Hair loss can be one of the most devastating side effects of cancer treatment. Certain types of chemotherapy target rapid-growing cancer cells. Since hair cells are the fastest growing cells in the body, the chemotherapy drugs kill the Straight Hair Wig hair cells as well, causing hair loss.
Wigs are the most popular choice for covering hair loss. Many women, however, dread the idea of choosing a wig – picturing having to wear the hot, itchy, unnatural appearing wigs of yesteryear. The good news is, there wig-making technology has come a long way in recent years – resulting in lighter, more comfortable wigs that look completely natural. Most chemotherapy patients choose to wear a wig that matches their own hair style and color. Of course, there is nothing wrong with experimenting with a new style or color if you desire.
Where to Get a Wig
It is easier to shop for your wig before you lose your hair. Wigs are available from many different places. A store or salon that allows you to touch, feel, and try the wigs before you buy is always your best option. If you do not have a local wig boutique, you might look in catalogs or online. If you cannot afford a wig, many hospitals and the American Cancer Society often offer free boutiques where you can find donated wigs.
Before visiting a wig boutique, you might want to call ahead of time and get some information – how many wigs do they have in stock, are you allowed to try on the wigs, do they work with your insurance company, do they cut and style the wigs for you, so you need an appointment, etc.
Human Hair or Synthetic
It is always best to educate yourself on the types of wigs available. Wigs can be made with human hair or synthetic fibers. Human hair wigs have the advantage of versatility – they can be colored, permed, curled with a curling iron or straightened with a flat iron. They also offer a soft, more natural movement and texture. Buying human hair can be confusing. It is available in a wide variety of qualities and price ranges. Like many other things in life, with wigs – you usually get what you pay for. Chinese hair is thick, straight and somewhat coarse. Indian hair is the most popular type of hair, softer and wavy. European Hair has the finest, softest texture. Decuticled hair has had the cuticle removed, to prevent tangling. Remy hair still has the cuticle in place, but has been carefully collected so that the hair all runs the same direction. It is stronger than decuticled hair. Human hair is generally sold by the inch, so longer wigs will be considerably more expensive. Something else to keep in mind is that human hair will require some skill to style. Just like our own hair, it needs to be styled and set regularly to look its best.
Synthetic hair is by far the most popular option among chemotherapy patients. Less expensive and less maintenance then human hair, synthetic wigs offer a great alternative. The style is “baked in”, so it stays in place, even when you wash it. Synthetic can be washed, brushed and combed, but cannot be curled or flattened with heated tools or chemicals. Just like human hair, synthetic hair is available in different qualities. Cheaper synthetic fibers are thick and plastic like – with an unnatural shine. Better quality synthetics vary in denier (or thickness), so they look and feel just like the real thing.
Just as important as the type of hair is the type of cap. Traditional caps are machine made. Open-wefted caps allow more airflow to the scalp. A monofilament wig features individual hairs hand-sewn into a fine mesh base. This creates the appearance of hairs growing directly from the scalp – for a remarkably natural look. Hair can be parted and lay smoother – instead of a thicker, teased look associated with traditional wig. The best wigs are 100% hand-tied. The soft mesh base is smoother and more comfortable than wefted wigs – eliminating scratchiness and irritation. Hand-tied wigs are much less dense – so they are lighter weight and more natural.
The Right Size
Another important consideration is the size. It is best to have your head professionally measured. Wigs can be custom ordered to your exact measurement – but this is not always the best option for chemotherapy patients, as custom made wigs are more expensive and take 6-8 weeks to produce. Pre-made wigs are almost all made in an “Average Size”, and will usually fit individuals measuring between “Petite Average” to “Average Large”. If your head size is Petite or Large, you may have more problems finding a wig. Unfortunately, there are only a limited number of wigs made in these sizes. A professional wig fitter can make alterations to a wig to make it fit.
Styling Your Wig
Most wigs are not perfect out of a box – they need to be cut and styled to flatter your head. As a rule of thumb, hair can always be removed, but can’t be added. Bangs can be trimmed, and the wig can be thinned, layered, or shortened. The technique of cutting a wig is different than regular hair cutting, and not all stylists are trained in wig cutting. Before you choose someone to cut your wig, make sure they have experience styling wigs.
Once you have selected a good quality wig with the features you desire, and have it fit, cut and styled, you will be amazed at how natural your wig looks. Make sure you learn the proper styling techniques and use wig care products formulated for the type of wig you have purchased to ensure the best results. The right wig can be the key to coping with hair loss due to chemotherapy.