Hair Loss: Hairpiece Basics

A hairpiece, is a hairpiece, is a hairpiece regardless of what they may be called. Hair systems, toupees, strand-by-strand insertion systems, hairpieces, etc., are all terms used to market the same product. These are all hair prostheses constructed in a similar fashion using similar materials, many of which come from the same few manufacturers.

Hairpieces are the most popular method of hair replacement, but the cost and appearance of any given hairpiece varies widely based on the materials used and the level of craftsmanship in their creation.

Hair System Base and Materials

The base of the hair system is simply the foundation of the prostheses in which the hair is either tied or injected.

Today's hair systems use primarily two materials to construct the bases, either meshes, polymers, or a combination of the two.

  • Mesh fabric: Mesh fabrics are typically made of polyester or nylon and are usually used to create the fine hairline of a good product. In some cases, they are used throughout the entire system, which provides a natural, life-like appearance, but is impractical for long-term use.

    • Pros:
      • Provides natural and undetectable hairline
      • Very light weight, cool, and comfortable to wear

    • Cons:
      • More expensive
      • More delicate and less durable
      • Reacts with body acids leading to early degradation and other damage
      • Must be replaced more frequently

  • Polymers: Polymers are made of either silicone or polyurethane and are used to create a material that mimics the appearance of skin or scalp. The more durable systems use this material. Many use it in areas where the hairpiece is to be attached to protect the unit for long-time wear.

    • Pros:
      • Can be considerably less expensive than meshes.
      • Very durable
      • Easy to attach (look for polyurethane)

    • Cons:
      • Can be extremely hot and uncomfortable to wear
      • Unless the hairline is made of lace, provides a less natural or even artificial appearance.

The Hair Used in a Hairpiece

The best hairpieces are custom-made of quality human hair matched to the hair of the client. This matching includes the color, texture, natural curl or wave (straightness), as well as hair density (thickness). The hairs of less expensive hairpieces may be made either of a moderate quality human hair, animal hair, or artificial fibers.

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The most expensive and mid-priced hairpieces are made from European hair that once grew naturally in a wide variety of colors, textures, densities, and levels of curl, wave, or straightness. The least expensive hairpieces are made from dark, straight Asian hair that has been dyed or bleached. Although Asian hair is very strong, the coloring processes make it brittle and dry, so it breaks easily. These hairpieces can begin to look fuzzy very quickly and need to be replaced often.

Human hair is fragile, so even the most expensive and expertly made hairpiece needs regular maintenance and needs to be replaced after time.

Attaching the Hairpiece

Keep in mind that the way you attach your hairpiece will greatly affect the hair that may be directly under it or adjacent to it. A hairpiece can accelerate hair loss on the part of your head directly underneath it.

This is especially true of those hairpieces that are attached by bonding, a strong glue kind of adhesive, or that are attached by the weaving process. Clips cause minimal hair loss.

Semi-Permanent Attached Hairpieces

Hairpieces that are semi-permanently attached are not designed to be removed, except by a hair technician or stylist, usually once every six weeks.

In most cases, they are affixed to the scalp by various liquid adhesives. This process has many names -- poly fuse, naturalbond, polybond, or just plain bonding -- for the same result, gluing a hairpiece on your head.

This can be very unhealthy for you, your head, and your hair. Shampooing can't remove the natural accumulation of flaked-off skin cells, oil, shed hair, and other organic debris that accumulate between the hairpiece and the scalp.

Even if you have this kind of hairpiece, whether it's attached by bonding or weaving (the hair is woven into the bottom of the hairpiece to secure it to your head), it should be loosened or removed at least once every five days so that you can properly clean the scalp underneath.

Temporary Adhesive-Attached Hairpieces

Double-sided tape is used to attach the hairpiece. This is an easy kind of attachment, and you can remove it any time and then reattach it. It can, however, leave a sticky residue on your scalp and on the underside of the hairpiece, which you will need to wash off. The tape can come unglued when you perspire heavily, and swimming loosens the tape as well.

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Clip Attachment

Metal clips that are securely attached to the underside of the hairpiece fasten to your own hair that is either under or adjacent to the hairpiece. These are secure but very easy to remove, just like tape attachments.



Published on March 1, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from the American Hair Loss Association
©2010 American Hair Loss Association. All rights reserved

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