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.