How to care for a synthetic wig
Here I'm going to show you how to:
- Wash & care for your wig
- Store & transport your hair
- Wig accessories you'll find useful
Wig Selection and Care
Buying New Wigs
Wig Buying Tips for Crossdressers
Buying a Full Set of Hairpieces
Wig Care and Maintenance Tips
wig accessories you’ll need
First off, we'll need a few tools for basic home care of our wigs. Items you'll find quite useful to acquire in this process include:
- Wire Hair Brush - Get the heavy duty type (the cheap ones usually fall apart). Buy from a wig shop.
- Teasing Comb - Sized based upon your hair. I use a medium length & size.
- Hairspray - Need water based for wigs - particularly for your natural looking hair. You'll also want some mega hold - for any super-styled wigs.
- Woolite - Or any fine fabric wash with a neutral ph of seven. I buy the cheaper house brands.
- Infusion - Conditioning shampoo. I buy mine at Wal-Mart.
- Plastic "Spray Bottle" - From Wal-Mart. A cheap spray bottle for touch ups.
- Baby Wipes - Any brand - a simple canister will do just fine.
- Styrofoam Wig Heads - These come in all shapes & sizes. I've included sample photos of various types in this section.
- Wig Hair Pins - Long steel pins designed to hold a wig in place on a styrofoam head. Available from wig suppliers.
- Two-Sided Hair Tape - Optional: For use in firmly setting your wig on your
- Metal Wig Stand - Optional: For letting your hair dry after washing. You can also hang it from a shower head, etc.
- Hair Nets - Optional: For use in storing your hair - and keeping a style in place. Buy from a beauty shop or wig store - be sure and get a size large enough for the mane you need.
- Baking Soda - Optional: For use in washing. Eliminates smoke & other carbon based odors.
These items are fairly essential to a basic wig care routine. You'll find a few other items discussed in this section.
Wig care tips for beginners
Wig care occurs - after each and every wearing. If you'll sustain a basic regimen - you'll control the cost of professional maintenance.
Following is a simple and workable care program most any gal can live with.
The Touch Up - Perform after each wearing
Ever get a few "make up" stains around the front edge of your wigs?
We all do.
If you wear white or platinum blonde hair - you'll notice this problem - after only one wearing.
You can use baby wipes to clean up these edges - rather than wash the entire wig.
Try to remember to do this relatively soon after each wearing - as the pigments from certain make-up can stain pretty bad. Carefully clean those places around the temples.
The Oil Change - Perform after three to four wearings
To keep your hair looking and feeling soft and natural - try this little trick.
- Brush your hair thoroughly with a wire hair brush.
- Buy a bottle of Infusion shampoo (Wal-Mart) - and put it in a small hand held pump spray bottle - mixed with a little more than half water / half shampoo. Lightly spray the entire wig - and re-comb to allow the mixture to permeate the inner fibers.
- Allow to dry - (it'll get a little stiff) - and lightly comb out the stiff residue from the shampoo.
This mixture is a great interim cleaner - and possesses heavy conditioning agents. It also adds a nice clean scent to your hair.
The Tune Up - Perform after ten or so wearings
You can wash your wig at home with relative ease. Most wigs will retain much of their basic styling after such a cleaning - or you can enhance this shape with curlers. To wash your wig at home, first brush the wig thoroughly with a wire brush - and remove all tangles before washing.
- Fill your bathroom sink with warm water - adding one cap full of detergent. Use Woolite or another ph neutral detergent. I repeat - only use one cap of detergent - it doesn't take much. Too much - will remove coloring from your hair. I add a couple of spoonfuls of baking soda to this wash formula to eliminate smoke odors and remove hair spray residue.
- Before removing the wig, dip it up and down several times in your shampoo & baking soda solution and squeeze out the water.
- Drain the shampoo solution.
- Rinse wig well with cold running water.
- Fill sink with cold water and add another cap full (table spoon) of conditioner. Soak for 5 minutes - rinse out with cold water.
- Press the wig dry in a rolled towel.
- Put wig on bathtub faucet or metal wig stand to drip dry.
- When dry - fluff with a wire brush and arrange.
Use only a heavy duty wire brush to comb your wig. Don't overbrush - as you'll create a frizz look in a hurry.
The Professional Restyling - Perform after 15 to 25 Wearings
You'll still need to have your wig professionally cleaned and styled by a salon every so often - depending upon how often you wear it - and what you put it through.
Most people recommend 20-30 wearings between such service. That equates to about 2-3 weeks of wear. It'll cost you between $20.00 and $40.00 for such wash, condition, & styling from a pro - and you'll usually need to leave your wig with them for a few days.
Trust me - regular wig styling and care is essential to you looking your best. If you wait too long between service - you'll sometimes exhaust a wig beyond repair. I know - I did that a few times. ((hugs))
I also take hair for restyling - versus routine care and shaping. This usually runs me about $75.00 - but includes a total design, varied colored, minor extensions, etc. I tend to offer my stylist carte blanche in such matters. I give him a basic direction - and let him have at it. In other words - I don't hire an artist and sit like a school boy painter looking over his shoulder - telling him where he's wrong.
A couple of times - I've been disappointed. However - most often - he's created hair that's the envy of every other tranny on the planet.
I appreciate that sort of creative genius - and extra effort.
storing & transporting your wigs
Wigs do best when stored on a wig head. There are a number of choices in this category. You can buy the basic Styrofoam head or an elongated version for those extra long hairs. You can also get them with faces - made up to appear more realistic - for a few bucks more.
If you don't dress often - you might want to write any unique make-up or styling procedures on the head - to serve as a reminder for how to cause that particular hair unit - to look best on you.
They also sell collapsible metal head stands for travel / drying.
If you have a normal sized wig - you'll want to keep it covered with a wig net - to help it retain its ideal shape between wearings. Humidity has a way of causing loose strands to fray - and take away from your styling.
Of course, larger wigs are usually best left loose. I've never found wig nets large enough for my big hair.
Your primary concern with transporting your wig is not letting it get crushed and losing its styling. You'll also want to keep it free from dirt or any other staining substances. For some - discretion regarding the fact they're carrying a female wig - is an issue during travel.
If you're transporting your wig in a car - you might want to consider constructing a single-headed wig board (See photo). Wig boards are very easy to construct in a variety of sizes from minimal materials. I've included photos of singular, three -head & four-headed versions that I own. I use them for storage, extended car travel - and picking up / dropping off wigs from my hair stylists.
You can also create a quick version from cardboard by pinning the base of the head to an oversized piece of cardboard. (Stick the pins upward through the base of the cardboard in an angled manner to create a very firm grip)
You can place a large colored plastic bag over the complete ensemble - if you will be walking through areas where you'd just assume others not notice - that you're carrying a wig.
For air travel, you might want to invest in a wig box - if you're taking fully styled hair that can't be stored in a plastic bag. These custom boxes are found for under $10.00 each week on eBay - and are ideally suited for travel with your wig. I bought a suitcase large enough to hold this case - and a couple of weekend ensembles & accessories.
When she travels by air, I first add a bit of two-sided tape to the wooden dowel protruding from the base of the wig box - to add sturdiness to its hold on my styrofoam head. I add a hair net when possible to keep the styling in place. I travel like this often - and I've yet to have any challenges beyond lost luggage.
Other Wig Accessories
A brush seems like an obvious accessory - but which one should you purchase? Wigs are notorious for knotting at the scalp. Thus, a strong metal toothed brush is ideally suited to work out these issues - and keep your wig looking smooth and healthy.
Sadly, few people sell the stronger versions you'll need - other than wig shops. The cheap versions fall apart when they encounter their first significant tangle.
One mistake I made early on was brushing too much. Wigs do best being finger pulled for basic shaping. Too much brushing tends to steadily split ends on your hair. And we both know - this hair - doesn't grow back for free. *Laugh*
Another helpful item is a teasing comb. I hesitate to try and show you how to use such a comb here. You need to practice with them. They'll add tremendous life to any do with a bit of work. They key is getting down to the root of the wig - and really working it.
Hairspray is always a useful item. I utilize super strength to lock in my show and custom designed styles. Water based hair spray is your best for normal use. The others can gum up a wig so badly - it's a nightmare to subsequently ever fully wash out - thus, substantially reducing the life of your hair.
For routine maintenance between washings, a dispenser of baby wipes is awesome. You can easily clean make up that becomes encrusted around edges with a few steady pulls of a wipe.
I'd also suggest you buy a bottle of Infusion shampoo (WalMart) - and put it in a small hand held pump spray bottle - mixed with a little more than half water / half shampoo. This mixture is a great interim cleaner - and possesses heavy conditioning agents. You can spray your wigs between wearings - comb out tangles, let it dry - and lightly comb it with a standard brush - to retain a nice luster to your hair.
I sometimes use hair spikes and decorative pins to pull up hair. Sadly, I've found the very best looking ones aren't cheap. A box of bobby pins is helpful in holding more detailed styling - but that's a bit beyond the purview of these tips. If your stylist set your style with such pins - you might want to have some around. They invariably come loose or fall out.
Metal wig head "pins" are used for keeping the wig securely attached on a Styrofoam head. I prefer the pearl toped versions - as the heads on the all metal versions often snag otherwise perfect styling when I remove them. What can I say - I'm just slightly neurotic. *Laugh*
Two sided hair tape is available to give you a firm fit at the forehead. If you'll be sweating a good bit - get the waterproof versions (AKA Lace Front Tape). These tapes are cut to the front and rear shapes of a wig - and once fully bonded with your skin - cause a wig to stay fairly secure.
You can buy this tape from hair replacement vendors or costume shops. You'll need to get some adhesive remover as well - as the remnants can end up gummed in your hair. Acetone or lighter fluid can be used to remove residue as well. In a crunch - you can make your own such tape by looping a piece of duck tape to create a two sided sticky surface.
I don't face the challenges of most t-girls when it comes to hair storage. I'm very out regarding my lifestyle - thus, discretion is not a big issue.
Most gals find themselves having to worry about what others see.
My dear friend Lady Ashely - developed one of the best systems I've ever seen for storage of items for her alternative gender. From cabinets purchased from Home Depot - she organized a line of lockable, clean storage cabinets in her basement - away from prying eyes.
If I faced similar challenges - I'd duplicate her method. Even if you keep your stuff in a small storage locker - you'll do best with it in such a clean cabinet.
If you only have one or two wigs, invest in cardboard boxes ideally suited to hold your hair while it remains situated on a wig head. You can use those long hair pins to keep it in place by sticking a couple through the bottom of the box.
personal wig styling
If you already know all about hair styling - you need no tips in this department. In fact - if this is the case - why are you even here? Trying to find subjects in which we've erred, huh? Move on girlfriend, you're perfect - all queens are...*laugh*
The only area most of us aren't exactly perfect is in our knowledge regarding hair styling. For newcomers - I'll continue to preach using the services of a pro. Still, you might find yourself in a situation where you're forced to do a bit of styling on your own. These tips might prove helpful...
A quick way to bail yourself out of a flat hair night - is duck into the ladies room and try the pick and roll method. I get this trick from Charlie Brown - one of the nation's best DRAG performers. It's essentially a means of creating the effect of a teasing comb by rapidly pulling and lifting the hair with your fingers - one after the other - in fairly rapid fashion. Usually, you'll concentrate on one side To create such a lift. I've performed this method in bathrooms for GG's - and they've walked away in awe of what a pair of fingers can do to dress up an otherwise flat mane.
You might want to practice and perfect this little move. It's saved me from an otherwise dead hair night on more than one occasion.
Finally, consider taking a couple of classes in professional hair styling. This is on my agenda. It's not too expensive - and I've heard it pays nice dividends.