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How to Shop for a Wig – 8 Tips

How to shop for a wig (if you choose to wear one) – 8 tips.

One of the biggest worries surrounding chemotherapy is hair loss. While we hear all the time things like, it’s only hair or, it’ll grow back, losing your hair is a big deal for many women. A really big deal. If it’s a big deal to you, it doesn’t mean you are vain; it means you are human.

For sure, it was a big deal for me.

Once again, I’d like to stress that just as deciding to shave your hair off or not is a personal decision, so is choosing to buy and wear a wig. Many women are comfortable going out in public bald, but many, including me, are not. And even if you are comfortable doing so, there still might be times when you want to wear one for a whole host of reasons.

If you do decide to purchase a wig, the task of choosing one can feel over-whelming. I hope you find my tips helpful. They, along with more tips, are included in my book, Getting Past the Fear:  A Guide to Help You Mentally Prepare for Chemotherapy.

How to Shop for a Wig – 8 Tips

1. Don’t wait, shop early on.

While I do not believe it’s necessary to shave your hair off early on, wig shopping is another matter. Once you know your hair will probably soon be a thing of the past, if you choose to buy a wig, the sooner you do it the better.

First of all, the further you get into chemo, the less likely it is you will feel like going out to wig shop, or shop at all for that matter. As fatigue and other side effects kick in, you just might not feel up to the task.

2. The right color makes all the difference.

If you want to shop for a wig style that is similar to your own hairstyle, obviously sooner is better than later. Another piece of advice here though, is don’t worry so much about matching up to your present style. The most important part of wig selection is choosing the right color. The right color can make or break how your wig looks, or rather how you look in the wig.

3. If possible, buy more than one.

My next piece of advice is if you can afford it, buy more than one wig. It’s nice to have two options. If possible, spend a little more on one and then buy another cheaper one for those whenever times.

Some people prefer wigs made from real hair, but they are more expensive, and I’ve been told more difficult to take care of as well. Just think of your own hair, is it really all that easy to take care of? Probably not. So the easiest and most economical way to go is the synthetic route.

There are some amazing wigs available now, take advantage.

4. Trying wigs on is a must.

There are numerous catalogs offering very good choices as well as very good prices. If possible, I would suggest going to a store for at least one wig. Let’s face it; everything looks great on a model in a catalog. You can’t really tell how the wig is going to look on you until you try it on.

I shopped at a Merle Norman Store, and the experience was wonderful. Well, wonderful is a stretch. I mean I was shopping for a wig because I was going to have chemo and lose my hair, but you know what I mean. I tried on a lot of wigs in a lot of colors and the sales person was compassionate and extremely helpful; so much so, I don’t even mind “plugging” them here.

Shopping at a retail store in person was the way to go for me. If you do decide to shop by catalog, be sure to check the return policy over carefully.

5. A second opinion comes in handy here too.

Another suggestion is to take someone along with you when you shop for a wig. This might be your spouse or partner, a good friend, a sister, daughter, or whomever. I took Dear Hubby because I knew he’d be brutally honest if need be, and he was. Also, he was going to be the person looking at me the most, so I figured I might as well give him a say in the matter.

Try to find someone who will actually be helpful to accompany you. You don’t want to take someone who will just nod in agreement with you. This is one time when you need another voiced opinion, so maybe one of your more outspoken friends is the one you might want to take with you. Honesty is always the best policy and in this case, it’s the only policy worth having.

6. What about all those accessories?

When you buy your wig, it’s also a good idea to buy one of those little head caps that fit under it. Strangely enough, I found they did help keep me cooler and minimized itching. Also, be sure to pick up some wig shampoo, a wig hairbrush and a stand on which to dry your wig after you wash it.

As for other head gear, I did buy some bandannas and caps. I never could get the hang of scarves, but they look fabulous if you can figure them out. Caps are great, except for that little hole in the back that seems to scream “bald.” Those fake bang fringes are not really worthwhile.

Another thing to consider is getting something to wear at night. You will be surprised at how much chillier you feel in general with no hair on your head and unless you sleep with the covers pulled up over your head, you may very well feel cold at night. Plus, if you get up at night to use the bathroom, it can be quite startling to face your bald self in the mirror. Purchasing a nice soft cottony sleep cap easily and comfortably takes care of both issues.

7. Covering the cost

If money is tight, and it may well be, your cancer center should be able to direct you to an American Cancer Society contact person who can direct you to someplace to go to get a wig for free. Some hospitals also have donation centers, so check out what they have.

If you have some friends who want to help, this is a good opportunity for them. Ask them to donate some dollars to help you buy a wig. They might jump at the chance to do something meaningful.

And remember if you do have insurance, they might cover the cost of a wig, at least up to a set amount. Ask. If they do not cover the expense, be sure to complain and complain loudly. Remember if your insurance does cover the cost of a wig, you will need a doctor’s prescription for one. They generally refer to a wig as a cranial prosthetic, a label that frankly, I found condescending and somehow silly and over the top, but…

8. How long will you need a wig? (If you choose to wear one)

Finally, I must admit I didn’t wear my wigs all that much, but when I wanted to they sure were nice to have. I had a wedding the summer I was bald and a couple of other events to attend. It was just easier less stressful for me to go wearing a wig.

Also, remember you will still be bald for a while after chemo ends, and it might be some time before you have hair you feel comfortable with. Some people don’t give a hoot about going out in public bald or with only some peach fuzz up there, but if you do, wigs come in quite handy.

Ultimately, wigs are uncomfortable, hot and itchy; they are wigs after all. If you buy one that fits right, you might be able to stand wearing it for a few hours at a time for those occasions when and if you feel the need.

Remember, you do not ever have to buy or wear a wig to please someone else. I cannot emphasize this enough. If someone is uncomfortable with your baldness, that’s their problem not yours. 

Wearing a wig (or not) is entirely up to you.

Have you ever purchased a wig for any reason?

What are your tips for buying or wearing a wig?

Do you prefer wigs made of real hair or do you prefer synthetic wigs?

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How to shop for a wig - eight tips #cancer #hairloss #chemotherapy #chemo #womenshealth #wigs


Get more tips on preparing for chemotherapy in my book, Getting  Past the Fear:  A Guide to Help You Mentally Prepare for Chemotherapy.

Getting Past the Fear:  A guide to help you mentally prepare for chemotherapy #chemo #hairloss #cancerbooks #breastcancer



Wednesday 22nd of June 2022

I was lucky enough to go to a shop owned by a former nurse who had been a breast cancer patient herself. The option I chose was a half natural hair/half synthetic near my own color but shorter. When I went back to pick it up, a couple of weeks into chemo, they shaved my head. The doors to the shop were kept locked and opened only for those who had an appointment; privacy was tantamount. I wore the wig daily from September to March to work as a school librarian as I wanted to look as "normal" as possible to the kids. (Interestingly enough I was not the only BC patient at the school at the time.) Home time was usually a scarf as the weather was cool; I often went out in a hat or scarf, some with fake bangs, which was where I experimented with hair colors far different than my own. I do still have the wig, keeping it as a hedge against needing it again; eventually I will no doubt donate it.


Tuesday 28th of June 2022

Denise, I had no idea you could get a combo of natural hair and synthetic. Always learning! I still have my wigs too. Hesitant to get rid of them still. Thank you so much for sharing.

Linda C Boberg

Wednesday 22nd of June 2022

I hate my wig during initial cancer treatment. So I got used to caps. Second time around my boss and colleague were African America aand suggested I try being bald. I did; not my thing. This time around I planned to wear just caps and ho bald at home. But I may have two kids' weddings and I don't want the pics to show Bald Mama. My advice is to buy the best wig possible. Mine was from a cheap store which I think is what made me hate it so.


Tuesday 28th of June 2022

Linda, Everyone handles baldness differently, but I hated everything about it. For the most part, I wore caps when going out and went bald at home. I also had a wedding to attend, and there was no way I was going bald, so I got a wig. I actually bought three. Two came from a Merle Norman store and they were decent. I also ordered one online, and I never even wore it. It was that bad. So, I agree that buying the best wig you can afford, if you want to wear one, is the best way to go. I'm sorry you are facing this again. It sucks. Thanks for sharing.


Tuesday 13th of July 2021

I bought my wig before I lost my hair. Went back after it started falling out, they buzzed the rest off, then fit the wig again, and sewed it while I was still there. I wore it for a few occasions. But my go too were the fitted scarves. Those that were already gathered at the back. I also LOVED the bangs! I wore them under caps, and scarves. Sometimes I wore them in the back of my cap. BUT, the main thing, is, please take your wig (and bangs)to your regular hairdresser to get them shaped to your head and face. My neighbor, thought Id just gotten a hair cut, until I took my wig off to show her. LOL.


Monday 19th of July 2021

Monica, I've heard others suggest taking your wig to your regular hairdresser. My problem was I had no regular hairdresser. Still don't. But that's a whole different topic! Thank you for reading and sharing too.

Chris Pederson

Thursday 15th of October 2020

Thanks for the idea to buy more than one wig if you can. My sister-in-law just went through chemotherapy and is still recovering. My brother said we could get her some wigs if we wanted. My wife is a cosmetologist so I'll have her help pick them out but we'll get multiple so she has some options.

Donna Funkhouser

Wednesday 1st of July 2020

Great tips Nancy! And just to reiterate, wigs ARE uncomfortable, hot and itchy, no matter how much you spend, but they are also nice to have around when you want to have a different look for an event. I also wore mine very little. I was more comfortable in a soft hat. When I did wear my wig I got tons of compliments which was great for my pitiful body image! Here's my tip, when you go out in your yard to do yardwork, ( in my case mowing!) ,don't forget to cover your head. I forgot more than once and got a little too much sun pretty quickly. When I was finally finished with my wig I donated it and hope to never see another!


Thursday 2nd of July 2020

Donna, They are uncomfortable. They just are. But like you said, they do come in handy for "those times". I wore baseball caps a lot. I still do. Your tip is a good one! So important to protect yourself from too much sun anytime, but especially when you are bald! I guess I'm not surprised you were out there mowing! It's nice you donated your wig. Good for you. Thank you for sharing about your wig experience and for adding a tip too.

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