Tips On Choosing and Wearing a Wig

Most women who are faced with hair loss from chemotherapy or radiation treatment opt for at least one wig and alternate wearing the wig(s) with hats and scarves. Remember, your hair is sure to grow back, although the texture and color may not be exactly the same as it was before treatment.

If your hair is long, consider having it cut shorter so that switching to a wig or other head covering will be less noticeable. Once your hair begins to fall out, many former patients advise having your head shaved. This can make you feel more in control of the situation and eliminates finding your hair all over the pillow when you wake up in the morning. Hair loss usually begins between 7-21 days after treatment starts. About six months after your last treatment you should have your hair back again.

Some women, after hearing they will lose their hair, rush out and buy an expensive natural hair wig. Many regret it because, in addition to being expensive, natural hair wigs require a lot of upkeep. Synthetic wigs are much easier to maintain, and look and feel natural. What ever kind of wig you choose, be sure to check the return policy. Also check your insurance policy to see if it at least partially covers a "cranial prosthesis" (insurance lingo for wigs). Medicare does not cover wigs, but they may be a tax deductible expense.

Before Starting Treatment

  • Take photos of your current hair style.
  • Save a swatch from the top front of your head, where the hair is lightest, in case you want to match your wig to your present color.
  • Use natural light—outdoors or near a window—to decide whether a wig matches the swatch.
  • Measure your head with your hair slicked down, as shown on here.
  • Make sure your wig is adjustable; your head size may be up to a size smaller when you lose your hair.

Avoid Hair Dyes and Heat
Synthetic wigs can not be dyed and should only be shampooed with a wig shampoo. To prevent the glue in the wig from melting, shampoo in cool water and avoid using a blow drier except on the cool setting. Be careful opening the doors of the oven and clothes drier and avoid getting the wig near the burners on the top of the stove.

Caring for Your Wig
To avoid damaging your wig, use only special wig care products. Wigs that are worn daily should be washed every 10-14 days, and more often if you're using a lot of hair spray and styling cream. Shampoo according to the instructions that come with the wig, towel blot and spray lightly with wig conditioner. Allow the wig to dry on a portable wig stand­ so that air can circulate through it­ without rinsing out the conditioner. Wig conditioner build-up is good for wigs. It protects the fiber and extends the life of the wig. Wig Lustre, or a similar product, should be used after the wig has been washed several times, to restore its original sheen. Wigs should always be stored on a stand, not in a plastic bag or in a box.

Putting on Your Wig
Remove the hair net it comes in, and shake out the wig. If you wear glasses, remove them. Holding the wig at the sides, with the woven label in the back, place it at the middle of your forehead and slide it on from front to back. Then adjust the top front of the wig's cap so that it's about 1Ž4" past your natural hairline. The wig won't look natural if it's pulled too far down in front and it should never be placed over your ears. The ear tabs should be even and slightly in front of your ears. Push the wire in the tabs towards your face to make the wig lie flat against your head. If the wig slides up, you need a larger size. If it's too big, roll it up once it's on your head to adjust the back tabs. The Wig Hugger, helps to hold a wig securely and comfortably in place.

Styling Your Wig
After shaking out the wig, always tuck all of the hair behind your ears. Bring forward only as much as you need to make the wig look natural. You may want to have your hair dresser trim the bangs to suit your face and thin the wig a little to make it look more natural. On shorter wigs, use a brush as little as possible. Instead, use your fingers and a special wig styling cream, if you like, to create and hold a style. To touch up a style, lift the hair with a hair pick, but slip the pick out, instead of pulling all the way through to the end, so that the wig doesn't become too full. Don't try to have every hair in place. Before styling long straight wigs, always spray lightly with a wig conditioner and brush, starting with the ends first.

Choosing a Color
The choice of color is a personal one, but there are a few general rules: If you have black hair, choose darkest brown for a more natural look. Another rule is that, as we age, a lighter color is more flattering. So if you're a brunette and going grey, consider choosing a wig in a lighter shade of brown, possibly with highlights, which give a softer, more natural look. Now is your chance to experiment with color without subjecting yourself to a long, expensive dye job in a salon. Try a wig in a new color instead and you may be very pleased with the compliments you receive.

Look Good Feel Better
This popular American Cancer Society® program offers free sessions with information on make up and styling wigs. They can be reached at 1-800-395-5005 or online at www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org.

No More "Bad Hair Days!"
While the thought of losing one's hair may be frightening, many women enjoy trying styles and colors in a wig they would never have dared to try with their own hair. Some women buy more than one synthetic wig and change wigs to suit their mood. The wigs always look good and they require almost no effort. There are no more bad hair days. In fact, quite a few women continue to wear their wigs long after their hair has grown back, especially when they're in a hurry and don't have time to get to the hair dresser. You may be one of them.