Wigs and Hairpieces

For thousands of years, wigs have been called wigs. Today, wigs are called many different things, and they've come a long way in terms of offering a more natural appearance. Temporary usage of hair additions while undergoing lengthy hair transplant sessions is becoming more popular among men and women who don't want to advertise their work-in-progress, especially since many transplants take one or two years to complete.

­A non-surgical hair addition is any external hair-bearing device added to existing hair or scalp to give the appearance of a fuller head of hair. In this category are hair weaves, hair extensions, hairpieces, toupees, non-surgical hair replacements and partial hair prostheses. Devices may consist of human hair, synthetic fiber or a combination of both.

Partial hair additions -- now more popular than wigs -- are attached in a variety of ways. All techniques use either the existing hair or the skin as anchor sites. Weaving, fusion, bonding and cabling generally describe the techniques used to attach the new hair to the existing hair. All are used to provide more security for the active lifestyle, and they are all dependent on the growing existing hair and therefore must be reattached or tightened as the existing hair grows. (Techniques that stress your existing hair, such as weaves, can cause permanent damage if done incorrectly or on an inappropriate candidate. Even temporary clips attached too tightly can cause permanent hair loss.)

Techniques that use the skin as the anchor site include adhesives such as two-sided tapes and water-proof liquids. Most adhesives are safe, but it's a good idea to have your dermatologist do a patch test to check for skin allergies.

If your hair loss is due to illness or chemotherapy or physical abnormalities, these devices are your best solution (you should probably opt for a full wig). Many large hair replacement centers as well as many small salons offer this service.

On the down side, these hair systems are high maintenance and can be, in the long run, more expensive than the other options we've discussed. (Depending on materials and design, the price can range from $750 to $2,500 and up for a quality custom-made hair addition.) Although insurance generally does not cover male or female pattern hair loss, it may cover the cost of a hair addition when hair loss is caused by disease or other abnormalities.

And the expenses don't stop there. First, you will always need two hairpieces -- one that you wear and one that is being re-styled. Soon (usually in about a year to 18 months), you will need to replace both. Although human hair is used, it is constantly being dyed, brushed and permed to match your hair. After a while, just like your own hair, each hair strand breaks or becomes over-processed and the material it is attached to starts breaking down from the constant reattachment. You will also have to visit the hair center every four to six weeks to have your hair trimmed and have the piece reattached and blended.

The industry is seeing a growing number of people using wigs and hair systems to cover the results of a bad hair transplant, and to combine partial transplantation with a partial hair addition. The Hair Loss Council offers this example: An individual with severe baldness who wants to wear his hair straight back may opt for a transplanted hairline only (due to lack of donor hair available). Behind the newly transplanted front hairline, this person might have a hair addition designed so that he can now comb his own hair straight back.