Perhaps the best-known non-surgical solution to hair loss is the age-old wig. And the tragedies of wigs blowing off or going askew have been occurring around since people first wore them. According to some historians, their earliest uses go back to 3200-3100 BC, again in ancient egypt. So, most toupee jokes are anything but original.

Today, wigs are referred to as “hair replacement system”. The main differences between systems of today and the past are size and adornments. Throughout history many terms have been used to refer to these cosmetic pieces such as hairpieces, toupees, rugs, units, or systems. No matter what you call them, they are all made in a similar way using the same materials, and a few well-known companies usually produce them in the business. However, the cost and quality of appearance varies widely according to which materials are used and the quality of the craftsmanship.

Hair system foundations vary depending on the base in which the hair is attached. Hair is usually either tied onto the base. There are basically two types of bases: mesh fabric and polymer. The mesh base, made of polyester or nylon, is used to create fine hairline products. The base may be used throughout the system giving the wig a more natural appearance. The one drawback is that they are not practical for long-term use. The polymer base is made of silicon or polyurethane. These materials render a system that mimics the look of actual skin or scalp and also lasts longer than mesh-type pieces. Often it is applied to areas where the system will be attached; thereby, protecting the unit over a longer period of time. However, many of these systems cause irreversible damage to existing hair due to the constant pulling and gluing (imitating the problems caused from the “pulling disorder” known as trichotillomania discussed earlier).

By comparison, the mesh fabric base is more expensive, but also more natural looking, but it is not very durable. The polymer base is more durable and costs less, but it does not provide the natural appearance found in mesh-based foundations.

Another factor in selecting a hair system is the type of hair used. Basically, three gradesof hair are used: hair grown naturally; natural-hair pieces; and low quality human, animal, or artificial fibres. The hair grown naturally is produced in europe and cultivated into the colours and styles desired. Asia produces a less costly fibre made from various coloured, dyed, and bleached dark, straight hair. This hair type looks great, but often before long, the hair frizzes only after a short time. The lowest quality hairpieces are made of low quality human, animal or artificial strands.

It’s important to remember some basic things about all hair systems. First, they are all fragile, will need regular maintenance, and will need to be replaced in time. The way the piece is fastened to the head also has certain effects on the hair beneath or adjacent to it. A piece can speed up the loss of hair where the piece is applied. Most accelerated loss is the result of two ways of attaching pieces: bonding by a strong, glue-like substance and those attached by a weaving process. The fastening systems that cause the least hair loss are clips and temporary adhesives. Double-sided tape is used with temporary systems. It can be a messy process and the user will need to wash off after applying. Also, these can come unglued during swimming or heavy perspiration. Metal clips are securely attached to the underside of the piece, which is then fastened directly to the hair beneath. The advantage with these is that they are easy to remove.

Semi-permanent attached hairpieces are not made to be removed by the user. The expertise of a hair technician is required every four to six weeks. They may be affixed by liquid adhesives such as pylorus, natural-bond, poly-bond, or any other bonding material. It’s important to realize that shampooing does not remove the accumulations on the scalp such as flaked-off skin cells, oil, shed hair, perspiration residues, or any other organic build up over the time between professional removals.

Some people choose hair systems either because they can’t afford the upfront cost, or for some reason they do not fit the qualifications to be a candidate for hair restoration. Yet, when accounting for the long term cost of hair systems versus restoration, the hair system usually becomes the more expensive option.

There are pros and cons to choosing a hair replacement system. Here are some of the main advantages:

  • Initial investment is relatively low.
  • Fast and easy solution to hair loss that is immediately visible.
  • Can usually be in place within a couple of hours.
  • Full density can be easily achieved (no limitations as with hair transplants).

And of course the disadvantages to wearing a hair system include:

  • The need for a considerable amount of time on maintenance such as cleaning and repairs.
  • The need for a second system to use while the other piece is being maintained.
  • Can be very fragile and lack durability.
  • Need to be replaced in a year or two.
  • Smell of natural oil build up under the hairpiece and hygiene issues.
  • Possible unnatural frontal hairline.
  • Accelerated hair loss caused by the hair replacement system itself.
  • Psycological fear of being “discovered.
Are wigs realistic enough to cover balding?