Extending the Life of your Wig or Hair Extensions

When I started performing belly dance, I had a choice - grow my hair long, or buy a wig or hairpiece.  Perhaps I should shake off the cliche and dance in my own short, modern hair - but when I'm dancing, I need all the confidence I can get, and looking the part helps me do that.  So long hair is a necessity.  I wish I'd known how to look after my hairpiece better, right at the start - so I'm going to share that information with you!

Don't Shampoo Your Hairpiece!!!

Full blonde wig

These days, hairpieces, wigs and hair extensions can look so realistic, it's tempting to treat them like our own hair - but don't!

A good example is shampooing. When our own hair starts to get straggly, tangled or frizzy, the first thing we do is reach for the shampoo and conditioner. So you'll be surprised to learn that for fake hair, shampooing is something to be avoided as much as possible! Washing a wig or hairpiece is likely to make tangles, frizz or matting worse, not better.

Washing Full or Half Wigs

I know it's hard to accept we mustn't wash our wigs after every wear. After all, most people will find their head gets hot under the full covering of a wig, and the thought of all that sweat building up on the wig cap isn't a pretty thought. However, the fact is that every time you wash your wig, you shorten its life.

Most wigmakers recommend washing your wig every two weeks (if you wear it every single day) - which means that if you're wearing it for dancing, you should wash it after 12-14 performances. If that horrifies you, then you may need to think twice about owning a wig! Synthetic and human hair wigs can be washed the same way.

If you have a monofilament top or hand tied wig, don't submerge it: use a jug to pour the water gently through the wig, first from the underside then from the top, and never rub it. Also be careful to keep conditioner away from the roots. Both shampoo and conditioner can loosen the knots on these types of wig.

Washing Hairpieces

A hairpiece needs even less washing than a full wig or half wig, because it has less contact with your scalp and therefore is less affected by sweat.   If your hairpiece is looking dull, it may be a build-up of hairspray, which shampoo won't shift on its own.  Add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water to help remove it. Remember, shampooing your hairpiece won't remove tangles or prevent it getting matted - if that's the problem, don't wash it.  Instead, spray it generously with a "leave in" conditioning spray and gently brush it out, starting at the ends.

Important Points to Watch When Washing

  • Always use specialist wig products: ordinary hair shampoos can be too harsh, and wig hair can't absorb conditioners to offset their drying effect.
  • When you're brushing the hair, before or after shampooing, always start at the tips and work your way gently up to the roots.
  • If the maker of your wig has given you special instructions, follow them.  Some makers of hand-made wigs don't recommend putting their wigs underwater at all, and will give you a method of cleaning the wig on its stand.  As these wigs are often very costly, it's always best to follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Human hair extensions

How to Dry Your Wig or Hairpiece

You can't use a blow dryer on synthetic hair wigs. Synthetic hair melts in the presence of heat!

Some people will say you can use one on the "cool" setting, but check your drier first - some "cool" settings are still warm enough to  destroy synthetic hair.

To give you an idea how deadly hot air can be for a synthetic hairpiece - you can't even open the clothes dryer or your oven door while wearing it - both could damage your wig beyond repair. At the very least, it will lose its style - at the worst, it will frizz and ultimately melt into a glob of plastic.

Human hair wigs can be blow-dried, but it's best to keep it to a minimum and on a cool setting. Blow-drying is drying, and unlike hair on your own head, wig hair can't absorb conditioners to protect it.

Note: Hair extensions are a special case, because they're attached to your head - it's not practical to take them off when you shampoo your own hair! For more information and products to look after your hair extensions, visit  http://www.humanhairextensionsonline.com.au/

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Blonde wig photo courtesy of Jessica Smith. Hair extensions picture with thanks to Boogiemama.

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