How to Wear a Cosplay Wig (and make it look natural)

cosplay basics: how to put on a wig

Did you ever try on a wig for cosplay only to be disappointed at how odd it looks on your face? The wig looked lumpy, the bangs looked weird and the wig hair just didn’t hang down in a natural way. I tried to get high-quality wigs, hoping it would fix how awkward everything looked, only to run into the same problem. It turns out my problem was with how I was wearing the wig, not with the quality of the wig itself.

To wear a wig correctly, you have to take the time to prepare your hair as a flat base for your wig to sit on. You can also adjust the wig size, trim your bangs, and adjust your eyebrow color to help make the wig look more natural around your face.

Getting a high-quality wig can help, but you still need to take the time to wear it properly. Use the steps on this list to help you make small adjustments to your wigs and the way you wear them. I recommend going through step three and putting your wig cap on before starting your makeup. Then do your makeup before putting the wig on. 

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1. Slick back your hairline with gel

The step that most people forget when putting on a wig is using gel to slick back all the wispy hairs along your hairline. These are the hairs that are most likely to escape from under the wig and give you trouble later on. Make sure to gel back the entire hairline, including the areas in front of your ears. If you’re going to be wearing a short wig, you might also want to use gel along the hairs in the back of your neck as well, so that they don’t poke out from under the wig.

I like to use a heavy-duty hair gel for this to pretty much glue my hair down, but my hair is pretty stubborn. I’ll just use Got2Be hair glue, the same hair gel that I use when styling my wigs so that I don’t need to get a separate product for my hair. However, if you have more manageable hair, you can use whatever product you like best.

If you have bangs, take this opportunity to slick them back the pin them in place. Really, you’ll want to immediately pin the hair down along your entire hairline to keep it in place. I’ll talk more about that in the next step.

bobby pins vs hair pins
Bobby pins are used parallel to your head to hold the wig in place, while hair pins are poked into the wig and then twisted to give it a more secure hold.

3. Pin up your hair

If you have hair that hangs past your ears, you need to pin it up before you put on a wig. This serves multiple purposes. First, it will keep your hair up and prevent it from falling out of the wig cap at any point during the day. Second, it will give you some structure underneath the wig, making it easier to pin the wig in place and prevent it from sliding around on top of your head. 

The third thing pinning your hair up is good for is preventing your hair from creating any lumpy sections underneath your wig. 

Of course, in order to effectively gain these advantages, you have to pin your hair up the correct way. I recommend using bobby pins when pinning your hair up. These are the pins with one bumpy side.

  • Whether you have long or short hair, start by adding pins along your hairline. Pin back any bangs you have, and add pins to the hair in front of your ears. These are the areas that are most likely to move around and poke out under a wig after you’ve been wearing it for a while.
  • If you have short or thin hair, you can usually get away with just pinning your hair up along the back of your head. Make sure to pin your hair in an even layer so that you don’t create bumps along the way.
  • If you have long or thick hair, the process is a little more difficult. To avoid making lumps under the wig, you have to distribute your hair along your scalp. Some people will take the time to french braid their hair, to get it to lie flat. I like to leave my hair unbraided and make what is essentially large pin curls with my hair and pin it in place.

I have thick butt-length hair, so I’ve had some experience wrangling it onto my head and under a wig. Check out my tutorial if you want to know my full process.

place the mesh wig cap over you hair
Placing the hairnet over your pinned hair will further squash it down and make it flat on your head.

3. Use a wig cap

Wig caps are an essential part of wearing wigs. I know we see movies and anime where a character will remove their wig to show free-flowing hair underneath, but that’s simply not realistic. If you don’t use a hairnet, your hair will likely start to slip out from under the wig and your wig will be more likely to move around on top of your head, becoming uncentered or revealing your natural hairline.

There are two types of wig caps you can use with a wig. One kind is made of the same material as stockings and does not have a hole in the top. The other is made of a fishnet-like material and you can usually slip it completely over your head and down onto your neck. 

Personally, I prefer the net-style wig caps. I feel that it makes it easier to keep my hair in place and pin my wig on. Some people will choose to use both (net wig cap, followed by the stocking cap) so that they can more easily squish their hair down and create a smooth surface under the wig.

  • I will take the net wig cap and put it all the way over my head so that it sits around my neck. Then I will slide it back onto my hairline, keeping my hair slicked back in the process. Afterward, I will use a few pins around the perimeter of the wig cap (the hairline and the back of the head) to secure it in place. I’ll also add a pin to the top to close the hole in the wig cap.
  • If you are using a stocking wig cap, you will need to stretch it over your head until you get it around your hairline. Then tuck your hair back under the wig cap. Use pins around the edges to keep the wig cap in place.
wig bangs in front of eyes
When you first put your wig on, put the hairline slightly forward about an inch or so in front of your natural hairline.

4. Put the wig on the front first

When putting on your wig, it is generally best to start with the front of the wig first, then stretch it around to cover the back of your head and hair. This is because there is the possibility you can shift your hair a bit when you put on your wig. It’s better for your hair to shift back on your head than forward because there is more space to hide hair along the back of your head, whereas it’s very noticeable in the front.

  1. When putting your wig on, place the edge just a bit in front of your hairline.
  2. Then stretch it up and over your hair in the back of your head. There is elastic along the back edge of most wigs to help it stretch over your head.
  3. Move the hairline back so that it’s just in front of your natural hairline. 
  4. You’ll also want to pop your ears out from underneath the wig. The ear tabs should rest right in front of them.
sew combs inside the wig
Sew combs in along the front hairline of the wig for a more secure hold. This is especially useful for lace front and heavy wigs.

5. Pin your wig in place

Don’t skip this step! It’s very important that you take a minute to pin your wig down. Otherwise, it will slide out of place. Place pins along the entire hairline in the front and back of the wig. I will usually place:

  • one on each ear tab
  • Two or three along the front hairline
  • Two or three along the back of the wig

If your wig is back heavy (such as ponytail wigs or long wigs), you may want to make sure there are little combs along the front hairline as well. These wigs have a higher chance of sliding back on your head and revealing your hairline. Many wigs will come with these little combs already sewn in, but you can always sew some in yourself if they are not included.

remove the first two rows of wefts
To make the wig a little smaller, remove the first two rows of wefts from behind the ear tab. Then sew the wig back together.

6. Resize your wig

These next few tips are steps you can take to make the wig look more natural on your head. They may be quick fixes, or they might require a little bit more time to get right. If you’re going for a super natural look, I recommend looking into lace front wigs. They are made to have a natural-looking hairline so the wig will look like your real hair.

One thing that can prevent wigs from looking natural is if they are not the right size for your head. To some extent, this can be fixed using the little elastic hooks that are located in the back of your wig. If you connect these hooks to the ribbon slots in the back of the wig, you can make it slightly bigger or smaller. However, this isn’t always good enough.

If you find that the front hairline is too long for your forehead, or the wig doesn’t fully fit over your head, you’re going to need to make some manual adjustments by removing some wig fibers (for wigs that are too big) or adding elastic (for wigs that are too small).

I have a small head, so wigs tend to be pretty big on me. Instead of resting in front of my ears like they should, the ear tabs end up completely covering them. I have to go into the wig structure and take out some of the wig fiber wefts to size the wig properly. It might seem a little scary to go in and cut out pieces of your wig, it’s actually a lot easier than it sounds. I’ve made a tutorial going over exactly how I do it.

7. Trim the bangs

If you take a wig out of the bag and directly onto your head, it’s not going to look natural. Actually, you might not be able to see anything at all. The bangs of most wigs are way longer than they need to be. In order to make a window to see through, you need to shove the hair aside in bulky sections. It doesn’t end up looking very good or very natural.

That’s why I recommend that you always trim the bangs of your wigs before wearing them with your cosplay, even if your costume only needs a plain, simple wig. I know it can be scary to cut and style a wig for the first time, but trust me, you can do this.

For cutting bangs, you don’t even need any special equipment like a wig head. All you need is a pair of scissors. I recommend either a small pair of scissors or a pair of hair shears so that you can easily control where you are cutting, then trim little by little until you are happy with the length.

glueing the wig to your face
Use eyelash glue or spirit gum to attach your wig’s bangs and the hair in front of your ears to your face.

8. Glue the wig to your face

One thing you might notice is that wig hair doesn’t usually hang the same way that natural hair does. While hair will usually fall in ways that frame your face, wigs will usually hang straight down, leaving a weird gap between the wig fibers and your face since they are made of plastic and not actual hair.

To fix this weird gap, a little hack that I have for you is to literally glue the wig to your face. I will use eyelash glue, but you can also use spirit gum or something like that. Then I will take the hairs of my wig that come down from the ear tab and glue them in front of my ear. If I want my bangs to sit in a specific way, I will also glue them to my forehead.

pink eyebrows with a pink wig
Color your eyebrows to match your wig color.

9. Color your eyebrows

Depending on the color of your wig, the other important step is coloring your eyebrows since most of us don’t naturally have pink eyebrows. There are a couple of methods of doing this depending on the color you need to create and how much time you want to put into it.

The most accurate way to recolor your eyebrows is actually to cover them completely and then draw them back in with the correct color that matches your wig using eye makeup or a brow pencil. However, that process can be pretty tedious and annoying.

Usually, I will use eyeshadow to recolor my eyebrows. It’s easy if I need to go for a darker color than my natural brows. In that case, simply using the color I need will tint my eyebrows to the correct color. If I need to create a lighter color, I will make a base layer using white cream makeup, then cover that with the lighter eyeshadow or pencil. It’s not perfect, but it will make the wig look a lot more natural than my normal eyebrows.

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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