I just want to put a disclaimer on this post that I am by no means a wig expert, this is just a post containing information and tips about wigs that I have picked up during my time as a chemo girl. I've included links and photos in this post which I hope will be useful to my other baldy buddies!
I do currently have A LOT of wigs. I'm not going to go in to numbers, however my wig addiction has overtaken my shoe addiction I think it's safe to say. Anyway, I can't write about them all as that would be far too long a post and probably quite pointless, so I'll pick the ones that I wear the most.
I have bought all of my wigs. You may be able to get a prescription from your hospital however I wasn't able to initially as I tried the cold cap on my first chemotherapy session. At my hospital, you can either use the cold cap or have a prescription, not both. However, I bought two wigs before I started chemo as I knew that the cold cap may not work and even if it did, I wouldn't be able to style or wash my hair very often. I'm glad I did as my hair started falling out just before my second chemotherapy and I didn't bother with the cold cap again.
Although you will more than likely be fine to go shopping once you've started chemotherapy, you may find that psychologically you feel better if you have your wig chosen and ready to go before your hair starts to fall out.
If you are looking for a wig to wear on a regular basis, I would strongly recommend physically going in to a shop to try them on rather than buying online in the first instance.
I bought the two wigs that I wear most frequently from a shop called Trendco in Birmingham city centre. They also have other branches around the country and an online shop. I can't praise the staff in the Birmingham shop enough. They are incredibly knowledgeable and lovely. In fact, they shaved my head for no cost when my hair started to fall out.
I always wear a wig cap under my wigs as I find this less itchy. I wear the ones that feel like tights, rather than the fish net type ones that you can get. You can buy wig caps from shops like Trendco or from Ebay etc.
My first wig is a human hair wig called Garnet which is a pre-styled wig meaning it comes with layers cut in to it. I have had it thinned out (some of the hair taken out of it) at no extra cost at Trendco. They also cut and style wigs for a charge. Remember that when you first try a wig on it may not feel like 'you' but it is possible to have them thinned out, cut, shaped etc. Just make sure that you have someone who is knowledgeable and trained in cutting wigs.
I won't lie - the price of this wig is slightly eye watering - £550 but with the VAT off it was around £450. Remember that if you are buying a wig for medical reasons e.g. chemotherapy, alopecia - you do not have to pay VAT on it.
Here is my human hair wig in practice:
It has a monofilament top which means that the parting looks very natural and gives the appearance of hair growing from your scalp.
I keep this wig on a polyhead which cost me £6 from Trendco. I keep the rest of my wigs either in nets or on stands like this:
You can buy these really cheaply from wig shops like Trendco or from eBay or Amazon etc. They are really handy when you are going away anywhere as they fold up flat and can be put in a suitcase or overnight bag.
The benefit of a human hair wig is you can style it with straighteners, curlers etc. I have a hairdressing tripod stand which I put my polyhead on top of to style it before I go out. It also makes blow drying it a lot easier. One huge benefit of wearing wigs is that you can style your hair in advance! The look in the second photo was created by curling separate pieces of hair in the same direction and pinning each one with a hair grip when done. Then the evening that I am going out I let down all the curls and brush it through. Here is a picture of the wig during styling:
I use these products to care for the human hair wig:
These were bought in a pack from Trendco.
I tend to wear this one mainly when I am going out and I wash it afterwards so I probably wash it about once or twice a month. I fill the sink with lukewarm water and squirt some shampoo in to the water. Then I agitate the wig in the water for a little while, rinse and squeeze out and then use the leave in conditioner on it.
Fibre or synthetic wigs
The drawback of human hair wigs is that they require a lot of upkeep and styling every time you use them. For that reason, I also have a fibre wig that I tend to wear more or less on a daily basis. This is also from Trendco and is called Suki. She has a lace top which gives a very natural parting and hairline. Here is Suki in action:
Please excuse the tag still hanging from her - this photo was taken when she was new!
I love this wig. I've never had to have any thinning or styling done to it and the hair falls really nicely. I chose a short wig as I was advised that it wasn't a good idea to buy long fibre wigs to wear regularly as the hair rubs on clothing and can become frizzy.
It doesn't require any styling at all. I wash her about once every two weeks using a shampoo and conditioner for fibre wigs in the same way as the human hair wig, although the conditioner needs rinsing out in this case. I towel dry the wig and then put her on the polyhead to dry. Sometimes I put some velcro rollers in as the wig is drying to give it more bounce.
Everyone has different ways of caring for their wigs. As I was spending so much money on the wigs and wanted them to last, I decided to buy the products made specifically for looking after them.
One of the main advantages of a fibre wig is they require very little upkeep and styling - you just pop them on your head and go. They are also a lot cheaper than human hair wigs! However, you are limited to one style really as you can't put any heat on them as it melts the fibre.
Now on to the cheaper wigs. I have a number of cheaper wigs that I've bought from places like eBay which are great for a bit of a change now and then. I've bought a number of them from this seller who has a range of 'celebrity style wigs' at prices around the £20 - £25 mark.
I have the 'Jessica Alba':
Here she is in action:
This wig has a really lovely brown to dark blonde ombre dye effect and the hair feels really natural. However, quite often with cheaper wigs the parting can look a bit dodgy and false so I normally wear this wig with a hat or a band. The above photo is me with a beanie hat on and the below is a chemo chair shot wearing a knitted band from H&M:
I also have one of the Jessie J ones:
I don't wear this one down as I find there is too much hair and it feels like I have a bit of a mane, so I tie it up like this:
Yes you can still tie wigs up! When I tie this wig up I always tape it on as it wouldn't be secure enough to do it otherwise. I use normal wig tape that I buy from Trendco. I use a piece on either side of my head at the temples, one at the front and one at the nape of my neck.
I pull it loosely on to the top of my head, and use a bobble to put the hair in to a ponytail, keeping the ends tucked in the last time I pull it through the bobble. You may find the hair is too heavy to sit properly on its own - I normally secure it with a crocodile clip and some hair grips.
Make sure when you tie a wig up that you pull the hair down around the nape of your neck or 'bag it out' to cover the bottom of the wig which is a sure giveaway sign!
I also have a couple of wigs from this seller who sells surprisingly natural looking wigs at around £15. I have these two:
The hair is really good quality and feels incredibly soft and natural. The only problem I've found is the that the wig cap was too big for my head and meant that the hair didn't sit properly. So I've altered the caps to make them smaller by folding and stitching the cap at the bottom near the nape like this:
It actually works to make the cap smaller and it's totally undetectable when looking at the wig from the outside.
Who doesn't like a bit of colour in their life right?
I decided I wanted to try out the Katy-Perry-meets-unicorn look - you can get some fantastic looking colourful wigs from Geisha Wigs, however I wanted one that was human hair so I could curl and style it.
So here is what I did....
I found a (very) cheap blonde human hair wig on eBay. You can only really dye human hair wigs. There are ways of dying fibre wigs I think but they are quite complicated and involve buying expensive products. Blonde is the best colour to use as bright colours will not show up on darker wigs.
Here is the wig before the dying process:
I used La Riche Directions Semi Permanent hair dye in Lilac:
I put the wig on my polyhead and used a hair dye brush and bowl to apply the dye. As a result poor poly looks like she has some sort of contagious disease.... Here is the wig after the dye was applied:
And here is the finished product:
Voila! My Little Pony-esque hair!
So - this is basically the majority of the stuff I've learned about wigs squashed in to one post. If you have any questions all, feel free to contact me through here or Twitter - @firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wig love people!!