The anime convention is over and all you want to do is rip your wig off your head and toss it into your suitcase to bring home. Or maybe you’re already home and realize you need to take the wig out and take the time to store it properly because you want to wear it again next time.
To prevent impossible tangles in your wigs (especially long wigs) and increase their longevity, you should follow some basic principles and best-care practices. This will also help to keep your styled wigs last longer so that next time you wear your cosplay, you’ll only need to make some basic touch-ups.
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1. Comb and detangle your wig
It’s best to take the time to comb and detangle your wig before you even leave the convention and pack up your cosplay. But if you didn’t, all is not lost. You can still salvage a knotted wig, you just might want to make sure you don’t wait until the day before the convention.
Short wigs are usually very forgiving in this aspect. Simply run a wide-toothed comb through them to make sure there are no knotted areas and back them back into their bags for storage. However, long wigs have a tendency to get extremely tangled and can take a lot more time to comb through.
If the wig is not too bad, you can go through section by section and comb out the tangled. It’s a good idea to spray the wig with some detangling spray when you’ve finished, to prevent the knots from forming in the future too.
If you have knots that are so bad that they damage the wig fibers and cause frizzing, you’ll probably need to go through the whole process of washing the wig to retrain the fibers. You might also want to wash a wig that you use a lot of hair product on, especially if you’re starting to see a lot of gluey residue building up.
2. Store in plastic bags with tissue paper and hair nets
Most wigs can be stored in the same packaging that they came in. Usually, this includes a plastic ziplock bag, some tissue paper inside the wig, and a hair net to keep fibers from rubbing out of place when you slide it in and out of the plastic bag.
After detangling and combing your wig, gently place the tissue paper inside and stretch the hair net over the entire wig. Then place it top-first into the plastic bag. This way, when you slide it in, the hairs won’t move out of place.
3. Turn lightly styled wigs inside out
If you have done some simple spiking with your wig or you’ve done some loose styling (such as curls, ponytails, or braids), it can actually be best to flip the wig inside out before putting it back into the wig bag. This helps to keep the styling from flattening or sliding around while you shove the wig into the bag. You can still add the hair net outside the wig, but you’ll want to leave out the tissue paper when storing your wigs inside out.
You don’t want to do this with heavily styled wigs, or wigs with precise spikes and styling elements, since they are likely to get messed up if you store them in a bag at all.
4. Braid long wigs
Long wigs can easily get tangled. Somehow this can even happen when the wig is correctly stored in a bag with a hair net to keep the fibers from moving too much. Medium-length wigs will probably be fine, but if you’re dealing with something that is longer than mid-back, you should loosely braid it before storing it in the plastic bag.
If you’ve ever had long hair, you’ll know that a braid is one of the easiest ways to keep your hair in one place and prevent knots (if you ever notice people with long hair wearing braids a lot, this is why). Braids do the same thing for wigs. They keep the fibers securely in the same spot, so they don’t move around and tangle with each other.
However, you don’t want to put your wig into a tight braid, especially if it’s a straight wig. A tight braid will end up causing the wig to have a wavy style, especially after it’s been stored for a long time. So make sure as you’re braiding your wig that you don’t pull or tug on any of the strands. Gently place the strands in the braid and roll it up into the hair net to store with your other wigs.
5. How to store heavily styled wigs
Heavily styled wigs will be ruined if you try to stuff them into a plastic bag with tissue paper and netting. Instead, these should be kept on a wig head or wig stand and stored upright. This could be on a shelf or inside a box, but the goal is to keep the wig from bumping or rubbing up against anything else so the style isn’t damaged.
While some people will keep styled wigs displayed on shelves, I recommend keeping them in a closed box (or at least under some sort of drop cloth) unless you plan on wearing them very soon. The reason for this is that wigs that are left out will accumulate dust and debris over time. The next time you go to wear the wig, you’ll find you have a thin layer of dust on top, and it can be quite difficult to wipe it off without messing up the styling.
I especially recommend being cautious and covering your wigs if you have pets who shed. I learned from experience that the wigs seem to somehow attract animal fur. The gluey residue from hair gel and spray made it almost impossible to remove the fur, so I had to completely restyle it from scratch.
Unfortunately, this means that you need a lot more space to store a bunch of heavily styled wigs since they all pretty much need their own separate box to stand in. If you know you’ll be wearing the cosplay again, it’s worth it to keep it in storage. But at some point, you’ll start to run out of space and you’ll need to consider whether it’s time to get rid of the wig entirely.
6. Label boxes and containers
If you have a lot of wigs and throw them in a box together, it can be almost impossible to find the one you want the next time you’re looking. It may take just a couple extra minutes, but you will not regret adding labels to the boxes you have your wigs in, and to the wig bags themselves.
I always keep wigs that go with a specific cosplay together with that costume. That way I’ll have everything in one place. I keep wigs that can be used for multiple costumes separately, and label them as ‘short, brown wig,’ or ‘long, white wig,’ etc.
7. Avoid hot storage areas
Most cosplay wigs are made of plastic fibers. If it gets too hot, the plastic fibers will start to melt and the wig will be unusable. Even for wigs that are heat resistant, the fibers will soften when they get hot and then harden as they cool down again. This means that the fibers of a wig that’s kept in a bag in the heat can get stuck in the position they were in while in storage. When you take the wig back out again, you’ll have fibers that are sticking out at odd angles that won’t go away until the wig is completely restyled with heat.
Make sure whatever closet or storage space you’re using has some form of climate control if you live in an area that gets really hot in the summer. While you’re at it, you also want to avoid storage areas that are too humid or moist. This is less likely to damage the wig, but it can ruin the wigs that have been styled.