Getting diagnosed with cancer most often comes as a unpleasant suprise for most patients. After getting over the first state of shock most patients slowly come to realise with what kinds of circumstances and limitations they will be confronted. Part of this will be the complete or partial loss of hair as a sideeffect of chemotherapy. Nowadays, the loss of hair can be covered up relatively well as there is available a huge choice of medical wigs with fashionable and stylish haircuts. The aim of this article is to provide patients with helpful information regarding medical wigs to replace lost hair due to chemotherapy. Of course, this can only be supplemental to advice given by a doctor or by staff at a wig store for medical wigs.
Picture: Wig suitable for replacing lost hair during chemotherapy
What different kinds of wigs are available and which of those are suitable as medical wig? Who do i consult if i wish to get a wig that suits me and that looks as realistic as possible? Can i get the wig on a prescription? What are the costs of medical wigs? Some of those issues might look negligible for cancer patients in such a difficult situation, but strenghtening ones self-esteem and supporting ones well-being by wearing a wig might be supportive to the healing. Given a full hair loss during chemotherapy, a medical wig becomes indispensable for many patients.
So, how to proceed if a hair replacement because of medical reasons is needed? The first step should always be to consult your attending doctor to obtain a prescription in case this is needed to recover expenses in connection with the purchase of a wig. Also, in some countries, your health insurance may need to be contacted to find out the amount of money they are willing to provide and their modus operandi in this regard. Also, sometimes health insurances require a cost estimate before a purchase can be made. Concerning costs of a wig: In case the loss of hair is a temporary one, patients are usually reimbursed in full by their health insurance company or health insurance fund once every 12 months. In germany for example, purchases of wigs are restricted to wigs made from artificial hair though. Purchase costs of human hair wigs are usually not reimbursed.
After taking care of any organisational issues, you can proceed with looking for a suiting wig. Medical wigs are supplied by wig stores, medical supply stores or specialised barbers. It is advisable to start looking for a wig before the hair is lost. On the one hand, because you should have your wig at home before the hair starts to fall out, on the other hand because it is easier for the saleperson to advise you on a suiting wig if he is able to get an impression of your natural hair and haircut. This way, the salesperson is also able to order a selection of wigs for you to try on. Nowadays, the selection of modern hairstyles and natural colors is so broad that finding the right wig shouldn’t be problematic.
The pricing of wigs depends on the quality of the materials used and the employed manufacturing process for creating the cap. Generally, wigs made from human hair are more expensive than wigs made from artificial hair. Most of the wigs produced today are made from artificial hair, because they are less expensive and because they are coming close to human hair in terms of look and feel. Also, some types of artificial hair might even be styled using a curling tong. Beside the material used, the employed cap construction is the most important factor having an impact on the manufacturing cost of wigs. The cap is the skeletal structure of every wig which holds the hair fibres in place. A rule of thumb is that the more manual labor is required to produce a wig, the more expensive it will get. The quality of a wig can be seen best if turned inside out. Below, different variants of skeletal structures of wigs will be discussed.
Low-priced wigs for example are often produced as weft. Here, the single hair fibres are sewn to a textile tape as long strings. The strings are then connected to the cap. An example can be seen below. Wigs that are produced in this way are relatively realistic. Their main disadvantage is the possibly less than perfect fit during adverse weather conditions. With strong winds, it is possible that the hair is lifted and the cap made visible. This is why this kind of wigs is more often used as a fashion accessory than as a medical device.
Picture: Wefted wig with a small, round-shaped monofilament top
In contrast, wigs with a monofilament at top of the head are often used as a medical hair replacement. During production, the synthetic hair is being applied individually by hand onto a translucent fabric, the monofilament. This production method is very time intensive, therefore monofilament wigs have a higher price. The larger the monofilament of a wig, the more expensive the wig is. For patients without natural hair a monofilament wig is the best choice, since the synthetic hair looks like it is growing from the scalp. This effect is due to the transparency of the monofilament. Usually such wigs have a monofilament on the top, while the side parts of the cap are made from machine wefts. Hence these monofilament wigs are still affordable and often offer good value for money.
Picture: Wig with monofilament top
Wigs which are completely handtied are usually very expensive. This is due to the vast amount of work needed to complete them. The cap construction of such wigs is mainly made up of a fine cloth, onto which every single hair is knotted by hand. This type of wig is recommendable for patients with permanent hair loss. For chemotherapy patients it would not be very economic to purchase a hand-tied wig, since hair loss is only temporary and the price for such a wig is usually very expensive.
Each of the presented wig cap structures are available in several standard sizes. Also, some models are also available as special sizes, for examples suited for heads with small circumferences. Most wigs are equiped with a special mechanism to adjust the wig to individual head circumferences. In the seldom case that the available sizes will not fit a head there is also the possibility to order a custom made wig. Obviously, these are more expensive than the standard models as these single pieces have to be produced by hand.
As said, the quality of a wig studio is closely connected with the sales advisory service. It would be best if the sales staff is able to provide you with a wig that fits you perfectly. Choosing the right wig can also be seen as a therapeutic component, as it supports your self-confidence during the time of the treatment. Not seldom, wearing a wig that fits perfectly might yield compliments in regards to the hair.
Certainly, the daily wearing of a wig is connected with additional effort. For example, putting on a wig properly has to be learned. This usually takes a while to master, because most wearers didn’t have any previous experience with wigs. It is advisable to use auxiliary material like hair caps, hair ribbons or hair clips to secure the wig in place.
Modern wigs in general and short hair wigs in special are of very low weight, with short hair wigs weighting around 50 – 100 gramms. Nevertheless the wearing comfort is somewhat impaired especially during the summer months, as the heat will accumulate below the wig and wearers often start to sweat. Although many wearers have issues with this, there isn’t really a solution to this problem yet. Also, when worn often, the wigs will have to be washed regularily to retain their handsome look and to stay clean. A rule of thumb is that wigs worn daily will have to be washed once a week. In this regard, artificial hair fibres are easier to maintain than human hair fibres. Detergents suited for wigs such as wig shampoo or wig conditioners are available in specialist shops or in online shops.
Concerning the styling of artificial hair wigs one should always used a special wig comb, with metal combs being especially suited for this application. Combs made from plastic shouldn’t be used as they will induce static electrification to the wig, leading to felting of the fibres. Especially with high priced wigs this can be annoying. Given intensive usage, but also constant care a wig will last around 6 to 12 month before a replacement is needed.
Due to aforementioned facts, a wig shouldn’t be worn around-the-clock. When being at home in your familiar surroundings a good alternative to wearing a wig can be a turban or a headscarf. This kind of headdress is easier to wear and use as well as relatively inexpensive. In some cases patients even decide to not use a wig but a turban even when being out in the public.
Last but not least, it should not remain unmentioned that during chemotherapy, some patients also experience the falling out of eyelashes and eyebrows. In these cases, a replacement is widely available in form of artificial eyelashes and eyebrows. Alternatively, it is possible to conceal this fact by using special cosmetics such as eyebrow pencils, which is also something most woman should be familiar somewhat with.