The first thing to say is that you should always remember that there are a lot of different types of wig buyers! Seems an obvious thing to say but it didn't really occur to me when I started buying them. I buy wigs because I am having chemotherapy and do not feel comfortable without any hair, therefore the wig I buy is a very important part of my wardrobe and I look for wigs that look as real as possible. Some people are buying wigs for fun, for a party, or for the odd occasion when they just might feel like wearing one!
Real hair or synthetic?
I always go for synthetic hair wigs because I never feel comfortable about the heritage of real hair wigs. To be fair, most suppliers/manufacturers do give information about where their hair has come from and also try to allay any fears you might have. Much of the real hair comes from India and most companies will tell you that the women who sell their hair do so freely and get paid a sum of money for it. Some manufacturers tell you about temple sales, whereby the women will give their hair to the temple and the temple then sells it and pays the women a percentage. These two explanations of why there is quite so much Indian hair available on the UK market, may very well be accurate and true however, I just never feel totally comfortable with it. I have no idea how much (if anything) these women really have been paid and, equally, I really have no way of knowing if they have given it freely and happily or not.
These days, one can buy such super synthetic wigs, I'm perfectly happy to stick with them. It's true to say that you can't style synthetic wigs as easily as you can real hair wigs but that's not to say you can't do anything with them, you can! They don't much like heat so it's best not to put heated rollers, hairdryers, curling tongs on them, but you can trim them and mess about with them quite easily and, in fact, I have styled some of mine with normal curlers (old-fashioned, non-heated ones), and also done a crimped look by plaiting them when wet and letting them dry.
You can wash synthetic wigs - it's usually recommended that you use a special wig shampoo but many people say baby shampoo works equally well (I've only ever tried wig shampoo personally). However, you can also buy some really fabulous wig refresher sprays which work wonders on a tired or slightly "fluffy" wig. In fact, I've just done a wig refresh this morning on a favorite old wig (about three years old) and the result is really excellent.
Shininess can be a bit problem with new synthetic wigs - there are a lot of tips online of how to deal with this issue if you don't like them looking too shiny. There are also a number of very good videos on YouTube where wig wearers have shown and demonstrated how they attempt to reduce the shine. Personally, I like to either use a powder puff with a (very) small amount of baby powder on it and just dust it over the wig, then I give the wig a good shake, brush it as normal and it seems to work very well. However, you can also buy a wig wand, which is essentially a round ball-shaped powder puff on a stick and the powder puff thingy contains neutral matte powder which you are meant to bang against the wig! This probably works very well too. I intend to buy one of these very soon so I shall let you know how it goes! I sometimes find that washing them with the shampoo can cause them to become more shiny instead of less so and so I often just rinse them in warm water without using any shampoo at all. Some say that if you soak the new wig in vinegar it will remove the shine to some extent but others say this makes no difference and you'll have a heck of a job getting the smell out! The shine does reduce once you start wearing the wig and so don't panic. The baby powder trick really is a fantastic quick fix if you're keen to wear your new wig immediately and don't have anything else to hand but don't overdo it as I once did and managed to turn a really beautiful dark brown and blonde wig, grey! (No panic, I just rinsed it all out!)
BUYING WIGS ON EBAY
You can get reasonably good synthetic wigs for around £40 - £80 on the high street. I've rarely paid more than about £60 for one. When you see wigs on eBay listed at 12.99 or 16.99 - think to yourself "why is it so cheap?" It could be because you are buying direct from a distributor or manufacturer, but it could also be because the wig itself isn't intended for everyday, serious use (when I say serious use, I guess I mean if you need to wear a wig due to treatment rather than choose to wear one at a party). If it's difficult to tell from the images the seller provides, then send them a quick message beforehand asking if they have any other images and asking them directly if the wig is intended as an everyday, normal wig or if it is intended as a party wig. There is nothing wrong with the cheaper wigs, they are indeed suitable for fun use, but perhaps they wouldn't be your first choice if you intend to wear the wig everyday and wish it to look as realistic as possible. On the other hand, eBay being eBay, you can of course grab yourself a real bargain from time to time so it's always worth messaging the seller and asking because, every now and then, you do see real bargains.
It's also important when buying a wig online, to remember that the color may differ slightly from the color you imagine or see on your computer screen. Screens all display colors slightly differently (on mine, black often looks grey, blonde can look green!) and so again, if in doubt, message and ask beforehand. Sellers rarely mind a politely worded message and I'm sure they'd far rather you asked before buying than bought and then had to return it (as has happened to me when buying a wig - I was very fortunate, I had used a seller who gave returns and was very helpful about it but always check the returns policy before buying so you know exactly where you stand if you receive the wig and find it's not as you'd hoped or expected it would be). If the seller doesn't mention anything about returns on the sale page, then message them to check if you feel unsure about the wig you are ordering.
Most genuine sellers understand that people buying wigs when having chemotherapy or other treatment, of for medical conditions which leave them with alopecia, want their wigs to be representative of real hair, they want to feel comfortable in them and they do not want to stick out like a sore thumb when walking down the street and so, if you buy a wig and find it is not to your liking, or not what you had anticipated it would be, then message the seller politely and explain the situation and they will usually respond very quickly and helpfully. Personally, if I ever return anything on eBay, I always send it recorded delivery so I know it has arrived safely and I would advise everyone to do this as it just helps to prevent unnecessary problems.
If you like the style of the wig but not the color, then check to see whether the seller has another color available as you may prefer to exchange the wig instead of asking for a refund.
When you first start wearing wigs, you may find them very hot and also a little uncomfortable but that soon wears off and you become used to them. I usually wear all new wigs around the house for a day or two and get used to the feel of them. Each wig needs to sit on your head a little differently and so I suppose you have to just get used to how that particular wig works for you. I also play around with them, using alice bands, head bands, different types of hair accessories, as these can really change the look of your new wig and you can often make them look very different depending on what you do with them!
You very often need to trim wigs when you first buy them. In particular, the fringe (US : bangs) area as they are usually too long (for me anyway!) Bear in mind that wigs are made without you specifically in mind and everyone's forehead is different and everyone likes to wear their fringe differently; some like short fringes, some long, others like to push them to one side etc. So put them wig on, wear it around a bit to make sure you have it in exactly the right position on your head and then very carefully trim to the correct length, style. Do be careful though and don't make the same mistake I made when I was a novice wig wearer - I cut it way too short as I forgot that it wouldn't grow!! Just trim gingerly around it and keep combing it and shaking it about to see what it looks like before you cut any more off!
I love wigs with highlights in but be cautious when buying highlighted wigs online without being able to see them, feel them, and try them on beforehand as highlights can vary greatly, some are genuinely woven in the base color of the wig, and look very similar to natural highlights in real hair; others resemble one wig on top of another and really don't look natural at all.
I think it's nice to have different styles of wigs to suit your mood and the occasion for which you're wearing it. I have some fairly sedate and business-like wigs for everyday use and then I also have slightly more funky and highlighted wigs for my more casual days!
When you first start wearing a wig, especially if it's because of a medical condition or treatment and your hair has fallen out - there are a great many emotions that you will go through. I was never a particularly vain woman and yet I found it quite an emotional experience and quite difficult to deal with at first as you don't always realize how much your hair is tied up with your identity and how you see yourself! So give yourself time, experiment with different wigs, styles and colors. I would recommend you start out with a wig which is reasonably similar in style and color to your own, original natural hair as that way, it's often easier to emotionally deal with the change. Once you start to feel more confident about wearing wigs, then have some fun! Buy a few daring wigs, colors you'd never have dared to dye your own hair! Experiment and have patience, and you will get there in the end and, believe me, it can be quite fun in the end as you can change your color and style depending on your mood, where you are going, your outfit, or just on a whim!
I will be adding to this guide as I go along and as I think of more things to add. I hope it might be helpful to someone!
(to be continued!)