2020 unleashed a series of events that took me by surprise. Although my intensifying struggle with my hair had been brewing for some years, my epic health crisis, the emergence of COVID and lockdowns emboldened me to try something equally dramatic. After years of wrestling with my hair, I decided to give up the struggle and explore the unknown territory of wearing wigs.
I had no idea that menopause would bring with it a cruel twist. In addition to weight gain, hot flashes, and night sweats, now my already thin hair started thinning even more. Freshly washed without the benefit of hair products, the shine of my scalp is mercilessly visible.
Make It Come Back
Most men will admit a preference for hair length, colour and style to the women they love, but my husband had little to say about my hairstyle choices over the years. My otherwise nonplussed husband shared my pain when I showed him the extent of my new reality, and I felt both loss and helplessness as I learned that this change was an irreversible part of ageing.
My first go-to for bad hair days was hair coverings. I experimented with scarves, thick headbands and hats to compliment my outfits and hide what was happening from others.
Helpful Hair Products
The most convenient solution was to use hair colour sprays and powders to fill the thinning areas. My hairstylist set me up and showed me how. In addition to haircuts, colouring and styling, I needed to purchase these products and use them daily. The hair powder is my favourite, but it settles like a thin layer of “soot” in my bathroom, leaves residue on people or objects that brush up against my head, and an innocent head scratch can scrape it away, leaving an odd bald patch of shiny skin showing. It’s problematic and high maintenance, but it works.
A Different Solution
An idea started growing in my mind, and just after my 50th birthday, I asked my husband to shave my head, and I started wearing wigs. What could go wrong? No more hours of hairstyling time and the money spent on hair dye, cuts and products being freed up.
All that and picture-perfect hair 24/7. Well, not exactly.
After a year, I discovered that while wearing wigs has its benefits, it also has its detractors.
If you are contemplating wigs, my journey will help you decide what is best for you.
Hair loss wasn’t the only reason I wanted to try wigs as a styling solution. Like most women, I like looking nice, but a part of me doesn’t enjoy the time sequestered in the bathroom doing all the things we ladies do to look our best.
I thought the time and money I invested in my natural hair could be better used elsewhere and the simplicity of wearing a wig appealed to me.
How to Order a Wig Online
My first intention was to visit a local wig expert to be correctly fitted and try wigs on before purchase. Due to COVID restrictions, this business was not open. I was anxious to begin my wig-wearing journey, so I turned to online resources to purchase my wigs, and I landed on a great help at wigs.com.
My Online Source
Wigs.com is the Amazon of wigs. They have resources that help you determine the best wig lengths and styles for your head and face shape, how to determine if synthetic or natural wigs are better for you and how to measure your head to determine your wig size for proper fit.
After all that, you can sift through the pages of wig lengths and styles to find wigs that would be ideal for you. Each wig has a star rating, including reviews from those who have purchased them before you. Reading through the comments, many reviewers included real-life photos that showed how the wigs looked on real women, not models.
When I found wigs that appealed to me, I clicked on the colour and size I needed and added them to my cart.
Later, I sat down with Shawn, and we looked at each wig in the cart together and eliminated less desirable ones until we had three favourites.
It was time to check out and have them delivered.
Quality wigs are not cheap. You can get costume wigs on Amazon for a great price, but the caps are thick and scratchy, and often the hair looks unnatural with telltale origin points at the top of the head. They are hot and uncomfortable for any length of time. Maybe great for a party or a night out but not for everyday wear.
Synthetic Versus Natural
Quality synthetic wigs are $200-$500, and they are great for pre-styled hair that you don’t have to do anything but comb and wash every so often. The downside is they only look their best for a few months when worn daily.
Natural wigs range from $1000-$3000, and they have to be cared for and styled just like your own hair. They last longer, about a year.
Since I wanted pre-styled convenience and purchasing quality wigs was already a shock to our budget, I went synthetic. I hoped that care would extend the life of the wig beyond the promised three months.
I took a photo of my newly shaved head and meant to only send the image to my daughter but realized after the fact that I had sent it to my entire family. Whoops.
The girls in my life were, “Wow! It looks great! Good for you!”
The men in my life were either silent or “Are you sick? Do you have cancer?”
A few of my girlfriends seemed agitated that I had decided to wear wigs and asked me interrogation-style questions about my reasons and offered a myriad of alternative options.
I didn’t understand the big deal. It’s hair. It grows back.
I didn’t expect to feel so empowered.
There’s a reason shedding one’s hair is often a turning point in a person’s life.
It’s a bold, dramatic move.
I felt like I was being freed from years of fussing in front of the mirror, sweating through blow dries, curling or straightening irons and less than overwhelming results after the time investment. I was freed from hours of hair colourings and hair products cluttering my bathroom counters.
I couldn’t stop touching my newly-shaved head. It felt soft but bristly. With all the coloured hair gone, I could see the salt and pepper growth of new hair.
Heat is Death
Wigs come out of their packaging all smooth, shiny and styled to perfection. A little positioning here, a tuck there, and bam! Hair is good to go! This is definitely what I signed up for.
Synthetic wigs are sensitive to heat, so you can’t blow-dry, curl or straighten them. Heat of any kind means disaster. I understood that. I didn’t realize that body heat, water or the heat from the sun or radiant cooking heat is detrimental as well. I first noticed my wig frizzing up at the nape of my neck and around the face. The frizzed ends make the wig hard to comb and have that unfinished look that most of us try to avoid in our styling.
The wig looks okay for the most part but not as lovely as when it was new. Sure enough…just under every day use, the synthetic wig becomes undesirable around the three-month mark.
I believe if I visited the wig stylist in our area, she could trim my wigs and give them new life, but again, the lockdowns have so far prevented me from doing this.
Hot, Itchy, Get OFF Me!
I intended to slip my wig on first thing in the morning and slip it off the last thing before bed. Very quickly, however, it became the last thing I put on before leaving the house and the first thing I took off when I returned home. For those who feel agitation at jewelry, hair ties and barrettes, the confinement of bras or pants…the wig falls into that category. It’s not immediately uncomfortable, but it feels good to be free of it after hours of wear.
For this reason, I eventually realized that it wasn’t fair to the men I lived with to keep my hair buzzed so short. I looked great with my makeup and wig applied, but the rest of the time, I looked less feminine. I thought if I lost some weight, I’d look a little cuter with my shaved head, but weight loss has been a struggle, and I’ll admit, the shaved look just made the whole situation worse.
A Slow Transition
I started regrowing my hair beneath the wig, but that necessitated the regular home colourings to ensure my new hair growth matched the wig colour in case it poked through or the wig slipped back. Sometimes, it necessitated using a wig cap to restrain my natural hair and keep it close to my scalp for those same reasons.
In the end, I decided that other than the occasional event, wig-wearing was not the blissful solution to all my struggles that I thought it would be. Even so, it was difficult to restart the processes I had temporarily freed myself from. The sooty hair powder is back.
It’s worth it, though, to see the relief and admiration in my husband’s eyes now that my year of wig experimentation is over. I keep my natural hair in a short style and now relish the relative freedom from the heat and itchiness of daily wig wearing. He is way more complimentary than he was in the past, and he helps me manage the powder applications when I need him to.
I’m glad I dared to try a new approach to a challenge, even if it led back to where I started. Sometimes you have to try different strategies to find out which is best for you. While I don’t appreciate this unwelcome aspect of ageing, I am grateful that I have options if needed.
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