Wigs 101 -- Wig Basics

Who Wears Wigs?

Many different types of people wear wigs. Some people wear wigs due to medical conditions for example cancer patients, alopecia patients, and anyone experiencing hair loss due to aging, genetic and hormonal conditions. Other people wear wigs for purely cosmetic reasons; wigs can be a fun and fashionable way to change a hair style without the person actually cutting their hair.

Cancer Patients wear wigs because of the Chemotherapy procedures they go must through. Chemotherapy causes thinning hair and hair loss. Chemotherapy can also cause the patients to have sensitive scalps.

Alopecia is a medical term that means hair loss. There are many types of Alopecia that cause hair loss not only on the scalp but all over the body. Alopecia is caused by an autoimmune condition. An Autoimmune condition is a condition that causes the body to attack its own cells, e.g. hair fibers.

Some wig wearers suffer from Thyroid conditions. Hyperthyroid and Hypothyroid are hormonal conditions that can cause thinning hair or complete hair loss.

Types of Wigs

There are many types of wigs and hairpieces. The best type of wig or hairpiece depends on the individual’s needs, whether it is changing a hairstyle temporarily or experiencing partial or total hair loss. Each type of wig has its advantages that should be taken into consideration.

Types of Hair/Fiber

Every wig wearer has to consider the question of which type of fiber best suits their needs. In order to answer that question, consider some basic facts about each type of fiber.

Synthetic Fibers

There are three main types of chemicals used to create synthetic fibers that are used to manufacture wigs: polyester, acrylic, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These chemicals are used alone or blended together to create the likeness of human hair.
Heat resistant fibers are fibers that allow the consumer to use heat (curling irons, flat irons, or blow-driers) to change the style of a wig.
Synthetic Hair Pros and Cons
  • Synthetic wigs are easy to care for. In synthetic wigs the style has a memory this means that after washing the style will automatically return to the wig.
  • Synthetic wigs are sold at a lower cost than human hair, because synthetic fiber is more readily available.
  • The drying time is faster with synthetic wigs.
  • Synthetic fibers come in wider verities of colors than what is offered in human hair.
  • Synthetic wigs cannot be restyled.
  • Most synthetic fibers cannot be exposed to heat. For example, ovens and steamy heat like saunas will ruin the fiber.
  • Synthetic wigs have a shorter life span than human hair wigs.
  • Sometimes synthetic wigs are too shiny or fake looking.

Human Hair Fibers

Human hair wigs are the most natural looking wigs. Human hair is primarily cut in India, China, and parts of Europe which is sold to factories for the specific purpose of making wig/hairpieces. Wigs made with human hair are very durable; however, they require more upkeep than synthetic wigs and must be styled on a regular basis.

Remi/Remy hair refers to human hair that is usually Indian in origin. Remy hair is less expensive than European, Italian and Russian hair. Remy hair is a medium thick fiber that can sometimes frizz.

Virgin Russian hair is a fine hair fiber with easy movement, and amazing durability. These qualities in human hair fiber are the most expensive and sought after hair in the world. This type of human hair can cost up to $10,000 for a wig that is 16 inches long.

Listed below are some general pros and cons when using human hair fibers in wigs.

  • Human hair wigs are the most natural looking wigs.
  • Human hair wigs have a longer lifetime than synthetic wigs.
  • Human hair wigs offer the most versatility in styling options.
  • Human hair wigs tend to be priced higher than synthetic wigs.
  • Human hair wigs must be styled daily.
  • Human hair wigs are susceptible to humidity.
  • The color options in human hair may have a dull appearance.
  • To ensure the human hair fiber does not become damaged there are limited color options.
Synthetic and Human Fiber Blends

Some wigs are available in a blend of synthetic and human fibers. This blending technique is used to create a wig with the advantages of both fibers. The synthetic fiber will hold its shape better after washing and the human hair fiber will increase the natural look and durability of the wig. By combining the two fibers the wig will have more versatility and flexibility in styling the wig. The blends are usually in 25%, 35%, and 50% ratios.

Cap Construction 

Traditional or Standard Wefted Cap 

The traditional, sometimes referred to as classic or standard cap, is a wefted construction where synthetic hair is machine or hand sewn into strips of material. A “weft” is the narrow strip of material that has hair, all going in the same direction, sewn into it. These strips are inter-connected in horizontal planes going back and forth over the entire cap. This provides overlapping layers of hair and simulates natural hair growth. With a standard wefted cap you are buying a wig whose style cannot be altered.

Capless or Open Cap

One variation on the standard wefted cap construction is the capless wig cap. The “capless” is not really “capless”, but the wefts are less dense and have a bit more space between them. This provides a lighter weight cap with better air circulation. Many women who wear wigs for medical reasons prefer a capless construction. Because they will more likely wear their wig for longer periods of time, a lighter weight cap provides more comfort.
Capless wigs are usually secured with tape, medical adhesive, and/or clips, although new advancements in stretch technology now allows some cap constructions with thin resilient dual elastic sides that provides comfort and a precise all day fit. Many capless wigs will have adjustment straps at the nape (back neck area) to allow the wig to be sized down for a more snug fit.

Monofilament Top (Mono-top):

Monofilament cap construction is the preferred choice for those who want the most natural look while wearing a wig. Wig manufacturers originally developed the monofilament cap for women who have experienced significant hair loss due to chemotherapy, alopecia, or other medical reasons and have sensitive scalps. Sometimes mono-top wigs are referred to as "medical wigs." Due the labor-intensive requirements to make monofilament wigs, they are more expensive than standard wigs featuring wefted caps.

Regardless of whether a wig is made from synthetic fibers or human hair, the mono-cap construction method is the same. Instead of a few strands of hair or a weft of hair sewn into the wig cap, each and every single hair is individually hand knotted into a monofilament mesh cap so that it comes straight out of the mesh. This unique monofilament weaving allows each strand of hair to move freely and more naturally, allowing you to change the part and style of a monofilament cap wig.

There are a number of variations in monofilament design construction depending upon the wig manufacturer. Since many hairstyles don't require 100% monofilament technology to achieve a stunning look, or only require them at certain locations in the wig's cap, monofilament cap construction may differ in some minor ways from style to style. Most hand tied monofilament constructions involve a part area or perhaps just the crown. A basic rule of thumb is: “the smaller monofilament area the less expensive the wig.” Nevertheless, all quality monofilament wigs offer a superior natural appearance.

Double Monofilament Top

For customers with sensitive scalps, the knots on the hair fibers when they are individually tied into the caps of mono-top wigs can be a source of irritation. The double monofilament top wig has an extra layer of monofilament to shield the scalp from these knots. The second layer of monofilament is a polyester basic weave that creates a soft smooth layer of protection between the knots and scalp. This fabric layer has a silky hand that adds to the comfort of the wearer.

Lace Front Caps

Wig manufacturers developed lace front wigs so customers could wear their hair off the face. It is the only cap construction that permits a natural looking hairline. When combined with monofilament 100% hand-tied caps, lace front wigs are typically the most expensive and most natural looking wigs available that are not custom made. Depending upon the wig manufacturer, the “lace front” may extend from temple to temple or from ear to ear. If you wish to trim some of the “lace front” even if it is a pre-cut lace front, we advise that you go to a professional hair salon to have it done. With new advancements in lace front design, many ready-to-wear, pre-cut lace fronts do not need tape or adhesive.

100% Hand-tied Cap

This is the premier of all wig cap construction types. 100% hand tied cap construction has the natural appearance of scalp wherever the hair is separated. The entire cap, front, crown, sides and back, is hand tied, not just a specific area. Quality 100% hand tied cap construction imitates most successfully the natural movement of real hair.