. I have added additional deets to that list to help you better understand why they are important and how to use them.

  • A wide toothed comb. Though I often use a wide tooth detangling brush, I suggest you stick to a wide tooth comb in the beginning. Wide tooth combs will help prolong the life of your wig and will not damage the wig fibers like some other combs and tools might.

  • Dry shampoo. Sometimes you may get a wig that looks a bit shiny. Shine in bio hair is good – shine in a synthetic wig is not! Shiny wigs can look “fake” in a doll hair type of way. Using dry shampoo helps take that shine down.

  • A wig spray. A detangling wig spray will also help prolong the life of your wig. There are many sprays available that are formulated specifically for synthetic wig fibers. Synthetic wig fibers are not porous like hair and therefore product build up will cause the fibers to break off and become brittle over time.

  • Powder. I use a pressed powder foundation in the part and along the hairline of a lace front wig to make it look more natural and blend in with my skin. You can use most powders you have on hand although I prefer a pressed powder foundation as it seems to stick a bit longer than other powders.

  • A wig head or wig stand. Wig stands or wig heads can help you keep your wig in good shape in between wears. It can also help you be ready to put it on and go when you are on the move. I love to use a wig head to style my wigs. I have several with wigs on them in various styles, in case I need to go somewhere at the last minute.

Again, this isn’t an exhaustive list and doesn’t contain any heat-related tools or products, as some wigs are not heat-safe. These are the tools and products I recommend for those of you just starting out with wigs as there are tons out there to choose from. In the beginning – keep it simple! The more you learn about wigs and the more experience you gain, you will incorporate different and/or additional tools and products to your kit. Don’t waste money on things you may not use or want.

COACH TIP: You may need to “mess with” or “play with” the wig a bit – especially if the wig has bangs and/or is a full cap. Don’t forget all the things you may already have or can purchase to style and accessorize your hair that can be used for wigs. Grab a cute headband, sparkly barrette, or a pretty hair scarf to take your wig to the next level. Wearing wigs should be fun, so don’t limit it to just putting it on as is. Grab a cute hat, add braids, or pin it up for a pretty or casual updo.

So, there you have it! Your step-by-step guide to purchasing and wearing your first wig…or your next! Don’t forget, wig wearing is a journey! It can be so much fun and add to your life in ways you may have never imagined. Enjoy this ride and as always…Life is short, Wear Wigs!