How to Buy a Great Wig - The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Wig
2021 Guide to Buying Your First Wig
There’s no denying it: buying a wig for the first time is overwhelming. There are cheaper synthetic and more expensive hand-tied wigs, a spectrum of color choices, lengths, and styles, and what about cap construction? Sorting through these details is enough to make you want to give up, but your dream hair is out there, and we’re here to help you find it.
The goal is to find a wig that naturally reflects your personality and beauty. But navigating the maze of options is exhausting. Let us be clear: you are not alone. Millions of people from all walks of life wear wigs every day, and by 2023, the global wig market is projected to climb past $10 billion.
That's a lot of fabulous hair flipping going on!
Unfortunately, this popularity comes with a caveat: it’s daunting to sort through the endless variations to find the perfect wig. How can you have full-confidence in your selection with a crowded marketplace riddled with misinformation?
Knowledge is power, which is why we’ve consulted with industry pros and put together this ultimate guide to buying the best wig!
Ready to love your look? Read on as we cover every aspect of buying a great wig online to get you closer to finding your best hair.
1. Choose A Hair Type: Human Hair vs. Synthetic Hair Wigs
Your first decision when buying a wig is to decide between synthetic vs. human hair. There are pros and cons to each type of hair, and we take a deep dive into synthetic vs. human hair in this guide but let’s explore the basics.
Human Hair Wigs
Human hair wigs are made from 100% human hair and can be fully customized and styled daily. However, it’s important to note that there are different types of human hair and two primary categories: European and Asian hair.
Asian hair accounts for the 98% majority in the marketplace, and only about 2% of human hair wigs use premium European hair.
European Human Hair
European human hair comes from the ponytails of European women. During the 1980s-90s, many Eastern European women donated their hair for a good profit. However, as socioeconomic status improved over time, collecting European ponytails has fallen out of practice. That’s why authentic European hair is scarce.
What makes European hair premium is that the cuticle is intact, creating a beautiful natural flow, shine, and direction of movement.
Due to their rarity, European human hair wigs fall into the luxury wig category because they look the most natural, last the longest with proper care, and have strict quality control, manufacturing, and processing standards.
Asian Human Hair Wigs
The main sources of Asian hair wigs are China, India, Vietnam, and Mongolia. China contributes about 90% of the human hair wig, topper, and extension market, and there are two primary methods for collecting Asian hair:
- Floor hair: The donor collects hair from shedding or brushing, saves it up, and sells it to a manufacturer who then sorts and processes the hair.
- Remy ponytails: These are typically collected when Indian women donate their hair at a temple in a ritualistic offering to the gods. The temple then sells the hair to manufacturers. Alternatively, manufacturers buy Remy ponytails from local women who sell their hair for a profit.
Both European and Asian human hair wigs contain real human hair, but each has pros and cons.
- Pro: While there are different types of human hair wigs, overall, they will look more natural than synthetic hair fibers, especially with the cuticle kept intact and a single donor ponytail.
- Con: High-quality human hair wigs are expensive due to high standards for manufacturing, sourcing, and processing.
Starr Fox, National Sales Director and Consultant of Follea, has worked in the hair industry for over 20 years and said that styling preferences play a large role.
“If you want to change your style naturally, your hair would never look the exact same everyday with a human hair wig. With a synthetic wig, it will.”
The appeal of synthetic wigs is that they’re ready to wear out of the box, and they tend to be more affordable. However, they have limitations with styling and a shorter lifespan than human hair wigs. You’ll also notice that synthetic wigs have a high sheen, which looks less natural than human hair, especially in the daylight.
Synthetic wigs contain a variety of fibers like polyester, acrylics, and PVC (polyvinyl chloride). The type of synthetic fibers used influences the wig’s sheen. For example, low-quality synthetic fibers will have the highest sheen and lack a natural-looking texture and fluidity.
For those not wanting to draw attention to their coverage, synthetic wigs may pose a higher risk for looking unnatural. However, not everyone can invest thousands of dollars into a premium hair wig, but keep in mind buying multiple synthetic wigs over time can get pricey too.
“People purchase according to price, and they often don't wear them. They (end up) buying two, three, four, five wigs to find the right one and, in the end, have spent the same amount of money as a premium human hair wig.”
If human hair wigs aren’t an option for you at this time, consider choosing a synthetic wig made from Kanekalon fibers, the best quality synthetic in the market. Buying a premium synthetic wig is still affordable compared to luxury European hair wigs, and you’ll have less maintenance overall. Once you decide what type of hair is best for you, do your due diligence, particularly with wearing human hair. Unfortunately, there is misleading information and false claims in the marketplace because the industry is unregulated. That’s why a buyer beware approach is best when researching brands and their reputations on social media and reading customer reviews.
- Pro: Synthetic wigs are affordable, ready-to-wear, and pre-styled to retain a great look over time.
- Con: Due to their synthetic fibers, these wigs won’t look as natural as human hair wigs, even with the highest quality Kanekalon fibers.
2. Find The Right Cap Construction For You
Let’s talk about the importance of cap construction when buying a wig. Because ultimately, it can have a significant impact on your comfort, styling preferences, and how you prefer your hairline and part to look.
Your bio hair also plays a role in choosing the right cap. For example, if you have Alopecia Totalis or Universalis, you’ll most likely want to select a wig cap offering the most grip and security. Here’s a look at the various wig cap constructions and their respective features:
FRONT OF WIG CAP CONSTRUCTION
Differences between lace front vs. closed front
- A lace front cap has a piece of ventilated lace across the forehead that creates a seamless hairline. Ventilation is a process done by hand where 1-3 pieces of hair are tied in a knot around the lace.
- The lace is translucent to blend with your natural skin tone easily.
- The hairline directs hair away from the face for a more natural look.
- Depending on the hair quality and craftsmanship, the knots on the front hairline can be virtually undetectable or somewhat noticeable.
- Features “Under Ventilation,” a technique at the front hairline that integrates with your natural hair.
- Is an excellent choice for wearing bangs or side fringe.
TOP OF WIG CAP CONSTRUCTION
French top, skin top, lace top differences
- Incorporates two layers of material: one lace and one monofilament, which hides the knots between the two layers, making them undetectable.
- Creates a natural look on the top of the wig .
- The layers create a soft and comfortable feel on the scalp.
- Typically more expensive due to the materials used and the time to craft the piece.
Skin Top / Monofilament Top:
- The smooth and thin nature of a monofilament material top creates the illusion of a natural scalp and part.
- Hair is ventilated to the top of the cap allowing for versatile styling and parting.
- The knots are visible on the top of human hair wigs.
- The knots are tied directly onto the lace and are therefore visible on the top of the wig.
- Easy to move the hair in any direction.
- This style is known for providing maximum volume.
- Lighter and more breathable than monofilament tops.
BACK OF WIG
Differences between hand-tied & machine wefted back
100% Hand-tied / Knotted:
- Moves the most naturally because each hair strand is individually knotted and tied to a spandex cap.
- The most comfortable and softest style of wig cap that’s great for wearing all day.
- Lightweight and breathable.
- Easy to style, wear in a ponytail or bun, comb, and clean.
Machine Wefted Back
- Hair is sewn on tracks that are then sewn onto the back of the wig.
- Spandex cap construction.
- The back of the wig may feel heavier and thicker due to extra material.
- Sturdy construction for worry-free wearing.
- Certain hairstyles like buns and middle to high ponytails are limited.
So, which cap construction is the best for beginners? Starr explained that the materials used have a significant impact on the wig’s comfort and movability:
“Better quality lace is softer on the skin, so it won’t be itchy. If the inside of the cap is lined, you won’t be poked by inverted hairs. Some wigs cause itching because the hair works its way back through, so it pokes you. However, If the cap is lined, it has a harder time poking through.”
Are you still with us? We know it’s a lot to take in, but cap construction is vital for deciding the level of volume you want, style preferences, where you like your part, and how you integrate your bio hair (if applicable).
Now that we’ve covered the crucial details of buying a wig, it’s time for some fun: finding your style!
3. Start Browsing Different Wig Styles
If you have a firm idea of your hair identity, you’ll likely want to stay consistent with your wig. For example, if you’re known for having thin, blonde hair, you’ll want your wig to amplify your natural style.
But there are absolutely no rules here because it boils down to what makes you feel the best; you can be as experimental as you want.
“Take your time, don’t feel pressured or afraid to ask questions. It’s about making you feel your best. It’s kind of like a partner; if you’re going to keep (your wig) around, don’t settle.”
Wearing your wig daily means you’ll likely spend more time with it than with your significant other. All the more reason to fall in love with your hair!
So, what are your options?
Wigs vs. Toppers: What's The Difference?
If you’re looking for full coverage, a wig is going to be the best choice. However, if you want to flaunt your natural tresses with a little bump to boost volume, a hair topper is a great solution. A topper needs a little blending, whereas wigs offer total coverage. Both are excellent choices, and it ultimately comes down to what works best for you. When you start beaming and your cheeks hurt from smiling, that’s a good indication you’ve found the one!
For motherhood blogger @being_mrs_brown, a wig was the right choice.
“It was easier emotionally to decide to wear wigs before my hair loss and shedding got too severe. It’s really gotten thin lately, and I can’t imagine the emotional pain I’d be experiencing if I didn’t have wigs I loved to put on each day.”
Your face shape may influence what type of wig you choose, but it’s not always a key factor. Face shape plays a more significant role with ready to wear synthetic wigs because they are pre-styled. For instance, someone with a round face may opt for a long wig for an elongating effect.
However, Starr says this truly isn’t the primary concern with choosing human hair wigs.
“The beauty of a human hair wig is that it can be fully customized, even with color. If they want a fringe, they can wear a fringe. If they want a stacked bob, they can wear a stacked bob. People think they’re stuck in one look, but with a human hair wig, they can have whatever style they want and style it differently every day.”
Follea wig collections offer various lengths from 5" to 16"
Hair length is mainly going to depend on comfort, lifestyle, and style preference. There are three length categories, but each brand may have different length options.
- Short wigs - These frame the face and lay at the nape of the neck.
- Medium length wigs - the length generally falls around the shoulders.
- Long wigs - These fall past the shoulders and drape around the mid-back to about 16" or more.
Length is a general starting point, but it’s not limiting because many wigs can be customized, cut, colored, and styled — especially human hair wigs.
Bio Hair Type
Hair quality guide - Differences between hair qualities
If you have hair, you may want to choose a wig that maintains consistency with your bio hair. For example, you may want to select an auburn wig if you have naturally red hair. But what if you’ve never had hair? A human hair wig might initially feel heavy due to its mid-density. Synthetic wigs tend to be lighter but have a high sheen that looks less natural than human hair.
How can you make the transition easier?
“Wear it throughout the day. Look in the mirror and get used to the person you see. Eventually, that person will be ready to walk out the door. The key is to introduce it to your normalcy slowly,” Starr advised.
4. Time to Select Your Color
If you’re buying a synthetic wig, you’ll want to try on different color variations before you make a purchase. If you’re trying on wigs at a shop, try on different hues and work with the consultant to find the right color for you.
Part of the beauty of wearing hair is the personalization factor.
If you’re not sure where to start with color, play around with different looks like @being_mrs_brown. You may have to try on a few different color options before you find your dream wig, but that’s part of the fun!
Wig shopping is an emotional experience, but playing with color offers moments of levity. You’ll get to customize your identity and have full control over who you present to the world.
Whichever color you decide, we know you’ll look fabulous because you’ve chosen what makes you feel most confident — and if there’s one sure thing, it’s that confidence radiates!
5. Measure Your Head Size
Many manufacturers sell an “average” wig size. The problem? One size doesn't fit all.
“Not everyone has an average head. A lot of people are used to a shower cap fit. It fits the circumference, but it doesn’t fit the head. If it’s too small, you’ll get a headache; if it’s too big, it’s not secure, and you’ll be worried.”
The solution? Measure the circumference of your head to ensure you get the perfect fit. The process is easy, but you want to be thorough. Visit this video for a step by step guide on measuring your head for the correct cap size.
Sizing will vary depending on the brand. If you notice a brand has minimal sizing, it’s likely because the wigs are mass-produced, which is an indication of quality. The broader the size range a brand offers, the easier it’ll be to find your perfect fit.
Some wigs have an elastic band on the back for making minor adjustments. Considering you’ll be wearing this every day, the right fit can make all the difference between a comfortable hairpiece and an irritable one.
6. Thoroughly Research Wig Brands
Sadly, many people get duped into buying a wig that isn’t right for them because some retailers care more about making a sale than guiding you toward the perfect hair. Make sure you visit a professional reseller that offers many brands, human hair wigs and synthetic wigs and various sizes, colors, and lengths so you can try on several options to find what suits you best.
Learn the company history and make sure it’s reputable. Manufacturers mass-produce most wigs, which comes at a significant cost of quality—research what kind of quality control programs each brand offers.
For example, at Follea, each hairpiece is handmade with an individual serial number. There are free returns and a consultant to guide you through the entire process. Follea also works with professional resellers who can guide you through the process to find your perfect wig.
“We offer repairs because we own the entire process. We have total quality control and can repair wigs. Most of the time, you’d have to throw your wig away.”
Then, there’s the classic catfishing of the wig industry: retailers advertise beautiful looking wigs worn by influencers but deliver something that looks like a Halloween costume.
To protect yourself, Starr recommends asking as many questions as you can, read reviews, and scope out their social media presence to see what real customers have to say.
In her experience as a consultant:
“It’s not about you purchasing from me today; it’s about me giving you the information you need to find the perfect piece for you and to be a light in your journey.”
7. Take Control And Choose Your Dream Hair
You’re armed with a comprehensive breakdown of the different types of wigs, which means you’re ready to start shopping! Starr recommends going to a wig shop to try different looks to see how they make you feel.
Most importantly, remember that you’re not alone in your quest for the perfect wig. If you ever feel intimidated or ashamed, remember that hair loss and thinning is very common. 40% of women experience hair loss, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Choosing a wig puts the power back in your hands to choose your dream hair. You are brave, resilient, and above all, deserving of the hair you love.
“There is a lot of pain in this process for women going through it. Sometimes decisions can be made emotionally. Of all times to invest in yourself, this is the time.”
Starr's tips for wig shopping:
- Ask yourself how it feels: Do you feel like yourself when you put it on? Do you feel confident? If so, you’re on the right track. If not, keep looking.
- Consider where the part falls: Does the wig part where you would naturally part your hair? Starr recommends blow-drying it off the face to see how it will lay.
- Experiment with varying qualities. Compare synthetic to human hair and premium European hair vs. Asian hair to see which feels most comfortable and looks the most natural.
- Try on wigs that you might not ordinarily gravitate toward. Work with the professional retailer and experiment with different looks — sometimes, you might feel the best in something you never would’ve chosen.
- Take your time; don’t rush it because it’s a process. “You might find your dream hair and have to wait four weeks; it sounds like forever, but in the end, you’ll have the hair you want,” Starr added.
- We can’t stress the importance of vetting brands when wig shopping to avoid being catfished.
Want a safer way to find your dream hair?
Try Our Free At-Home Fit Kit
Not only is the wig-buying process overwhelming, but buying a wig during COVID adds an extra layer of stress. With many retailers limiting the number of wigs, caps, and pieces you can try on, your dream hair may feel unattainable.
We want you to feel safe and confident in your choice, and that’s why we’re now offering our at-home Fit Kit to help take the stress out of buying a wig. Ready to take the first step toward your most beautiful hair? Learn more about our Fit Kit.
It's Time To Love Your New Look!
" You like my hair? Gee, thanks, just bought it." - Ariana Grande, 7 Rings
It can feel like there is a lot of shame and stigmas in the wig industry, which is unnerving considering many people wear hairpieces and wigs every day (including our fave celebs like Ariana Grande!) It’s time to abolish shame and embrace the universality of wigs and hairpieces.
Everything good is worth fighting for, which is why we stand behind you as you embark on the journey to your best hair yet. Whether you’re a beginner or looking to maximize your next wig choice, use our wig buying guide to help you make the best choice for your needs.
Most importantly, know that you are brave for taking this step and investing in the hair you’ve always deserved. Because when you find it? You’ll step into your power again, so get ready to smile, walk taller, and own your look. It’s your time to shine!