This year, Women’s Wellness Week is raising money for cancer support charity, Look Good Feel Better, who know the impact changes in your appearance can have while being treated. Here they give their guide to hair loss and wigs …
Hair loss can be one of the most distressing side effects of cancer treatment. Some women choose to live with the new look, but others prefer to cover their heads with wigs, hats or scarves until their own hair has returned. It’s a very individual choice.
In the past, wigs were often uncomfortable and unappealingly ‘fake’. But they’ve come a long way in the last few years: most are now light and comfortable to wear and look extremely natural.
Facing up to the loss of your hair can be a very emotional time. Women undergoing treatment usually find it helpful to visit wig suppliers or specialist internet sites such as mynewhair.org, hairware.com and trendco.co.uk.
These organisations provide personalised advice and support, and can also provide helpful advice about how to obtain financial help from the NHS and other sources. Nurses at your treatment centre will also be able to advise you, and may be able to arrange for a wig-fitter to visit you at home. A useful summary of NHS wig funding provision can be found at macmillan.org.uk. When choosing a wig, you may want to recreate the ‘old’ you, or experiment with a whole new look. Some women choose more than one wig so that they can create different looks for different occasions. On a practical note, it can help to have two wigs so that you can wear one while the other is being cleaned.
Wigs provide an ideal opportunity to experiment with hair colour; it’s important to choose a colour that will complement your skin tone rather than drain colour from your face. A wig specialist will help you with this, but it is also a good idea to take a friend or family member whose opinion you value with you when choosing. If you want to recreate your ‘normal’ look, it’s also useful to take a photograph with you to the session.
Wigs can be made from either real or synthetic hair. Synthetic wigs come pre-styled and are easier to care for than wigs made of real hair. They are also less expensive than real hair wigs, and are lighter and easier to look after.
Synthetic wigs can’t be coloured or restyled with heat or steam, but if you look after them properly they will retain their original style with the minimum of fuss. Wigs should be stored on a wig stand to keep them in shape. Synthetic wigs should be hand washed with wig shampoo and then left to air dry on a dry towel or wig stand.
Never flick the wig when wet, as this can destroy the pre-styling. Real hair wigs can be coloured and styled with hairdryers, straightening irons, heated rollers, curling tongs and so on just the same as your own hair – except that it’s easier because you can style the hair on a ‘block’ or stand in front of you! They usually look extremely natural but are more expensive than synthetic wigs and are not normally available on the NHS.
Trying on Wigs: When trying wigs, position them on the front of the head so that the hairline is where your natural hairline would be. And don’t make any snap decisions! It always takes a few minutes to adjust to a new look.
Tip: If you know that you will be having treatment that is likely to result in hair loss, it’s a good idea to explore wigs and other options early on, so that you feel more prepared.
Professional Advice: International hair stylist and Look Good Feel Better Vice President, Charles Worthington, gives the following advice on choosing and using wigs:
• Colour: choose a shade that complements your skin tone; for a natural look, go slightly lighter rather than darker as the change will be less noticeable
• Finish: When choosing a synthetic wig, it’s best to avoid those with a very high gloss shine, particularly if you want it to go unnoticed
• Length: always choose a wig longer than the style you want to achieve to allow scope for it to be cut into shape on your head
• Size: choose a size that feels comfortable and secure; if your hair has not yet fallen out, the wig should be quite ‘snug’ so that it fits well later on – or even better, try to find an adjustable wig
• Cut: consider having your new wig cut professionally to individualise it and enhance your natural features; small touches such as trimming and taking the weight out of a fringe can make a huge difference
• Styling: the best styling tool for wigs is your hands. Running your fingers through the wig to break up the hair will give it a natural finish. Wide toothed combs are also good
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