7 things to do or ask before buying a wig or topper

1. What size wig or topper do I need?

If you can try on a piece in a physical shop before you commit to buy then you can tell how well it will fit and also the coverage. Obviously, as the time of writing, this is unlikely due to COVID-19 restrictions though many salons will be reopening on 12th April 2021. Many of us are ordering blind from online retailers or having Zoom consultations. The most important thing you can do before making that purchase is to measure your head.

For a topper, it is not about the size of your head, but the extent of your hairloss and how much coverage you need. Toppers can vary from small parting pieces at around 2.5×2.5in, all the way up to large toppers that almost give full coverage at 9x9in and 10x10in. When you clip in a topper it is important that the clips are going into healthy hair and not thinning hair, so you should measure your area of hair loss and then add on 1 inch or so.

When it comes to wigs, the majority of people will need an average cap size, but you can also get petite and large, as well as custom pieces. Note: different brands work out their wig sizes differently, so it is important to check the exact measurements of their petite, average and large cap sizes. There are three key measurements you will need to take to work out your ideal wig size: circumfrance; ear to ear; and front to back.

Check out my post on how to measure your head for a topper or wig, for more detailed information.

2. What density is it?

Each topper or wig has a different density and this can vary from company to company, so 150% at one retailer may be different to 150% at another retailer. Density refers to how much hair is on the piece, rather than the thickness of each individual hair. If it is your first wig or topper, you might want a lighter density piece that sits flat to your head. It can be overwhelming to go from not having much hair to have a full head of thick hair. Or if you are more used to wearing hair or your bio hair used to be thick, you might want to go for a more dense piece. Bear in mind that the more dense and longer the piece, the more it will weigh on your head. You can also get toppers that are thicker at the base and then thinned out at the ends of the hair to blend with your bio hair.

3. Is it human hair or synthetic?

There is a big difference in the two types of wig and topper – the main one is price. Both types have different benefits and drawbacks, so make sure you research which would be best for you. For example, I wear both human hair and synthetic pieces. I prefer shorter synthetics as longer pieces can tangle more easily and get friction from your clothing, which can cause the fibres to get brittle, knotted and tangle at the nape. Human hair looks more natural, but takes more work to style and maintain. They will also need to be protected from sunlight and the elements. Whereas synthetics are already styled for you, so you can throw them on and go. Some people swear by synthetic and others will only wear human hair – it is very much a personal choice.

4. Is the human hair virgin, REMY and where is it from?

Each hair type has a different structure and density. It may also behave differently in heat and humidity. You may find that buying a piece with hair close to your own will look more natural. European hair can be much more expensive than say Brazillian hair. It is a good idea to ask the retailer about the hair type before you buy. You should also ask if it will air dry wavy or straight. Virgin human hair means it has not been processed, so it should be better quality and you should be able to easily dye this hair. REMY human hair means that the hair cuticles all go the same way. This is very important, because if the hair cuticles are facing different ways, when washed, the hair will tangle easily and get matted. Always buy REMY if you can.

5. What is the internal cap or base construction?

These vary greatly from brand to brand. If you have no bio hair then you will need a full wig; if you have thinning bio hair then you could consider a topper. For wigs, think about the size and also comfort: will you need a wig grip? Will the cap itch your head? Will you wear a wig cap? A friend of mine who has no bio hair finds most types of wig itchy – but she swears by a bamboo wig cap.

6. Does the synthetic hair have permatese?

Another element to consider is whether the wig or topper has permatese. This is a bit like marmite: hated by some and loved by others. It is a way of making the hair almost crimped at the bottom and it gives synthetic hair extra lift, volume and body. For some, this can look a bit too much and makes a piece look too wiggy, but for others, this gives them the fabulous ‘big’ hair they’ve always wanted. It tends to be used more on basic cap wigs without a monofilament parting.

7. Are you buying from a reputable provider?

There are so many scam websites these days. They steal other people’s images of wigs, toppers and sometimes models who aren’t even wearing alternative hair. They lure you in with prices that are too good to be true, take your money and then send through an inferior piece that looks nothing like what you ordered. Things to look out for are the returns policy and do they have real customer reviews, proper contact details and a physical address? Do they charge a restocking fee if you want to send the piece back? Ask on Facebook groups if other people have used the supplier before.

How to care for your human hair or synthetic wigs and toppers

While there are some similarities in the way you wash synthetic and human hair, you need completely different products to care for them. In this blog post, I will outline how to wash both human hair and synthetic wigs and toppers and offer advice on the different products you will need – plus things to avoid! 

Human hair care

In general, you should treat human hair pieces the same as the hair on your head. However, I wash my human hair pieces as little as possible. In fact, I only really wash them if they get smelly or have a build-up on hair spray on them.

The follicles that house the hair that grows out of our heads produce oils to keep the hair in good condition. Human hair toppers and wigs obviously do not have follicles and so there is not a regular supply of natural oil. When you wash a human hair wig or topper, you are stripping away the oil on the hair and so it is important to use a gentle shampoo and conditioner. I only use sulphate-free, natural and gentle shampoo brands. I like Faith in Nature products, as they smell nice and are not tested on animals. 

How to wash

  • If you are washing a topper, make sure all of the clips are closed before you begin. 
  • Run the piece under a tap or shower to wet the hair.
  • Get a 2p size blob of your chosen shampoo and gently massage it into the hair. Don’t rub or scrub the hair as that will make it tangle. Don’t worry if you get shampoo on the cap, it won’t damage the knots. 
  • Rinse well in running water. This might take longer than you would normally rinse hair on your head. 
  • I use a conditioning mask rather than a conditioner, but either is fine. The brand I like is called Coco & Eve. The mask is quite pricey, but a little bit goes a long way and it makes the hair feel lovely and soft. The most important thing to note here is that you should only put conditioner on the lengths and ends of the hair – not on the roots. You must keep it away from the knots as it can make them come loose and hair will fall out of your wig or topper. 
  • I leave the mask on the hair for about 10 minutes and then rinse it off under running water. The reason for rinsing this way is to prevent tangling. If you submerge the hair in water and try to wash off the shampoo or conditioner it is much more likely to get tangled. 
  • Never try to dry your piece from soaking wet with a hairdryer. You can pat the hair dry with a towel, but again don’t rub it! I leave my pieces to air dry on a plastic wig stand. If you try to dry your piece on a closed wig head, e.g. polystyrene or canvas, it will take longer to dry and might make the cap and stand a bit smelly and soggy. 
  • I use two different types of plastic stand: a standing one and a hanging one. See photos below. 
  • Do not brush the hair when it is wet, as it will damage the hair. You should be fine to brush it once it is 80-90% dry. Then you can also style it with a hairdryer. Make sure you use heat protection spray whenever you use a heat styling product on your piece. 

Synthetic haircare

You have to buy special hair care products to use on synthetic hair, as the hair is essentially made of plastic. I use a shampoo and conditioner from the T-Range from TrendCo, but there are a few different brands available. The scent is a big thing for me and I like the smell of this range, but I cannot vouch for it being better than other brands.

How to wash

  • Give the hair a gentle brush before you start.
  • Rinse the hair under running water. 
  • Apply a 2p blob of shampoo and massage it into the hair. 
  • Rinse off with running water. Although you don’t have to worry as much about the hair getting tangled. 
  • Here is where things are different from human hair. You will need to fill the sink or a bowl with lukewarm/cold water (make sure the water is not hot!). Add the conditioner to the water and mix it around. Then you soak the whole topper or wig in the bowl of water. 
  • I leave the hair to soak for a few minutes, but check the conditioner bottle and follow the time instructions on there. 
  • Rinse the hair under running water and then leave the piece to air dry. 
  • NOTE: you cannot use heat on synthetics unless they are heat-defiant fibres. 
  • I also have a spray-in conditioner from the T-Range, which I find useful for refreshing synthetic pieces and making the curls a bit bouncier on wavy/curly pieces. 

For more tips and tricks on washing toppers, check out my video!

5 lessons I’ve learned about buying wigs and toppers online

I’ve been wearing alternative hair full-time for the past 3.5 years. I’ve bought a lot of pieces – both human hair and synthetic – and I’ve made a few mistakes along the way. Buying hair can be tricky, so here are a few tips and pitfalls to avoid.

1. Just because it looks good on someone else on Instagram, doesn’t mean it will work for you

I have bought a few pieces based on how they looked on someone else and I’ve always been disappointed. For starters, people have different complexions and face shapes, so certain pieces will suit them better. For example, I definitely cannot pull off a centre parting. Also, lots of people filter their photographs, so it is not always a proper representation of what the piece looks like.

If you find a brand or specific piece you like, do your research. Check out lots of different people’s YouTube reviews and find photographs of the piece in different lights. While I have not yet bought a piece from this company, Simply Wigs has a 360-view video of many of its pieces shown on a foam head. This is useful to see how long the piece is and how it looks from all angles.

2. More hair doesn’t equal better… for me

I have learned that too much hair freaks me out. I like pieces that sit flat to my head and give me ‘normal’ looking hair. I’ve never had big and bouncy hair, and I don’t know what to do with it! You probably won’t know how much hair you want/need until you have worn a piece for a while. I am also quite a sweaty person, so having less weight and bulk on my head helps me to feel cool. The pieces that I have bought and then gone on to sell have always been because they are too much hair and have too much volume on top.

3. You get what you pay for

If you buy a £15 headband wig from Amazon, don’t expect it to be amazing quality. I made this mistake: not only did the hair look very fake and shiny, you could see the wefts at the back and it was so tight it gave me a headache. Find a brand you like and once you have researched the piece, look out for discount codes and sales. Don’t impulse buy a piece without finding out as much as you can. I am part of a few hair loss groups on Facebook and I find it useful to ask other wig sisters their views on a piece and for pics of them wearing it. We all have our own budgets and what we view as cheap or expensive is different. However, in my view, if the price seems too good to be true then it probably is. And if you are going to invest in a piece that costs more than a couple of hundred pounds, make sure it is right for you. The most expensive piece I have bought so far was a human hair topper that cost me £500. This was a lot of money for me, but the piece has lasted for a couple of years with daily wear.

4. Don’t be too trusting

There are some bargains to be had when buying wigs or toppers online and you can pick up some great preloved pieces. This year I have bought two preloved toppers from wig sisters in Australia and the UK – I am thrilled with both, which are still in excellent condition and I managed to save a few hundred pounds. However, not everyone is honest. I have heard horror stories of pieces turning up that are in awful condition or not at all what was advertised. If you are transferring money through PayPal, do not use Friends & Family as you will not have any way of getting your money back. If you are buying a piece from an online retailer, check them out first. Are their prices too good to be true? Do they have lots of real reviews of their pieces? Do they have proper contact details and a physical office address? Ask other people if they have bought from a company before and what their customer service is like. Do they charge a high restocking fee if you change your mind and what is their returns policy?

5. Find a hairdresser with wig cutting experience

Once you have got your piece, it is likely that it will need to be modified to make it just right for you (I would say this is more important with toppers than wigs, as they often need to be blended with your bio hair). I tend to have a fringe cut into most of my pieces because I do not have much bio hair at the front to blend in with a topper. Make sure you trust the person who cuts your wig and be clear about what you want. The hair won’t grow back if they cut off too much! I spoke to one lady who took her topper to be trimmed and the stylist cut about 3 inches off the topper so that it matched the length of her bio hair. She was mortified as she wanted to grow out her hair, but had not made this clear to the hairdresser.

How to measure your head for a wig or topper

If you are able to try on a piece in a wig shop before you commit to buy then you can tell how well it fits, how comfortable it is to wear, if the colour suits you and also the coverage and blend with your bio hair (if you are trying a topper). You will also benefit from fitting advice from a trained professional.

At the time of writing, this is unlikely to be possible in the UK due to COVID-19 restrictions. Regardless of lockdown restrictions, many of us simply do not live near to a wig shop and are having to order blind from online retailers. I have been buying toppers and wigs since 2018 and I have only been to a wig shop once – most of my pieces have been online purchases. I have made a few mistakes along the way, but I can safely say that the most important thing you can do before making that online purchase is to measure your head.

I made this education video with Francesca from Peluka Salon, which offers advice on how to measure your head for a topper.

How to choose a topper base size

These come in different base sizes depending on the amount of coverage you need and the extent of your hair loss. These start from the smaller parting pieces (around 2.5×2.5in), which are good for minimal loss around your parting and for tying up hair in a pony tail. These can add a bit of volume for women with fine hair, but won’t give a huge amount of coverage around the sides or back of the head.

I tend to wear average size toppers (sometimes called mid/progressive), which are anything from 5x5in or 5x6in to 7x7in. These tend to give good coverage of the top of the head/crown area and some coverage on the sides and back. If you have advanced or more severe hair loss, but don’t want to wear a full wig, you can get much larger toppers that are 9x9in and 10x10in. Larger toppers can also be useful if your bio hair is shorter than the topper hair and you want to cover it up, rather than blend the two together.

Check out this video that gives more advice on the different topper base sizes! 

How to work out your wig cap size

While most wigs come with adjustable straps, you will want to get one that is a comfortable fit for your head. Sizes are usually petite, average and large. Note: different brands work out their wig sizes differently, so it is important to check the exact measurements of their petite, average and large cap sizes. They should have this information on their website.

There are three key measurements you will need to take to work out your ideal wig size: circumfrance; ear to ear; and front to back. The majority of wig wearers will need an average cap, which is between 54cm to 57cm (21.25 to 22.5 inches). Petite wig caps are between 51cm and 54cm (20 to 21.25 inches), while large wig caps are usually bigger than 57cm (22.5 to 24 inches).

Many brands offer custom wig caps where you can submit your measurements and have a cap made that is the perfect size for your head. However, custom wigs are significantly more expensive than ‘off-the-peg’ wigs.

**Coming soon** An educational video about how to measure your head for a wig.