Why Wear a Wig?
For many chemotherapy patients, wigs are a lifesaver. Many women who have experienced breast cancer or any other type of cancer which required aggressive chemotherapy, know the trauma of losing a major part of your body – head hair, body hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. For these brave women, a beautiful wig can make a huge difference.
Our hair is one of the main ways that we express their individuality and image and styling hair is normally a significant part of a person’s daily routine. Wigs and hair pieces are a great way to help you to look and feel comfortable, and to hold onto this familiar part of daily life while you undergo your treatment. Choosing to cover your head with a wig can also help boost your confidence when you are out, making you feel less self- conscious about your image, and more able to go about your daily routines.
Choosing to wear a wig can also help to feel as if you are taking control over your situation – you control the style, the color, the texture and the brand. You can even control when you lose your hair if you choose to cut it before your treatment.
Most people who decide to use a wig during their chemotherapy treatment have some time to prepare before they need the wig. Taking the time to make sure that you are well prepared can help make the process less stressful, and make the transition from your own hair to your new hair piece, a little smoother.
The fantastic thing about wigs is that you can choose one, try it on and have it styled to suit you before you even lose any of your hair. This can be a great confidence booster and can help you to feel at ease when you have so many big changes coming up.
Here are some tips to help you get ready for your new wig:
Cut Your Hair
If your hair is not short, then cut it short before you begin your treatments. There are several reasons for this:
- Firstly, it is much less traumatic to lose small clumps of short hair than it is to see your long locks falling out.
- Secondly, if you have some time to adjust to short hair before your treatment, it won’t be too long before your hair grows back and feels ‘normal’, since your hair was short to begin with.
- Lastly, it is much easier to fit a wig over shorter hair.
While you may have had luscious long locks before, wigs can feel hotter than natural hair. For this reason, you might want to consider whether a shorter or thinner wig would be more suitable while you have your treatment. The last thing you want to do is add any further discomfort to yourself while you are undergoing chemotherapy.
It can be hard to know where to start if this is all new territory, so don’t be afraid to ask for help! Your local cancer center, hospital or hairdresser may be able to point you in the direction of a quality wig shop.
Be sure to also get recommendations for hairdressers who will shape the wig for your face. You may even want to book an appointment to speak with one before the actual cut, to make sure you are comfortable and confident with the professional you have chosen. It’s best to pick out your wig and have it styled before your begin your chemotherapy – that way the hairdresser will be able to see your natural hair colour and style and tailor the wig accordingly.
Choosing Which Type of Wig
Wigs come in two main different varieties: synthetic and real hair. Most chemotherapy patients opt for a synthetic wig but there are advantages and disadvantages to both types.
Synthetic hair is ‘man-made’ – fashioned mostly from acrylic to look and feel like real hair.
- Dries very easily
- Easy to manage
- Maintains its good look around the clock
- Must be washed with special products
- Cannot be used with heat appliances
Real hair is made from good quality human hair which is treated and coloured before being made into different style wigs.
- Can be colored, curled or straightened just like real hair
- Can be washed and styled with regular hair products
- Can look more natural
- More expensive than synthetic wigs
- Need more care
- Can have ‘bad hair days’ just like real hair
One option for those with long hair in good condition is to have your own hair made into a wig before your treatment begins. This takes a few weeks and can be very expensive but it might be worth considering if you have enough hair for it.
Whichever option you choose, keep in mind that most wigs only last between 6 months to a year. For most chemotherapy patients, this timeframe is perfect, but some people do need one for longer than this. Manufacturers generally only recommend a wig for six months if it is being worn everyday as wigs tend to sag and get friction build up over time.
Selecting the Right Color
Wigs come in a broad range of colors and styles and getting the color right can be the most likely cause of headaches when you are trying to pick one out. When choosing your wig, you should always select a color than it one to two shades lighter than your own hair. This is because your skin color tends to appear a little ‘off’ during chemotherapy, and because wig hair is so thick, it can appear darker once it’s on.
If you are feeling adventurous, you may even want to take the opportunity to have a different hair color for a wig so try on a variety of styles, colors and lengths before you settle on one. If you want to make a radical color change then you may like to consider what clothes and makeup you wear, as sometimes these tones need to be changed up to suit the new hair color.
If you want to base your wig color on your natural hair color, be sure to choose a wig that has a mix of tones with highlights and lowlights. This will ensure that it looks natural and does not look too severe. If you normally color your hair, you can even select a wig that has darker roots, appearing as though your hair needs to be retouched. If you have lost your hair already then take a photo along with you to the wig supplier so the salesperson can help you to make the best color match.
Paying For Your Wig
Depending on the type of wig you choose, the cost of your temporary hair replacement can be expensive so you need to think about how you will fund this.
If you have health insurance, be sure to check if your policy covers part, or the entire cost of your wig. Not every company will offer a reimbursement for this, but a large amount do, so this should be your first port of call. If you find that you don’t have any health coverage for a wig, make sure you look at other options such as funding it yourself. If you think you might have trouble covering the cost of the wig yourself, make contact with a local cancer centre to enquire about free wigs or other funding options.
Keep in mind that you will also need to budget for a small amount of extras which are not normally covered by any kind of funding. This includes a wig stand, wig brush and styling products.
Caring For Your Wig
To keep your wig in the best shape possible and ensure it lasts for the duration of your treatment, you will need to care for it properly, just like you would your own hair. Follow these tips to keep your wig in tip top shape:
- Give your wig ‘time off’ by wearing a hat or scarf some days
- Wash gently at night and leave to dry naturally overnight
- Brush your wig only when completely dry – brushing wet will cause the wig to lose its shape
- Enhance the wig with a small amount of product suitable for its type
- Avoid using heat products, particularly on synthetic wigs as they will melt