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, the coverage, the colour match and how well it blends with your own hair. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many of us are ordering blind from online retailers or having Zoom consultations rather than face to face. 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 hair loss and how much coverage you need. Toppers can vary from small parting pieces at around 2.5 x 5 inches, all the way up to large toppers that almost give full coverage at 9 x 9 and 10 x 10 inches. 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: circumference; 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, often around 110%. 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 at around 150%. The average density is 130%. 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 Chinese 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 synthetic hair have permatese?
Another element to consider is whether the wig or topper has something called 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.