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. Literally. (Plus, here’s how to take care of your synthetic or human hair wig).
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—the bees’ knees of scary. 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 🦍🙅🏾♀️🛑.
While combs and clips can be a safer alternative to chemical adhesives, they are prone to hair pulling and, in some cases, can pull out chunks of hair at a time. I had a bald spot right above my right ear, experimenting with wig clips. It’s highly recommended to have a stylist install and takedown a unit with wig clips to ensure a snag-free, trauma-free experience 😄.
A relatively recent addition to the hair care market, wig grips are adjustable headbands of various colors and materials to be placed right before the hairline in lieu of the traditional stocking/wig cap. They avoid friction, protect edges and ensure a secure hold. Velvet, microfibers, and suede varieties are safe, effective options to try out. Avoid silicone makes as they lead to sweating and typically have a design that will leave imprints on the scalp. Pro tip: If possible, try to purchase a customizable wig grip to avoid over-stretching and a loosened hold as a result. Vlogger Vanali Co breaks down the pros and cons between velvet, lace-velvet and silicone wig grips she tried.
- Velvet – she uses this one the most because it’s adjustable and comfortable. The con is it doesn’t give you a completely flushed look. (Currently $7.99 on Amazon)
- Lace – similar to the the velvet but the addition of lace makes it nice for parting. (Also currently $7.99 on Amazon)
- Silicone – she doesn’t recommend this one personal because she feels like it would pull out baby hair. It left imprints on her scalp and the material would feels as though it would cause sweating. The one pro is that it’s most flush and easily camouflaged. (12 piece set on Amazon for $11.99)
A note about Wig Fix, a Silicone Wig Grip
Unlike Vanali, vlogger PeakMill is a fan of her silicone wig grip by Black-owned company Wig Fix. You’ll see quite a few Youtubers touting this product. In PeakMill’s video below you’ll notice that she places the grip behind her hairline and doesn’t appear to have any issues with it.
But the reviews for this product are mixed. Two other vloggers were less impressed with Wig Fix, both experiencing slippage and BonnyBe, the second blogger below found it made her sweat. The verdict is still out on Wig Fix but the great thing about the company is they offer a 60 day money-back guarantee, so you can try it and send it back if you’re not satisfied with it.
Wig Grip Cap
Take your wig grip game to the next level with a wig grip cap. As the name suggests, it’s a wig grip and a wig cap all in one. A noteworthy alternative to the common wig grip and stocking cap combination, which can be harsh on hair and leave it vulnerable to damage. All wig grip caps aren’t created equally so be sure to check that it is made of antibacterial, breathable materials, such as bamboo fibers and light cotton for ideal protection. As mentioned above, it’s best to have the cap measured to your head size as possible for a comfortable, maximized grip.
Vlogger NaturalJoy weighed the pros and cons of a wig grip cap vs a wig grip. She ultimately preferred the cap, although she said it’s relatively less breathable than just the grip. She got her wig grip cap on Amazon. It’s currently $24.99.
Should I wear a wig if my edges are thinning?
The most effective way to treat moderate to significantly thinning edges is to consult a licensed dermatologist (ideally one that’s familiar with Black hair). They’ll then be able to inform you of treatment options. As for hairstyling, it is best to let your edges breathe and rest if they’re thinning. Avoid hairstyles that involve manipulation of the affected area, including braids, weaves, and yes, wigs. Here’s a handy quiz to help you determine if you should be wearing protective styles or not and what styles you can and can’t wear depending on your hair resilience.
How do I prepare my hair for a wig?
To maintain or improve the health of your hair, prepping before any protective style is critical, wigs especially so.
- Always start with clean hair. Make sure that hair is washed with a clarifying shampoo–a thorough wash that strips hair of dirt and oils–followed by a second round with a moisturizing shampoo to replace the stripped oils.
- After washing, continue with a deep conditioner that will restore your hair’s structure and improve elasticity. Follow instructions listed on the bottle regarding soak time. Then rinse.
- Next add a trusted heat protectant and blow-dry under a cool setting.
- Braid hair in straight vertical cornrows. Be sure to avoid unnecessary pulling and tugging.
- Lightly oil scalp with a lightweight oil such as peppermint or grapeseed.
How do I protect my hairline and take care of my hair while wearing a wig?
Depending on the method chosen, protection varies. See below how you can keep your edges safe for each method.
Glues and Adhesives
While adhesives are not the safest of options, they tend to produce the most natural-looking results. If you absolutely must, we recommend using adhesives for special occasions only, such as weddings, graduations, holidays, and as sparingly as possible. Always, spot test new adhesive products prior to applying to check for allergic reactions. ORS Olive Oil Fix-It Grip Gel Ultra Hold is a trusted option that moisturizes the hair underneath the wig, effectively avoiding dry patches along the hairline. Also, Got2B Glued Blasting Freeze Spray is also a good option whose active ingredient, Alcohol Denat, doesn’t typically cause skin irritation, but it is an alcohol so it can dry out your hair. Most damage typically occurs when removing the glue.
Pro tip on removal: To lessen the risk of damage, opt for a reputable wig adhesive remover such as Walker Tape C22. Apply the adhesive with a q-tip to gently loosen the glue and slowly remove your wig simultaneously. Follow up with a clarifying shampoo to remove any excess residue, and be sure to remove any glue residue from the wig itself.
Metal Clips and Combs
To avoid painful snags and snatches, be sure to add oil to the hair to soften tangles and the clip’s hold. Slowly release the clasp open, feeling for any tugging. If tugging does occur, add additional oil to detangle. Finally, gently slide the comb downwards from the nape and or temple.
Pro tip: Allow yourself time to detach all clips. Refrain from rushing the process, as you’ll most likely end up with damaged hair as a result.
Always place the grip right behind the hairline. If it were to have direct contact, damage can occur. The point of the wig grip is to allow your edges to breathe without excessive tugging—place it behind the hairline where there is just enough space for a snug, comfortable fit for your wig. Refrain from oversized or ill-fitting options as you will be more inclined to use snagging hair pins to hold it into place.
Wig Grip Cap
The same as above; however, always ensure that the material used for the cap is soft to the touch, antibacterial, and light enough so your hair can breathe and air can circulate.
How should I take care of my hair while wearing a wig?
Check out our expert-backed guidelines for caring for protective styles. While hairline protection can vary, there are ground rules for hair care, no matter the method.
- Firstly, routine washes are a must. Aim for once a week, but never go longer than three weeks without washing.
- Regularly follow up with biweekly deep conditions and quarterly trims for maximum protection of your hair’s overall health.
- Always stay away from tight wigs as they lack breathability and cause damage to the hairline.
- Sleep with a silk scarf to minimize friction and hair damage.
- Finally, never wear wet hair under a wig. It’s a guaranteed way to prevent bacterial odor and mildew.
Can I wear a wig everyday? What’s the longest I can wear a wig for?
As long as you maintain care for your hair, wearing a wig long-term is doable, however, allowing your hair time to breathe is also crucial to its health. We recommend wearing your hair out just as much as it’s worn in a protective style throughout the year and avoid wearing your unit to bed.
How can I get the most natural looking hairline while wearing a wig?
While many swear by the adhesive method on a full lace frontal wig, we suggest a wig grip/wig grip cap under a lace closure wig for everyday wear. You’ll be guaranteed a natural look and can always brush your hair behind your ears. All risks considered, wearing a wig does not have to be a death sentence for your natural hair. Like all things, it’s best done in moderation and with caution. Always put your natural hair first, be wary of harmful chemicals and keep an eye out for gradual changes that may occur.