Trevor Sorbie (Director) gives expert video advice on: How does my wig stay on?; Is it easy to style my wig?; In your experience how do alopecia sufferers cope with hair loss? and more...
What are wigs made of?
Wigs are made in two different ways. Either using real hair, which is hair from all different parts of the world - the best quality being Italian hair - but obviously that would be the most expensive as well. The other type of wig we can buy is synthetic, which is a fiber. To call it a plastic is not really a very good descriptive word, but in reality that's actually more or less what it is. I've been out to Thailand where they make these wigs and the technology is fantastic. Nowadays, even I find it almost impossible with the naked eye to decipher which is real hair, and which is acrylic because the technology is so fantastic these days. Everyone's got this impresson in their mind of what a wig is, and the one that probably jumps out most is of a little old lady with a tea cozy on her head, and certainly in my generation that's what wigs looked like. Nowadays, if you customize a wig for someone it's almost undetectable that it's not their hair. I usually advise chemotherapy patients to have a synthetic wig, whereas with alopecia patients, sometimes their hair will never grow back so I advise them to have a real hair wig. Because they have to adopt that, it's part of them, whereas a wig for a chemo patient is usually a six to nine month period, and a wig will probably last that long. Wigs do wear out, even real hair wigs after a period of time because they get worn out. For the most part I advise synthetic wigs, because the other great thing about synthetic wigs is literally, you take it off, you dip it in cold soapy water, you brush it through, you let it dry, you put it back on, and it's identical to the way you bought it or the way it was styled. Whereas with a real hair wig, there's a lot more maintenance. You actually have to shampoo it, blow dry it, you can even color it, but there's a lot more effort and work involved. For the most part I usually advise synthetic wigs.
What is a wig cap?
A wig cap is a bit like the end of a pair of tights, and you literally put that onto your scalp, and the object of it is to lose the hair that you already have. There are many ways to lose hair, and one of the best ways is to literally wrap your hair around your head and then place the wig cap on and then you put the wig on top. If in fact you've already lost your hair, it's actually not necessary to wear a wig cap, so you can just literally put the wig directly on your scalp and off you go.
Are people going to know I am wearing a wig?
I think wigs are detectable. It's a bit like anything in life - you get what you pay for. If you're paying 50 pounds for a wig, it could look very wiggy, but if you're paying 200, then you're obviously going to get a much better quality, more realistic. I also think that literally every wig that's made, for some reason there's always too much hair in the wig. And that's not just me seeing it, that's what everyone sees. The secret is to take some of that bulk out and make it look like a normal amount of hair. By customizing it around the face then it can look very, very real.
How does my wig stay on?
A lot of people automatically think that, and it must be their biggest fear, "Will my wig fly off?" I can imagine that to be the most embarrassing thing in a public place for that to happen. So that's one of the biggest fears. Rest assured, that really should never happen. The inside of a wig is elasticated, it's made to fit anyone and everyone. There are little straps, they look like little bra straps where you can literally pull and it will tighten the frame of the wig. If and when you put it on it's got to feel, not tight, but not loose all at the same time. Only the person that's wearing it can actually feel that. So, if they get it to a point where they feel that "yes, that does feel secure", the chances are that wig will never come off.
Will the wig irritate my scalp?
When you wear a wig, there is a certain amount of discomfort, but that discomfort outweighs what that wig is actually doing, which is making that woman feel and look much better about herself. The heat rises out of the top of your head. Bear in mind, if you have a wig on, that heat is getting trapped. Your head can actually sweat a lot, and if you have a sensitive scalp there can be some irritation, but certainly not in every case. I don't advise anyone to wear a wig twenty-four hours a day. It really should only be worn when they're leaving the house or going somewhere outdoors. During the time that they're indoors, they shouldn't wear the wig and should let their scalp breath and get back to normal. But you can rub some light cream to help moisturize the scalp, just to keep it nice and firm if you'd like, but sometimes there is irritation.
Where can I find a salon that cuts wigs?
Well, to have a wig customized there are not many places that are known. There are pockets of hairdressers throughout the country that do do this service, but because they are in small areas of the country, only the people in that area would know about it. Having said that, I've set up a network of hairdressers - two in Scotland, two in the North of England, one in the Midlands, three in London, one in the South, one in Ireland and one in East Anglia. And these are salons - if you go to my website, which is called mynewhair.org or trevorsorbie.com and click on "My New Hair," you will see the names of these salons that are in different parts of the country. Now, these salons are top hairdressers. We are talking about people like Charles Worthington, Mark Hill, Andrew Collinge, people of that ilk, mates of mine that are right behind this cause and provide this service. A lady in Scotland doesn't have to fly down for me to cut their wig, they can get someone that's local to them. I'm going to try and spread this network throughout the country, that's my aim.
Is it easy to style my wig?
A lot of people ask if their wig can be styled. If it's synthetic, no is the answer. Whatever the style is, you can't change it. The hair or the fiber is actually baked in ovens, so therefore it is what it is. It can't be changed, and if you wet it, soak it, dip it in water, it will come back as the day you bought it. Real hair wigs have to be maintained and blow dried, colored if necessary, and curled. But you cannot put heat onto synthetic fibers. You'll actually melt it, whereas real hair you treat as real hair.
Can I use heat on my wig?
When you have a real hair wig, you can use any electrical appliance you like. That ranges from hot rollers, hair dryers, curling irons and straightening irons because you're dealing with real hair. On the other hand, with synthetic, if you apply heat to synthetic hair it will melt because a synthetic wig is made and is what it always will be. Whether you dip it in water and dry it, it will come back to the way you bought it, whereas if you do that with real hair you wash out the set that you put into the hair.
What is the advantage of having a natural hair wig?
There's not many advantages to having a natural hair wig, to be perfectly honest. I would go as far to say there are more disadvantages with a real hair wig. Mainly, because of the upkeep and maintenance . You have to take the wig off, a real hair wig, shampoo it like real hair, condition it and then dry it and then style it. And that's a process that probably takes over an hour. Whereas a synthetic wig, you literally dip it in cold soapy water, wring it out and let it dry. So there are more disadvantages in actual fact.
In your experience how do alopecia sufferers cope with hair loss?
When somebody has alopecia and they know it's never going to grow back, a synthetic wig would probably have a life span of maximum nine months, maybe even less. What actually happens with synthetic wigs is when they touch material or your shoulder, there's a friction that builds up and the hair goes very brittle and dry, and that's time for a new wig. The reason I recommend real hair wigs to alopecia is simply because a) that won't happen, and b) they've learned to adopt this wig, and they will have learned to style and maintain the wig. It's a whole different mindset with an alopecia patient, even though the common denominator is hair loss. A cancer patient is only losing their hair for a period of time. Alopecia's could be forever, and so therefore it's actually worth the investment to spend more money on a real hair wig and to maintain it simply for that reason.
Can I put my hair up when wearing a wig?
When you wear a wig, there are limitations to what you can do. For example, it's been asked, 'Can I put my hair up if I'm wearing a wig'? The answer is it depends how you put it up. Now, if you think about this, the giveaway on a wig is the hairline, because it's a bit like a hat that fits your head snugly. If you lift all the hair out, you expose that hairline. So, it's obvious that it's a wig. But if you still kept a fringe, and you maybe just took the sides up, for example, or you did a low sort of ponytail with one of these big banana clips. Just clip it in so that you get a sprouty bit. That can work, and it's very effective. I've done that several times, but basically there are limitations as to what you can do with wigs in the sense of styling them .
Am I able to wash my wig?
You should wash your wig depending on how often you wear your wig. It's recommended with synthetic wigs, if you wear it, say, four hours a day, once a month is all that's about necessary. The thing is, be it real hair or synthetic, as the heat comes out of the top of your head, obviously that's going to create a heat that can't actually get out, so it's going to be trapped, so your head's going to sweat. It's like any other part of your body, you have to cleanse it on a regular basis, and if you don't then you're going to get an odor which is not very pleasant. So for synthetic wigs, three to four weeks. And for real hair, likewise, but a lot of it depends on how often you're wearing the wig. It's down to yourself as to what makes you feel like, "Oh, it's clean today and I can smell it." It's a personal thing, but I would say three to four weeks with synthetic wigs.
What products can I use on my wig?
It's interesting, because a lot of people don't know that you can actually use products in wigs. With real hair wigs, you can use any product that's made for hair, be it shampoo, conditioner, even treatments, you can color it, use gels, hairspray, volumizer, lotion, the works. For synthetic wigs I use serum, I use shine sprays, I sometimes even use wax, but there's a bigger limitation with synthetic. This is mainly because the hair is already in its style. All you are doing with synthetic is defining the style, whereas with real hair you can actually create the style with products. But you can use products on both synthetic and real hair.