Between the runways of Fashion Week and the social media streams of A-list celebrities, wigs are kind of a big deal RN. In fact, one glance at GLAMOUR cover star Kylie Jenner‘s Instagram feed and you’ll see a minimum of three different wigs, all of various lengths, styles and in all colours of the rainbow.
Of course, that’s not to say wigs haven’t played a prominent role in the beauty regimes of many for years. Far from it, wigs have been used by those undergoing medical treatments like chemotherapy, or those with hair loss conditions like alopecia, as well as worn for important cultural and religious reasons.
And yet it seems like wigs are only becoming more and more mainstream, used as a non-committal way to play with hair colour, as well as switch up your style without actually chopping and changing your hair, allowing us to express ourselves with ease and newfound flair.
So, it seemed about time to call upon the hair experts to provide the ultimate guide to wigs, from where to buy one, to the ethical standards of sourcing human hair, to how to get them on your head and aftercare…
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SYNTHETIC AND HUMAN HAIR?
Wigs are either made from human hair, or synthetic plastic fibres, usually polyester. Obviously, each material has its downsides and benefits, namely, price, versatility and quality. Human hair will cost a lot more than a synthetic wig, but your styling options are far better (you can use heat tools on human hair, which you cannot do on synthetic hair as it would melt or singe the fibres).
Many people say that human hair wigs also look a lot more authentic, but others stipulate that premium quality synthetic wigs look just as real and there have been many advances in production of synthetic materials, allowing a more natural finish.
The other issue with human hair is whether or not it has been ethically sourced as there are issues with women being exploited by the industry, either forced to cut their hair, or not being paid fairly for it.
HOW DO I CHECK MY WIG HAS BEEN ETHICALLY SOURCED?
The wig and hair extension industry is notoriously hard to regulate, with companies hiding behind the guise of hair being “religiously donated” at tonsure ceremonies in India, where women willingly give their hair to the temple in return for a blessing. The temple then sells the hair on for a huge return. While it’s true this hair is donated, it cannot explain the vast amount of human hair being sold in the Western world, and so begs a more discerning eye when choosing a wig.
If a company actually is sourcing their hair ethically, they will most likely be very transparent about exactly where the hair comes from, able to give exact locations – so make sure you enquire. Remy New York and Bloomsbury Wigs are two companies that take pride in their values and source hair ethically and paying women fairly for it. Obviously, this means the wig itself will be far more expensive so unless you’re planning on wearing yours every day, it may be more cost effective to consider a synthetic one.
HOW DO I PUT IT ON?
Hair stylist Adam Reed is no stranger to the world of wigs, having worked with them backstage and on his celebrity clients for years. In the run-up to opening his very own Wig Kit (more details soon!), he is sharing his expertise on how to actually get your wig on (and keep it there!).
“You’ll need hair grips, a gel spray and a wig cap,” he advises. “The idea is to pack down your natural hair as close to your head as possible, so the wig can sit flat to your head.”
According to Adam, the best way is to wrap your lengths up around your head, and use many, many pins to secure the hair and eliminate any bumps, “using a gel spray to add control and hold,” he adds.
Then fix the wig cap over the top (“it’s just like a stocking – but don’t try and use a stocking! It’s much better to buy an actual wig cap.”), before pulling the wig, front first, onto your head. “Hold the wig down at the front, just along your hairline, and pull back firmly over your head.” Secure with grips, and you’re basically done. “I always tong the ends a bit to add a bit more movement and texture,” says Adam.
WHAT ABOUT AFTERCARE?
Depending on what type of wig you have, you’ll need to care for it accordingly. If you have a human hair wig, you’ll need to wash it as you would your own, and quite regularly, too – human hair is more porous so will absorb oil, smells and pollution. If it’s synthetic, you’ll still need to wash it but only about every 4-6 weeks. You’ll need to use cold water, being careful not to rub it or twist it too vigorously, so as not to damage the fibres. It’s also a good idea to get a wig stand, not just to let it dry properly after washing but also to help keep its shape.