Cleaning Your Wigs Properly. It's not as Difficult as You May Imagine

You spent good money on your new wig so let's make it last. If you want your beautiful wig to continue to look fresh and give you long term enjoyment, then as with anything else, you need to take care of it. For those of you who are dealing with cancer or other health-related treatment, I know that maintaining a wig may be the last thing you want to do. However, I believe that for many women, maintaining the routine and glamour of their outward appearance can make all the difference in the world in avoiding depression. Anything you can do to help in the healing process will be a positive step during this crucial time and for some of us that means paying attention to these beauty rituals and this area of our life that allows us to step out of the house feeling put together.

After nine years of regularly assisting women at their hospital bedside who are challenged with one condition or another and experiencing hair loss, I have truly seen miracles happen when a woman puts on a new wig, takes a look at herself in the mirror and suddenly feels beautiful again and gets her 'mojo' back. It gives her that extra umph she needed to work harder to overcome her condition. Remember, human hair wigs, alternative hair, created hair - which ever term you resonate with - is non-breathing hair; it has no natural oils, so it needs hydration and replenishing.

Okay, let's talk about Synthetic Hair wigs first.

Since synthetic hair is made from kanekalon, a nylon hair, it calls for different products then are used on human hair. Synthetic hair comes in silky or crimped styles and is very inexpensive. The silky kanekalon is fine and straight, some are made with built-in body.

There are several different types of synthetic hair ranging in price and quality. The highest-quality type of synthetic hair is called monofilament, monofiber or "mono" for short, which looks and feels very much like human hair.

The purpose of cleaning synthetic hair is to remove scalp oils that can build up over time. Also, if you use a lot of styling products, this buildup can make the hair look dull and can also promote tangling. I advise my clients who are consistently wearing their synthetic pieces to wash them once every ten to twelve times they wear it. If they use a lot of styling products, its best to wash the hair once every five or six wears. It's important to keep in mind that washing synthetic hair will certainly decrease its life span, as nylon will lose its elasticity and sheen with washing, so try not to use excessive amounts of product. Just put on enough product to do what you need for the look you are trying to attain and wash only when needed.

When brushing:

Brushing synthetic hair will help avoid getting tangles and knots. A regular hairbrush should not be used on synthetic hair since it will cause the ends to split and get frizzy. Purchase a special synthetic hair comb or brush at any beauty supply store. Using a brush with rubber tips on the bristles can be used for synthetic and for human hair as well to keep the hair fibers from splitting.

Brush the hair before washing to remove any tangles. A wig "detangler" spray can be applied to help separate the strands if necessary and smooth out any knots.

Place the piece on a wig head. They come in Styrofoam or canvas. Either can be used. Place small T-Pins at the temples, forehead and along the nape to keep the hair in place. This also will prevent inversion (when the hair comes through the inside of the wig).

For synthetic hair, some people will use at-home products as simple as laundry detergent followed by a good wig conditioner. Others use specific synthetic wig care products that can be purchased online and at most beauty supply stores and specialty wig shops.

Using proper styling products on synthetic hair is important. Many products are available in beauty supply stores, including hairspray, leave-in conditioner, shine spray, mousse and shaping cream.

Leave-in conditioner can be sprayed onto damp synthetic hair and then rubbed in gently with your hands. Okay it's time to wash your "Little Lady."

This process is super easy and should not take more than 5 minutes. Fill a bucket or a sink with cool water. Do not use hot water; if your wig, hairpiece or extensions have any type of wave or curl, hot water will relax it. Also hot water has a tendency to draw out the color.

Mix about two capfuls of synthetic wig shampoo into the water, place the wig head gently into the soapy water and move the hair back and forth in the water for approximately 3 minutes. Do not twirl the wig head as that most certainly will cause hair to tangle.

Remove the wig head from the soapy water and hold it under the faucet with cold, clean water going in the same direction of the hair, rinsing it until there are no soap suds left. Repeat with 2 capfuls of conditioner and then repeat the rinse procedure.

Carefully remove the pins from the wig head and place them aside. Never brush a synthetic wig when it is wet. This can cause hair stretching and breakage. To dry the wig, place it on a towel and blot the wig continuously, retrieving the water from the piece. Do not twist or wring out the hair. There is a wonderful product called a Friction Free Towel which is similar to a chamois material that when used in blotting, will pull out the water from a wig three times as fast. Then place the wig on a wig stand or dry wig head until dry.

You can prevent the buildup of scalp oils on synthetic wigs by wearing a wig cap. Wig caps are inexpensive and can be purchased at beauty supply stores. Just make sure that the cap is not too tight as you now will be wearing two pieces of elastic. One in the wig base and one in the cap.

Also, never use heated styling tools such as blow dryers, curling irons or straightening irons on synthetic hair. Heated tools, even on the coolest setting, will melt synthetic hair. Unless it's only cold air I do not suggest using a blow dryer on synthetic hair. Also be careful of getting near the heat in the kitchen. Reaching in the oven to grab that beautiful lasagna or salmon dish you prepared will be the demise of your piece.

Now for Human Hair Wigs:

You can follow the same washing instructions as above only there will be a few more products needed to protect this type of hair. This process should not take more than 5-6 minutes.

Since human hair is a bit more delicate, it calls for more sensitive products. Most people think that baby shampoo is the most delicate when in fact it's the worst product as it will dry out the hair. As with synthetic hair, you only need to wash your wig when you feel the need to. When it starts to look a bit too disheveled, greasy or dirty, that's the right time. Ladies... we all know when it's time.

First, I suggest that you purchase a good wig shampoo. Regular shampoo may contain too much alcohol, which if used continuously, can slowly break down the wig. It's important to put the protein back into the hair after washing and before conditioning, so purchasing a wig protein spray is essential to keeping the hair strands from becoming brittle. Purchasing a good color retention product will help secure your color from washing out.

Additionally, a good wig conditioner, wig hair spray and wig de-tangler is essential in keeping the hair from getting matted and tangled thus creating breakage.

Here are some methods I recommend:

When drying human hair, remove the hair carefully from the block and blot it with a large dry towel. Again, never ring or twist the hair as that can promote breakage. There is a wonderful friction-free towel that will soak up the water in the wig three times as fast. I recommend that you place the human hair on either a wig head or a wig stand where air can flow through inside and out.

It's good to let the piece dry partially - until it's only damp - before blow dying it. Also placing a thermal spray protectant on the hair before applying a heating device on it will protect the hair from burning or drying out.

So there you have it! Don't be afraid - you'll do just fine if you follow these tried and true steps.

Good luck!



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