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The complete guide to wigs and hair extensions

Perhaps the simplest way to transform your look, wearing hair extensions or a wig gives you the freedom to completely change your style whenever you desire. Say goodbye to lengthy colour or cut processes, permanent changes and uncomfortable experiences. Even better? Both wigs and hair extensions can also help to hide thinning hair or medical conditions, which may limit your hair growth. Our guide will teach you everything you need to know about wigs and hair extensions. So, whether you’re a faux hair newbie, or if you’d like to be more informed before your next purchase, you’ll know all you need to make the right decision.

Why should you choose a wig?
Wigs are quick to change and easy to wear, making them perfect for anyone planning on trying a new style or colour for a special occasion. Not only will you save time, but you can opt for a dramatic, full-head style that just wouldn’t be as simple to create with extensions. Wigs are also best for those with very short hair or who are suffering from medical conditions that may affect the hair follicle or scalp. Because extensions need to be permanently bonded by some method to your hair, they aren’t suitable for those with sensitive scalps or weakened and damaged hair follicles. If you’ve lost hair due to chemotherapy or alopecia then the right wig will give you the style that you want whilst letting your scalp and hair follicles underneath recover. Even if you have healthy hair but suffer from scalp pain and sensitivity, then perhaps try a wig before extensions for this very reason.
What is a hair lace wig?
Simply said, this is a synthetic or human hair wig with a lace base, that is then attached to the scalp by being taped or glued to the area around the front hairline. The hair in these wigs will have been tied by hand and then attached to the sheer lace foundation. Both synthetic hair lace wigs and human hair lace wigs have a lace base that covers the full scalp whilst a frontal lace wig base will only cover the front. For occasional use, frontal lace wigs tend to be popular as they are fast and easy to wear. However, a full lace wig does offer more versatility and can be tied up and moved in with more security.
How to tell a good wig from a bad one
Firstly and most importantly, a wig's price should be its main indicator of quality. Synthetic hair wigs will always be cheaper than human hair wigs, but understand that the cheaper it will be, the worse the quality. This quality will be reflected through its comfort or lack of when worn, it's lifespan and whether it has a realistic look and feel. A good wig should replicate human hair as much as possible, giving you the option to manipulate and style it as you would your own. If the wig that you're looking at buying can't be washed, then rethink whether it's the right one for you. All wigs should enable the wearer to wash them as this will help it to last longer.
How can I ensure that my wig won’t cause damage to my scalp?
Make sure to find a wig or hair closure that will let your scalp breathe and that won’t have any chemicals or materials that can cause irritation. For this reason alone, virgin hair is recommended to people with skin sensitivity. When it comes to adhesives, stick to water-based solutions that are much gentler on the skin and consider protecting your scalp with an added cap or treatments that can help you avoid damage.
How should I wash my wig?
To ensure that your wig looks great and lasts for longer, it’s important to wash it correctly. You should always begin by detangling the hair to avoid creating knots and shedding when washing. Follow this with a rinse (do not soak as it can lead to tangles) and then a gentle shampoo. The next step is to condition. If you have synthetic hair, use a leave-in conditioner. If you have human hair you can use a normal conditioner, but we recommend leaving it for a few minutes before rinsing. With both types of hair fibre, it is vital to avoid conditioning the root. Once conditioned, rinse the hair ensuring that the water flows in the same direction as the hair strand and then gently press excess water from the hair with a towel. Synthetic hair should be air dried on a wig stand, whilst natural hair can be blow dried on a low to medium heat. Natural hair wigs can also be dyed using shop-bought hair dyes, but require extra care and maintenance. We recommend getting a wig professionally dyed for the best results.
Why is synthetic hair best?
Synthetic hair wigs are a cheaper alternative to natural hair, created with man-made hair fibres produced to resemble human hair. Acrylic, polyester, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and Kanekalon are the most common types of synthetic hair and all differ in quality, with Kanekalon being of the highest. When checking a synthetic wig, look for the difference in higher quality fibres by the amount of shine in the fibre. You’ll find that the lower the quality, the more lacklustre and unnatural it looks. For a softer and more life-like feel, you can also purchase synthetic and human hair blends. In this case, ultrasonic vibrational energy is used to join synthetic and treated human hair together for a look that is more realistic but cheaper than a natural wig. Because synthetic fibres have been pre-styled, they will maintain their original shape and look new for longer. You won’t be able to alter original curl patterns or parts, even with water. For this reason, many synthetic fibres cannot be heat-styled or treated. However, some synthetic hair types have been created with heat friendly or heat resistant fibres that enable styling with low or medium heat settings. It’s important to remember that synthetic hair can never be coloured. Synthetic hair wigs tend to have a shorter lifespan than natural hair wigs, with lesser worn and well cared for wigs lasting around 1 year. Generally, the lifespan for a synthetic wig is around 4-10 months. As synthetic hair costs less than natural hair, it's more suitable for those who are wanting to buy a wig for sporadic use or who want to save money.
Why is natural hair best?
Wigs, hairpieces and extensions made from 100% human hair offer versatility and longevity that replicates natural hair. They can be blow dried, cut, washed, coloured, curled, styled and straightened whenever you desire, having the ability to be reset once washed and dried. Due to this versatility, human hair wigs need much more styling time and maintenance than synthetic wigs. Ideally, they need to be treated with the care that you’d give your own hair. Even though they require more maintenance and are more costly than synthetic hair, human hair is the most natural looking type of fibre and is also much more durable. They are a little heavier in weight, but this can be seen as a benefit for those who want their wig to feel realistic. Generally, human hair wigs can last for over 3 years if handled and cared for properly. This makes them a great investment for those who are looking to have a wig that can be worn regularly, or for those who want to achieve the most realistic looking hair.
Where does natural hair come from?
The four main sources for human hair extensions and wigs are Asian, India, Eastern Europe and South America. As hair naturally grows in varying lengths, but wigs tend to be created from hair of one length, the wig maker will only use one length or hair at a time to “layer” the wig. During a wig maker's layering process, they are also able to remove any hairs that may be damaged or of a lower quality. The hair that will be used for wigs is placed into bundles which are then colour processed, sometimes treated and then manufactured into the wig. For virgin hair, the processing stops once the hair has been bundled, giving you the most natural and life-like hair possible.
Why should you choose hair extensions?
Extensions tend to be used as a way to add volume, length and texture to natural hair rather than change its look completely. If you’re wanting a more permanent solution to thin hair or find that you'd prefer to accentuate your natural hair, extensions are best for you. There are varied methods of wearing extensions, some being short-termed solutions that are perfect for events, adding colour or specific hairstyles.
What are hair weaves?
Available as either synthetic hair weaves or natural hair weaves, weaves are hair extensions that can be added to your own hair to add length, volume or colour. They tend to be a natural solution that should blend into your natural hair and can be worn as a permanent solution until the hair needs replacing. Weaves can be attached to your hair with four main methods:
Best for normal scalps
Bonding: This is when wefts of natural or synthetic hair are glued close to the root of your hair close to your scalp. Sewing: This is the most popular way to attach weaves. The first step is to cornrow the hair, which is followed by sewing wefts of hair onto each cornrow.
Best for sensitive scalps
Interlocking: Interlocking is a variation of the sewing technique. However, it replaces the cornrow with incredibly thin wefts that are then sewn onto your loose hair. Strand by strand: This is when your hair is partitioned into small sections. Each section is then braided at around an inch from the root, and the extensions are then sewn or wrapped with thread to secure them.
What are hair braids?
Hair braids tend to be more commonly found with synthetic hair due to their ability to be permanently styled into a curl or pattern. Both synthetic hair braids and natural hair braids can be used in two ways, either to enable more natural movement of hair as well as the freedom to blend natural hair into a style (box braids and cornrows), or as a way to create a full head of synthetic or natural hair without wearing a wig or weave (crotchet braid). These types of hair braids tend to be more suited to black hair types, as you may find that any other hair type is too weak or thin to withstand braided extensions. Box braids: Box braids are achieved by braiding natural or synthetic hair braids into your natural hair. Hair will be split into small sections in which the hair extension will be wrapped and twisted around the natural hair strand and then braided and blended into the natural hair. Cornrows: Similar to box braids, cornrow braids will blend the extension into your natural hair. By separating thin sections of hair close to your scalp and braiding your hair extension into your own hair, you can create cornrows that can be as long as you desire. Crotchet braids: Rather than blending your natural hair into a braid, crochet braiding will give you a full head hairstyle. This is achieved by creating cornrows with your natural hair and then attaching extensions by either sewing your tails to your cornrows or by using a latch hook. Ready to try your new hairstyle? Shop our full range of natural and synthetic wigs, extensions, hair pieces and accessories at Afro Hair Boutique