|Breast cancer is a year
round trauma that affects women WELL beyond the diagnosis
and the bouts of chemo. The loss of our hair, while trivial compared
to the illness, is a deep upset. The idea of wig shopping gives most
of us a stomach ache. The worry, of course, is will we look normal
like we did before the illness.
Four years ago when I faced the unpleasant reality of Chemo, I befriended Jeff
Hirsch’s mom, Rochelle, who had gone
through the same ordeal three months earlier. Rochelle provided a
great deal of support and she acted as my advisor and companion during
my first visit to one of the popular wig destinations on the ‘Dr.
Anne Moore wig list’. (Anne Moore is THE doctor to go to if
you are a breast cancer patient.)
|Robert-Charles Vallance of Angels of New York patiently
explains to us the intricacies of purchasing a wig.
Now with my hair back on my head, I convinced Rochelle to revisit
the subject of wigs. Maybe this time we could be of service to others
who were on the verge of confronting the same decisions we faced.
We chose to make a day of our research visiting three different wig
salons: Angels of New York, Bits-N-Pieces, and Raffaele
Mollica. At each destination we received a warm welcome from
the owners who graciously set aside a chunk of their time to educate
us about all aspects of purchasing a wig.
from top left: Rochelle
showing the natural looklng ‘roots’ of a lace top
wig; Each hair is had sewn into the custom lace caps; Robert
trying a layered look on Rochelle; Rochelle as a redhead, great
with her coloring; Rochelle as a brunette. Doesn’t she
|Here’s what we learned:
There are three types of wigs: Custom, stock machine-made, and customized
stock wigs. Custom are the most expensive but the fit is far superior
to pre-made wigs, especially if your head size is smaller or larger
Wigs are made of either synthetic, natural (human) hair or a blend
of both synthetic and natural hair. There are pros and cons to each
type of material.
L. to r.: Barry Hendrickson of
Bits-N-Pieces trying a custom wig on Rochelle; And another ...; The
top of a Bits-N-Pieces wig made out of a transparent mesh to simulate
a real scalp.
Pros: They are the least expensive
($400-$600) and easy to care for (simply wash and wear).
Cons: They wear out after 6 to 8
months and they can look artificial.
Clockwise from top left: Au natural;
With bangs; Notice the natural hairline; Great roots with highlights;
Rochelle with a long blond lace wig.
Hair from natural wigs comes from Asia or Europe.
European hair is softer than Asian hair which can be coarse, and therefore,
it is easier to weave. The best type of natural hair (and the most
expensive) is European virgin hair which still retains its cuticles
and therefore, its natural sheen.
Pros: Natural hair is real so it
looks real. It can be washed and styled like your own hair. And it
lasts considerably longer (up to eight years) than synthetic hair.
Cons: Natural hair wigs are expensive,
(they average $3000) and they need more maintenance than synthetic
Something for everyone at Bits-N-Pieces.
A combination of both natural and synthetic hair.
Pros: Sheen is better and the wig
can be more natural looking than synthetic. It is also less expensive
that a 100% natural hair wig.
Cons: Difficult to care for, the
wig is partially synthetic and can’t be blown dried with a
Our third stop off the day:
cozy wig studio on the Upper East Side. All wigs are custom made
out of natural virgin hair by Rafael in his downstairs workshop
where the artist and owner has a literal hand in every wig that
|Fit and Construction
Much to my surprise there are a number of different
choices in this category.
Weft: This type of construction is
used primarily inside machine made wigs where wefts of hair are stitched
into an elastic open cap. The weft construction is durable but heavy.
Both synthetic and natural hair wigs using wefts need to be designed
with bangs to cover the hard front hair line.
Mono filament Tops: Typically nylon,
hairs are sewn into a mesh that simulates a scalp. Wigs with mono filament
tops can also be combined with machine made weft backs. Since mono
filament tops are hand sewn, they are more expensive. The advantage
of this type of construction is they are more natural looking and much
lighter than the less expensive weft construction.
Lace: Probably the lightest and most natural looking
of all the wig categories, lace wigs are extremely delicate and not
typically advised for daily use for long term wig wearers. (Lace
is woven only with natural hair into a fine mesh that is cut back
to create a hairline). On the other hand, if money is not a concern
and you plan to only wear the wig until your real hair grows back
then you may want to consider this option.
FOR BUYING A WIG:
Go wig shopping as so as you find out that
you will need chemotherapy. Don’t wait until your hair falls
If you’re someone who is
willing to buy Manolo Blahnik shoes than under spend on your wig.
Buy the best looking wig that you can afford, it will make you feel better.
Bailet of Angels of New York.
a back up wig. No matter what type of wig you buy, you are going to need to rotate
when one is dirty or being
a friend or family member with you when shopping. It helps to get moral
support and another opinion.
• Unless you’re a drama queen, select a
wig that is close to your current cut and color. You’ll have
enough changes to deal with during chemotherapy.
• Once you purchase your wig, bring it to your
own stylist for cutting and color. You’ll feel more at ease
working with someone with whom you are comfortable and whose taste
• Remember, no one is staring at you and obsessing
about whether you are wearing a wig.
|At the end of our wig shopping
expedition, Rochelle and I were exhausted but encouraged.
We tried on dozens of wigs, some were awful but many were terrific. Rochelle
discovered she looks fabulous as a redhead and I found out that
I look ten years OLDER as a blond. Most importantly, we both realized
that buying, finding and wearing an attractive wig can be a positive
experience. Pull it out, put it on, and then get on with your life!
(Raffaele Mollica Wigs, 511 east
75th street, 212-535-6735; Angels of New York, 161
east 61st Street, 212-838-7888; Barry Hendrickson’s
Bits-N-Pieces, 1841 Broadway, ste. 201, 212-397-0711).