A Sheitel (Wig) Primer

In this article I want to begin to tackle the world of sheitlach (wigs); the types of sheitlach are found on the market today, as well as tips for care. Please note that this article does not deal with medical wigs, but wigs worn by women for either religious or beauty reasons.

How to Begin
• Always buy a wig from a reputable sheitel macher or well-known wig dealer.
• Always read the label found at the nape of the sheitel.
• All sheitel labels should contain information including: name of manufacturer (usually the brand name of the sheitel and not the actual company that produces the wigs for any specific company) and the wig type (custom, human hair, synthetic and so on), there can also be an additional label containing a hechsker from a Beit Din.

How is the wig designed?
The individual wig hairs are usually gathered into small clusters of hairs, these clusters are then sewn in a row onto cloth strips, each strip is known as a tress. These tresses are then assembled and sewn into either a net cap or sewn as open rows of hair attached to a wig border (known as capless). Whether the wig has a cap or is capless, the border of the wig follows the natural outline of the hair line from across the edge of the scalp at the top of the head, following the hairline down and around the ears and then across the back on the nape of the neck.

The top of the wig will either look the same as the rest of the wig (just rows of tresses) or will have a section in the middle of the top of the wig that is sewn in separately. This section, referred to as 'skin', is made up of a swatch of material, with hair strands hand sewn into it in rows allowing the 'skin' to show through, simulating hair and scalp. This skin area is very delicate. This section can wear out with time and can get torn by improper handling. The skin section is handmade and attached to the wig and is very expensive to replace.

Combs and/or clip/combs are sewn into the top of the wig and the side 'flaps' near the ears. Wigs that are meant to be worn with the hair brushed up from the nape of the neck, as in a bun or high ponytail, will have a clip/comb sewn into the nape of the neck area as well, to hold the back of the wig into place. These combs and clips also wear out in time, but can be replaced easily and cheaply.

At the nape of the wig there is an elastic strip attached to either end of the nape, with an s-clasp or Velcro patch. These strips can be tighten or loosened at the nape of the wig in order to create a better overall wig fit. Like many other things, the wig will stretch a bit with wear and these elastic strips help to tighten and improve the fit of your wig. These strips can also be sewn into place, if they move or unfasten during wear. These elastic strips will also wear with time.

Types of Wigs
There are many types of wigs on the market. Wigs prices vary widely according to the wig type, country of origin of hair and hair type, length of hair and according to the wig company that ultimately sells the wigs.

Custom: These are wigs made of the highest quality, untreated, un-dyed European human hair. The hair is sewn in tresses of lengths of hair, usually knots of 3-hair strands, all sewn in the same direction as it was cut (top of hair is at the cut point and bottom of hair is the natural end of the hair). This process ensures that the hair is arranged naturally and lays naturally. Custom wigs usually have a “skin” top that allows for a part in the hair. Some wigs have a 'multi-directional', which means, as the name suggests, the part can be easily made in a number of places in the skin, as well as being parted from the left or the right. This is the most costly and the most long lasting wig. This wig should be considered a long-term investment and is usually bought for kallahs.

Semi-custom (Remi): These are wigs made of human hair that has been treated and sometimes dyed. These wigs are usually made from European hair. These wigs usually have a “skin” top that allows for a part in the hair. The hair is usually sewn as tresses of hair that are gathered and folded over, this common method of sewing can create a less comfortable wig fit and style, if the stitching is not done properly. These wigs are somewhat less expensive than custom, but are still a good investment and can last for years with good care and maintenance.

100% Human hair: These are wigs made of human hair (usually Asian) that has been treated.

Human-hair blend: These are wigs made of a blend of human and synthetic hair, usually either having a 50-50 blend or 30-80 blend. These are not as long-lasting as 100% human hair, but are more natural looking and usually of a better quality than synthetic wigs.

Synthetic: These wigs made of synthetic fibers. These wigs have the shortest life-span, of usually less than one year unless they are worn very infrequently.

Wig care
All human hair wigs can be washed, cut, styled and dyed just like the hair on your head. Depending on the quality of the wig cap, hair and the level of care, these wigs can last for many years. You can use hot-rollers or a hair dryer or any other hair product on these wigs.

The outcome of dyeing an all-human wig can never be guaranteed as there can be no true 'pedigree' on the hair. As a rule you can only darken a wig color. A good way to lighten a wig is to add light highlights. Again, there is no guarantee that the highlights will 'take' to the hair.

Human hair blends can be washed and styled with certain limitations and can last well over a year and more with good care. You should be very careful with heat settings on blow-dryers or rollers and the like, as the wig hair is not as resilient of 100% human hair.

Synthetic wigs can be gently washed, but cannot be styled and should be kept away from any heat sources. The average life of a synthetic wig is only about a year.

Do you have any questions about wig care or styling. Please feel free to contact me through this blog.