In today’s day and age, wigs are no longer merely hush-hush gossip. Women–celebs included— wear them proudly, switching up hair color, and daily styles. So much so, that experts count them as trends to look out for. And men, well, men, might’ve been on to the whole lace hairline frontal rejuvenation process for light years before women, but that’s a topic for another time. The fact of the matter is that although we know wig-life is alive and well, do we know anything about how to take care of a wig too?
Taking a look at my situation, I received my first human hair full lace wig in the summer of 2018, and boy was I happy. To finally achieve a super natural hairline that looked as if it were actually growing from my scalp was a big feat. Yet, about 3 months into parading her around—“her” is my alias for my unit, otherwise known as a wig—she began to shed. She shed and shed, and grew dull, lack-luster, and thin. And so did my confidence about wearing her out. I had to take the unit into surgery mode. I knew there was a way to revive her, and perhaps, maybe, I wasn’t taking adequate care of her all along. So I sought after professional expert help and came across a Brooklyn Hairstylist, Orlando Palmer, who specializes in hair extensions, wig making, wig customization, coloring, cutting, and styling.
“If you’re wearing a wig and using an adhesive [glue on the wig] you need to be seeing your stylist every 2 weeks. Nothing less than that, ” Palmer explained to me when first chatting about the do’s and don’ts of wig care. I’d seen his work on dancehall artist Hood Celebrity who arguably had one of the best songs to hit urban radio in 2018, and also a couple VH1 reality stars.
“The reason is, wigs, especially if they are being installed, is a luxury service” he proceeded. “It is not the everyday hairstyle and it has to be treated as such. That goes for glued lace wigs. And if it’s not glued, that is also a luxury hairstyle. That has requirements too like wearing a cap, moisturizing your natural hair to prevent friction, rubbing, shedding, and stuff like that.”
Requirements? I was dumbfounded. Prior to this awakening, I believed this was a grab-n-go deal. I imagined the only requirement in handling a wig was to make sure it fits my hairline correct and maybe spraying some dry shampoo on it when it became excessively oily. To ensure my future units would be left safe and sound in my hands, I stretched deep in conversation with Orlando about being cognizant with lace wigs, regular wigs, human hair, and synthetic hair. Ahead is the 5-step pro guide to taking care of a wig.
The Difference Between Regular Wigs and Lace Wigs
If you didn’t know, what one may call a “regular wig” is actually weft hair extensions glued or sewn on to a wig cap. Wefted hair is the act of hair strands bulked together and fed through a triple-head sewing machine. The strands are stitched together at the root. The hair is then folded over and reinforced. Lace fabric can be sewn inside of this type of wig because it is one of the best fabrics to stitch on. However, wigs made of wefts don’t have features that resemble a natural scalp as opposed to a full lace wig. The term full lace wig, on the other hand, is a unit with no cap, and the base is entirely made up of lace fabric. The lace is customarily skin complected. Strands are weaved through the lace and knotted so it can appear like a scalp.
Lace wigs are often glued down to the front of your hairline with an adhesive to give a “melted into the flesh” look. They can further be worn without glue, utilizing an elastic band sewn inside the back of the wig which will comfortably pull the unit close to the skin granting reasonable appearance. A frontal unit is a wig that has wefts in the back, but the front is made up of a 13 x 6 lace base. This way, the front of your hair can still guarantee a native flesh form, while the middle-to-the-back of the wig is really weft. All weft, full lace, and frontal units can be made of human hair or synthetic hair.
A wig isn’t something you can just toss in the sink, tub, or wash machine and expect it to come out brand spanking new. There are numerous steps one should take prior to soaking the hair. Each type of wig requires complex techniques to attain the best results.
Lace wigs demand rather gentle maintenance because the strands are knotted through the lace. They can be readily pulled out, broken or even un-knotted. “When you’re dealing with lace, let’s say you’re using an adhesive glue, and you were trying to remove that from the lace, I recommend you to use solutions that are specifically designed to break down the glue” Palmer showed me. Most adhesive products come with solvents to assure safe removal. Some brands he and his partner recommend are Davlyn Tape Residue and Adhesive Remover, and Walker Tape C-22 Solvent. “They’re liquid based and you would just put it on the towel and rub against the lace in circular motions to remove the glue.” After glue removal, brush out the wig from the bottom up and then drench it in water before adding shampoo.
“When I shampoo the wig I start on the lace and I do a squeezing motion. I don’t scrub the wig, I don’t want it to tangle. I don’t want to put the wig in a position to fail so I keep the hair straight working my way from the ends to the root using a detangling brush, the Tangle Teezer throughout the entire process.”
It’s imperative to use a detangling brush for both the shampoo assembly and the conditioning element to warrant the hair stays straight during the process. “There have been cases when a lace had more tangles than I was expecting” Orland gaged. “You can’t judge or assume that the hair will be cooperative because it has been processed so many times that it just has to be dealt with. All hair, all wigs have to be dealt with care. Always work your way from the bottom up.”
Weft wigs require less gentle handling because the hair is less prone to breakage but always take heed. With these wigs, you can likewise use the squeezing technique with an emulsifying shampoo by pumping the tresses between your hands, wet it, and pump more, but don’t scrub.
Hair that is not on our heads still possess a natural PH balance so it’s important to use cleaning products that will assist in PH restoration. “You really just need products that are going to balance that PH and keep that hair moisturized or else the hair will literally deteriorate. That’s when you get those textures that you don’t want. I love Farouk systems. I love CHI.”
As for synthetic hair, on the other hand, it’s not truly hair. It is a man-made fiber so using shampoos and conditioners that encase heavy moisture is advised. If the synthetic hair is on a lace, it too needs proper adhesive solvent removal. And since the fibers of synthetic hair are set into a permanent style, after you wash it you must reset it, steam it, cool it down, let it dry and then you can restyle it again.
When washing, always use warm water to get the dirt and dust off of all wigs. Use cold water at the end to close the cuticles. All human hair wigs can be air dried, ventilated, blow-dried, or hood-dried at your discretion.
The tools you use to manage your wigs are beyond significant. Contrary to what many believe, you should really only use a detangling brush, or a wig brush when dealing with units. (And for the record, a wig brush is not a brush that contains balls at the end of the stems.)
“The bristles on the detangling brush aren’t as long or a strong as they are on a paddle or a wig brush” Palmer reckoned. “Since the bristles aren’t as long or as strong as them, it doesn’t fight the hair. The bristle on the detangling brush will give before the hair strand will give. Its a lot more gentle and it gets through the hair better. You don’t want to put a lot of pressure on the wig. Michel Mercier Detangling brush, and Tangle Teezer really are amazing for wigs.”
On synthetic hair, the rake features of a detangling brush work wonders on the fibers because synthetic hair is similar to velcro. It tends to want to stick together. So if you have a tool that can rake through the hair and it doesn’t pick up or drag, then it’s the foremost option.
In regular use, all lace wigs —human hair, and synthetic hair, people— can only last from 2 weeks to 3 months, tops. Lace wigs are inclined to shedding because they are single knotted. One strand of hair is individually weaved and knotted through the entire base until a dense head of hair is birthed. Rarely will manufacturers double or triple the strands. “You do have some closures that are double and triple knotted all the way through,” Orlando said. “Those last a lot longer. There are ways to make lace last a lot longer but the ones that last longer usually look less natural.” Nevertheless repairing a wig is always an alternative.
Dealing with lace, you may notice holes appear in the fabric, excessive shedding, or the unit is just dead and needs some extra oomph! There are solutions like Fabric-Tac Permanent Glue that create permanent adhesive bonds for the holes. You can also plainly sew the lace back together. Top-Loc Knot Sealer is an option in which you can spray the knots from the inside of the wig to create a seal and reduce shedding everytime you remove the unit.
In weft wig cases, if reinforcement of the stitching on the actual track extension was done well, it can last for years. Plural. Hair is sewn together at the root to do the opposite of lace wigs, and prevent shedding. And in any event that your wefts do begin to shed, you can seal the wefts with a weft sealant or fabric glue at the root stitching of the hair.
Another quick tip in saving all wig lives is to sew-in an extra hair piece. This can be done on both lace wigs and weft wigs. “[In lace wigs] this is called a hybrid whereas most of it is lace but for some extra thickness, sew a couple tracks in” mentions Palmer. “Hybrids have been worn by the people we love since the beginning of time including Michael Jackson, and Beyonce. It still has the lightweight and supernatural feel of a lace wig without having some of the heaviness, depth, and base that the wefted tracks provide.”
Product consideration for wig hair is just as critical as it is for your natural hair. A woman with naturally curly hair doesn’t use the same products as someone with fine straight hair.
For curly hair wigs, you definitely want to use silicone-free based products. Palmer made it clear that you should “Avoid protein unless your stylist says the hair needs it. A lot of times people will use protein shampoos and conditioners on this hair and it has already been protein treated after the company. That’s included in the regimes used to treat hair before it comes to us.”
On straight hair, he recommends the use of product minamally. “When I need to moisturize straight hair I’ll use lightweight oils. I have the Blackseed Dry Oil by CHI that is amazing. It moisturizes the hair without weighing it down. [If it was curly hair] then I would go to something a little creamier. The difference is you have creamier products that are more for wet moisture and you’ll use a dry oil for straighter hair to keep it very airy and flowy.”
Since synthetic hair is steamed and molded into a style, it’s already set. It doesn’t require products to saturate the strands. Adding hairspray for sheen or a tighter hold is normal in situations when you sweat. Regardless of what you put on the wig, be mindful that lace is a penetrable fabric. So whatever you insert can seep onto your actual scalp and either cause benefits, or buildup.
Hair storage is supreme in sustaining a wig. It’s easy to become lazy with our hair pieces because that’s the reason we started wearing them in the first place, right? Notwithstanding, understand that storing units in select places can very well be your come-up or downfall in this beauty game. All human hair wigs should be stored in silk or satin fabrics.
“If you don’t have a silk bag, use a plastic bag because you don’t want to put it inside cloth that will draw the moisture out. Specifically cotton, cotton draws moisture. In all honesty, no one’s hair should ever touch cotton. No one’s face should ever touch cotton. Everyone should sleep on silk and satin pillowcases, and wrap their wigs in silk or satin because no matter how long the hair is inside of it, the hair will be able to maintain some of its moisture.”
If hair is not stored properly it will become brittle, dry, and it will start to wither away. It can also change the texture. Synthetic hair should be stored in a net and then placed in a plastic bag. Netting keeps the hair friction down and the plastic bag keeps it dust-free.