A Beginner's Guide to Buying Wigs and Wearing Weaves
The beauty of wigs and weaves is that they allow you to completely change your look — offering nearly unlimited options in the realm of colorful and unique hairstyles — without the pressure of having to commit to looks for longer than you'd like to. Hair chameleons like Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo, and pretty much all of the Kardashian-Jenners know all too well that wigs give you the option to rock a bold blond pixie cut one day and waist-length waves the next. Weaves, on the other hand, tend to be more of a commitment since they're sewn into the hair in most cases.
Whatever your preference, if you are thinking about wearing a wig or weave for the first time but have no idea where to start, we're here to help. Ahead, you'll find our comprehensive guide on what you should know about wigs (be it cheap wigs, wigs from human hair, or synthetic wigs) and weaves (such as human-hair weaves). From the things to keep in mind when purchasing wigs to the different types of weaves you can get done, you'll walk away from this guide ready to rock a new hairstyle.
— Additional reporting by Melissa Santoyo
Everything You Need to Know About Wigs
When it comes to switching things up and experimenting with different styles and colors, wigs are definitely one of your best options, though finding one that's right for you is a deeper process.
According to celebrity hairstylist Annagjid "Kee" Taylor, the most important thing to think about when purchasing wigs is who you're buying it from and how high quality their hair is. "When purchasing your first wig, you definitely want to go high quality," Taylor tells POPSUGAR. "That way you are more likely to have a good first experience and feel as comfortable as possible because wearing a wig for the first time can make you feel very self-conscious."
For good-quality, long-lasting wigs, Taylor recommends checking out longlocksvirginhair.com, an online retailer that offers everything from virgin hair wigs to clip-in extensions to bundles. Check out the different types of wigs ahead.
Types of Wigs
These days, most wig wearers wear lace fronts, which are units that include human or synthetic hair that's sewn (usually by hand) to a sheer piece of lace. The end result is a more natural-looking hairline that often looks like the hair is actually growing out of your scalp. (These can be glued above the hairline, though some are made to be glueless.) That said, lace-front wigs can also be on the more expensive side because of their quality, so buying them is definitely looked at as more of an investment for a lot of people.
Synthetic wigs are normally made up of, you guessed it, synthetic hair. Unlike lace-front wigs, these can't be dyed, heat styled, or manipulated, and they're usually meant to be worn exactly how they're bought. The advantage of this is that synthetic wigs can usually be bought at significantly cheaper prices than lace fronts, and you can typically buy one either online or at your local beauty supply store for as little as $20.
Everything You Need to Know About Weaves
Weaves require a bit more commitment, depending on how you style them, but that doesn't make them any less wearable than wigs. We're breaking down the different types of weaves ahead.
Getting a sew-in weave is a bit of a lengthier process than installing a wig. For this, a stylist can install several cornrows throughout your natural hair before sewing your desired amount of bundles or "tracks" into your hair. This can usually take anywhere from two to six hours, depending on how many bundles you're installing (two or three is a good amount) and how speedy your stylist is.
Since they can typically last anywhere from six to 10 weeks at a time, weaves are more appealing to people interested in sporting protective styles and putting less stress on their natural hair for a given amount of time. They're also more convenient for people who engage in a lot of physical activity like dancing, working out regularly, or playing sports, because the hair is sewn into place.
But even though these are looked at as go-to protective styles for many, there are still practices Taylor recommends keeping in mind in order to make sure your hair underneath the weave stays healthy and moisturized. "You want to make sure to keep your scalp moisturized with nourishing oils like Jamaican Black Castor Oil, and get your hair deep conditioned and your ends trimmed every eight weeks," she says. "Your wigs and weaves should be shampooed at least every three weeks and cared for just like your natural hair."
A partial sew-in is just a sew-in with a leave-out, which is a portion of natural hair in the front, back, or side of the head that's not braided down. Instead, it's left out and blended into the weave. Partial sew-ins can often look more natural, depending on the texture of the hair that's being installed, but a major downside to wearing leave-outs is that they're subject to overmanipulation like heat styling, which usually leads to breakage and heat damage.
Wearing clip-ins is a tad less time-consuming and easier to DIY. They don't require braids or cornrows to be worn underneath, as these are smaller pieces of extensions that you can clip or snap into your real hair. Depending on your skill level, you don't even have to go to a professional to have them installed, but the only drawback is they call for you to manipulate your hair a little bit more than you would if you wore a sew-in.
Terms to Know About Wigs and Weaves
Bundles are literally "bundles" of hair that can be used in weaves or when making wigs. Bundles are usually made with human, virgin hair (more on that later) that's donated and later sewn onto a weft.
You can buy bundles in a variety of different colors, styles, curl patterns, and textures — like Brazilian Body Wave or Malaysian Curly — since the hair is usually donated and sourced from women all over the world.
When buying wigs and bundles, you may hear or see a lot of stylists and retailers talking about virgin hair. This is essentially hair that hasn't been processed or chemically treated, and it's deemed the best kind of hair to buy since it can also be dyed, cut, or heat styled however you desire.
Wearing a closure or frontal (that's up next) is an alternative to wearing a leave-out. These are small units that are placed at the top of the hair, usually as a way to finish the style. They're made with lace or silk and often parted down the middle as a way to mimic your scalp. Some stylists can make closures on their own out of bundles, but these days, they're often bought separately from bundles.
Frontals are larger than closures; closures tend to be about four inches wide, while frontals can be installed from ear to ear. This means they're a tad more expensive to purchase, but not by too much. Frontals are also designed to look more natural and usually have to be plucked and glued to mimic your own hairline.