When I first started shopping online for toppers, density was the last thing I thought to consider. It can be such a confusing element of hair shopping because there are various ways to describe density and it can vary from brand to brand. Density can even vary from piece to piece since toppers and wigs are hand made (sewn by hand or someone is assembling them with a machine).
You’ll see different descriptors used to tell you a piece’s density such as light, medium and high density, or percentages such as 120% or 130% (or more, or less). This refers to the amount of hair sewn into the cap. A higher density will pack more hair in on the cap, and by contrast, less on a low density piece. In my experience, 130% or medium density tends to be most commonly stocked. In other words, density can mean that the hairs sewn into the cap are closer together, with a tighter part, and/or more or thicker wefting on the back of the unit.
A high density piece will be full and voluptuous. A light density will have a more manageable amount of hair, though it should be carefully crafted to ensure there is enough hair to cover “tracks” or wefting on the back of the piece and also so that the cap is not noticeable.
What density should you look for? This will totally depend on personal preference. It will also depend on whether you are purchasing a topper or a wig. Here are some things to consider:
1. How much bio hair do you have? If you still have a fair amount of bio hair to blend with a topper or some types of wigs, a light or medium density should suffice. Let’s say, for example, your bio hair is mostly intact but you have a thinning part, you might like a small base, light density topper designed to provide a small amount of coverage. If you have diffuse, all over, significant thinning, and not a lot of hair remaining, a larger cap with a medium to high density might meet your coverage needs. If you are looking for coverage only, and not to add a lot of volume, light density is okay. If you are into wigs, you’ll get to look for a density that feels comfortable for you without the need for blending. The density is generally included in the item description but this can differ from one manufacturer to another. Be sure to watch reviews on a piece out of the box, before it has been customized) to get a feel for the density. As wigs have a larger cap than toppers, they will have more hair attached and thus, it can feel a bit overwhelming at first. Keep in mind that you can customize the density (thin a wig) if it feels too heavy.
2. How easy or difficult is your colour/texture to match? My hair is ashy/cool and curly, so it tends to blend better with higher density toppers, but with some finesse, I can make lower density work too (like this low density Jon Renau topper pictured above!). Why is cool toned hair more difficult to match? The vast majority of human hair harvested for wig manufacturing begins as a dark colour that is lightened to create custom colours. In the lightening process, warm undertones become exposed. The hair is then coloured, so even a piece that starts out being cool toned will oxidize over time where it develops a warmer or brassy tone. The beauty of human hair though is that it can be toned and there are endless colour options, particularly if you work with a skilled colourist familiar with alternative hair. The beauty of synthetic hair is that the colour will not oxidize! Texture can be a tricky thing to match because all human hair behaves differently. There are varying degrees of wavy/curly texture, so it is a good idea to know your own texture or curl pattern that you want to achieve and ask the seller or an experienced alt hair specialist about perming or about using products and/or hot tools to match your texture.
Matching texture and colour is a non-issue for wigs, for the most part since blending any remaining biological hair is optional. However, if you are wanting to replicate your bio hair, it’s best to book a consultation with a seller to determine your needs.
In the case of both toppers and wigs, dimensional colour, and/or a good colour and texture match, and seeing a stylist will help you. If you have short hair that you are blending with a longer topper, more density will make this discrepancy less noticeable.
3. What kind of styles will you be wearing? Light and medium density pieces are preferable for updos as it doesn’t feel as heavy when pulled back which reduces the chances of your piece sliding out of place or causing any discomfort. Sometimes the weight of a heavier hair topper pulled back into a ponytail or bun can place too much strain on biological hair when attached with clips. There are methods you can use to mitigate the risks of damage/discomfort, but we will save those for another post.
For a glam look or for coverage purposes/ease of blending, go for a standard density or higher.
No matter which density you choose, there are endless styling options when it comes to wearing hair and YouTube tutorials will definitely come in handy.
4. What are your hair goals? Of course these goals will differ for everyone. They can range from practical coverage of thinning areas to avoid UV exposure of the scalp or to reduce reliance on toppers, fibres and/or other topicals, or purely aesthetic aspirations and a boost in confidence. Some will prefer a discrete transition and to not feel overwhelmed by their new hair by incorporating a light density wig or topper. When I was first starting out with alternative hair, I remember feeling like even smaller base, standard density pieces had too much hair. However, sometimes all it takes is a bit of layering and face framing for a new wig or topper to feel less heavy.
For others, ease of use and styling will have them reaching for a medium or high density piece. This eliminates some issues with blending or variation in length between bio hair and helper hair for a more seamless look as previously indicated. The use of alternative hair can also expedite a morning routine as you can style the hair early in the week, and because you are not going to wear it to bed (with the exception of a bonded system), it will retain the style for the next wear. A topper or wig that checks most of your hair goal boxes will hopefully be one that you can “throw and go.”
There’s no one BEST option when it comes to density. Personally, I wear both high and low density for different features, seasons and styles.
What’s your preference? Let me know!