Coping with hair loss and choosing a wig


Barbara Daley guide to coping with hair loss and choosing a wig

For many women hair loss can be the worst side effect of any cancer treatment, so it's important to know that losing your hair is usually Temporary. It may take a little bit of getting used to and it might be a bit of a shock at first but if managed properly it need not be as bad you think, and there are lots of options.

One of the most common fears is about wearing a wig is that it could look false and unnatural and that everyone will know it’s not your real hair, but with the quality and choice that are available today that couldn't be further from the truth.

Over the last few years wearing false hair has become much more of a fashion choice, so the quality of wigs and hair pieces have come on leaps and bounds and with the right amount of personalisation it’s hard to spot the difference between real and false. The first thing to know about hair loss as a result of medical treatments is that there are no hard and fast rules about how much hair you will lose and when and how it will grow back, but managed correctly you can reduce the impact it has on your life and more importantly your self confidence.

We've tried to put together some ways to manage your hair during treatment and answer a few common questions on wigs and how to choose one

Hair can begin to fall out as little as 2 weeks after your first treatment and within 5 weeks you may have lost all your hair. This can be the most upsetting time. Different types of treatments have different outcomes. The drugs used during chemotherapy can result in more drastic hair loss than having radiotherapy which is more targeted on a specific area and so may only result in hair loss in that particular area. This is the time to think about how to manage your hair loss. If you have long hair it may be an idea to have your hair cut shorter so the impact of hair loss isnt so dramatic, plus it is generally less painful. This may also be the time to start thinking about a wig.

How to choose a wig....

As I said earlier there is a wide and varied range of wigs available and not just from specialist wigs shops, high street department stores stock them as well which can be good place to go try different styles without pressure. Start by choosing a style similar to your hair - it doesn't have to be a perfect match but as close to the style you would like as you can. Then it’s all about having it cut to suit you. Remember having a wig cut should be about personalising it not restyling it completely. It’s very difficult to take a long wig and cut it into a short style, because of how the hair is wefted to the base as it doesn’t have the flexibility for it to be cut into certain styles so that’s why its important to choose something close to how you want your hair to be, your stylist can then tailor it to you.

There are two types of wigs - real hair and synthetic. Both need to be maintained and looked after. Real hair wigs might feel more natural but require just as much maintenance as your own natural hair. They need to be shampooed and blowdryed regularly which is not ideal if you feel unwell during treatment. Synthetic wigs are often cheaper and easier to manage, drying back into shape once washed, however they do not last as long, particularly with longer styles which can develop friction frizz on the ends from rubbing on clothing. The most important thing when choosing a synthetic hair wig is the base. Its rarely the colour or cut that you pay the extra money for it all about the foundation of the wig and how it is sewn together. Another tip for wearing a wig is to wear a wig cap. This keeps the hair you have flat to the head and also stops the base of a wig rubbing on a sensitive scalp. However a wig cap is not essential and will not make the wig fit any better than it would to a bald head.

My advice would be to buy the best wig for your budget and needs. If you like to wear your hair back off your face then it may be worth putting the extra money towards an invisible lace fronted wig. Monofilament wigs allow you to change the parting and give a natural look, a double layer of monofilament will generally sit flatter to the head for a less voluminous look. Try different bases to see which one is comfortable for you and ask the advice of experts on the different options available.

Can I still colour my own hair during treatment?

Yes, but we recommend having a skin test before every colour treatment and a consultation with your doctor before colouring is essential. The scalp can be extremely sensitive during this time though so we recommend washing your hair the night before and giving your scalp time to settle before applying any tint. Also take the advice of your hairdresser on what colour to choose as, the results can often vary throughout treatment.

How do I stop a wig looking like a wig?

Have a good cut – having your wig professionally cut can make all the difference. Wigs in general have 20-40% too much hair in them and this needs to be removed for the hair to move like real hair and not swamp the person underneath.

There are also lots of ways that hairdressers trained in wig cutting can make it look more natural. The choice of hair colour should suit your complexion – rather than going for something that makes you looked washed out or is to drastic a change.

Use products – You can use any water soluble product on a wig including matte products like dry shampoo or sea salt spray on blondes to take away the shine, serum and wax on brunettes to make the hair move. Avoid hairspray, they will make the hair stiffer than it actually is.

Make sure it is in the right place and straight – this sounds silly but the easiest way to tell a wig is a wig is when it isn't on properly. The underwiring of the wig should be flush to the temples, the base of the wig should be approximately 4 fingers above the eyebrows and the wig should be adjusted and tightened as necessary. For more information about this subject and choosing a wig check out an excellent not for profit organisation which gives advice and information to women suffering with hair loss of all kinds.

We offer a complimentary wig cutting service for people undergoing treatment at our salon. This service is available Monday – Thursday, by appointment only

Barbara Daley Hair and Beauty, North Western Halls, Lime Street L1 1RD 0151 709 7974