Learn about ways you might cover your head after hair loss.
Before you make a decision about buying your wig, you should understand the differences between the types of wigs that are available.
Wigs are made from either:
Synthetic wigs are a lot cheaper than real hair wigs. They can cost anywhere between £50 and £200.
Most synthetic wigs come ready to wear in a wide variety of styles, lengths and colours.
You don’t have to style them and they won’t get damaged in the rain. You can usually get your wig quite quickly after having your fitting.
You can get sticky (adhesive) pads with your wig to stop it slipping if all your hair has fallen out.
Some people say wearing these pads makes the wig feel more secure and helps them feel more confident.
Acrylic wigs can be washed and they usually last between 6 and 9 months. This is usually plenty of time to allow your hair to grow back, although it may not be as long as it was before your treatment.
Synthetic wigs should not be exposed to direct heat. It can melt the fibres and make the hair frizz.
So don’t use a hair dryer or curling wand. You’ll need to wash your wig in cold water.
Real hair wigs are much more expensive than synthetic ones. The exact cost depends on where you buy the wig and its style and length. Prices range anywhere from £200 to £2000 for a top of the range, custom made wig.
Real hair wigs last between 3 and 4 years which is much longer than synthetic ones. Some people prefer to have a real hair wig despite the cost.
You need to have a fitting before, or soon after your treatment begins if you decide to have a real hair wig. It should then be ready when your hair begins to fall out.
Some real hair wigs need to be styled and set by a hairdresser. You might need to buy two wigs so that you always have one to wear if your wig needs to be professionally cleaned.
Your wig stylist can tell you if your wig can be washed at home.
You can also get wigs that are made of both.
Getting a wig on the NHS
Human hair wigs are not prescribed on the NHS unless you are allergic to acrylic wigs or have a skin condition that will be made worse by an acrylic wig.
Wigs are free of charge on the NHS if:
- you have your treatment as an inpatient (meaning you stay in hospital overnight)
- you are under 16 years old, or between 16 and 19 years old and in full time education
- you or your partner are getting Universal Credit, Income Support, Income based Jobseeker’s Allowance or the guarantee credit of Pension Credit
- you have an NHS tax credit exemption certificate
- you are named on a valid ‘help with health costs’ (HC2) certificate
If you are entitled to a new wig, the NHS will provide you with a new one every 6 months. There is no national limit on the number of wigs the NHS can supply you with. But individual hospitals may set their own limits.
If you are not entitled to a free wig
You may still be able to get some help towards the cost of a wig if you are on a low income but don’t qualify for a free wig.
This is explained in the Department of Health leaflet called 'Are you entitled to help with health costs?' (HC11). The leaflet is available at post offices or from your hospital.
You apply for this help on form HC1. If you are entitled to help, you will receive either:
- a full help Certificate HC2 (you won’t need to pay for your wig)
- a limited help certificate HC3 (you may get some help with the cost of a wig)
You will have to pay for a wig if you are an outpatient and don’t otherwise qualify for a free wig. Being an outpatient means you attend hospital but don’t stay in overnight.
Buying an acrylic wig on the NHS costs anywhere between £50 and £200 depending on the type of wig you want.
Speak to your hospital social worker or clinical nurse specialist if you are still not sure what you are entitled to. They can make sure that you’re getting all the help you are entitled to.
The Department of Health leaflet called Charges and optical voucher values (HC12) has details about how much NHS wigs cost.
Buying a wig privately
You might decide to buy your wig privately.
You can buy it:
- from a wig supplier such as a department store
- directly from a wig manufacturer
- from a specialist wig store
Many places have a private room where you can have your fitting. Don’t be afraid to ask for one if there isn’t.
Some companies will come to your home to fit wigs. The fitting and styling cost is usually included in the price of the wig, but it is always best to check.
If you have a wig made for you, this may take longer and need 2 or 3 fittings.
You don’t have to pay VAT (Value Added Tax) on wigs that are bought for hair loss caused by cancer treatment. But you must fill in a VAT form at the time you buy your wig.
Be sure to ask the supplier for this form, because you can’t claim the VAT back later.
Choosing and fitting your wig
The nurses will organise a wig fitter to come and visit you on the ward if you’re staying in hospital and having a wig provided on the NHS.
Many hospitals will also organise this if you are an outpatient, but it may not happen everywhere.
Your wig fitter will help you decide on a style and colour that you are happy with.
Seeing the wig fitter can be upsetting for some people. It might be the first time you think about losing your hair.
Wig specialists will be very sensitive to this and will try to make the fitting as easy as possible for you.
The most important thing is that you don’t rush things and you get a wig that you feel suits you.
You might want to choose your wig before your hair begins to fall out. This way, it is much easier for the wig specialist to match your real hair style and colour. It also gives you a bit of time to get used to the idea of wearing a wig.
If you do this, you’ll need to get a smaller size once you have lost your hair. Or you can choose a wig that adjusts to head size.
Many people find it helps to bring along a relative or good friend to their wig fitting. They can support you through this tough time as well as help you choose a wig that suits you best.
Consider the following when choosing a wig.
- Choose a wig that is most like your original hair colour and style.
- Your hairdresser or wig specialist can cut or style a particular wig to suit you.
- Always check that you have the wig on the right way around as it is easy to put them on backwards.
- Buying a more expensive wig doesn’t guarantee it will look more real. Some less expensive ones can look very real.
Tips for wearing a wig
For the first few days or weeks it may feel very strange to wear a wig.
Some people never get used to it and feel more comfortable without it. Others say that they forget they have their wig on. You won’t know until you try it.
Whoever supplies your wig should give you instructions about how to wear it and care for it. Follow these instructions carefully.
When can I stop wearing my wig?
This is up to you. It can take a bit of time for you to feel confident enough to go out without your wig.
But you may feel ready to stop wearing it before your hair gets back to your pre treatment length. A shorter look might suit you and give you a new image.
Some people say it is a relief to get rid of the wig and feel like themselves again. Others may need more time.
Be kind to yourself and don’t expect too much. You have been through a lot in the past few months and had to deal with many changes in your life. So go at your own pace.
Other ways to cover your head
Some people don’t want to wear a wig, or may not want to wear one all the time.
You could try:
- stretchy tubes
Hats and scarves for hair loss - transcript
Ann: Sheena who lost her hair during her chemotherapy will now show you some of the different types of headwear. Hello Sheena.
Sheena: Hello, I wore wigs as well as lots of alternatives. There are many different alternatives to wigs. The stretchy tube is simple, easy and quick to put on. It’s comfortable, light and breathable and there are no uncomfortable seams. And it’s easy to wash. They come in lots and lots of different colours which is really nice so you can match different outfits very easily. You can get them from lots of different high street stores which is very useful.
I use to keep one of these by my front door. So if anyone rang on my front doorbell and I didn’t have my wig on or have my headscarf on I could just pick this up very quickly and just pop it on. It is important to just make sure you adjust it so that it follows your natural hairline. And then that was it. I was ready to go and answer the door. If I then wanted to go out I could then just tuck it in at the back and if I wanted to I could just put an ordinary outdoor hat on top and that would be me ready to go. The other nice thing about that is that if you perhaps were out and somebody invites you in for a coffee, you don’t want to go in wearing an outdoor hat you, so can just slip the outdoor hat off. Make sure you hold your fingers to keep it in place and you have got head covering.
Depending on the shape of your face you might want to create a bit more width and one of the ways to do that is to add another one of these stretchy tubes on top. They are quite versatile. And actually just pop it on, very simple. You can do a little bit of adjusting if you want to, and then it’s created a little bit more width. If you want to create a bit more height if you just un tuck the back bit you can just rearrange it... and tuck the front part under there and that creates a bit more height.
The other thing you can do is to add different scarves and accessories. You can even take... you know this would be quite a good scarf you could just wrap it... around... and it gives you quite a nice elegant look, so you can change it to whatever suits your personality, your wardrobe and what you are doing.
The other important thing if you are talking about scarves is looking at the size um and texture of what they are. This one is a bit too small... that sort of size. It won’t provide enough coverage so when you tie it you’ll find you’ve got sort of gaps and won’t be a good size. The sort of size you are looking for is this sort of one, you can see it’s quite big that’s the sort ideal size of head scarf. This is cotton so it’s got a little bit of grip it’s not going to slide. The problem is this is a really beautiful scarf but this is silk. The trouble with silk is that if you tie it, you think it is secure it tends to slip so it is much better to choose a fabric with just that little bit of grip.
If you want to tie a headscarf it is important to start with something quite simple. You don’t want to start with anything too complicated. You form it into a triangle first, if you create a little turn over it gives you a little bit more height which is quite nice because what you are trying to re create is that sort of volume around your face and that’s what the scarves and the tubes do.
And then it goes round the back and use one of these stretchy bands but without any metal because otherwise it might catch your headscarf and ruin the fabric. Treat it a bit like tying a ponytail. Double the elastic over and you can pull out as much of the fabric as you like at the back. And again with all these scarves the other thing you can do of course is accessorise them. So we can choose something perhaps to just add a little bit of extra... this would work, this would work again. And again you can either tie bows or you can wrap the ends in whatever you feel comfortable doing. If you just lose the ends behind.
So the other thing you can think about is perhaps putting a nice summer hat on top. And again you have got the layer underneath so if you want to stop anywhere you can take the hat off but you can just add another. Quite an elegant look. Also another thing is it is quite important sometimes to avoid the sun and this provides you with a nice shade over your face.
The other option are these crinkle cotton ones. Now these are quite nice, they are quite long. And because it is crinkle cotton it will grip quite nicely. So again what you are doing is off- setting this, so we have got one end longer than the other. So if you just scrumple the ends, cross them over at the back and then that’s secured it. Then if you give it a little bit of a twist and go over the top. And then secure it. If you can try and tie a reef knot at the side it gives a flatter knot which is a nicer look. And then what you can do is either leave the ties loose or you can tie a bow and again you can lose the ends... and wrap the one round the back there. And they do these in a wide range of different colours and designs. So if you are trying to co-ordinate an outfit it is quite easy to find something that will actually work for that.
If you want to go for hats, one of the things you might need to do is to measure your head to get your hat size. It is a very simple way of measuring. You just need to take tape measure, the middle of your forehead, round the back and there is a little bump on the back of your head. You are measuring over that little bump. And then you just take the measurement and mine is 55, I think 55 to 56 is about a standard size. That’s centimetres. In old money it’s 21 to 21 1/2 inches.
The high street tend to sell them as standard sort of sizes. So, if you have a smaller head or a larger head you might need to look elsewhere. If it is too big you’ll tend to look swamped in it. If it is too small you’ll feel it is quite insecure and you’ll feel like it is slipping off all the time. So it is important to get the right sort of size. Something like this would be good because you are looking at... something that provides enough coverage. So you need to have something that is going to cover...to the sides and also down to the nape of the neck. And you can see here it has quite pretty detail on this one. And another one... I quite like this one, this is another... nice breathable fabric, no sort of seams to be uncomfortable and again you can see it has got quite a nice detail to the side.
Whatever you choose to wear remember you can experiment with different colours and patterns depending on your outfit and what you will be doing that particular day.
Other body hair
Some treatments cause other body hair to thin or to completely fall out. This includes your eyelashes and eyebrows.
You can use make up to disguise these effects.