A good wig can effortlessly make or break your costume. Unfortunately, wigs are not always simple to work with. It’s too easy for wigs to tangle and frizz when transporting them or wearing them. Inappropriate storage can also lead to a tangled mess.
Keep your wigs in good condition by practicing proper styling, transporting, and storage techniques. You’ll also want to take some precautions when wearing your wig to prevent major damage, and you should wash wigs that are worn frequently.
Depending on the type and length of your wig, and how heavily styled it is, you’ll have to take different steps to keep it in good condition. When well cared for, a wig can last you several years before it’s time to get a new one.
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Step 1: Styling your wig
In general, there are two types of wigs. Those you can use heat to style and those you cannot. The heat-resistant wigs are considered higher quality and easier to style, so they are typically more expensive. However, the cheaper wigs that are not heat resistant can be a great choice for characters that don’t have heavily styled hair.
Because cosplay wigs are made of plastic fibers, you should only use heat on the low setting of a curler or straightener even on heat resistant wigs. Sometimes you can get away with using boiling water and a hair dryer on wigs that are not heat-resistant, but always test on a small section first.
Other than the use of heat, pretty much all wigs can be styled using the same techniques. Use these tips to prevent damage to your wig while styling:
- Comb the wig before styling. Use a wig brush or a wide-toothed comb to brush through the wig before styling. This will ensure that it’s in the best condition and ready for whatever crazy hairstyle you have planned.
- Avoid using too much hair spray and hair glue. Too much of these supplies create a visible sticky residue, so it’s always best to use as little as you can get away with. This is why heat styling is so valuable because you can use less of these supplies to get gravity-defying hairstyles.
- Pay attention to any flammable products. Many products are highly flammable and should only be used after styling with heat. Most hair sprays, for instance, can easily catch fire with heat.
- Spray long wigs to prevent tangling. Long wigs tangle way too easily. To help in preventing the worst tangles later on, it’s helpful to spray them with a detangling spray (make your own detangler by adding conditioner and water to a spray bottle and shaking it together). Spritz the wig thoroughly and comb it with a wide-toothed comb to coat the wig fibers and help prevent tangles later on.
- Brush from the bottom first. If you have a long wig, you always want to start brushing your wig at the tips. Otherwise, you are likely to damage the wig fibers and create extra knots while combing.
- Don’t heat a wet wig. The plastic strands of wigs along with water and heat do not work well together. Wait until your wig has dried before trying to use any kind of heat styling other than a basic hairdryer.
- Test small sections first. Whether you are testing to make sure a curling iron isn’t too hot or you’re trying out a new hair styling product, it’s best to test it out in a small area of the wig first to make sure it doesn’t cause any damage.
Recommended wig styling products
Step 2: Transporting your wig
Bringing a wig to a convention often accidentally causes damage to the wig. Transporting it safely depends on how heavily the wig is styled. A wig that does not have spikes or specific styling should be transported in its original packaging.
Place the tissue paper inside the wig cap and cover it with the included hair net to prevent static and frizz. Then slide it into the plastic wig bag with the crown of the head first. Flatten the bag so that you will be able to easily transport it in a suitcase. If you have done some minor styling to the wig, such as simple spikes, you can turn your wig inside out before placing it into the wig bag.
Wigs with heavy styling need to be transported carefully to prevent any damage. It’s best to keep these attached to a wig head or stand so that they can remain upright while traveling. Many people will use an old hatbox to keep the wig from getting knocked around and squished, but you can also use a box or even a large, sturdy bag for these bulky designs. To immobilize the wig head in the box, you can duct tape it to the bottom.
Regardless of how you transport the wig, you’ll likely have some small fixes you’ll need to make at the convention. Bring a wig head and basic styling supplies with you to make quick fixes before you wear it.
Step 3: Wearing your wig
Other than transport, wearing your wig is what will cause the most damage. If you want to minimize the amount of wear and tear on your wig during a photoshoot or convention, you’ll need to be careful. Use these tips to help keep your wig in good condition:
- Wear a wig cap. Wearing a wig cap will keep your wig in place more easily, which can keep it from tangling from moving around too much. A wig cap will also keep the wig cleaner, which will mean you don’t have to clean it as often. (find cheap wig caps)
- Pay attention to crowds and the size of your wig. If you have a large, bulky wig, you’ll want to keep an eye on your periphery to make sure you don’t bump into objects or other people.
- Use wig clips to secure your wig to your head properly. Any wig that is heavy in the back will benefit from wig clips to keep it in place on your head. (sew in small wig clips like this)
- Comb immediately after use to prevent tangles. After you take your costume off, it’s best to immediately comb out your wig and place it back in storage. (wide toothed combs are better and less likely to damage wig fibers)
Step 4: Storing your wig
Storing a wig improperly can also lead to a ruined wig, but luckily they aren’t too difficult to put away. Before storing them, you want to give each wig a comb through to get rid of any tangles that accumulated while you wore it.
For most wigs, you’ll want to take the same steps you did while transporting. Place them back in their original packaging with the hairnet to prevent extra frizz or tangles. If you don’t have the original bag, you can use a large ziplock bag for your wig. You can get hair nets pretty cheaply online to help protect your wigs.
A wig that has light styling can be turned inside out while in storage. Long wigs are more easily tangled if the bag gets moved around too much. Therefore, it’s best to put these wigs into a loose braid to keep the hair in place. A tight braid may end up causing kinks in the wig, so make sure it’s a gentle braid with a hair tie loosely holding it together.
Complex designs should be kept in storage in an upright position on a wig head or stand. If you plan on wearing them again soon, you can keep them out on a shelf. However, if you’re putting the wig in storage for more than a couple of months, it’s best to find a box to keep it in.
It’s really difficult to remove dust without ruining the styling. I kept my Gon wig (from HunterxHunter) out in the open but eventually had to throw it away. The problem? The fur from my rabbits got all over the wig, and I couldn’t remove it without causing a ton of frizz and flyaways. So it’s best to keep your wig somewhere that it won’t accumulate too much dust and pet fur from the environment.
Step 5: Washing your wig
The more you wear a wig, the sooner it will become necessary to wash it. Wigs are very close to our heads, so they accumulate sweat and oil from our skin. This is especially true of any wigs worn in the heat of summer. After 3-4 times wearing the wig, it’s a good idea to clean it. This will prevent a smell from building up, and it can prevent forehead acne.
You will also want to wash a wig if you ever have to remove styling products from it. If you want to restyle a wig or reuse it for another character, you’ll need to wash the wig first.
To wash a wig:
- Comb the wig. First, you’ll want to comb the wig and remove any significant tangles. This may take a while with a long wig, but it will keep impossible tangles from forming during the cleaning process.
- Fill a basin with water and mix in shampoo. Technically you should be using wig-specific shampoo to clean wigs since it will be gentler on your wig and help it last longer. However cosplay wigs aren’t worn or washed very frequently, so it’s okay to use regular shampoo or even dish soap if that’s what you have available.
- Add the wig and gently scrub. Place the wig in the basin and soak it through. Scrub the sweaty part of the wig cap to help clean these areas. Rub any areas with heavy styling products between your fingers to help remove the hair spray or glue.
- Soak the wig for 10-15 minutes. Keep the wig in the water for a little while to make sure it’s clean. You can swish the wig around occasionally to make sure it gets clean. If you have a heavily styled wig, you may have to repeat steps 1-4 a number of times.
- Rinse off the wig with clean water. After the wig is clean, dump out the soapy water and use clean water to wash off the soapy suds.
- Squeeze off excess water and let the wig air-dry overnight. You can place the wig on a wig head or wig stand and gently comb through it with a wide-toothed comb. Then let it completely dry before trying to restyle the wig.
How long do cosplay wigs last?
Since cosplay wigs are typically only worn a few times a year, they can actually last a very long time. They will show some wear and tear with time. The wig fibers will become damaged and too much styling will become knotted or have a visible glue residue. You can expect a decent quality cosplay wig to last you at least 4-5 years if you take good care of it.
A good quality wig might even last you 10 years. Higher quality wigs that are thick, and heat resistant will last longer because they are more easily repaired if they get tangled or damaged.