Wigs 101: Breaking Down The Construction of A Wig
So you’ve taken the plunge and decided to dive into the world of wigs and toppers.
But wait, where do you begin?
Seeing all the lingo used on hair websites or social media and not knowing a thing can be a daunting experience.
Don’t worry though; we’re here to break it all down for you!
Wig and Topper Anatomy
When you're shopping for a wig, you may hear some terminology that sounds like a foreign language to you. There's specific definitions to different parts of a human hair wig or hair topper that you'll want to be familiar with.
Each of these parts below can be made with different constructions and material that you should consider when purchasing your first hair piece!
A – Top
- This is the area that covers the very top of your head. Usually this area is a 4 in. by 4 in. area (or sometimes 5x5 in.) and it's the area where the most attention is paid.
- The top of the wig (especially for luxury hair pieces on silkorlace.com) are almost always fully handtied - meaning, each individual hair strand is hand sewn onto the top area! This process takes hours and hours, but the result is super natural and if done right, looks like your own scalp!
- This area can be made with different types of handtied material. The most common materials are silk top, lace top, and mono (or monofilament) tops. See below for more information on these materials!
B – Front/Hairline
Technically, this is still part of the top of the cap, but it's important to distinguish this section because it is where the eye is naturally drawn to first when looking at a wig. The front makes up the hairline of the wig, which can be blended in with your own hair, depending on its construction.
The front of the cap can be the same material as the top, or it can be a different material. For example, the top of the cap can be made of silk, but the front can have a lace front added onto it. (note: this is the only exception. You can't have a lace top with silk added onto it!)
We recommend blending your own hair into a silk top (no lace front) only. With lace tops and lace fronts, the lace is made to create a new hairline for you so no blending is needed!
C – Back/Cap
- The back of the wig is basically the whole back of the hair piece starting from when the top ends down to the nape of your neck. This whole area is what makes up most of the wig's hair density and length!
- The back of the wig has several different constructions as well. It can be wefted, lace or fully hand tied.
D – Eartabs (Wigs Only)
- This area covers/creates your sideburns! You may choose to purchase a wig that does not have any eartabs (or you can cut them off as well), which enables you to blend in your own sideburns with the wig's hair.
- However, if you're looking to wear a wig that's a completely different hair color than your own, or if you have significant hair loss and/or alopecia, we recommend you purchase a piece with sideburns.
- As mentioned, wigs only have eartabs (hair toppers do not have ear tabs)! It's because wigs are made to cover your whole head and hair so ear tabs are created to give you more coverage.
- Ear tabs can be made of wefted or lace material. If it's wefted, the ear tabs will usually be a little smaller and thicker than the lace material.
- If you are bald or are looking for a piece with more coverage in general, we recommend you purchase a piece with ear to ear lace, which provides you extensive eartabs to create completely new sideburns. These may require a little bit of wig glue or tape to seal down against your face!
Types of Top Constructions
Now that we know the anatomy, let’s talk about the most common top constructions; silk, lace, and mono tops. They are located in the “top” (A on the diagram) of the wig.
What is a silk top?
A silk top is considered to be the most realistic scalp-like construction. As you can see from the photo, the material on the outside creates a hyper-realistic look!
Pros for Silk Top Wigs/Toppers
- As mentioned, it is by far the most realistic!
- We highly recommend this material for beginners or those experiencing early stages of hair loss or alopecia. Silk top hair toppers are great to blend with your own hair and don't require any glue or tape - you just clip, clip, and go!
Potential considerations for Silk Top Wigs/Toppers
- While silk top material creates the most natural looking scalp by far, the material tends to be thicker compared to lace. Because there are multiple layers of material that is needed to create a silk top, it may feel a little more hot as well during warmer days (it feels like wearing a baseball cap!).
- Furthermore, those that do not have a hairline to blend in with the silk top may find that lace is a better option for them. Most alopecia wigs or cancer wigs are made with lace so that you can create a new hairline!
What is a lace top?
A lace top is just as it sounds! The cap of the wig has a lace lining in which individual hairs are tied.
Lace tops are best for people who have complete hair loss or alopecia, have receding hairlines, want to wear a completely different hair color than their own, or just want more styling or parting options.
Pros for Lace Top Wigs/Hair Toppers
- The lace is a more breathable fabric compared to silk, as there are holes that allow for air circulation, which makes it is a great summer piece. Furthermore, lace is able to create a more natural sparse hairline that gradually gets thicker.
- Finally, lace wigs are made with either single layer of lace or double layer of lace. Each layer is a super fine material (similar width as a piece of paper), and so lace usually lays flatter on the head compared to silk. Some think this creates a more natural looking hairline!
Potential considerations for Lace Top Wigs/Hair Toppers
- With that said, because the material is thinner, it is also more delicate compared to silk top wigs and silk top hair toppers. It is not as beginner friendly and may take a little bit of time and practice to get used creating a completely new hairline.
- The wig itself may also need a little bit more customization such as bleaching or plucking the knots and even applying a little bit of concealer powder on it to blend to your skin.
- If the wig is ear to ear lace (or in general, if you are purchasing a lace top hair topper), you may also need to apply wig glue/tape so that it lays flat against your forehead for a seamless look!
What is a mono top?
A mono, or monofilament top, is a semi-transparent micro-mesh like fabric that is sewn in to the top part of a wig or hair topper. This mesh fabric is where the individual hair fibers are tied in to mimic natural hair growth.
The mesh area of a mono-top can vary in thickness. The finer the material of the mesh, the higher the cost will be.
Pros for Mono Top Wigs/Hair Toppers
- A mono top is often used for budget-friendly and mid-range hairpieces. They are often lower priced compared to a silk top or lace top hair piece!
- They are more breathable compared to silk top wigs.
- They are more durable compared to lace top wigs.
Potential considerations for Mono Top Wigs/Hair Toppers
- Unless you get an extra fine monofilament hair piece, they will likely not look as realistic as a silk top hair piece. Extra fine monofilament hair pieces will likely cost just as much as a silk top piece though!
- Monofilament pieces are becoming increasingly more rare as they are not as popular as silk and lace. You will more commonly find a mono top wig vs. a mono top hair topper!
Wig top types, check! Now on to the cap or the back of the wig.
What is the cap of a wig?
The cap or the back (C in diagram) of a wig is the area that goes from the crown of the piece, connected to the top, down to the nape of the piece. The cap types include:
Traditional wefted or closed wefted cap
- Wefts are strips of hair that are all sewn in the same direction. With a traditional wefted cap, wefts are then sewn in to the back of a cap in a plane like pattern. This creates the density and length to the back of the wig.
Open wefted cap
- Open wefted caps have the same construction pattern as traditional wefted. However, there is no material placed over the wefts so there is open area for airflow.
- A full lace piece will have handtied lace throughout the entire wig – this includes the top and cap portions. Having full lace creates uniform density and feel within the piece.
- While full lace caps are very flexible and allow increased "molding" to the head, they can also be very delicate and require extra care compared to wefted caps.
Fully handtied caps
- Fully handtied caps are by definition, fully handtied. They differ however from full lace caps in that they are handtied onto a stretchy mesh like material instead of lace (which does not stretch).
- Some may think this is a good solution to get the effects/advantages of a handtied piece like lace, but also get a little more durability compared to lace.
- One advantage of a full lace piece compared to fully handtied caps though is that you can glue/tape down a full lace piece at the nape of your neck to secure the hair piece when wearing your wig in a high ponytail!
Clips, combs and silicone oh my!
Now a wig can’t just be held down by itself, they need some sort of gripping mechanism.
Most wigs or toppers come with pressure sensitive clips around the perimeter of the piece. They are meant to be clipped onto your natural hair for support.
Combs and Clips
A comb, or alternatively a clip, is placed at the front, back, and or sides of a wig or topper to glide into your natural hairline to support the front and back portions of the piece. We wouldn’t want the wind to blow up your wig!
Some hairpieces come with a silicone lining in the cap, top, and eartabs of the piece. It's another option if you are looking to secure the wig but do not want to use any clips or combs.
This is most popular for people without hair or severe thinning as you don't need any of your own hair to secure against the hair piece. Most cancer wigs or wigs for alopecia are made with this silicone material!
Wigs and toppers are so versatile.
All of the constructions and accessories we discussed can be mixed and matched to create your ideal piece.
At the end of the day it’s all about what makes you feel the most comfortable and confident!