Human Hair Wigs – are they for you?
(Wig shown above: AVA WIG BY HENRY MARGU)
It’s hard to argue that human hair gives the most natural appearance—but maybe not with the minimum of effort. The movement, color, texture, and realistic sheen make it a desirable choice for many.
Here are some recurring questions, comments, opinions, from experts and might answer some questions for you about the challenges and care of human hair wigs that you might like to review if you are considering one:
- Should I wash it before wearing it? Yes, wash the coating off to make it easier to style.
- Heat styling (at a safe level) vs air drying is recommended.
- How often should I wash the wig? If the hair appears dull, lifeless, it’s time. This, like synthetics, is usually every 6-8 wears. Deep conditioning every other wash might be helpful (mid-shaft to ends). Be careful to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Use shampoo and conditioning products made for color-treated hair.
- As a general rule: Do not leave the conditioner on for more than 3-4 minutes, rinse using cool water, blot/ press excess moisture with a towel.
- Style as you would your bio hair, being careful about the temperature of any equipment that you use.
- Do not dry the wig on a solid form or mannequin head to avoid stretching the cap.
- Treat the lace with care.
- Don’t brush the wig when wet, finger comb only.
Other human hair questions: What is Remy Hair? What is Virgin Hair?
Remy hair manufacturers have focused on making sure the cuticle layers (scales) of the hair strand are facing in the same direction. Closing the cuticle protects the hair and reflects light more naturally giving the wig a healthy but natural shine.
Virgin hair is unprocessed and untouched by chemicals. Remy human hair wigs can be virgin but don’t have to be.
One of the biggest differences, besides price, when looking at synthetic vs human hair wigs, is the task of styling. Human hair, just like our bio hair, will need to be styled and re-styled. Unlike synthetic wigs that hold a style, and save you time, human hair will demand more attention. If you are not talented in the styling area, or just don’t want to be bothered with this every morning, it can be an issue for some people. There will be a learning curve, and one that some don’t want to or just can’t tackle.
The care process of human hair wigs is similar to synthetic wigs, but they take more care, and usually more time for that care. The experts tell us to rotate our human hair wigs daily to make them last longer. And like synthetics, a lot of washing will take a toll. Also, like synthetics, correct washing and drying are crucial to the life of the wig.
Buying the right products is as important for human hair wigs as they are for synthetics. Why invest a lot of money in a wig only to use inferior products? The other issue with human hair is finding the right temperature for your appliances when you style the wig. If you constantly overheat your wig, it will shorten its life. Like synthetics, pay special attention to the ends of the hair, extra conditioning and trimming can make a big difference in the look and the life of the wig.
It’s been my experience that hairdressers prefer to work with human hair wigs from a styling point of view. This is understandable, but if you are lucky enough to live near a wig boutique, you will usually find someone skilled in styling human and synthetic wigs.
I made the mistake of buying a human hair wig too early in my wig journey. I had not learned enough about wigs in general and human hair wigs in particular. I grew frustrated trying to style the wig every morning and was never entirely happy with the results. I have since learned a lot but find that I gravitate to heat-friendly synthetics because I don’t like the constant styling aspect of human hair wigs, and I like to change up styles and colors. That can become very expensive with human hair wigs. But with all that said, I can see myself buying another human hair wig someday if I can find that “perfect one” – hey, you know what I mean.
Until next week,
Enjoy life and take a deep breath,
Our Wigs’ Journey
We don’t often think too much about the origin of all the things that we use, consume, or rely on every day. That was true for me about my wigs. I started to do research, and I was fascinated by the history of wig making. While there is so much to tell, I have hit on some highlights here that I thought were particularly interesting. Hope you enjoy a little wig history.
Anthropologists speculate that wigs may have been used as long as 100,000 years ago. Wigs were quite popular among ancient Egyptians, who cut their hair short or shaved their heads in the interests of cleanliness and comfort (i.e., relief from the desert heat). While the poor wore felt caps to protect their heads from the sun, those who could afford them wore wigs of human hair, sheep's wool, or palm-leaf fiber mounted on a porous fabric. An Egyptian clay figure that dates to about 2500 B.C. wears a removable wig of black clay. The British Museum holds a beautifully made wig at least 3,000 years old that was found in the Temple of Isis at Thebes; its hundreds of tiny curls still retain their carefully arranged shape.
During the late eighteenth century, Louis XVI wore wigs to hide his baldness, and wigs were very fashionable throughout France. The modern technique of ventilating (attaching hairs to a net foundation) was invented in this environment.
A little about Methods:
Wigs of synthetic (e.g., acrylic, modacrylic, nylon, or polyester) hair are popular for several reasons. They are comparatively inexpensive (costing one-fifth to one-twentieth as much as a human hair wig). During the past decade, significant improvements in materials have made synthetic hair look and feel more like natural hair. In addition, synthetic wigs weigh noticeably less than human hair versions. They hold a style well—so well, in fact, that they can be difficult to restyle. On the other hand, synthetic fibers tend not to move as naturally as human hairs, and they tend to frizz from friction along collar lines. Synthetic hair is also sensitive to heat and can easily be damaged (e.g., from an open oven, a candle flame, or a cigarette glow).
Human hair remains a popular choice for wigs, particularly because it looks and feels natural. It is easily styled; unlike synthetic hair, it can be permed or colored. United States wigmakers import most of their hair. Italy is known as a prime source of hair with desirable characteristics; other colors and textures of hair are purchased in Spain, France, Germany, India, China, and Japan. Women contract with hair merchants to grow and sell their hair. After cutting, the hair is treated to strip the outer cuticle layer, making the hair more manageable. Wigmakers pay $80 or more per ounce for virgin hair, which has never been dyed or altered in any way. A wig requires at least 4 oz (113.4 g) of hair.
Some manufacturers blend synthetic and human hair for wigs that have both the style-retaining qualities of synthetic hair and the natural movement of human hair. However, this can complicate maintenance, since the different types of hair require different kinds of care.
(Credit for some background to: How Things are Made, Volume 3, 2021.)
I thoroughly enjoyed this video that I have included about the wig-making process and hope that you do too. I am working to get more information on certain individual vendor processes, but that information is tightly held! In the meantime, I hope you learned something, I know that I did.