Those of us who have been on the wig-wearing and wig care journey for a long time sometimes forget the overwhelming feeling we had when we first started. Having heard from new wig wearers recently, I was reminded that to master anything, you have to start with the basics.
Let’s begin with something that new wig wearers often forget about until they get that new wig home. We are always so excited, traumatized, scared, happy—pick your word, about getting that first wig that we often don’t think about how to maintain it until we get that wake-up call: How do I take care of it?
What follows are some basics for any new wig wearer or about to be wig wearer. If you aren’t one to read and research, and like one woman told me that when she started, this was a call she made to her hairdresser: “I washed my wig every day, just like my hair, and it didn’t last very long, what am I doing wrong?” Of course, the hairdresser knowing considerably more about the difference between human hair and synthetics gave her the scoop on the differences. This woman, not a fan of reading up on wig care, just treated it like her bio hair. You can imagine the result.
So, let us look backward in this case to how best to get started and what you will need to chair for a wig (and some of this information can be tweaked to include human hair, of course. The type of products may vary but the needs list is about the same.
Here is what would be on any list I made for a new wig wearer:
- Wig stand
- Water spray bottle
- Wig Shampoo
- Wig Conditioner
- Wig brush (Human hair wigs ONLY)
- Wig comb
- Towel (I use a large hand towel and partially dry my wig by gently blotting it wrapped in a towel before hanging on a drying stand (NOT a Styrofoam head).
- Wig hairspray
*Don’t use regular hair products on synthetic wigs (I get this question a lot)
*Don’t ignore your wig’s need for care. Proper maintenance will add weeks to the life of your wig, many months. And save YOU money.
*Detangle your wig before washing
*Resist the urge to comb a wet wig. Let it dry on its own sitting on a proper stand before you touch it with a comb. Don’t worry about how it looks. It will bounce back into its style when dried and then combed.
Special note: Make sure your wig is heat resistant before using any heat on it at all. The fibers on a heat-resistant wig will act differently from a regular synthetic wig with non-heat-resistant fibers. You can ruin your wig quickly by making this mistake.
Tips: in-between washes, lightly spritz your wig with a spray bottle filled with water. Then use your fingers to bring style back and calm down any frizz or flyaway.
A friend of mine swears by Ellen Wille Hair Power Hair Tip Liquid. I have NOT tried this, but if any of you have, let me hear from you.
More Tips: What about curly wigs? Use short and very gentle strokes so that the curls remain intact. A “pick-comb” comes in handy for these styles as well.
How to create volume: Light teasing, then smoothing over and subtle lifting will usually do the trick, followed by wig spray to set it. Be gentle but not too afraid of manipulating it. The fibers are made to take a level of punishment. But remember, too much, too often, and not done with the right tools—the wig’s life will be shortened.
Problems: Try as we might, our wigs will incur some damage, sometimes just by repeated wearing and sometimes due to our mistreatment. Here are some common problems and fixes for synthetic wigs:
- Dryness: Since the fibers are synthetic they can’t produce moisture, so we must take care of that by adding a conditioner. There are multiple leave-in conditioners and deep conditioners out there to choose from. For those clumpy ends, try a little trimming or get your hairdresser to do it, and the popular silicone sprays. (and of course, low heat with a styling tool if heat resistant).
- Fixing unwanted curls, bends, and kinks: Unless your wig is heat resistant, you can’t use high temperatures. But you can use steam. Start slowly and gently and underdo it rather than overdo it because the steam will loosen the fibers but you don’t want it to remove fibers. (Use low heat on heat friendly wigs)
Preventing the Problems: How to prevent common problems and save time, money, and a few tears.
- Only use COLD water on your wig
- Don’t comb a wet wig
- Always air dry your wig
- Don’t apply heat unless it is a heat friendly wig or human hair wig
- Never sleep in your wig
- Use products designed for wigs not human hair
- Use your fingers more than combs for styling, detangling
- Use conditioners to make the wig softer, easier to manage, and comb (and to keep the stray hairs tamed).
How often to wash your wig: As you might expect, it will depend on how often you wear it and how much product you put in it. Rule of thumb every 10-12 wears, but if you wear it two hours a day that will vary greatly compared to wearing it ten to twelve hours a day—you get the point. You must be the judge on this. Does your wig smell okay, is it still smooth and untangled, is it looking dull from the products? You will know when it’s time if you pay close attention.
When it’s time to go: I’ve heard and read different “rules of thumb” on this topic. The consensus is that human hair wigs very well cared for last about six months with “regular wear” and synthetics from six to eight months on average. Sadly, yes, they all have a much too short life span. We’re up against fading, heat, friction, washing, drying, combing, products, and they all take a toll on the fibers (human hair wigs as well). And again, you will have to be the judge. The life span of your wig will be driven by you and what you do or don’t do. Maintenance is the magic word
Your wig can become and will become a great asset to you if you treat it like one.
Until next time,
Best to all,