Guess who finally bought a wig? Me! That’s who. But it’s not pink. Hah!
I’ve been talking about wig shopping and trying a wig for at least a year and I finally went for it. In an effort to make a good choice, I did a ton of research and feel like I’ve now earned a PhD in wig knowledge. For those of you who are curious about wigs, this is what I learned before I bought.
8 Tips for Wig Shopping
More People are Wearing Wigs Than You Might Guess
Wigs, extensions, and toppers are becoming more and more commonplace. People talk about them openly and wear them without hesitation or secrecy — I’m thinking of Khloe Kardashian showing off her wig collection on social media, and Viola Davis’ character pulling off her wigs on How to Get Away With Murder, and Juliana Margulies talking about how she would pick out a new wig for each season of The Good Wife, or Mindy Kaling talking about the necessity of extensions in her book.
But it’s not just celebrities. Regularly-scheduled blowouts and appointments for upkeeping color or roots take up lots of time — and they’re expensive. It turns out wig shopping can be an easier, more affordable, and less time-consuming option.
The current wig offerings are so vast and flexible I was surprised. There are wigs you can swim in, wigs that you can pull into a ponytail for a tennis match, wigs that you can part just like natural hair. And there are lots of wigs that come with darker roots, which makes them look much more real.
All that to say, if you’ve ever been curious to try one, now is the time. No one will bat an eye.
Starting With A Wig Shop is a Smart Way to Go, Especially For Your First Purchase
I went wig shopping for the first time last week. I looked up wig shops on Yelp and picked the closest, best-rated option. For months, I was very intimated at the idea of visiting a wig shop — I didn’t want it to feel high-pressure like makeup counters often do. But I’m glad I went. It was incredibly helpful.
I was able to try on about a dozen options, and get a good overview of what’s out there. I received lots of helpful advice and learned that most wig companies offer a set of wig styles — let’s say 10 different options — and then they offer each of those styles in maybe 2 dozen colors each.
So if you go wig shopping, you’re really just looking for the shape of the wig. Once you find one you like, it can be ordered it in any color you prefer. In my case, they didn’t have the color I wanted in stock, so they ordered it for me.
The other nice thing about buying a wig from a shop (at least the one I visited), is that they’re also trained to trim and customize and style wigs.
Choose Between Synthetic and Real Human Hair Wigs
At the wig shop, I also learned that synthetic wigs are much more common and more popular than real hair wigs. Why? Well, synthetic wigs are substantially less expensive, available in far more options, and they’re easier to care for — if you wash a synthetic wig, the style will remain when it dries; you don’t have to blow it out, you just brush it and go. Also, synthetic wigs won’t frizz up in the rain.
But the downside is that a synthetic wig typically only lasts 3-6 months depending on how often it’s worn, versus a real hair wig that can last for a year or more.
Synthetic wigs can usually be worn right out of the box, with minimal adjustments or changes, but real hair wigs will need to be trimmed and styled by a professional.
Watch for These 3 Wig Construction Terms When You Shop
There are things you’ll want to know about wig construction before you buy one. The main 3 terms that came up in my research are: monofilament tops, lace front or full lace wigs, and heat resistant.
A monofilament top means the wig can be parted in different places.
Lace front or full lace wigs come with “lace” around the hairline. It’s not really lace, it’s more of a fine mesh with tiny hairs sewn in that mimic a natural hairline. The lace allows the wig to be pulled back into updos or pony tails, or brushed away from your face. Apparently, these types of wigs used to be a big Hollywood secret — they look and feel really natural. But now they’re widely available.
Heat resistant wigs are synthetic wigs that you can style on low heat.
The wig I chose has a monofilament top and is heat resistant, but it doesn’t have a lace front.
Try a Wig Cap or Wig Band to Keep It In Place
Depending on your current hair, you may need to wear a wig cap or wig band underneath. They can help contain your natural hair (even if it’s thick and long), and can help keep the wig in place. I tried on both a cap and a band at the wig shop, but since my natural hair is really short and curly/coarse, I was told I probably won’t need to wear anything underneath.
Use Powder To Blend Your Wig & Hairline
The wig color I ordered is called Chocolate Brown, and my grey hair is going to stand out at the hairline and the sideburns. So I was told to use a root coverage product — like this powder — to blend my hairline into the wig. If the wig looks too shiny, I was told to use dry shampoo to tone down the shine.
Both Synthetic and Real Hair Wigs Can Be Pricey
Wigs can be expensive. Like crazy expensive. In the shop the synthetic wigs were in the $250 to $400 range, but if you know exactly what sort of wig you want, you may be able to find it for less online. There was a wig in the shop I considered that was $317, and it’s also available online for $135. But if you don’t know what you’re looking for, I highly recommend starting in a shop, instead of online — the higher price tag is worth the education you get.
Real human hair wigs start at $1000 and go up from there. Big price tags! There are probably less expensive options to be found, but I wasn’t looking too hard at real hair wigs, so I’m not sure where to send you for the best prices.
I also learned that if you need to wear a wig for health reasons, your doctor can give you a prescription, and your wig may be covered as a cranial prosthetic by insurance.
Watch A Wig Review Before You Buy It
There is a whole world of wigs on Youtube. Every wig has a name and you can type that name into Youtube and find a review of the wig, or a tutorial on how to customize it. So fascinating! The reviews are by women of all colors, shapes and sizes, so it’s fun to see how the same wig looks different on different people.
One of my favorite wig youtubers is a woman who goes by the name Blondie Locks. I’m not sure what her back story is, but apparently, she’s mostly bald (not by choice) and wears wigs daily. She has a ton of wigs, mostly synthetic, and she shows how to style them, blend them in to your hairline, clean them, and make them look more real.
Watch this video for a great overview of wigs as she tries on 12 different options in a wig shop. And this video might be her most compelling — she shows off the Mizzy wig. It’s a $35 synthetic wig and it looks amazing! Thirty five bucks? That’s the price of one blowout. If you like the Mizzy, she showcases it in several of her videos.
My wig should arrive at the shop this week. I’m hoping it comes in time for my Thursday Facebook Live broadcast. I’m not going to link to it here because I want to wait till I can show photos, but I can tell you it’s dark, somewhere between shoulder and chin length, with bangs. I can also tell you this Erika wig (a cute bob!) was my second choice.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Have you ever considered wearing a wig? How about extensions? And if you’re a wig pro already, what advice would you add when wig shopping for the first time?
Credits: Photo by Justin Hackworth for Alt Summit