How I Customize My Wigs for Easy, Realistic Ponytails
My name is Alexys, and I am a recovering ponytail addict.
No, really. When my hair loss started getting bad, I depended on a nice high bun or ponytail to conceal my bald spots. So, when I finally shaved my head and decided I was done with the whole having-hair thing, I realized shortly after that my love of ponytails just got a lot more complicated.
I owned wigs before I shaved my head, of course; but it was easy enough to pull out my own baby hairs around my forehead, ears and nape to ensure my updos looked natural. Suddenly it was a struggle of hard edges and weirdly long hairs.
What’s a girl to do? What if I had a job, like food service, that required me to wear my hair up? Oh my god, what about the summer?! There must be solutions! And I’m here to tell you that there are.
I’ve owned quite a few wigs since I shaved my head, and it's an absolute necessity that I be able to pull them all up into a ponytail.
The first thing I do when I get a new wig, after cutting the lace, is put it up and cut in some baby hairs. I should preface this entire post by saying that I am not a hairdresser, and if you’re nervous about doing something like this, you should absolutely take your wig to a professional. That’s what I did in the beginning. But now, I’m equal parts reckless and impatient (plus at the mercy of ongoing lockdowns), so I do it myself.
And I believe you can, too!
Setting yourself up for success: choosing the right wig for you
I am a firm believer that, as long as your wig fits you well, you should be able to negotiate it into a ponytail without too much trouble. However, there are some things you really should consider when in the shopping stage:
In my experience, lace top human hair wigs are your best bet if you want to wear your hair up a lot. This is because they allow for the greatest degree of directionality, and are therefore easier to pull straight back for a nice, high ponytail.
With silk tops, and to a lesser degree, monofilament tops (or mono tops), you will probably find that the hair will resist your efforts to pull it back. To some extent, you can get around this by spraying it with water to reset the parting, but silk tops in particular tend to want to fall forward. This means that you will probably have to settle for a lower ponytail.
I also find silk tops to be a little bulkier on top due to the added fabric, which can affect your ability to make a high pony look natural. Personally, my favorite construction is a lace top wig with lace ear tabs.
It is vital that your wig fits you well, especially if you want to wear it up.
Measure your circumference using a flexible tape measure (or, failing that, a piece of string that you then measure the length of with a ruler), and don’t be afraid to ask the seller for more information about sizing if you are worried that you’re between sizes!
If your wig is too small, the ear tabs probably won’t fit you properly and you may even get a headache from wearing it. If your wig is too big and requires a great deal of cinching at the back, it can bag out or lift when you try to pull it up.
This one is a little less important than the other two, but is still worth considering.
Just like with your own hair, ponytails can cause breakage. I don’t worry too much about it, but if you plan to wear your wig up in a ponytail every day (like for work), you may want to steer clear of bright, processed blondes that are already a little brittle.
You may also want to learn some other styles, like buns or braids, to prevent breakage caused by repetitive styling.
Cutting and customizing your wig
Once you’ve chosen your wig and it’s arrived at your door (congratulations!), it’s time to get down to business. You should start by cutting the lace of your wig as usual, then put it on. If your piece has lace ear tabs or otherwise requires gluing, make sure you do so. Next, put it in a ponytail. All done! Tutorial over!
… I’m joking, of course. If you’re anything like me, you will discover that you are suddenly cosplaying as a founding father (as in, your wig looks very wiggy). This is because your wig is missing the baby hairs around your sideburns, temples and nape.
Some wigs have baby hairs cut into them, but the hair around the ears and nape is often left long. For my taste, I usually find that the pre-cut baby hairs are not enough for me. So, gird your loins, and let’s get slashing!
You will need:
- A wig (obviously)
- A comb (probably)
- A facial razor or a pair of sharp scissors
- A hair tie
- Depending on the style of the wig, glue or tape may be required
- Thinning shears (optional)
Start by taking a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror.
Resist the urge for deep soul reflection and focus on your hairline. If you have your own hair and your wig is a decent match, now is the time to pull out some baby hairs and see how you feel. You may very well be able to stop here - before I started shaving my head, I didn’t feel the need to cut baby hairs into my wigs at all.
But if you don’t have any baby hairs to pull out, or you find that the wig line is still too harsh for your liking, it’s time to start figuring out what you’re going to cut. I recommend tying your initial ponytail fairly loosely and using either a comb or your fingers to pull out little slices of hair along the hairline (focusing on the temples, ear tabs and nape).
Try to imagine where your baby hairs would be. I recommend looking at reference pictures of ponytails online to get an idea of placement and length.
Once you’re confident with the hair you’ve pulled out, you should clip your ponytail out of the way to ensure you don’t accidentally catch any of those hairs.
Now is a good time to check out the video above, because it’s a little tricky to describe the cutting method, but I shall do my best: using a razor (or very sharp pair of scissors held open), begin gently cutting the hair from underneath. You want to keep the blades almost parallel to the hair in order to keep your cuts soft and feathery.
I like using a razor because it gives me the greatest amount of control and is sharp enough to avoid splitting the hair. The most important part of this process is that you are cutting from underneath (closest to the hairline), so that when you go to put your hair up in the future, these hairs are easy to coax down.
Cutting from underneath is also a sort of failsafe, giving you an opportunity to dial it back if you feel like you’ve pulled down too much hair. Regardless, go slowly!
I usually cut less hair than I think I will want, and make final adjustments when I go to wear the wig in the future and have a better idea of how the hair falls or springs back.
Something that I fail to mention in the video, as I don't always do it, is using thinning shears to further vary the length and density of your baby hairs. Especially around the nape, I find this can really help sell the look and keep them from getting rattail-y.
Tips for lace ear tabs
Like I said before, this is my favorite construction. The trick here is to make sure your wig is glued down before you start cutting.
Personally, I cut the lace a little shorter than my natural sideburns, and use the baby hairs to blend the rest by adhering them to my skin slightly with a little extra gel. I find this gives me the most natural effect.
Just make sure that you are dissolving the gel (for Got2B, I just use warm water on a washcloth) before removing your wig so that you don't damage the hair or lace.
Tips for silk top wigs
If you are planning on wearing your silk top wig up on a regular basis, I personally recommend having some kind of bang cut in by a professional stylist.
In my experience, the thickness and limited directionality of silk tops can emphasize that "founding father" effect and it can be tough to soften it with just home-cut baby hairs.
Don't get me wrong, you can absolutely make it work - but again, you may have to settle for a lower ponytail with more soft, face framing pieces. Bangs just offer an easy solution to trying to fuss over the hairline, and really show off what a silk top is best for - the realistic scalp parting.
I'll be the first to admit that this construction is not my preference, so I have less experience with it. Your mileage may vary!
There are a lot of benefits to wearing your wig up - it gets the hair off your neck, can reduce tangling, and looks adorable.
Plus, no more ponytail headaches! But you can also apply this method of baby hair cutting and styling to a plethora of other styles - half-up, braids, buns… The possibilities are endless.
At first I was scared to do anything to my human hair wigs; it doesn’t grow back, after all. But at the end of the day, if it makes it more wearable for you, I think you should consider customizing (whether it be thinning, plucking, or cutting).
And if you don’t have access to a stylist, I really think this is a good technique to modify your wig so that you can wear it up with more confidence.
You got this!
Follow @lexyesss on Instagram to learn more wig tips!
Amazing! Beautifully done