Expert Wig Advice with Amy Gibson
Wig Care Tips
Do I need to buy more than one wig if I wear them every day?
I always suggest that somebody does buy more than one. If you’re trying to get out the door, and maybe you need to wash it or it’s not dry yet, you want something that you can switch off with.
On that same level, I believe that if you’re working out, that you should use the same wig for that purpose and keep your other wigs, whether they’re human hair or synthetic, in better condition.
What type of wig head should I buy?
If you are a smaller head size, you don’t want to stretch your cap, there are smaller wig heads that are 19 and a half or 20 inches around. If you are a large cap size, then you can go with either a canvas or a foam head. I like the foam wig heads because they are lighter to work with, but my stylists love the rubber heads. My other stylist only works with canvas heads. I prefer foam because they’re easy and they’re light to work with when I’m styling them.
Will I have to cut or trim the lace on my new wig?
Yes, but it all depends if you’re wearing it with glue or not. We'll usually cut it about one eighth of an inch from the hairline, but there are women that love it cut all the way back. There are women that are gluing it down but need enough lace sticking out. Some love it as far as one half of an inch out. It also depends on what type of lace. Are you talking about a Swiss lace that’s delicate and translucent? And then, of course, when you put powder over it, or makeup, you're really covering it up, but it really depends on how you wear the wig.
How often should I clean my wig?
It depends what type of wig you’re talking about. If you perspire a lot, then you probably need to wash it at least once a week. If you’re not heavily perspiring, once a month is fine. I think it also has to do with how much you touch your hair. If your hands are constantly in your hair, then the natural oils in your hands are going to make your wig look a lot dirtier. I would say, just keep your hands out of your hair because of the oil, and the fact that it might give off a nervous quality. It can also be habit-forming.
Should I take my wig to a professional stylist, and should it be a wig stylist?
"One out of ten stylists really know how to cut a wig, so if you’re going to take it to your stylist, make sure you ask them, 'are you comfortable cutting a wig?' Second question, 'are you comfortable cutting a human hair wig?' Third question, 'do you know how to cut synthetic wigs?' Because the two are very different. Most stylists are not comfortable styling wigs, they really have to be trained how to cut non-breathing hair. Wigs don’t react like real hair.
Can I use regular hair products on my human hair wig?
You have to find something that doesn’t have a high alcohol content if you’re going to be wearing human hair. For synthetic hair, there are shampoos specifically for that type of fiber.
Can I curl my straight synthetic wig?
Only if it’s heat-resistant, and it says on the tag that you can use heat products. I usually use around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, 250. It really depends on the type of synthetic hair, some of those can’t take more than 150 degrees.
How can I make my synthetic wig last longer?
There are three things to making a synthetic wig last longer. One is by using a wide-tooth comb and not a brush to maintain it. Two, making sure you are using the right synthetic products. Three, making sure you don’t do what I did. Two weeks ago when we had company, I had a synthetic wig on and didn’t think about it, reached into my oven to get the salmon, and there you go. I singed it. You just have to stay out of heat. You know those wonderful heat lamps you sit under at restaurants? If you sit there for hours, and it’s really close. Yeah, it could burn.
How can I make my wig less shiny?
This is a big problem with wigs. Two things you can do. One that you have to be very careful with, is baking soda. If you put a little bit of baking soda, I usually use about a quarter of a cup, in warm water only and wash your wig in it, it will help. The only problem is that this will dry out the wig. So, I dip it for about five minutes, and then immediately wash it only with conditioner. There’s some people who don’t put conditioner on it, and immediately only do shampoo, but I find that that dries it out a little more. You have to kind of play, because each fiber is different. With heat-resistant hair, we do very little baking soda and conditioner, so it doesn’t dry out as much. So, it really depends. You can also use dry shampoo, but it might end up looking like a line on your wig. You have to spray it in a circle. It really dulls it and can make it look gray if you use too much.
So, how long do wigs last?
I feel that most women have this preconception that a wig is going to last ten years. It won't last that long. A human hair wig really stays in good shape for a couple of years, sometimes three. I believe, to make them last that long and to keep them looking luxurious, you need to refurbish them. That means you re-condition them. If you have a wig salon you can bring it to, then they know how to re-condition a wig. They put a conditioning mask on it and will put it in a hair dryer, and bake that treatment onto the hair, putting brand new proteins back into it.
If you don’t have somebody to do that, you can get a protein treatment, and put it on the wig yourself. Just make sure that protein treatment or conditioner doesn’t sink into the top or the crown where the roots are. Stay away from the roots.
You can just put a shower cap on it and hold a blow dryer over it on high heat, about six inches away. Keep blowdrying it in a circular motion all the way around for about 15 minutes. Then wash it out, and put conditioner on again, and wash it out. Always being careful with conditioner and staying away from the root of the wig.
The other way is to make sure you use a wide-tooth comb most of the time. Don't use a brush with the wrong bristles, because you’re going to end up breaking the hair earlier than it would normally happen. I also believe that refurbishing the wig means to sew hair back into the wig.
I actually just sent my own wig back to the factory, and the top of it was losing hair but the bottom part of it, from my ear down, was still in really good shape. For half the price, I sent it back, and said, 'would you please just replace the crown only?' And the wig came back and was like brand-new again.
There are so many choices, where do I start when choosing something?
First, you have to look at your budget. You’re already stressed out from hair loss, don’t stress yourself out with financial issues. Decide how much you can spend, and then decide how much above that is truly your spending limit. Then ask what the highest quality and most comfortable piece is that I can buy, in the most authentic-looking fiber?
Keep in mind that every piece needs to be styled. Ask yourself, 'Do I want human hair or synthetic, what am I capable of?' If you’re not somebody that’s good with hair, you better find a heat-resistant or synthetic piece that you can just wash, shake out, and put on. But, if you’re good at working with hair and you have a few moments to style it, human hair is fantastic.
How do I determine what style is right for me?
I believe that it depends on how discrete you want to be. If you truly don’t want anyone to know you’re wearing a wig, then get one and have it styled close to your own look. That’s where having an old picture of yourself comes in. If you want to bump up your look, then bangs will always take ten years off of you, especially if you want to hide those forehead wrinkles.
When it comes to style, I always say in the beginning, for a first-wig wearer, stick to something close to what you already look like. Get used to the wig first, get used to wearing one. Get used to wearing one in a way that doesn’t make you look like a robot. You want to be able to shake it, move it, work with it, walk with it as you would normally without keeping. your neck too still. Play with other colors and styles, when you feel more powerful when wearing wigs.
How do I pick out a shade that works for me?
This is really important because most women are about half a shade off from what they should actually be wearing. In time, your skin changes color and you don’t notice it. You’ve been wearing the same color forever and your stylist is using the same formula they’ve always used. But, now you’re going to wig colors.
Wig colors are very different, and synthetic colors are going to be very different than human hair colors. So, the number one rule is do not look at or pick out a color with inside lighting only, you have to look at it in natural outdoor lighting as well. That doesn’t mean it has to be sunny, it means natural light. Take a big mirror, go outside where you can see yourself clearly and look at your skin color. Take a sample color and hold it close to your cheek. If it’s only a sample ring color, where it’s a small piece of material, stretch it out horizontally across your forehead and see how it’s going to match your eyes. This is important.
It does. I always say for a round face, I love lots of layers. But a round face can also hold a straighter look. But remember, a straight look with no layers at all, hangs. Whichever facial shape you have, you want to accentuate. If you have cheekbones, you want to accentuate your lips. If you have any drooping of skin, you want something to hit just below the chin to cover up those wonderful jowls.
Will a color ring help me pick out what color I’d like?
A color ring will help you pick out what color you’d like, as long as you know what to do with it. That means you need to go out in the natural light to look at swatches. Sometimes I take two of the same sample. I hold one up against my cheek and I hold the other one across my forehead, and that gives me a good enough look at the color. If you actually have a full wig in that color, great, but if it’s just the hair samples, try to get two of the same sample and hold them, one vertically, one horizontally. That will give you a good frame so you can see how it looks against your face.
How do I decide between human hair and synthetic fiber?
I think you first have to figure out what is most comfortable for you to work with and how much time do you have. There are women who are so busy in the morning, they have kids, they have a job, and whatever it may be all at the same time. They don’t always have time to mess with their hair. That type of woman should stick to a heat-resistant fiber, something that you shake and bake and you’re out the door. There are some women that really need to know that the fiber that’s touching their face is what they’ve always known, which is human hair. So, I think it’s a very individual process.
I have a sensitive scalp. What kind of cap should I get?
You want to get a cap that has a lining underneath, like a French top or silk top. If you get a monofilament top, you want to make sure that you’re not itching too much from the knots.
Is a lace front wig always the best choice?
I love lace fronts because they show no edges in the front. Even if you’re getting a piece that’s a lace front, like a topper, and you’re putting it behind your bang or in front, it really lays down flat if it’s made well. But, I don’t think it has to be lace front. If you’re somebody that wears bangs, lace front is not essential. If you wear bangs, but you’re worrying about the wind blowing and the bangs separating in the front, then the lace front is essential. If you’re somebody that wears your hair back, and you want to wear it going back or in a bun, it’s absolutely essential.
What type of wig should I get if I get hot easily?
Breathable. If you have hair, open-wefted would be best for that. If you don’t have hair, close-wefted, as long as the base is nice and thin. I always say if that you put your hand underneath your wig and you can feel your breath from the outside onto it then you can wear it. I also say that you should take your wig and hold it up to the light, and if you can see through it, you can breathe through it.
Should I pay more for a wig, or just get something cheap?
I don’t know, do you want to wear shoes just because they’re cheap or because they’re comfortable? You’re going to be in them eight hours a day. So, think about that.
What type of human hair, as in country of origin, is the best?
Russian. Also, European hair from the Ukraine area. You can get blonde without being processed.
What should I avoid when buying a wig?
Too thick of a cap and stay away from too much hair. Most wigs sold to the masses, are trying to meet the needs of the overall market. It would cost too much money for a wig line to offer a million different densities. So, they choose one density, and it’s usually too thick. You usually will end up looking like you’re wearing a helmet if you don’t get them thinned out.
What hair density should I choose?
That has to do with the amount of density your natural hair has. You want to match the density that looks closest to you. The other secret is, you don’t want to do any more than you need to. If you’ve lost your hair and you want to get it back, you’re not going to get back to where it was ten years ago. You cannot get a higher density than 20 percent more hair than what you’ve been recently wearing on your head. Meaning if you have a lot of hair loss, and you’re going to get a wig, you need to get it styled and thinned down so it only looks like 20 percent more hair than you had before.
What type of wig should I wear to the gym or out jogging?
An active wig. A synthetic wig that is very lightweight, or a heat-resistant wig. I do not believe in wearing good human hair when you’re working out. You could wear a topper as well.
How can I wear a hat with my wig?
I don’t like a hat being pulled all the way down on a wig, because it really flattens the knot in the fiber. If you do wear one, make sure you spray your wig with water and shake it out when you get home. This is crazy, but I actually put clips on the inside of hats to make them a little more secure.
How can I wear my wig in a pony tail?
You have to have enough hair to do it. There’s high pony tails and low pony tails. For hair that’s layered and it has maybe 10 inches in length, you’ll probably have to do a lower pony tail. Anything that’s above 12 inches, you can probably get a little higher, and anything that’s 14, 16, or below you can probably do a higher pony tail. But, here’s the secret with the pony tail, if you have nape hair, it’s not a problem. But, you still have to take the very last row of ventilation on a wig, and put baby hair in so it meets the other hair that is there. Baby hair is essential. If somebody asked me, 'what’s the most important thing on a wig?' Baby hair, baby hair, baby hair. Baby hair around the sides and baby hair in the front. And the second most important thing is, it’s never neat. If it’s too neat, it looks like a wig. You’ve got to mess it up.
Wig Worries and What-Ifs
I just started experiencing hair loss, does this mean I will have to wear a wig?
I think it depends how you want to rock it. There are some women that are really okay walking around with a kerchief or a scarf or a hat. And there are some women that are really okay being bald. I’m not one of them. But I always honor those that don’t need to do that and feel great in their own skin. I think that it comes down to what’s going to make me feel as close to whom I’ve always been.
If you’re going through medical-related hair loss, you really want to make this less stressful. If you’re going through cancer therapy, and you’re already under a tremendous amount of information overload, you just want to keep it simple. To do that, find a comfortable wig that looks closest to you and a wig stylist can customize it for you, so when you look in the mirror, you’re like, 'yeah, that’s me.' If you look in the mirror, and you feel like you don’t look like you, everybody else is going to know you feel that way.
What if my wig doesn’t look natural?
First, go to a stylist to try and make it look more natural. But, natural has to do with how the hair is put in, the quality of the hair, and how much of it you’re wearing. So, start with a good wig, with a decent wig cap, and get quality workmanship with correct knotting. Be sure the knotting isn’t going in five different directions, otherwise you’re going to get something that is easier to wear.
What if other people notice that I’m wearing a wig, and they call me out?
I always say there are two answers to that, it’s in my book Sex, Wigs and Whispers. It’s the first thing I talk about. It depends on the way that you present something to somebody and it’s the way they accept it. There was a time when I truly wasn’t okay with my wig, or with my hair loss. So, I bluffed my way through it, and lied really well until I started getting more comfortable.
If somebody goes, “are you wearing a wig?” there are two answers. If you say the first one, it’s not going to be successful. If you say, 'well, I have this hair loss and it’s a really big problem. I have to wear this.' Versus, 'Do you not love this style? I’m rocking all these different styles lately. What do you think about this? I was thinking about doing a different color.' Include them in your process, or just say, 'Yeah, don’t you love it? I love it.' Or, if you’re really not ready to do that, I used to say, 'You know what, I actually got extensions. Do you like it?' I know it’s bluffing a little, but it’s just in the beginning.
I always say, until you’re comfortable in your soul, you don’t owe nothing to nobody. So, you do what you have to do to make yourself comfortable first, because if you’re comfortable, they’re going to be comfortable with your answer.
What if my wig falls off in public?
If it falls off, you put it back on your head. It’s devastating at first, but again, you almost want to laugh at it. Like, 'I can’t believe this just happened.' And kind of smirk about it if you can.
It’s devastating for anybody if their hair comes off. But, here’s the thing about wearing a wig. If you wear it right with a great wig band that’s going to keep it on, like Wig Secure, or you’re going to tape it or clip it down you should be just fine. Wear it where you’re most successful, and learn the things that you need to do so that your wig isn’t going to fly off, and then you won’t have to worry about it.
In today’s world, with the air we’re breathing, the food we’re eating, and the water we’re drinking, it’s very common. Also, the rampant amount of disease going around in this country, from the tremendous amount of diabetes, thyroid problems, and hormonal problems, it’s very common. Nearly 50 percent of women today are dealing with hair loss of some kind.
Will a wig damage my bio hair or cause hair loss?
I get that question all the time. I believe it can, if it’s the wrong wig. It has to be breathable. If you’re wearing the wrong type of clip, and it’s grabbing too much hair and pulling, yeah, it could damage it. Most wigs today are not made like they were 20 years ago, when they were so thick and just blocked the follicle. You have to keep your scalp clean and make sure that the follicle is clean. If you’re not washing your scalp, and you’re wearing a wig that’s very thick, that follicle is getting all clogged up, yeah, you can end up losing hair from it.
How do you respond to compliments about your hair?
I say, 'Oh, thank you,' with a smile. A smile will always save you, even if you are uncomfortable at the moment. If your heart is beating a thousand times a minute, and you think that everybody knows, a smile will always throw somebody off.
Do I need to explain why I’m wearing a wig?
I don’t owe anybody an explanation about it. The only person I owe something to is myself. I try to stay as authentic as possible.
Will I have to take my wig off at airport security?
They’re patting you down because there’s been a lot of tools and knives and other things being confiscated at the airport in the last couple years. They never used to pat down your hair. I actually had a woman lift my wig up when patting it down and I ended up teaching her how to hold a wig down in the back while searching, so it’s more secure, and more comfortable for people with hair loss. So, going through an airport, they’re going to pat it down, tell them ahead of time, 'It’s a wig, please be careful.' You can also whisper, 'I’m wearing a wig, maybe you can keep it down in the back if you have to reach underneath it.'
General Wig Advice
What are three pieces of advice you would give to a first-time wig wearer?
- Don’t go to the store by yourself. Have someone you trust with you because we get very caught up in our emotions, whether it’s because of hair loss, or the excitement of this new process. We can lose sight of what really looks authentic on us and friends are honest.
- Bring a photo of when you really loved your hair. If you’re in a place where you’ve lost a lot of hair, you might actually forget what your hair used to look like. So have a photo that actually shows your biological color in natural light, and bring that with you.
- Don’t be sold and don’t lose your power just because you may be feeling powerless at the moment. Many women often feel that way when they lose their hair. Make sure you take your time. Forget what the retailer is saying and truly follow your gut. A woman’s instinct is awesome. Go outside in natural lighting and look at the wig you're thinking about buying. If you don’t have a friend with you, take the time to really think about what you’re buying. If you can become the observer for just a moment, and step out of the adrenaline, you’ll make a much better choice.
You can buy one for $50, and you can buy one for $10,000. It really depends on where you’re at in your heart and your wallet. The lower-end wigs are made with lower-end materials. Most of the time, they’re not going to be as comfortable or breathable as a better-made wig with a little more time and money spent on workmanship.
There are several ways to measure it. If you just want to do the circumference, you can do it horizontally all the way around, starting from an inch above your eyebrows. Go all the way around, make sure you get the deepest part of your crown in the back of the head. You can also start at the hairline, take your soft tape measure, this is only for circumference only right now. You start at the hairline, take the tape measure down the right side of your head, right behind your ear, go all the way down the nape, up the other side, and meet it in the front.
Should I wear a wig cap?
You know, I trust a wig cap for two reasons. But, it’s individual. Some people feel that a wig cap keeps the wig on better, others feel it holds their own hair in place. There is actually secrets to wearing a wig cap. It depends on how much hair you have underneath. If you’re clipping it on top, you can put a little hairspray in the front, and then clip the wig cap. I personally don’t like wig caps because I feel like I’m wearing two wigs. If you get the right wig size, you don’t need a wig cap, but if you have hair that you don’t want sticking out, a wig cap is a great alternative.
What should I do when I first unbox my wig?
Smell it, most are not aware that some factories can cause a smoky smell and you may need to wash it right away. I’m also a firm believer in antibacterial spray, even though factories may deliver a great piece, I still like spraying a little bit on the inside with an antibacterial spray.
What is the difference between wigs for African American women and Caucasian women?
First of all, I think there’s a vast difference, because most African American women have never worn a different texture to their natural hair, they have a different curl. Most African American women want that lace front, where not all Caucasian women want lace front.
We were talking about how women want to see themselves in what they’re used to and their type of hair. Generally, African American women have thicker hair than Caucasian women, so there is a want for a thicker density. More hair around the face, because that’s what you might be used to seeing.
Will I need to glue the wig to my head?
I don’t love using glue, because I think it’s messy. If you don’t know how to use it right, you’re going to end up ruining your wig. If you need to secure it, tape it down instead of using glue.
What do you wish you knew about wearing wigs back on day one?
I guess I wish that I could have become as innate with them, instead of being shameful about it and feeling so 'less than' because of my hair loss. I wish I could have rocked it like I do now, and really recognized that they’re more of an accessory like lipstick and heels. I wish I wasn’t so serious about the whole process. I was in such angst over it for so many years.
What is your favorite way of making a wig more secure?
A good wig band. Also, if you have no hair, I love a really good wig tape.
About Amy Gibson
Amy Gibson, “The Voice of Hair Loss”™ is the leading Personal Consultant in the country for women suffering from this condition.
As the founder of CreatedHair.com, Amy has created a company for women to turn to for solid solutions as she addresses the concerns of women globally who are living with the effects of hair loss as well as those who are seeking to renew their appearance, self esteem and radiant healthfulness.
While Amy's story started with her starring in soap operas such as The Young and the Restless and Love of Life, she is now one of the leading advocates for women with hair loss. She now creates comfortable hair pieces and wigs for women going through cancer treatment and developed the ever useful ResQ Bag for traveling with wearable hair.