Tutorial: How to Quickly Detangle a Cosplay Wig

how to detangle a wig

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If it’s the day before the convention and you’re just realizing your wig needs some work, you can still make a lot of progress on the wig without completely washing it. This method won’t necessarily get your wig looking shiny and new, but it can get your wig to an acceptable level for wearing to a convention. This is also ideal for wigs that are only slightly knotted but don’t have severely matted areas.

clipping knots from a wig
If your wig has any major knots that won’t comb out, you can simply snip them out with hair shears.

The first step is to go through the wig piece by piece, starting at the bottom layer. The goal will be to gently comb out any major tangles with a wide-toothed comb. Clip out any knots that are too stubborn with a pair of scissors to avoid pulling on the wig fibers.

Next, you will use detangling spray (I like to use Mane and Hair Detangle spray). Liberally spray the wig and brush through it with a wig brush or wide-toothed comb. This will give you a basic detangling of the wig without needing to go through the process of washing the wig. 

using a hair straightener on frayed wig ends
If some areas of your wig are frayed and damaged, use a hair straightener on low settings to repair the fibers.

De-frizzing a cosplay wig

Because cosplay wigs are made out of plastic, pulling and rubbing the strands can end up damaging the fibers much more easily than normal hair. This means, when you have to comb out large tangles, you’re often left with areas of weirdly-textured wig that can’t be repaired with shampoo or hair styling products.

The only way to really repair a frizzy wig is to use heat. Because the strands are made of plastic, you can essentially melt them back into place using a hair straightener. Of course, you need to be very careful doing this so you don’t damage the strands instead of fixing them, but the actual process is pretty simple.

First, if there are any damaged, frizzy areas that you can cut off without ruining the wig (such as the tips of hair strands), then get your hair shears and snip it. Any damaged areas that are left will need a hair straightener.

Make the hair straightener as hot as you can make it for the wig (usually a low/medium setting). Test it on an inconspicuous section of the wig first to be sure the temperature isn’t too hot. Then go over the damaged sections, straightening the wig fibers.

You will have to straighten curly and wavy wigs as well if you want to repair damaged fibers. After you’ve gone over it with a hair straightener, you can restyle it using a curling iron or foam curlers.

For non-heat-resistant wigs

A hair straightener will only work to fix frizz on heat-resistant wigs. Those that are not heat-resistant would only end up melting with this method. However, this doesn’t mean your wig is completely done for. There are still a few things you can try for repairing your wig:

  • Trim the frizzy ends and strands. The easiest solution is to carefully trim the damaged fibers from the wig. This will work best if it’s just small amounts of the wig that are damaged.
  • Let the straightener cool a bit. Some non-heat-resistant wigs can still put up with a little bit of heat. Heat up the hair straightener and then let it cool for several minutes. Test it on the wig to make sure it won’t cause any damage first. If it’s good, then use the straightener to fix the damaged areas.
  • Use hot water. Boil water in a large pot and let it cool for a couple of minutes. Then dip the wig in. Test it first on the tips to make sure the hot water isn’t completely melting the wig. If it’s good then dip the wig in again so the damaged area gets wet, then comb the wig. Make sure to be careful during this process, since hot water can easily cause burns.
wig in a hairnet
Don’t forget to store you wig properly in a hairnet to keep it from tangling again.

How to prevent wig tangles in the first place

Now that you’ve gone through the whole process of detangling a wig, you want to make some changes to your wig care routine so you never have to do that again. While you will always have to deal with a small number of tangles, there is a lot you can do to prevent a matted mess of a wig.

  • Coat long wigs with hair gel or a layer of hair spray. Long wigs are the most likely to get tangled so before you wear them brush hair gel through the wig to coat the fibers. Use a comb to distribute the gel through the wig. Then use hair spray to keep it in place.
  • Spray with wig detangler. You can also spray any wig with a hair detangler before it gets knotted to help prevent tangles.
  • Braid long wigs. When you are storing a long wig, loosely braid it before putting it into the wig bag. This will prevent the wig strands from moving around and tangling every time the wig is moved.
  • Store in a hair net. It’s also a good idea to store your wigs within a hair net to keep the fibers from knotting.

Emily Joice

My name is Emily, and I have been cosplaying since my very first convention in 2008. Over the years, I've experimented with all different kinds of cosplay costumes, especially loving the process of creating props and styling wigs. I also delved into cosplay photography, and love exploring how to optimize costumes so they look excellent in photos. Most of the photos you find on this site were taken by me over my years at anime conventions.

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