So, you’ve decided to hang on to that imperfect wig or topper. Or have you missed the date to return? Was it final sale or secondhand?
Whatever the reason, how are you coping with your disappointment?
In Part 1 of this series, we covered what to do to prevent wig/topper disappointment, what to do upon receipt and within the return window, and seeing each piece as an opportunity to improve your buying experience the next time around.
I’ve spoken with some alternative hair specialists to learn all about aftermarket services to improve the wearability of wigs and toppers. We can break them down into 4 basic categories: customization; alteration; maintenance; and repairs.
This topic requires a preface. It is incredibly important to manage our expectations when it comes to wearing the hair from someone else’s head and/or synthetic hair. If you have found a piece that is without its flaws, you are one of the lucky ones! Teach us your ways! Even a so-called “ready to wear” piece will need to be modified to suit the wearer. No piece is going to be perfect, and no piece is going to replicate your natural hair (no matter how expensive it is :).
However, there are so many options when it comes to making a piece a little closer to your desired specifications. As I pointed out last time, there are some very easily remedied issues such as removing and replacing clips and combs, changing the part, cutting the lace, and restyling, all of which you can do yourself. Pieces often come out of the box looking less than perfect. Since you’ve already committed to keeping the piece, a good first step is to perform a test wash of the hair. This will allow you to reset the part, begin to form the cap to the shape of your head, see how the hair air dries, see if the hair smooths out or holds a curl, and really start to see a piece’s potential. You should also take your piece for a proverbial test drive to get a feel for the fit, the hair, and how it makes you feel. Without wearing a piece, you can’t possibly know what modifications you would like to have done. You might assume, for example, that you want the hair all one length, only to find out later that the long pieces in the front weigh you down. This is why wearing it around before altering is important.
To help us look at some of the available customization options that can be done by a professional stylist, I spoke with Taya from LaPaul Hair Spa in British Columbia. Not only is she a stylist experienced in working with helper hair, Taya also has Alopecia Areata, an unpredictable autoimmune condition that attacks the hair follicle. Taya embraces her hair loss, but she also recognizes the value of helper hair in boosting the confidence of the wearer. When it comes to customizing, Taya recommends taking small steps. “Sometimes less is more,” she tells me. “Consider making small adjustments before you overhaul the alternative hair you own. For example, if you have a wig that you feel is too dark, consider adding babylights or face framing highlights to it instead of lightening the entire wig. Sometimes those subtle reflections make a world of difference.” She reminds us also that thinning bulky areas of a wig can help too. Just as with biological hair, the right hair cut for your face and personal style can make a piece your own! Make sure when you are buying your pieces, that you are keeping in mind to add additional length than your final desired look so that your stylist can customize it for you.
Naturally, some stylists are more comfortable than others when it comes to working with alternative hair. Given that wig and topper hair is expensive, does not regrow, and that human hair does not uniformly respond to chemical processing, and has likely been heavily processed before hitting the market, the reluctance of some stylists/colourists is understandable. Taya suggests that there needs to be trust between the client and the stylist, and working with someone who is confident and passionate about helping those with hair loss will help build that trust. If there’s anyone who is passionate about helper hair, and understands the value and meaning associated with a hair piece, it is definitely Taya!
If you are having your piece customized by a professional stylist, communication is very important! When consulting, you should come armed with inspiration photos and as much information as you can get your hands on about your piece. It is helpful if you know what processes have already been done to the hair as this may affect it’s ability to take colour or be lightened. A piece that has been heavily processed will need to be assessed to determine whether additional processing, such as perming, is appropriate. In the case of synthetic hair, you will want to determine whether the piece is regular synthetic hair or heat friendly. A stylist can cut synthetic hair, but it is very difficult, and in most cases, impossible to alter the colour of synthetic hair. In some cases, temporary spray colours, root powder, or fabric dyes can be used to change the colour, but the results can vary. There are ways to add or remove curl with synthetic hair, even hair that is not heat friendly, but you will need to do your homework before attempting this! Bleaching knots to achieve a more natural hairline or part is another service that can be offered by stylists, though this cannot be achieved with synthetic hair.
Some possible alterations to improve a piece’s functionality include: resizing or fitting a cap; adding or removing hair (wefts can be added or removed, and individual hairs can be added or removed- this will depend on cap construction); adding a lace front; adding polyurethane or silicone strips or other material that facilitates security/comfort; filling in sparse areas; turning a wig into a fall; or replacing short hairs with longer ones (such as replacing bangs that do not suit the wearer).
To walk us through some common alterations that can be done on ready-to-wear pieces, I chatted with Gretchen Evans (@gretchenmakeswigs on Instagram). Gretchen specializes in making fully customized units from scratch and has celebrity clients wearing her pieces for theatre and film! She tells me that “learning to customize a [manufactured] wig can be an invaluable skill.” She says that learning how to sew “darts” to resize a wig can improve both comfort and fit for the wearer. Gretchen even works on “ready-to-wear” wigs which she customizes to the buyer’s specifications by completing alterations such as removing bulk, creating more natural details such as a cowlick and finely detailing the parting area. Sometimes, she finds replacing the lace front on a manufactured wig with a finer lace front with a customized hairline can give a more realistic look. Learning how to do these alterations, she says, can give the effect of a fully handmade, customized wig at a lower price point.
If you are any bit crafty, you can find some great tutorials for how to turn a wig into a hair topper which is another alteration that can take an improperly fitting piece stuffed in the back of your closet and give it a new function for those with some biological hair to clip into! There are also some alteration specialists such as Cameo Wigs that can repurpose a wig into, for example, a hat fall.
You should keep your eye on @devwigs on Instagram. Devorah is a Canadian sheitelmacher who specializes in wig alterations. She is well-known amongst her clients for her ability to achieve very natural looking hair lines by individually sewing in baby hairs at the front of a wig. She performs other sorts of alterations such as flattening a silk top, debulking (thinning), adding wefts, filling in areas missing hair, and custom fitting caps. Her before and after photos are proof that alterations make a difference not only in the look of a sheitel, but in the confidence of the wearer also.
In addition to these customizations and alterations, you will also need to invest in quality products and commit to some maintenance of your piece to prolong its wear. There are many grades and types of hair available and chances are, the hair you are purchasing will respond differently than your own biological locks. They may require special products to increase longevity or to have the hair behave the way you want it to. Taya recommends skipping products that contain sulfates, parabens and sodium chloride to keep hair hydrated, soft and shiny. She tells me that Jon Renau offers quality products for both human hair and synthetic pieces. Make sure, whatever you are using, you are reading labels, and when in doubt, check with the wig or topper manufacturer or seller, or a licensed stylist for product recommendations. Steam has been known to prolong the life of synthetic hair so investing in a steamer may be worthwhile if you enjoy the ease of wearing synthetic locks. Both human hair and synthetic can become dry and will require occasional trims to manage any breakage/damage. Conditioning treatments are also offered by some alternative hair professionals.
You want your investment to last as long as possible. Not only does the hair itself require maintenance, sometimes caps require upkeep also. They can become damaged with regular wear and require repairs. Gretchen mentioned to me that some of the aforementioned skills cross over into wig repair work and learning how to repair them can make them last much longer and makes one’s investment more worthwhile. Caps can stretch overtime so even if they do not need to initially be resized, they made need to be taken in later to return to a snug fit. Lace fronts can become damaged, ripped or sparse so they can be repaired or replaced. One tip I’ve picked up along the way is to hang on to excess lace trimmed from new lace front pieces to be used to repair any holes in lace wigs. This will require some basic sewing skills.
Whether or not you attempt these customizations and modifications on your own, or leave it to a professional depends on a number of things. Here’s what you need to consider:
-What level of risk am I comfortable taking?
-Is there someone experienced near me who can make the adjustments I am looking for, or can I afford (financially and in terms of time frame) to mail my piece to someone who can do the work?
-Is it feasible and worthwhile to invest (potentially hundreds) more money to make this piece my own? If not, refer back to Part 1 here: https://elleshaircorner.wordpress.com/2020/09/22/wigtopperdisappointmentpart1/
-What experience do I have colouring hair, and how familiar am I with colour theory?
-Am I willing to change the colour or cut of my biological hair to match if a colour job or haircut do not turn out as expected?
-Generally, alterations will decrease the resale value of a piece (even if it costs you a fortune to have it done professionally) because it can limit a secondhand buyer’s options for additional customization and impacts the integrity of the hair.
-Am I sure that I don’t want to resell this piece on sites such as @TradingTresses on Instagram or on Re: Silk or Lace https://silkorlace.com/collections/re-silkorlace
In summary, just because a piece does not look or function the way you want it to NOW, it does not mean you are out of luck! There are numerous DIY options and professional services that can help you make your piece wearable and combat that disappointment!
Here are just some of the contacts you can reach out to for aftermarket customization:
Anna Mullet (Advanced managing cosmetologist since 2013)
-Colour services including: lowlights, adding dimension, root drag/deepen root, reverse balayage, ombre to balayage, toning
-Colour correction or multi-process services require consultation
-Highlights based on consultation and strand test (requires chemical waiver as the client understands lightening the hair is not recommended by the manufacturer)
-Cutting, thinning, shaping
-Shampoo/style, conditioning treatment
-Contact via Instagram (@thehelperhairfairy) or Facebook messenger
Audra Rackley (Wilmington Hair Restoration)
-Wig/topper customization (mail ins accepted)
-Colour services including: root shadow, root melt, toning, foils, balayage, colour/colour refresh
-Deep conditioning treatments
-Contact through Instagram @audrarackleyhair or Facebook, email@example.com
-Located in Wilmington, NC, USA
-Carries exclusive line of human hair wigs and wig products
-Full service salon with full colour, repair and enhancement services
-Located in Toronto, Ontario
-Contact on Instagram or at firstname.lastname@example.org or Instagram @cameowigsto
-Wash and sets
-Addition of custom baby hairs
-Fill in of bald areas on wig/sheitel
-Deep conditioning treatment
-Conversation of full wig to hat fall
– Bang replacement
-Ear tab removal, wig surgery, debulking, clip repairs, addition/removal of lace front
-Contact on Instagram @devwigs
Gretchan Evans (Wig Maker and Educator)
-Virtual and in person wig making classes
-Customization of ready to wear wigs
-Hair pieces and handtied weft for film, theatre and individual clients
-Contact on Instagram (@gretchenmakeswigs) or by email email@example.com
Jolie Faulkner (IBE Certified)
-3D realistic rooting
-Carved out layers to give realistic movement to the hair
-Tutorials for clients
-Holistic low tox hair colour and products used
-Contact 760-805-8779 or on Instagram (@holistichairmama)
LaPaul Hair Spa
-Traditional salon services and alternative hair services
-Human hair and synthetic hair and care products
-Contact via http://www.lapaulhairspa.com on Instagram (@lapaulhairspa) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to learn more about wigs, toppers, and hair loss? Visit https://silkorlace.com/blogs/main