For the record, I have no hair. But some days, I’d really like some.
By Janell M. Hickman
Apr 4, 2017
For the record, I have no hair. But some days, I’d really like some. Enter my not-so-secret obsession with wigs. There’s nothing more pleasurable than imagining myself with butt-grazing extensions, much to the confusion (and possible dismay) of my partner, friends, and coworkers — but one thing stops me in my tracks: the cost. A good wig requires some major bank, because if you are going to do it, you’ve gotta do it well. YouTube has certainly leveled the playing field, but for a newbie like me, the prospect of doing it myself still feels overwhelming.
The YouTube queen of how-to hair pieces, Peakmill, emphasizes that you don’t actually need many tools. She lists a tripod stand, mannequin head or block head [it resembles a real head], hair, wig cap, needle thread [use cotton or nylon], measuring tape, and scissors as her wig essentials. “Really there is no secret, as long as you have that magic touch,” she teases. “Seriously, as long as you know how to secure the wig and style it, you should be good to go.”
I decide to dive further and tap into my network of experts who could give me the scoop in case I decide to switch it up come summertime. Here’s an abbreviated six-rule cheat sheet anyone can use to achieve the style, length, and wig of their dreams.
Rule No. 1: Pick the Right Hair
Your texture choice is totally up for discussion, but the type of hair you opt for can make or break your wig. “I always go for the highest-quality hair with any brand, whether is it European, Indian, or Chinese virgin hair — but there is a difference between each type of hair,” explains celebrity hairstylist and founder of Muze Hair, Kiyah Wright, whose clients include Angela Simmons, Chaka Khan, Ciara, Gabby Douglas, Kerry Washington, and Zendaya Coleman. “European hair is great for Caucasian women or individuals with straight hair. This hair is easy to color with less brassy tones when lightening up to seven shades,” she explains. “Chinese virgin hair is some of the best hair [in the market]. It is heavier in weight and colors very well. Indian hair is a lot lighter in weight, but when [dyeing it a] lighter shade, it tends to pull warm tones because the pigment is so dark.”
Rule No. 2: Build Your Foundation Carefully
“Personally, I prefer lace [closures] because they’re more flexible and it’s easy to work with when blending your own scalp,” adds Peakmill. “Silk looks more authentic, but it could also be difficult when trying to blend.”
The caveat is making sure the foundation of the wig isn’t too bulky, the telling sign your hair is F-A-K-E. You want to ensure your custom piece lands on your hair seamlessly like it’s sprouting out of your head. “Cornrows are best [under wigs], they lay your hair flat underneath,” Peakmill tells me. “If you can’t get cornrows, try to smooth your hair down into a low ponytail.” Remember, the goal is to have your hair laid so your wig sits perfectly on top of your head.
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Rule No. 3: Find Your Fit
If your piece is too big, it will move unnecessarily — yet if it’s too small, anticipate one too many headaches. Avoid the drama and measure your head with a flexible measurement. “First, flatten your hair back to get an accurate measurement,” explains founder and creator of Araya NYC and Emmy award-winning hairstylist, Hadiiya Barbel, whose custom crowns (i.e. wigs) price in the thousands for good reason. Her celebs clients include Lion Babe, Tika Sumpter, Taraji P. Henson (for the February 2016 cover of ELLE), Wendy Williams, and Kim Zolciak, to name a few.
“Starting in front at your natural hairline, follow along your hairline just above your ear. Next, continue around to the back at the bend in your neck and over your other ear, and around to the front where you started. Measure from the front of your natural hairline back over the crown to the bend where your head meets the top of your neck. Then, start in front of one ear, bringing your tape measure over the crown to the front of your other ear [to determine your cap size].”
Rule No. 4: Meet Your Match (or Not!)
The actual texture of the hair you select is 100 percent on you. “This is a tricky question [to answer] because some people want convenience and some people want hair that matches their natural hair,” explains Wright who shares more of her coveted techniques in this video.
“If you want something easier to maintain, then you should go for a body wave or natural wave. If you want a more textured look, which will require more work, I would go for a kinky texture or deep wave. It just really depends how much work you want to put in.” Duly noted.
Rule No. 5: Remember, Both Shit and Shedding Happens
While all of my interviewed experts have different techniques, one thing that unified them was the fact that shedding is inevitable. The baseline? The more you wear a wig, the more it will shed. The less you wear it, the less it will shed.
“You can’t really stop a wig from shedding because it isn’t really attached to a scalp, it’s attached to a weft,” explains Peakmill. The one factor in reducing shedding is sealing the weft of your wig. Her other advice? “Try not to comb your hair so hard when detangling or when it’s too wet.”
Rule No. 6: Lights Out, Wig Off
As tempting as it might be to trick your lover/homie/friend, if you want your wig to last, you’ll have to shelf it during bedtime. “[It’s] always best to take off at night to preserve the life of the hair,” explains Barbel. “You can have ‘fun’ in synthetic versions, which will fall back into shape easily.”
Other than that, plan on taking off more than your nightgown and placing your wig on a head form when you aren’t wearing it. “You may want to have a beautiful scarf nearby if you have a boyfriend!” adds Wright, who for the record, takes hers off nightly.