How to Wash, Care and Revive Your Synthetic Wig

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By: Portia Cole | Photo: @lovereesie

Washing synthetic wigs may have been something that you didn’t think was possible. Typically, when we think of synthetic hair, we think that it can only be worn a few times before it starts to show wear and needs to be thrown out. However, synthetic wigs have come a long way, and a good one can last four to six months, even if you wear it every day. The key is in knowing how to care for the wig. A large part of taking care of your wig has to do with washing and maintaining the wig properly. So, we’ve created this guide on how to wash, care, and revive your synthetic wig.

(Need more of a primer on wigs? Here’s our Wig 101. And if you’re in the market for a new wig, here’s a list of the best human and synthetic wigs on the market.)

Jump ahead:

What are synthetic wigs?

Unlike human hair wigs, a synthetic wig is made from man-made fibers. The goal for synthetic wigs is to give them the appearance and feel of real hair, without the hefty price tag. One might think that it’s better to wear a human hair wig because why wouldn’t you choose real over fake? However, real doesn’t always mean better. If you purchase a high quality synthetic hair wig, it may be difficult to tell the difference between human and synthetic fibers.

How to Wash Your Synthetic Wig

Prepping your wig

The first time you wash your synthetic wig can be daunting. After all, it’s not your own hair and can be unfamiliar territory. The first thing you need to do before washing the wig is prep the wig. Prepping involves brushing any knots and tangles out with a wig brush (not a comb!) from the bottom of the wig up. Do NOT brush your wig while it’s wet. Brushing a wig while it’s wet will make the wig frizzy.

Washing your wig

After your wig is all brushed out, you’re ready to wash it. Start by taking a large basin or bowl and fill it with tepid water (hot water will overheat the fibers in the wig). As for shampoo, you can either use a wig shampoo or laundry detergent. Why? Because the wig is made of synthetic fibers and not human hair, regular shampoo will destroy the hair. The wig shampoo and laundry detergent ensure the safety of the wig. Synthetic wig shampoo was formulated especially for synthetic wigs and laundry detergent caters to the unnatural fibers within the wig.

Youtuber Destiny Taylor xo, washed her straight synthetic wig with laundry detergent and conditioned it with fabric softener. The fabric softener ensures that your wig will remain soft, bouncy, and clean smelling. It’s also the best conditioner to use for synthetic wigs. In Destiny’s tutorial, she mixed both detergent and fabric softener together to achieve her final result.

Although most synthetic wig wearers are washing their wigs with laundry detergent, you can still use shampoo if that’s your preference. YouTuber MissChrissyJaye recommends using Klorane Dry Shampoo or Control Wig Shampoo. Not only does she recommend these products, but they are her holy grail shampoos for synthetic wigs, especially the inexpensive ones.

Technique

While washing the wig, make sure that you swirl your wig around in the basin and let it soak for about 30 minutes. Scrubbing the wig will cause unruly tangles and you’ll end up making the wig frizzy. After washing, let the wig air dry completely on a wig head.

YouTuber Jane Earl also uses shampoo to wash her synthetic wigs. In this tutorial, she shows viewers how to revive a dry and matted kinky wig by washing it with Aunt Jackie’s Oh So Clean Moisturizing Shampoo, as well as TRESemme shampoo. (TRESemme seems to be a favorite amongst wig wearers by the way). In Jane’s tutorial, you can clearly see how she doesn’t vigorously wash the wig, but gently washes it while following the hair’s natural curl pattern. She finishes the process with wig shine and mousse.

Here are a few other shampoos that are specifically made for synthetic wigs:

Washing machine? Don’t even think about it.

If you’re thinking about putting your wig in the washing machine because it’s made of synthetic fibers, think again and then think one more time. You should never put a synthetic wig or any wig in the washing machine or dryer. If you do, your wig will look like it was run over with a lawn mower. Blogger Carmelesha Matthewson accidentally put her wig in the washer AND dryer one day and the result was a hot, toasty mess. If you need a visual of what could happen, take a look at this Youtuber’s wig that was literally put through the wringer.

When and How Often To Wash Your Synthetic Wig

Wig manufacturers agree that washing any wig before you wear it is a personal choice and isn’t necessary. However, if you feel more comfortable washing your wig or even giving it a quick rinse before wearing it, be sure to keep in mind the synthetic wig washing tips discussed above. Just because your wig isn’t soiled yet, doesn’t mean you don’t need to abide by the rules.

As for how often you should wash your wig, that too depends on the person. Washing your wig once every two weeks is the general consensus, but another general rule of thumb is if your wig feels a bit oily, isn’t moving as freely (think Beyoncé hair), and has a bit of an odor, then it’s definitely time to wash it.

Reviving Your Synthetic Wig

My wig is stiff

Now, if you follow all of the instructions above and still find that you made a mistake along the way, there is a way to bring your synthetic wig back from the dead (not the washing machine). The wig experts from Beauty Empire recommend using a handheld steamer and a brush for wigs that just don’t look quite as fabulous as they did before. Take your synthetic wig; section it off and place the hair between the brush and steamer. Then slowly brush through the wig. If you don’t have a steamer on standby, a blow dryer on a warm setting is fine.

Recurling a curly synthetic wig

If you have a curly synthetic wig with frizzy and misshapen curls, you can reset them by using perm rods. Simply curl your wig with the rods and put the wig into a pot of hot water (boil it before removing it from the heat) and let it sit for about ten minutes. Next, let the wig air dry completely (or blow dry it on cool). This technique also works well for curling straight wigs that have lost their luster!

Routinely use fabric softener

As mentioned, laundry detergent and fabric softener (Downy fabric softener is the best) can be used to wash your wig. It turns out that this method of washing synthetic wigs truly is the key to revamping your wig unit. Youtuber Real Talk with Yanie promises that if you use this method routinely, your synthetic wig can last anywhere from 6 months to a year! Check out her tutorial on how she revamps her wig using the laundry detergent and Downy fabric softener method.

Let it shine

To keep your synthetic wig looking shiny and soft, you’ll want to finish it off with a wig shine spray. Awesome Classic Care Synthetic Wig Conditioner (Youtuber IDARA believes it’s one of the best she’s used!) and Control Wig Spray (Youtuber Color Me Jacie claims it’s the best wig spray EVER!) seem to be popular amongst synthetic wig wearers.

How to Maintain Your Synthetic wig

Sleeping in Your Synthetic Wig

Every now and then, after a long day, you may doze off while catching up on your favorite show and totally forget to take off your wig and store it properly. Although it isn’t recommended to sleep in a wig (it can become frizzy or misshapen), we know it happens sometimes or circumstances might force you to 🙄.
If you must sleep in your wig, it’s possible to do so without damaging the wig hair. Here are a few simple tips from wig and weave retailer Mayvenn:

  • Wrap your head. Too much friction can cause wig hair loss overtime.
  • Sleep on a silk or satin pillowcase. If your scarf slips off during the night, your hair will still be protected.
  • Brush your wig thoroughly in the morning. This prevents matting and frizzing during the course of the day.

Do I need a wig head?

Most wonder if you absolutely need a wig head to store your synthetic wig on. The answer is not necessarily. A wig head is the best way to keep the shape of your wig, but there are alternatives if you don’t have the space for a traditional wig head. Wig hangers, hanging wig storage bags, and the silk bag your wig came in are all fine alternatives to wig heads. Youtuber Jane Nkana demonstrates how she uses balled up newspaper (or paper) and a silk wig bag to keep the shape of her synthetic and human hair wigs. There’s also this portable wig head on Amazon that we use and love!

Maintaining Your Hair Under Your Wig

When wearing synthetic wigs, it’s important to make sure that you’re keeping your natural hair under the wig as healthy as possible. Most people wear cornrows under their wigs, but some simply plait their hair or wrap it around their head before putting their wig cap on and then their wig.

Whatever your preference, make sure that your hair is hydrated and your scalp is clean before you put on your synthetic wig. Youtuber, Killa Kryss, is able to grow her hair long under her wigs by regularly co-washing her hair, using a microfiber towel after washing, and oiling her hair while it’s wet to retain moisture. Her secret weapon? Jamaican Black Castor Oil. It’s her secret for keeping her hair moisturized and growing under her wigs. She rubs the castor oil on her scalp every night.

You can follow Killa Kryss’s lead or create a routine for your own hair that suits you, but keep in mind these important tips from the experts featured in our short documentary on protective styles.

  • Wash your hair regularly. Two weeks is a general rule of thumb but that might vary based on how active you are and your scalp conditions.
  • Keep your own hair moisturized to avoid breakage.
  • Sleep with a satin scarf at night.
  • And give your own hair time to breathe outside of a protective style, like wearing a wig.

Read more tips here.

Now that you have a good idea of what it takes to keep your wig and your natural hair in pristine condition, let’s recap some of the Do’s and Don’ts of wearing and caring for a synthetic wig.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Caring for Synthetic Wigs

  • Do not comb a synthetic wig when it’s wet.
  • Do use cool or tepid water to wash your synthetic wig.
  • Do only use products created specifically for synthetic wigs.
  • Do place your synthetic wig on a wig head or stand to keep the shape while drying.
  • Don’t expose your synthetic wig to heat unless your wig is heat safe.
  • Do keep your hair under the synthetic wig clean so that the hygiene of your wig remains intact.
  • Do gently dry your synthetic wig with an old t-shirt or towel. Do not rub, but pat dry!
  • Do blow dry your synthetic wig on a cool or warm setting only.
  • Do use fabric softener to revive a stiff synthetic wig.
  • Don’t sleep in your synthetic wig if you don’t have to.

You’re all set. Happy wig wearing!

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