Hairpieces can be ready-made, semi-custom or custom-made.
Ready-made hairpieces are the most common. The cap generally comes in sizes petite to large to accommodate a wide range of head sizes. The Lifestyle-2 offers elastic adjustments that can be tightened or loosened as needed.
Semi-custom shaped net base wigs are available through some manufacturers. Usually a client tries on a series of different cap sizes and to find the fit right for her head. Both the circumference and the shape of the dome can vary. A mold of the client’s head or measurements is taken. Semi-custom pieces offer a more secure fit than ready-made pieces, and can be made in 8-12 weeks. The hair is usually hand-tied onto a net base to create a natural look. They range in cost from $1,200 to $9000. Some allow for fitting while the client still has hair and can be worn through hair loss and re-growth patterns common with alopecia areata or chemotherapy treatments.
Custom-made wigs are available from limited manufacturers. They are usually made with a mold and on a specialized cap based on the customer’s request. Custom-made pieces are very risky because manufacturers do not take returns and wigs can take many months to make. Custom made wigs can cost anywhere from $2500 to over $10,000.
Synthetic wigs can be purchased for as little as $40 through online suppliers or from wig shops, but do not look realistic. The best custom-made, human hair wigs can cost as much as $9,000. Follea products range from $875 to over $8000.
Regardless of the type of wig you choose, it is always a good idea to have a back-up hairpiece. Though human hair wigs can last from 1 to 4 years, they require periodic repairs during their lifespan. Repairs may take up to ten weeks. Your back-up hairpiece should allow you to feel comfortable in any situation. This means you should have two wigs or hair pieces at any given time.
A variety of attachment methods are available. Depending on your individual pattern of hair loss, personal lifestyle and desire for security, you can choose one or another.
Hair weaving or bonding (i.e., gluing or tying a hairpiece to existing hair) is generally not recommended as it can place a lot of strain on existing hair. Full head bonding is also risky because using strong glues and glue removers on shaved or bare scalps can result in dermatological problems.
Full wigs can be attached to growth hair with mini-clips. The clips should be rotated periodically to avoid putting prolonged pressure on the same area. Attachment to a bare scalp generally requires double-sided tape. The Lifestyle-2 is a human hair, net based hairpiece that stays on the head using tape or clips. The Gripper-2 collection is made for women with little to no hair use medical grade silicone panels to stay on the head without tape or glue. There are also clip and grip alternatives on the market today.
Insurance coverage for wigs is generally unpredictable. Payment is usually obtained only on appeal after initial claim rejection. The insurance industry views wigs and hairpieces as cosmetic even though many states now exempt them from sales tax as a necessary prosthetic item when hair loss is caused by alopecia areata, chemotherapy or other medical causes. To have the best chance of receiving payment, your sales receipt must list your hairpiece as a “full cranial prosthesis” and it is helpful to have a prescription from your doctor. In some instances it may be necessary to include a letter indicating that the hairpiece was needed to maintain emotional well being. As difficult and sometimes humiliating as the process may be, insurance reimbursement is worth the battle. There are several hairpiece companies and women’s support group organizations that are actively fighting the battle for better insurance coverage. Check with the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (415-472-3780, www.naaf.org) for additional tips in filing a claim.
Wigs and hairpieces are made from synthetic, processed human, or unprocessed human hair. Each type has advantages depending on your life-style and the hairstyle you desire. Follea uses only 100% European human hair.
Synthetic wigs may be the best choice if you have a short hairstyle, limited budget or limited capacity to provide home care and maintenance. Benefits include easy care, reasonable price, and quick availability.
On the negative side, wigs made from synthetic hair tend to be stiffer and look more unnatural than those made from human hair. The base is sometimes itchy or irritating to sensitive skin. The synthetic fiber cannot be highlighted or colored and constant rubbing on the collar of a blouse, or exposure to heat will cause it to frizz. Most synthetic wigs cannot be styled with heat. Synthetic wigs range in price from $40 to $800 depending on cap construction and type of synthetic fiber though some with advanced fibers can cost up to $2000.
Human hair wigs are considered the best choice if you want to truly replicate your own hair. High quality European hair like Follea is virtually undetectable. Human hair is always the right longer hairstyle and a look and feel that is very natural. These wigs flow and move like biological hair. They feel soft to the touch and on your neck, can be permed and colored, and generally last much longer than synthetics.
The drawbacks are that they need care and styling like growth hair and require that you have a flexible budget; they are generally more expensive.
Some companies offer a blend of human hair and synthetic fiber, usually to add white or grey color to a hairpiece. This can be very dangerous as synthetic hair requires different care and has a different life than human hair. Synthetic hair styles differently and can be melted with styling tools. Additionally, synthetic hair can tangle with human hair, which causes matting.
Machine-made wigs are usually less expensive than hand-made pieces. In most styles the hair fibers are machine sewn onto a “weft” in a fixed pattern. Most companies sew these wefts onto an open base and when the wind blows you can see through. This is not universally true, however, as Follea uses Swiss spandex lining to prevent show through and keep the wefts smooth.
Hand-made methods involve hand knotting on a net base. Hand construction methods provide a more natural appearance. Most hand knotting is done overseas as the process is tedious, requires a special skill-set and is very labor intensive. On some hairpieces, there are over 140,000 individual hair shafts that need to be ventilated. There are a wide variety of price and appearance options.
Machine-back wigs are the easiest to care for as hand-tied backs on wigs require more careful care to maintain the wig for a long life.
For almost all wigs and hairpieces, hair is attached to the wig base with “ventilating needles.” Ventilating needles come in various sizes and have small hooks at the end designed to pull a specific number of hairs from the hair bundle and insert them into the base material. The needles with the smallest hooks will pull one hair shaft at a time. Larger hook versions can pull up to 8 hair shafts at a time. Single hair shaft knotting or implanting looks the most natural, and is also the most expensive.
Human hair wigs require shampooing and conditioning about every 7-10 days depending on how often you wear them and if you use hair products you will need to wash it more often. They can be air dried overnight or dried with a hair dryer. Use low heat to protect the hair from damage. Use heat styling tools carefully so that you do not damage your hair . If your human hair wig has been permed, you may treat it like permed growth hair. It is important to make sure you follow the care instructions given with our wig and to always thoroughly, but carefully rinse the hair and base free of products. Product buildup is the leading cause for premature hair loss on a wig.
Also, we recommend getting a water filter if you live in an area with hard water as that can cause long term damage to a wig and reduce the lifespan of the hair.
The best net base pieces will use high quality French lace or monofilament. These materials (combined with high quality ventilation) keep the hairs in a more natural dispersion and create a more undetectable look. Some net base designs come with French top wherein the knots are hidden beneath a layer of flesh toned monofilament for a scalp effect.
Human hair wigs can be colored and highlighted like growth hair. The drawback is that the color will fade with prolonged exposure to sun just like growth hair and will need to be recovered or highlighted. Coloring a human hair wig requires special training and should never be attempted at home. A trained stylist will always do a test strand and in some cases may try multiple tests to achieve the desired shade.
Perming a human hair hairpiece is very different from perming growth hair. It should never be attempted with home perm kits. A human hair wig will tend to hold the perm as it does not “grow out” like growth hair, but that also means that a bad perm can ruin your wig. Consult your stylist.
One of the most critical areas in wig design is the front hairline. Many wigs don’t have a very natural looking one, and this forces the client to wear styles with bangs or with the hair pulled more forward into the face. This in turn is one of the signs that someone is wearing a wig.
We suggest you consider styles with wispy bangs or hair styled slightly off the face. You should always ask about any styling limitations before you purchase your hairpiece. Some wigs come with a special feature where hairs are hand-tied and “under-vented” on the edge to provide the most natural appearance. Some wigs, like the Follea Gripper and Aéro collections use small lace fronts for off-the-face effects. Creative styling techniques can also be used to give the appearance of a wispy natural looking bang line.
If you have some hair of your own, you can also integrate your wig into your natural hairline by wearing it half an inch to an inch behind the hairline instead of wearing it all the way to the front.
All wigs require some home care. Every hairpiece should come with recommended care instructions that includes any special shampooing procedures and recommended hair care products. Always follow these instructions carefully or ask your stylist for specific instructions. The overall appearance and lifespan of your hair will be greatly affected by the type of home care you provide. In human hair wigs, it is always better to use shampoos with the least amount of sulfates. Never place oils or conditioner directly to the roots.
Almost all wigs will need repairs periodically to keep them looking fresh and natural. Some wigs made in outsourced factories that do not have high quality control will lose hair very fast, but even wigs made with experts, like the Follea wigs lose hair over time (usually within 9 months to one year a Follea will need it’s first repair). As the hair ages, some will come out through the normal pressure of combing and brushing. Hair can also be lost through improper care. Follea wigs can be repaired back their normal density and there are many other repair options as the base materials grow older to keep your wig lasting for a long time.