Wigs have been a part of beauty culture for centuries. In Ancient Egypt, the elite wore wigs (made from human hair, vegetable fibers, or wool) to signify their social status, protect shaved scalps from the sun, and reduce the chances of head lice. During the Roman empire, affluent women commonly wore wigs as a fashion accessory. The hairpieces then made their way to Europe in the 16th century, notably worn by royalty like Queen Elizabeth I.
Over time, wigs have transitioned from symbols of social hierarchy to modes of self-expression. Our favorite celebrities often turn to wigs to effortlessly switch their look for red carpets and performances. In recent years, wigs have also become a go-to style for people who want a low-maintenance routine or don't want to damage their hair with heat and dye.
The world of wigs is undoubtedly exciting, but it can also feel overwhelming to figure out what type will work best for you. That's why we tapped celebrity wig stylist Noah Scott, Glam Seamless creative director David Lopez, and celebrity cosmetologist and Bold Hold founder Tamika Gibson, to break down everything you need to know. Scroll on to learn more about the types of wigs, how to style your wig, and more.
Meet the Expert
- David Lopez is a celebrity hairstylist and beauty expert. He is also the creative director for Glam Seamless and an Ulta Beauty Pro Team member.
- Noah Scott is a San Diego-based celebrity wig stylist and the founder of WhatWigs.
- Tamika Gibson is a celebrity cosmetologist and the founder of Bold Hold.
Types of Wig Hair
Human Hair vs. Synthetic Hair
Two types of hair can be used to create a wig: synthetic and human. Synthetic hair is made using artificial fibers. They are close in appearance to human hair, more affordable, and require less maintenance. As its name suggests, human hair is made from 100% human hair.
Types of Wigs
Lopez says it's all about purpose when choosing the type of wig to get. " It depends on what you're using the wig for," he says. "That will dictate how much money you want to set aside for your first wig. The more realistic you want the wig to be, the more money you will spend."
Glueless and Headband Wigs
If you are new to wigs, Scott recommends a glueless wig. Glueless wigs come with adjustable straps in the back and an elastic band, meaning you don't have to use any adhesives and can just plop your wig on.
Headband wigs are another beginner-friendly, ready-to-wear option. This style comes with a headband attached to the hairline of the wig, which helps secure it and create a more natural look. "They are perfect for in-between styles or last-minute preparation as they are easy to put on and don't require special customization," Gibson says. "These wigs are generally more affordable and can be found at beauty supply stores, Amazon, etc."
Full Lace Wigs
A lace wig's base is made entirely of lace. With the help of hair colorists and stylists, these wigs can look incredibly natural. "For this wig to look natural, it requires professional customization, including bleaching of knots, plucking, cutting the lace to mimic the original hairline, and coloring the lace with spray or makeup," Gibson says. She also says it's critical to use high-quality glue—like the Bold Hold Active Reloaded Wig Glue ($27)—to adhere the lace.
The flexibility of full lace wigs also allows you to create parts anywhere and style your hair in braids, updos, or ponytails. While there are plenty of upsides to full lace wigs, Gibson says there are a few caveats. "One of the drawbacks of this type of wig is the maintenance," she says. "Depending on the adhesive you use and your daily activities, the lace can lift and create an unrealistic hairline. Regular maintenance appointments are needed to keep these lace hairlines looking natural." Gibson also notes full lace wigs are among the more expensive wig options.
Lace Front Wigs
Lace front wigs are typically made with human hair and have a piece of sheer lace that sits along the front. Lace fronts give the illusion of a natural hairline, with individual strands knotted along the mesh. With this type of wig, you're typically able to create parts at the front of the wig.
360 Lace Wigs
360 lace wigs are similar to lace front wigs. However, Gibson says there are a few key differences. "Instead of the lace only being in the front, it wraps around the entire head," she notes. "These wigs are great for individuals who like to pull their hair up into ponytails and buns while giving the appearance of a natural hairline."
Gibson says an application of a 360 lace wig can last two or three weeks. However, regular maintenance appointments are needed to keep the lace hairline in pristine condition.
With U-part wigs, hair extensions are sewn on a U-shaped wig cap made with mesh and clips. The construction of a U-shape wig allows for an opening at the top for your natural hair. "These wigs are good for people who don't want to use adhesives and want a more natural look," Gibson says. "One con is that you have to maintain your natural leave out, which often requires applying direct heat to blend it properly." She says u-part wigs can be made with synthetic or human hair and are generally less expensive than full lace and 360 lace wigs.
How to Care For and Style Your Wigs
Maintaining and styling a human hair wig is similar to upkeeping your natural hair. It's essential to cleanse and condition the hair regularly and protect it when using hot tools. "With proper care, your wig can last several years," Scott says. He recommends using R&Co's Television Shampoo and Conditioner ($64) and Olaplex's No. 7 Hair Oil ($28) to keep the hair in good condition.
If you have a synthetic wig, Lopez says you'll want to use a detangling spray to help refresh it. "Give [the wig] a warm bath in the sink with shampoo now and again," he adds. When it comes to styling, you'll also want to avoid hot tools, as synthetic wigs can melt under high temperatures.
When you're not wearing your wig, Gibson suggests storing the hair in a satin bag to keep it shiny and frizz-free.
Where to Buy Wigs
Before purchasing a wig, Scott and Lopez recommend visiting a wig shop or beauty supply store. "Try on different lengths, colors, and shapes to see what will suit you before investing in a good quality human hair wig," Scott says. If you're ready to buy your wig, there are plenty of online vendors to choose from. Below, find seven of our favorite wig brands.
Upgrade Boutique offers pre-styled and customizable wigs. If you opt for the latter, you'll be able to select your wig type, hair texture, length, cap size, color, and styling. The brand's wigs have been worn by celebrities including Mary J. Blige, Taraji P. Henson, Simone Biles, and more.
Mayvenn takes the guesswork out of wigs and extensions, providing 100% virgin hair extensions in eight textures and five colors. The hair is steam-processed and guaranteed to last up to a year.
With WhatWigs, Noah Scott's goal is to provide the most natural-looking lace wigs. The brand offers lace frontal and full lace options. Scott's wigs have graced the heads of Ariana Grande, Kehlani, and Khloe Kardashian, to name a few.
Founded by celebrity hairstylist Angela C. Styles, Conscious Curl is home to texture-inclusive wigs and extensions made from 100% virgin Indian hair.
Insert Name Here has become synonymous with ponytail extensions. However, the brand also offers under $100 synthetic wigs in various colors and styles.
New York-based Big Chop Hair sells clip-ins, drawstring ponytails, and wigs (lace front, headband, and u-part). All of the hair is available in a variety of textures, ranging from tightly coiled to straight.
Latched & Hooked's wig collection is specifically curated for people on the go. The brand's synthetic wigs range in style, from box braids to curly updos.
The Final Takeaway
Wigs allow us to be hair chameleons, instantly transforming our look without committing to cutting or coloring. Beyond versatility, Lopez points out that wigs can also serve as a confidence booster and tool to explore our identity. "As I got older, wigs became an expression of different parts of my personality," he says. "Now, they're a part of how I express my gender identity."
Bottom line: We all have our reasons for wanting to wear wigs, and there's beauty in all of them. So, what are you waiting for? Now that you're up to speed on wigs, it's time to experiment and explore.
Hafouda Y, Yesudian PD. Unraveling the locks of wigs: a historical analysis. Int J Trichology. 2019;11(4):177-178.