Most women when faced with significant female hair loss consider a wig to be an essential purchase.  However how do you go about selecting one that really answers all your concerns?  How do you steer your way through all the technical jargon, let alone achieve a fit that you can wear all day?  Geoff Hiscock, with over 40 years experience in the hair and wig industry in the UK, kindly gives his thoughts in this month’s feature. 

How to select a wig

There is a lot to consider when buying a wig, and these helpful tips should help you and guide you in your selection process.  Take care on your selection and most of all make sure it is just that - your selection - not the wig retailers' or the wig supplier at the hospitals’ choice. Take a little time to research and ask around – nurses, other wig wearers, locally on the internet, to find a supplier that is caring and goes that extra mile.

Consider the expression “you never see a good wig”.   How true that is but what you do see is plenty of good wigs spoilt by being badly chosen or badly worn.  Wigs are not infallible and not for everyone but there again a suitable style worn with confidence and flair can be invisible.  What we say in the trade, “our best work is never seen”.  Ignore the fact it is a wig and add accessories, tie back, wear with hats and scarves etc, treat it exactly as your own hair and you have the start of a good relationship.

You may also find the following points helpful in making your choice.

• Most people when they first meet you do not evaluate whether you have a side parting, fringe or layered hair for example.  We take in an overall ‘impression’, we really only notice hair first if it happens to be green or styled like a Mohican.  So contrary to what you might be feeling, friends, people in general will greet you the person – not the wig.

• Try not to focus on your hair loss as an obstacle to doing things, rather as an opportunity for change.  Look at different styles and colours rather than perhaps purely trying to recreate your previous hair style.

• Never buy without seeing, which means from a catalogue or the internet. A wig is too personal for this and you need time to try on and evaluate the alternatives.

Wigs do have some inherent weaknesses, namely the hair line and the parting area.

• Avoid styles straight back from the forehead, a fringe will soften the hairline.

• Definite 'neat' partings do not work as well as slightly ‘tousled’ styles.  It is also better if the parting doesn’t start at the hairline.

• Black or very dark wigs can be ageing unless it suits your skin tone.

• Light colours will make you look younger.

• Choose a hair density suitable for your age, older ladies do have less hair.  This is possibly the most common mistake made when selecting a wig.  Ladies focus intently on style and colour but forget to choose lightweight or to then have the wig ‘thinned’ for them.  Talk to a hairdresser you trust or again research where other ladies have had their wigs tailored.  Not every hairdresser can cut and style a wig, they are cut differently to hair and require different skills.

• Short hair is easier to maintain and normally less expensive.  It is also worth remembering that a long synthetic (plastic) wig will with wear, rub against your shoulders and clothes and over time cause wear and damage to the wig. (It can also 'bobble' your clothing and will most likely 'frizz' if overheated, for instance when opening the oven door.)

How do I know which is the best type of wig to buy for my type of female hair loss? 

A good guide here is to consider over what period of time you’ll need to wear the wig - short term or longer term hair loss, and therefore what sort of investment you’re prepared to make.  Something else to be aware of is how much time you have or wish to dedicate to maintaining and styling the wig on a daily basis.

Short term hair loss associated with chemotherapy treatment is probably best served by a synthetic wig. Synthetic wigs are really very realistic and generally the least expensive and easiest to self maintain.

• Synthetic wigs are available in a huge amount of styles and colours and generally can be bought immediately off the shelf.

• Buy from a seller with a large stock and that offers a full fitting service of cutting in and making minor adjustments. Do consider paying a little more for this kind of service, it is worth it.

• Wigs are available from around £100 to £5000, but do shop around and price some alternatives before committing to parting with your money.

For long term hair loss you may wish to buy the best, which in my opinion is 100% European hair (if you are ethnic European).   This is an entirely different field and requires too much information to be listed under bullet points although the basic rules on styles and hair density still apply.

Custom made wigs are extremely expensive and can take more than 6 months to be made, the plus side being that it should be exactly what you want and very good quality.  The down side being it is a significant investment that can need professional maintenance.   Real hair wigs do need to be more carefully maintained.

Only buy from accredited and recommended sources, it can be a very expensive mistake, so do your research carefully and talk to other wearers, there are plenty of forums and websites on the subject.  One useful information link is attached below: -   - follow the link at the bottom of the page to ‘human hair wigs’, more detailed ‘pros and cons’ can be found here, as well as some good general tips on how to care for and maintain your wig.

Some wig jargon explained

“Hair” descriptions (in order of expense and sometimes quality) are:-

- Synthetic (plastic).

- 100% human hair (normally bleached and processed Chinese hair).

- European style hair (normally bleached and dyed Indian Hair).

- 100% European hair normally means hair from an ethnic European donor but is variable in quality unless you buy from a trustworthy source.

- 100% remis or 'remy' or 'remee', all mean the hair should be good quality.

Generally speaking any wig comes with care instructions but these may often include some sales pressure to buy special shampoos etc.  Custom made European hair wigs need special care and you should listen to your wigmaker carefully.  (Some need to be dry cleaned whilst others can be shampooed.)  However synthetic wigs can be washed at home, in tepid water and with any mild shampoo, rinsed, shaken out and left to dry on a towel overnight on a flat surface.  Hair conditioners and all-in-one shampoos give no real benefits in the care of synthetic wigs.

You may find it helpful to buy a wig stand and block for combing out and storing.  Head blocks are available in the simplest form from around £5.00, more solid and practical at around £40.00.  Stands to use when combing out the wig from £5.00 to £200.00.  No special brushes or combs are necessary.  Free advice is available from us at  or telephone us on 01252 878811. 

Hair means so many different things to each of us.  For women selecting a wig isn’t about vanity, it is all about fitting in, feeling well and taking control of their hair loss.  In the midst of what can be traumatic image change it is essential to find a comfortable, attractive solution and to consider all the options available. Take a little time early on to research and look at the alternatives, and try not to limit your expectation by creating a previous hairstyle but look forward to new possibilities.

Geoff Hiscock, Hugo Royer International