We can still have beautiful and healthy hair while wearing a wig. Get it right or pay the price–a truth that rings all too true in the game of wig-wearing and hair care. As convenient and transforming as they can be, wigs can compromise the state of your natural hair if not worn with care and consideration. Traction alopecia, bald spots, scalp disorders, fungus, and mildew are a few of the many consequences of poor hair care. So much so that experts suggest a rise in hair loss as wigs continue to be a mainstay in the beauty landscape. In short, too many wig wearers are not adequately taking care of their own hair. So, how does one navigate such shifty waters? How can you achieve the look that you crave without sacrificing the health of your hair? Should you use wig glue or “hair spray”? Or is a wig grip or a wig grip cap a safer alternative? Whether you’re new to wigs and love the convenience but find yourself concerned about your hair’s well-being, or you’ve worn wigs for years but still struggle to take care of the hair underneath, we’ve got you covered.
What are the risks of wearing a wig?
The best way to protect your hair is to be familiar with the dangers you expose it to by wearing a wig. Without proper maintenance and installation, your hair and scalp can be susceptible to a host of issues. The most alarming of them all–scarring traction alopecia, the irreversible stage of traction alopecia–hair loss caused by excessive pulling, tugging, and chemicals that can cause irritation and inflammation to the scalp and hair follicles, leaving permanent damage to underlying tissue. Wigs are temporary; irreplaceable hair loss is not. Here are a few other notable risks:
A thinning hairline: Wigs of all kinds run the risk of thinning your hairline, mostly due to the friction between the wig and your natural hair. There are solutions for avoiding thinning edges on the market; however, not all are created equally—more on that below.
Bald spots: Patches of hair are likely to be pulled out due to excessive tugging of wig combs during the install and takedown process. Bald spots can also occur due to excessive shedding from a prolonged installation and tight braids.
Scalp irritation: Itchy, discolored bumps or raised follicles are caused by tight pulling of hair during braiding, lack of or improper hygiene, or redundant use of adhesive gels or glues.
Mildew: Mildew is a surface fungus that forms on the scalp due to a direct result of poor hygienic practices, such as wearing a unit for longer than recommended, a lack of routine washes and most importantly, leaving wet or damp hair under an enclosed space.
As terrifying of a thought as hair loss and bacteria are, don’t find yourself discouraged from your wig journey. There are ways to avoid such mishaps through correct installation and care.
What are the pros and cons for the various methods of wearing a wig i.e. combs, bands, grips, caps, glue?
Glues and Adhesives
A big no-no. As you would suspect, glue is not meant for the hair, even if labeled “hair glue.” As popular as a choice it is, it’s best to read the chemicals used and research how they affect the scalp, hair, and, most notably, the hairline. For instance popular wig adhesive ingredient, isopropanol can cause scalp irritation and subsequent hair loss with repeated use according to a study conducted by the New Jersey Department of Health. Acrylates, another common adhesive ingredient that is also found in nail gels may cause an itchy scalp and blisters. So, yes, while the adhesive method leaves for a flawless install, ask yourself if it’s really worth the risk.
Pro tip: Steer clear of glue marketed as gels and hair sprays. If the product’s functionality is to stick material to a surface, it’s glue. And I don’t think we have to say stay away from Gorilla Glue, but we’ll say it for good measure. Don’t even think about it.
Listed below are instructions on how to properly wear a wig to prevent your edges/hair from any damage.
1. Be sure to glue the wig in the right position.
The proper placement is key. Accidentally attaching your lace front too far in front of your natural hairline can cause chafing that will irritate your scalp. On the other hand, accidentally placing it too far behind your hairline can cause you to mistakenly apply glue to your natural hair--and that’s a disaster you don’t want to face.
So pay close attention when you line up your lace front. During the installation process, carefully trim the lace back so that it lines up with your hairline, being cautious to cut neither the wig nor your own hair.
Consider cornrowing or wrapping your hair in a silk cap before installing the wig. This will help the wig look more natural ( choose a cap that closely matches your skin color), while simultaneously securing the wig in place and protecting your edges.
2. Choose the proper glue when securing your lace front.
So which should you choose?
Got2B Glued: This basic glue is an excellent choice—assuming you only plan to wear your wig during the day. If you’re looking to secure your lace front for a longer period of time, then Got2B Glued’s basic hold won’t do the trick, as it doesn’t hold up well against sweat or water.
Keisha: While a favorite of many, this glue also has a weak hold and can be difficult to apply. If you lead an active lifestyle (or if you live in an environment where rain is a factor), then you should look elsewhere.
Bold Hold Extreme Creme: This is stronger than the previous two entries. It’s also smooth, which makes it easy to lay down your edges. Because it’s thin, you may need to apply several layers. On the bright side, it can last for several days if you don’t do any strenuous exercise. Unfortunately, it does have the tendency to crust and flake--or even come off completely--when confronted with moisture, so this is not the glue to wear to the gym.
Bold Hold Active: This is one of the strongest wig glues on the market, and is specifically designed for long-term wear that can withstand gyms, storms, and sleeping.
Ghost Bond: This is as durable as Bold Hold Active. It’s a great choice if you are often on-the-go or if you want to hit the gym regularly without worrying about the flaps of your wig peeling up.
3. Test your skin for sensitivity before applying glue.
Using the wrong adhesive can cause your skin to become irritated and flake, which can encourage build-up on your scalp and breakage along your edges—and you don’t want that! If you have sensitive skin, you need to be especially wary of which chemicals cause you to flare up.
To test this, drop a small amount of your desired adhesive on a sensitive area, such as on your inner arm, inside your wrist or behind your ear. Cover it with a Band-Aid overnight. In the morning, when you remove the Band-Aid, check your skin for irritation or redness. If you find any, use a different product.
4. Disinfect the inside of the wig with alcohol.
You already know that you need to wash the wig hair as well as your own hair in order to keep both looking healthy. But what about the inside of the wig? Disinfect it with alcohol in order to keep it clean, which is crucial given that it comes in constant contact with your natural hair. Just be sure to remove all of the alcohol before placing the wig on your head.
5. Remove the wig correctly.
When you’ve been wearing a wig for a while and you’re more than ready to move on to a new style, you might be tempted to rip off this wig and hurry to the new one. Not so fast! No matter how loose your old wig feels, ripping it off could tear at your edges. The adhesive is often stronger than you think.
To remove a wig safely, gently apply an adhesive remover. If you have sensitive skin, choose an oil-based one instead of an alcohol-based one. An alcohol-based remover will require you to use an applicator such as a Q-Tip in order to avoid direct contact with your skin, while a gentler oil-based one can be directly sprayed on.
Gently peel the wig away from your scalp, working slowly and carefully from one side of your head to the other. Place the wig delicately back on the stand in order to retain its shape. Wash your face with warm soapy water to fully remove any adhesive or adhesive remover.
6. Wear a glueless wig.
You can skip the hassle altogether by opting for a wig that requires no glue. These days, a wide range of lace front wigs come with adjustable straps and small combs that you can use to tightly secure the hairpiece.
Glueless wigs may take a little more effort to keep straight because they’re not directly glued to your scalp, but with a little practice and a lot of care, they can look just as natural as a lace front wig--with no breakage along your scalp!
Wearing a wig doesn't mean you have to damage your hair. Follow the simple steps above, and you will continue to stun everywhere you go--without losing a single strand along your edges.