Hair Care Advice for Cancer Patients

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Choosing and Wearing a Wig

Not everyone chooses to wear a wig -- some women prefer headscarves or turbans. But I find that most women do want the option of wearing temporary hair. If you opt for a wig, talk to your hairstylist -- he or she should know of a good wigmaker or supplier. Most hospitals and treatment facilities can also direct you to a specialist in your area if your stylist can't.

At first, most women think they will look terrible in a wig, but the right wig in the hands of a skilled stylist can make all the difference. Most women end up adjusting to their wig more quickly than they thought. In fact, some women buy several wigs in different styles for some variety.

Because the treatment often begins so soon, custom-made wigs may not be completed in time. A ready-made wig that's good to go right out of the box is generally the best option. I do find that these pieces still need some shaping even though they come cut in a ready-to-wear style. A skilled stylist will know what to do in terms of personalizing the style for you.

Typically, I recommend choosing a wig that is the same color as your hair, especially if you're getting only one wig. If you're buying more than one, then you can play around with another color. Remember to select a color that complements your skin tone. Don't get a color that is too close to your skin tone -- or you'll end up looking washed out.

Synthetic vs. Human Hair Wigs

Some women are be able to afford a natural human hair wig, which costs from $1,200 to $3,000. For others, a $200 synthetic wig is more within their budget. Since the period that a wig is needed is generally less than a year, many women choose a synthetic wig because it's more economical. In addition to being more expensive, real hair wigs require more maintenance than their synthetic counterparts. Another difference: Natural hair wigs can be colored (for example, highlights can be added for greater personalization), but synthetics cannot.

Styling a Natural Hair Wig

If you order an uncut, natural hair wig, it will take at least two hours to shape it properly. It's a slow process but in the hands of a skilled stylist the results can be phenomenal. Shaping the wig is very technical and detailed work, and should be done while you are wearing the wig. It's a good idea for the hairstyle to include some kind of bang to hide the hairline of the wig.

Caring for a Natural Hair Wig

You don't have to wash a wig as often as you wash your hair. When you're ready to wash it, fill the sink with water and add two capfuls of Suave shampoo. Don't rub the wig -- just swish it around in the water. The area inside the cap that comes into contact with your head is what needs the most cleaning. Rinse out the shampoo and condition with Suave conditioner. Be careful not to condition the roots of a handmade wig because the knots that tie the hair to the netting can come undone. (You don't need to worry about this if the wig is a machine made wefted wig.) Let the wig dry overnight on a styling head that is correctly sized for your wig. Generally, the Styrofoam heads are perfect. The canvas types come in different sizes and one that's too big will stretch the wig. To style, use the cool setting on your hairdryer. Human hair wigs can be styled with irons and other tools.

Continued on page 3:  Nurturing New Hair Growth


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