Many patients who lose their hair after cancer treatment find comfort and a sense of style in wigs. Because wigs often look and feel like normal hair, they may help patients feel more secure as they navigate the cancer journey. But it may surprise some patients to learn that they have to take specific steps to care for their wig. “Wig care probably isn’t top of mind for most cancer patients, and that makes sense,” says Joyce Clements, an Esthetician at our hospital in Tulsa. “With a little help, though, caring for your wig can become second nature, and something you actually enjoy doing.”
To help your wig retain its original luster, Clements recommends washing it every six to eight times you wear it, or about once a week. If exercise or hot and humid weather makes you sweat, or if you spend time around people who smoke, consider shampooing it more often. Clements advises patients to use shampoo specially formulated for wigs, and to follow these instructions when washing:
- Gently loosen tangles. Don’t brush wigs that have tight curls. Instead, use your fingers to remove tangles.
- Immerse and soak the wig. Fill a basin or tub with lukewarm water and add a small amount (about a quarter of a teaspoon) of wig shampoo. Once you’ve created a soapy bath, soak the wig for five to 10 minutes. Swish the wig back and forth when you’re finished. Don’t wring or twist it.
- Remove the wig and create a rinse bath. Dump the bath water and fill the basin or tub with water. Swish the wig back and forth until all the shampoo is washed out. If you want to condition the wig, add a half teaspoon of liquid fabric softener.
- Hold the wig until it stops dripping. Then place it in a clean, dry towel and press on it to remove excess water.
- Place the wig on a shower hook and let it air dry. Try not to put a wet wig on your head or on a mannequin because it may lose its shape.
- Don’t apply heat. Because most wigs are synthetic, it’s important to keep them away from heat sources, such as blow dryers or curling or straightening irons, which may burn them.
- Once dry, lightly mist the wig with water and style with your fingers. If you want the wig to maintain a specific style, consider using hairspray specially formulated for wigs.
If you wear a hat, headscarf or other covering over your wig, you may not have to wash the wig as frequently. Clements also recommends buying more than one wig so you always have one clean and ready to wear.
Learn how to prepare for treatment-related hair loss.