Hair loss from chemotherapy can affect your self-esteem and outlook during treatment. Wearing a wig can help you feel like yourself until your hair grows back. But if you've never bought a wig before, you might be wondering how to choose from the many types of wigs, how much they cost, and more.
Consider this guide on why and how to wear a wig during your cancer treatment. While you may think this is the wrong decision, such a small detail can bring significant benefits.
Why a wig?
Chemotherapy drugs are designed to attack rapidly dividing cancer cells. The problem is that these drugs also affect other rapidly dividing cells, such as hair follicles. The result, of course, is hair loss.
Some chemotherapy drugs are more likely to cause hair loss than others, but complete hair loss is often the norm rather than the exception for people receiving adjuvant chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer. Chemotherapy drugs used for metastatic breast cancer also often cause hair loss .
Although not medically serious, hair loss is one of the worst side effects of chemotherapy. Some patients who undergo treatment say that hair loss makes them feel less like themselves. Others may feel uncomfortable or anxious about such a visible reminder of their illness. Others may not feel a personal need for a wig, but buy it because they feel it will help their loved ones in some way.
Buying a wig can be a helpful solution for those who experience these and other feelings about hair loss. Self-confidence can help you deal with many of the effects of cancer, and something as simple as a wig can make a big difference.
Radiation therapy to the scalp can also cause hair loss. It is important to note that hair loss associated with radiation therapy, unlike chemotherapy, is usually permanent.
Types of wigs
Depending on the degree of hair loss, you may not need a full wig. Different types of wigs and hairpieces are designed for different types of hair loss, and they are all priced differently:
- A full wig covers the entire hairline like natural hair. If you have lost all of your hair during chemotherapy, you probably need a full wig.
- A partial wig is woven into the hair. If chemotherapy is thinning your hair and you just want to add a little swelling, this is a great option.
- A wig can be added to the hair with bobby pins or combs to easily hide bald spots and add length to short hair.
- A hair extension is the perfect solution if you don't need a full or partial wig. If you want to tuck a fringe under a scarf or a summer hat, try this option. There are bangs, halo wigs, hair bands, pigtails, and braids.
A wig base, also known as a wig cap, is a structure that attaches to the head and has wefts (blocks of hair) or strands attached to it; Wig bases are used for full wigs.
Proper wig base will make your wig look beautiful and help you feel confident while wearing it. Only you will see the base of the wig, but it still affects the look, style, fit, and hold of the wig. There are several types of wig bases:
- A comfortable cap is a full-fledged dense foundation. The hair strands are tied to the base by hand, creating a natural strand in the hair.
- The capless and weftless warp consists of an open mesh of woven fabric attached to a closed front. Strands of hair are added to the cobweb.
- A lace wig has 1 to 2 inches of fine lace fabric around the outside edge of the cap. The hair strands are either machine tied or hand tied to a base to create a very natural look.
- The monofilament base is a closed cap made of fine mesh material with woven or hand-woven strands. The upper front of the cap is covered with a thin layer of latex, which gives the impression of a natural scalp.
Hair Wig Options
Wig hair comes in a variety of colors and can be cut and styled to your liking. If it is damaged, which is very likely, the wig can be repaired at a professional salon.
There are two types of hair wig:
- A wig made with synthetic hair has a polymer strand that keeps its style while wearing and shampooing. There are many types of synthetic hair for wigs and some can easily melt near heat sources. Certain types of synthetic hair, such as Kanekalon , can be styled with heat tools.
- A real human hair wig can be dyed, curled, cut, styled, and blow-dried just like your own hair. They must be renewed after each shampoo.
The quality and cost of the wigs.
Human hair wigs are the most expensive. High-quality human hair wigs from Europe rank first in the price list, followed by hair from India and Asia. Some real hair wigs are a mix of human and animal hair, which slightly reduces the cost.
Synthetic hair wigs generally sell for lower prices than human hair, but a high-quality synthetic wig can cost as much as a medium-quality human hair wig.
The hair in a wig is classified by strength, elasticity, and porosity. The better the quality of the hair, the higher its value, and with care, the longer you can wear the wig. Think about how long you might need to wear a wig before deciding how much you want to spend on it.
A wig can cost between 40 and thousands of dollars. But when your budget is already limited by the cost of surgery and other cancer treatments, even something on the lower end of the spectrum may seem out of reach.
Providing your wig
Many insurance companies cover all or part of the cost of your first wig. Generally, this requires that you have a written prescription from your oncologist for a "hair replacement."
Be sure to keep track of your cancer treatment costs tax-free , including the cost of wigs, hats, and scarves.
Free and discounted wigs
There are several organizations that offer free and discounted wigs as well as other hats such as scarves and caps for those undergoing cancer treatment.
Here are some resources to check out. Depending on your location, you may have local organizations that provide free wigs as well.
- Your Cancer Center: Many large cancer centers (and some smaller ones) accept donated wigs and provide them free of charge to those starting breast cancer treatment. Call the cancer center to find out what options are available or ask your cancer nurse.
- American Cancer Society: The American Cancer Society (ACS) accepts wigs, which they collect from wig banks at their local branches. These wigs were cleaned and made ready to wear. If you don't have health insurance and need help, contact your local ACS office and ask about patient services. Some wigs are distributed through ACS itself, while others are distributed at local Look Good Feel Better meetings along with makeup and headgear.
- CancerCare: Through its women's cancer program , CancerCare offers financial assistance and counseling, support groups, and patient education. They also provide free wigs and breast implants for women who have lost hair or breasts as a result of cancer treatment.
- EBeauty Community: The EBeauty Community accepts used wigs as donations and provides them free of charge to women undergoing cancer treatment.
- Lolly's Locks – This organization was formed with the idea that looking good can make you feel good. Lolly's Locks offers high-quality styling wigs to those who could not otherwise afford them and is the only organization that offers custom wigs for free.
- Susan G. Komen Foundation: Some local Susan G. Komen branches offer free wigs. Call your local office to see if wigs are available in your area.
- Wigs & Wishes – This is a network of salons offering free wigs to women and children suffering from cancer around the world. You can visit the organization's website to find a participating salon near you . They also provide styling services to help women manage their appearance during treatment.
Wigs and hairpieces, like natural hair, require care and attention to look good. Schedule the washing, conditioning and drying of your wig. Use proper wig care products. Stock up on wig shampoo, wig conditioner, and wig spray.
Never use heat tools on a synthetic wig unless it is made from special heat resistant polymers. Synthetic hair can melt or frizz and should be repaired if damaged.
Purchase a collapsible wig holder if you plan to travel with a wig. A wig brush should be used on the wig, not a comb. Brush gently to avoid pulling hairs.
If you are using bobby pins or clips on your wig, remove them overnight to prevent the frizz from permanently frizzing.
The better you take care of your wig, the longer you will look good.
Some people choose to wear a scarf or hat instead of a wig. Wigs can be irritating and itchy, and it's very hot in the summer. Even if you choose to wear a wig most of the time, it's nice to have hats and scarves on hand, especially when you're relaxing at home.
Pay in advance
When your hair grows back and you feel ready to show off your curls after chemotherapy , consider donating your wig to a cancer support organization for someone else to enjoy. If you are having trouble finding a place to buy donated wigs, go to your local hospital and ask if they have an oncology clinic; they can request donations for items for cancer treatment.
You can also donate money to registered charities that provide wigs to women undergoing cancer treatment but cannot afford a wig.
Donate hair to other cancer patients
While both synthetic and natural hair wigs can look amazing, the latter are generally preferred for many reasons. Many people find it difficult to trim their hair when it finally grows back, but doing it so that someone walking in your shoes can update a wig like this can be nice.
Depending on the agency, you can donate hair of different lengths, but most will only accept hair that has not been colored or chemically treated in any way. Learn more about donating hair to cancer patients , the requirements, and some of the organizations that provide this great service so you can plan ahead if you're interested.