Genetically I was never going to have lovely, thick, luscious locks. My Dad has naturally wavy, very fine hair (at least he did until he lost most of it in his twenties) and my Mum’s hair is pitifully thin (I feel cheated, as all 6 of her siblings have really thick hair and so do all their offspring. My Mum is the only one to show any signs of Ehlers-Danlos too – maybe she’s the milkman’s 😉 ).
In my early twenties my hair was shoulder length. It took a lot of looking after. I could never, ever just get up, brush it, stick it in a pony tail and walk out the door. It was so fine I always woke with it plastered to my head and had to either wash or wet it every day, apply mousse and blow-dry it to get it looking respectable enough to leave the house. When M.E. hit I couldn’t even sit upright, let alone blow-dry my hair, so I had to have it cut über short. Even this didn’t negate the blow-drying ritual, however, as I still woke with it plastered to my head, but at least it only took 5 minutes to dry with my fingers rather than twenty minutes winding it round a hair brush. Styling was reserved for very special occasions though as the effort involved in doing my hair made me feel horrendously ill – 99% of the time I went round looking like I’d just got out of bed (which I usually had!).
During my forties I’ve gone from having fine hair to having alopecia (at least I think it would be classed as alopecia – I’ve never bothered to have the situation formally investigated). All the mousse and blow-drying in the world now doesn’t make much difference and you can see my scalp all over my head. As I use a mobility scooter I’ve actually had people ask me if I have cancer and am having chemo, which doesn’t do much for my self-confidence. It had gotten to the stage where I wore hats whenever I left the house: beanies for winter and bandanas for summer. I felt like Elton John pre hair-transplant.
My solution was to buy a wig and it has revolutionized my life (apologies for blurring my face but you never know who’s going to Google your image and illegally download it for Lord knows what purpose!). Wigs are so realistic these days you’d be amazed. I told everyone that I’d had hair extensions (to any of my friends reading this that I’ve lied to, I apologise – please don’t spill the beans!) because extensions are totally normal and acceptable these days, whereas there is still a huge stigma attached to wearing a wig. I felt more comfortable saying I had extensions, the lie had nothing to do with not trusting my friends. No-one has rumbled my fib as far as I know, although I did need to look up what’s involved in having hair extensions so that I could answer all the questions from my nearest and dearest on what’s involved 😉 .
Initially I chose a very short wig which was similar to my own hair in terms of style and colour. I wear it all day, even when alone in the house (just in case the neighbours pop round or someone comes to the door!), taking it off around 7pm at night. I can slap it on in under 30 seconds (although it takes a few minutes to secure it properly) and, once I’d gotten used to it and gone through the inevitable “have you done something different to your hair?” questions from everyone I met, I felt so much more confident and attractive.
There are downsides. Some wigs are cheap and nasty and look every inch artificial. The wigs I use are from the Raquel Welch collection which are mid-range price-wise but well made and look very natural. I initially found my wigs made my head itch like a son-of-a-bitch but this settled down by wearing a wig cap underneath and by washing the wig every week (you have to buy special synthetic hair shampoo), although the first thing I do when I take my wig off in the evening is have a good old scratch of my noggin, bliss! No matter how well they fit (they all come with adjustable straps) they can and do move about, so I’ve found using a bit of toupe tape at the front and some hair grips at the back essential. They don’t last forever (my first one went baggy and too big after 5 months of continual wear) so you do have to replace them regularly (at about £100 per wig it’s no dearer than going for a regular colour and cut at the hairdressers though).
Wearing a wig is like wearing a tight hat all day long and takes some getting used to. It’s not for the frivolous or faint of heart and I don’t think you would choose to use a wig unless you really had to.
Saying all that, one of the biggest upsides is that I no longer need to colour my own hair, which for someone with chemical sensitivities and mast cell issues is a huge weight off my mind. I can also go out in all weathers and my hair looks permanently perfect 😉 . I’ve recently gone from a pixie cut to a longer, bob length wig. I was all excited about having longer hair after donkeys years of having it short, but to be honest it’s been a pain in the rear! I’d forgotten long hair gets in your way when you’re eating or cleaning your teeth, needs constant brushing to get rid of tangles and I think the style makes me look older rather than younger! So, bizarrely, I’m going back to a shorter, funkier, wig as soon as I can afford one.
Wigs come in a range of sizes, though “average” seems to fit most people (I have a child-sized head but get away with the average size in most wigs), and a range of colours from grey through to white blonde. Prices usually start at around £50 ($80) although my wigs have both cost around £110 ($180). I sent for 4 different ones online so that I could try various styles – make sure you choose a shop which allows returns and refunds – and you will also need wig shampoo, conditioner, comb or brush and some wig caps (I haven’t bothered with a wig stand, as I have big round bed knobs and just hang my wig on there overnight!). Some wigs can be heat-treated so that you can vary the style using curling tongs or straighteners, and some of the more expensive wigs have lace fronts so that you can wear your fringe (bangs) off your face and up in a ponytail 🙂 For anyone who finds their hair is thinning through either age or illness, or has problems with chemical colourants, give a wig a bash – you might be surprised by the results.