Men lose their hair and its considered business as usual, a part of life. But when women lose their hair, they’re embarrassed and often also lose their self-confidence and sense of femininity. A quality wig and compassionate service can go a low way towards alleviating the fear and stress cancer patients face on the road ahead. A hairpiece is a large and often unforeseen expense that can cause a great deal of anxiety. While it’s important to be well-informed in order to avoid spending too much or purchasing the wrong type of wig, this often (and justifiably) takes a back seat to researching and formulating a recovery plan from an illness. Therefore, it is helpful to have a concise guide to make shopping for a hairpiece a smoother experience, allowing the patient to focus her energy on getting well.
Your First Step:
Talk to Your Doctor
Not all treatments cause hair loss. Talking to your doctor and forming a treatment plan is your first step. If your doctor feels that hair loss is probable, get a prescription for a cranial prosthesis. Some insurance companies cover at least a portion, if not the total cost, of a hairpiece. Talk to your insurance company to get a clear idea of what you might encounter.
Call a Wig Specialist
A specialty wig salon is the best place to learn about all your options and try on styles. Do not change anything about your hair before your appointment; it’s best to let the stylist see your original color and style, if possible. Bring a list of questions and explore your choices. This appointment is meant to serve as a discovery mission and will help reduce some anxiety in the upcoming weeks.
If you are already losing or have lost your hair, bring some pictures prior to the hair loss. The specialist will be able to approximate your original style, and if ready, you may be able to walk out with your new look the same day.
Most hairpiece salons provide plenty of privacy, along with a staff that is very sensitive and knowledgeable about hair loss due to cancer. They are equipped to guide you through your best options. If you do not have a specialist in your area, find one online. Call the salon, explain your situation and ask to speak to an expert.
Synthetic vs. Human Hair
The most common and affordable wigs are made of synthetic hair. The hair feels and moves much less naturally and the wigs are less comfortable than human hair wigs. Synthetic wigs are easy to care for. You can wash your synthetic wig at home, and since the style is heat-set into the hair, you will not have to style it. Exposing a synthetic wig to heat will damage it, so you can’t use hair dryers and flat irons or open the oven door while wearing it. Heat exposure will cause the piece to become frizzy and look fried.
Human hair wigs have a much more natural feel and move just as your own hair would. They range widely in quality, but most are undetectable by a stranger. If you purchase a virgin hair wig, one that has not been chemically processed or colored, you can care for it at home and style it any way you like. Care of processed human hair wigs is best left to professionals, and you will probably want to bring your piece to a wig or hair salon for maintenance.
Human hair wigs can be expensive, but they will last much longer. They look more natural and are much more comfortable than synthetic wigs. High-quality virgin, European hair wigs can last up to several years. Should you get tired of your look, these wigs, just as your own hair, can be colored, highlighted or permed according to your latest whim.
Human Hair Options:
- Available as virgin, unprocessed hair, or can be colored or highlighted to your specifications
- Very silky, fine feel
- Lighter weight, more comfortable
- Come in a wide selection of natural, unprocessed colors
- Virgin hair wigs are wash and wear; you can wash your own wig
- Longest-lasting hairpieces
- Higher cost
- Most colors and textures are chemically processed
- The wigs are heavier and the hair feels coarser
- Needs professional maintenance
- Least expensive
- Fewer shades, mostly dark
- Needs chemical processing for colors and textures
- Needs professional maintenance
- Middle of the market in quality and cost
The cap is the base of the wig, which sits directly against the scalp with the hair is sewn into it. There is a variety of materials, designs and constructions available. Choosing the right cap is as important as choosing the right hair type.
The choice and fit of the cap will determine how natural the hairpiece looks and how comfortable and secure it feels. It is best to not get any type of glue-on or suction caps. Most of these methods pull on the scalp, can damage the hair follicles and prevent your hair from growing back normally. A well-fitting wig will be secure and will not come off on its own. For added security, purchase a special stocking cap that is worn under the wig or a band that helps to keep the wig in place.
Wigs with hand-tied caps are lighter, but harder to manage. Machine-made hairpieces are heavier, but offer wash and wear versatility and are longer-lasting.
Better-quality wigs will have a skin-like resin layer that creates a look of a scalp where the hair parts. This feature creates a very realistic-looking hairpiece, which helps women feel more confident.
Wig caps should be made to ones specific measurements or be custom-fitted at the salon. During the first weeks of your cancer treatment and in the event of weight loss, the piece should be re-adjusted for better fit.
Choosing Your Style
When choosing your first wig, it is best to keep the style and color of the wig as close to your original hair as possible. A new color or cut will bring unwanted attention to your hair. Also, keep in mind that your skin tone may change during treatment and going a shade or two lighter than your original hair may be a good idea. However, if you don’t like the way your hair looks, this may be the perfect opportunity to have the hair you’ve always wanted! Bring pictures of styles you like, and if comfortable, try something new.
Finding A Hairpiece Specialist
Once you are ready to shop for a hairpiece, visit the chemotherapy department of your hospital. Speak to the nurses; frequently, they are the best source of such information. The American Cancer Society is another good resource that can provide a list of specialists across the country. Also, though less reliable, referrals and reviews can be found online.
It is helpful if you have some idea of what kind of wig you would like to get and what your budget can handle. Synthetic wigs start at $30 and go up from there. Human hair wigs start at $1,000 and can reach as high as $5,000. Keep in mind that processed human hair usually requires professional maintenance, and that cost should be included in your consideration. If you want to take care of the hairpiece at home, your choices are a synthetic wig or a virgin, European hair wig. Having a conversation with your insurance company will help you establish a budget.
If you find it difficult to pay for your hairpiece, The American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen’s wig program, Y-Me Wig and Prosthesis Bank, Comprehensive Cancer Center Wig Bank Program, Pantene Pro-V Beautiful Lengths and CancerCare (800-813-HOPE) provide free wigs to those in need.
Many hairpiece specialists offer their services online. Online shopping is perfect for bargain hunting for a synthetic wig. You will have less luck finding better quality, European hair wigs at a discount. Due to a limited supply of high-quality virgin European hair, these wigs are in high demand. If purchasing your wig at an online store, make sure that you are clear on the company’s purchase policies.
A reputable company should allow online purchasing of every piece they carry. The salon should match the color to a snippet of your own hair and make sure your wig fits well. Though, ideally, they would like to see you at their salon, the quality of your hairpiece should be just as high when you purchase online. If the hairpieces are made with virgin European hair, you can take care of the wig yourself at home and should be taught by the salon how to wash and style your hair piece.
Battling cancer is one of, if not the, most daunting experiences a woman can live through. By following this guide, women can rest easy knowing that this one part of their experience will be a breeze.
About Design By Flora
Design by Flora is a wig, fall, and topper design and manufacturing company. Founded in 2005 by Flora Shepelsky, the company has a New Jersey based showroom and an online platform for customers worldwide. Renowned for their signature styles, which are available in a variety of colors and styles, Design by Flora has multiple designs, colors, and shapes with thousands of hair enhancement and hair replacement solutions. All of the hair pieces use virgin European hair and are uniquely constructed and styled with Design by Flora branded specifications. Design by Flora’s clients range from women seeking fashion pieces to those seeking options for hair loss. For more information, please visit www.DesignByFlora.com.