Hair Replacement Systems FAQ
FAQ Frequently Asked Questions - everything you need to know about hair replacement systems. Scroll down to read all the answers.
- Are hair replacement, hair systems, hairpieces, wigs, and toupees the same thing?
- Is hair system a viable option for you?
- What are some of the drawbacks associated with hair system?
- Hair system 101: a framework
- How are hair systems made?
- Different components of a hair system
- Base design: Fine Monofilament / Fine Mesh
- Base design: Lace
- Base design: Skin Base
- Frontal design: Lace Front
- Frontal design: Scallop Front
- Frontal design: Others
- Types of hair
- Hair color & highlights
- Hair density
- Curl & wave
- Hair length
In-depth answers to above FAQ:
Hair Replacement, Hair Systems, Hairpieces, Wigs, Toupees
Nowadays people use the terms hair replacement, hair systems, hairpieces and toupees interchangeably to refer to the same non surgical hair restoration procedure where human or synthetic hair is added to a thin base or foundation which in turn is attached to the scalp by a variety of methods. If you would like to get real technical, there are indeed subtle differences among all these terms. Wigs, for example, are usually larger in size. Wigs cover the entire scalp and they usually have elastic band on the perimeter so that the entire unit can fit nicely on a customer's head. Hairpiece and toupees are similar to wigs except that they are smaller in size and they are only attached to the thinning or bald areas and not the entire scalp. Hair systems and hair replacement are almost identical to hairpieces and toupees except that technically speaking, hair systems and hair replacement are usually for extended wear over at least 3 - 4 days while toupees and hairpieces are mostly for daily wear. To confuse you even more, some companies in the U.K or Europe may actually refer to hair replacement as what is commonly known as surgical hair transplants in the U.S.
Is hair system a viable option for you?
In general, hair system is preferable to hair transplants because it is a non surgical option for hair loss. Nowadays, hair systems can look very natural and virtually undetectable by sight. Hair systems are versatile and can work very well for almost anyone with hair loss. If done properly, you can have a gorgeous and naturally looking head of hair in relatively little time. You can style it in any ways you prefer. It is no longer true that hair systems make people look like they are wearing "helmet" hair or a "rug" on the head. However, please also read below about possible drawbacks associated with hair systems.
What are the drawbacks ?
One of the biggest drawbacks with hair systems is that they are typically HIGH MAINTENANCE. Sometimes taking care of your hair system can be very time consuming and trying to your patience. Maintenance issues can range from periodic cleaning, adding hair, re-coloring, to daily attachment hassles with tapes, glues, adhesives, clips etc. If you think you are meticulous enough to handle the daily nuisances associated with wearing a hair system, this could be an excellent option for you. But if this is your first time considering a hair system, be prepared to agonize over the maintenance issues at least in the very beginning.
Shopping or choosing for a hair system can be equally frustrating. There are just way too many choices out there with prices ranging from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. People shopping for a hair system are usually overwhelmed by fancy names and terminologies that tell them little about what they are actually purchasing.
In general, people wearing hair systems may engage in almost all activities like they normally do with their own hair. However, realistically and depending on the type of attachment you use, hair systems usually do not behave well when the wearer engages in vigorous activities or sports such as swimming and hockey. It is not uncommon for hair systems to come loose when they are subject to extreme heat and intense perspiration.
Most people think that hair system is a one time investment. That is not true. Hair system can be a very costly option for hair loss sufferers. In general, hair systems that look and feel the most natural are also the most expensive and the least durable. Sometimes a hair system may last only 12 months. Maintenance can be quite costly too when it comes to changing a system front, adding hair, recoloring etc.
Hair Systems 101
Anyone who is shopping for a hair system will be bombarded with numerous fancy names that mean nothing for the most part. Companies will dress up their hair systems and give them fancy names such as Skin Graft, Transdermal Base etc. which sounds big and intimidating. The truth is that there are only so many basic materials to work with in the hair replacement industry. All you have to do is to familiarize yourself with the basics together with the pros and cons of each material. The following is a framework that is applicable to almost all hair systems in the industry. If some companies sugar coat their hair systems with some fancy names, all you have to do is to refer to this framework and ask them questions along the following structure.
How are hair systems made ?
This section is provided by courtesy of HairByMail which provides affordable hair systems by mail order.
Your standard hair unit should really be made custom for you. Each person is going to have different needs, and it is important to find a company or provider who can give you the time and attention you need to avoid ending up with a silly looking head covering. Everyone has a different lifestyle, and different needs, and consequently there are several different types of units.
The Hair Replacement is made by taking an exact contoured pattern of the balding area of the persons head and making a working form from that pattern. The form will look like a persons head with the exact shape of the head. All heads are diffract so a new form must be made according to each and every pattern. Working forms are made using either furniture foam or Plaster of Paris. The form is carefully trimmed, shaved and shaped to perfection. The material chosen to make the foundation from is then tightly stretched and fitted to the to the form to make it fit perfectly. This is a lengthy process as so much care must be taken for a perfect fit. When the foundation is correct the hair is then inserted in and out of the foundation using a small tip curved needle with a microscopic fish hook cut in to the end of the needle. The fish hook is cut so it will only accept one 40 denier hair to fit into the hook. The stitch is made then a tiny knot is created by twisting the needle in a special manner to create the knot. The knotting is done one hair at a time till the foundation has been completely filled with the proper amount of hair. Thousands of tiny knots are made one per hair hour after hour till it is finished. The usual production time to complete one hand tied Hair Replacement will arrive at 56 or more man hours. No small frivolous job. The inception of the hair is an art that takes many months to master. Persons doing this work will usually burn out in less than one year. Rarely do they stick with such a meticulous job so their are always hundreds of persons in training at all times.
Someone who foresees wearing theirs 24 hours a day 7 days a week would want to go with something that has a lighter foundation. By foundation we mean the material on which the hair has been incorporated. A good example of a lighter foundation style is something called a "Fine Mono Mesh". It's very similar in consistency to the material you see in women's stockings. This is typically the most popular foundation style today, however there are many others to choose from. Some are made out of a nylon, a polyester, silk, polyurethane, flat or welded, etc. This is another reason why having an involved provider is imperative to finding what is best for your needs.
Different Components of a Hair System
To purchase a hair system that is the most appropriate for your needs, you will have to understand the different components that go into the making of a hair system. Think of this as an assembly line process. Whether you are purchasing your hair system from a discount retailer or from a full service hair replacement company, it is particularly important to familiarize yourself with the different components that go into the production of a hair system and the pros and cons of all the variables. The basic structure of a hair system can be broken down into the following components and customers can always mix and match the different variables within each component to create the ideal hair system. In order to provide this framework, we have simplified the reality by only discussing materials and variables that are most commonly used in the industry these days. The following is by no means an all-inclusive discussion of all the materials that are used in the industry.
Components of a
Variables Base Design Fine Mono / Mesh, Lace, Polyurethe / Skin Front Design Lace, Scallop, Smooth Line, Skin Types of Hair Human, Remy, Synthetic, Cyberhair, Robo Hair Attachment Tape, Liquid Adhesives / Bonding, Weaving, Clips Knots or Ventilation Single Knots, Multiple Knots, Injection Hair Curl Expressed in millimeters. The higher the curl size in millimeters the straighter the hair. Hair Density Extra Light, Light, Light to Medium, Medium, Medium Heavy, Heavy Hair Length Standard 7 inches Hair Color Based on best match for hair samples. Highlights can be ordered.
BASE DESIGN Fine Monofilament / Fine Mesh
Fine Mono is probably the most popular base for hair systems and has been the industry standard for decades. Fine Mono pieces are usually made of lightweight fine nylon material that is quite durable and breathable. Most Fine Mono pieces come with a polyurethane perimeter on the edge for attachment purposes using either tape, bonding adhesives or clips. The polyurethane ban can sometimes be custom made into any width, but the most common is an 3/4 inch band. The most commonly used fronts for Fine Mono base pieces are either lace front, skin front or scalloped polyurethane front. Many companies are now selling Fine Mono based systems with lace fronts in an attempt to offer a durable unit with natural looking hairlines.
(1 to 10, 10 being the most favorable)
Durability 9. Excellent durability. Among the most durable of all base materials in the market. Appearance 6. Not the most natural looking. Other base materials fare better when it comes to appearance. Cost 9. Among the least expensive of all base materials. Comfort 7. Breathable but not as lightweight as other bases. More detectable to the touch compared to others. Hair Density Work well with medium to heavy density. Not appropriate for light density.
BASE DESIGN Lace
Most people visit a custom hair replacement salon when it comes to custom lace units. Lace units are extremely lightweight, have good breathability and can be easily customized to achieve a perfect fit. Lace systems are probably the most sought after bases for people who are looking for the most natural look. Lace is the most undetectable material used in hair systems these days. It has skin tone color and when placed against the scalp, lace is virtually invisible, hence hair appears to be growing directly from the scalp even with up close scrutiny. However, lace units are made from extremely delicate materials and are more difficult to maintain.
(1 to 10, 10 being the most favorable)
Durability 6. Not very durable. Appearance 10. The most natural and most undetectable. Cost 6. More expensive than other base materials. Comfort 9. Breathable, lightweight and extremely comfortable. Among the least undetectable to the touch. Hair Density Work well with light to medium density and can create very impressive hairlines.
BASE DESIGN Skin Base
Skin base is one of the newest materials used in hair systems. The material is made of a fine layer of transparent polyurethane and it looks like a thin layer of translucent skin. Skin base takes on your flesh tone and when placed against your skin, it can create the illusion that hair is growing directly out of your scalp. Skin base can easily be molded to the shape of your scalp and create an excellent fit. Also, with skin units, hair can be injected directly into the base materials at predetermined angle without having to loop individual hairs to the base. There will be no visible knots. First generation skin units are extremely delicate, they are even more delicate than lace units. More recently, some companies sell skin bases that are reinforced with an additional layer silicon or polymer to enhance durability. The famous CTR or THR systems are actually a kind of skin units.
(1 to 10, 10 being the most favorable)
Durability 5. The least durable especially when adhesive tapes are used unless the base is reinforced with an additional layer of silicon or polymer. Appearance 9. Very natural, comparable to lace units. Cost 7. More expensive than other base materials. Comfort 8. Breathable, lightweight and comfortable to wear. Hair Density Work well with light to medium density and can create very impressive hairlines.
FRONTAL DESIGN - Lace Front
Introduced several years ago, lace fronts has now become the most sought after frontal design in hair replacement industry these days. Farrell Hair Replacement is a well known specialist in custom lace units. The famous trademark hairline of all Farrell units is a result of lace fronts. Lace fronts are difficult to work with and are typically high maintenance. But when designed and custom fitted properly, nothing can rival the wonders of lace front hairlines.
The lace front is a very fine, thin and delicate material. The lace material is attached to the front of the base unit and it forms the base for the hairline areas. The lace has flesh tone color and when placed against the scalp, it is invisible to the eye. When designed and custom fitted properly, lace fronts can create the most natural hairlines with hair appears to be growing directly from the scalp. However, lace fronts are fragile and difficult to cleaned and maintained. It is not unusual for lace fronts to last only 6 months. While lace fronts are very comfortable and extremely lightweight, daily maintenance or grooming can be a challenge as hair tangles can sometimes be an issue with lace units.
(1 to 10, 10 being the most favorable)
Durability 5. Not durable compared to other system fronts. Need to be replaced every six months or so. Appearance 10. The most natural of all. Cost 6. More expensive than other frontal designs Comfort 9. Extremely lightweight, breathable and comfortable to wear. Hair Density Work well with light to medium density and can create very impressive hairlines. Attachment Can use tape, liquid adhesives or combination of both. Ventilation No under-venting (ie: hair coming from underneath of the frontal unit) otherwise it may show too heavy of a solid line and distort the appearance of a natural hairline.
FRONTAL DESIGN - Scallop Front
Scallop fronts are usually made of thin, translucent skin like polyurethane material with an uneven edge along the hairline areas in order to give a realistic appearance. Scallop fronts are very durable. When it comes to appearance, while scallop fronts is an improvement over the conventional hair systems with smooth line fronts, they are not nearly as impressive as lace fronts.
(1 to 10, 10 being the most favorable)
Durability 9. Very durable. Last a lot longer than lace fronts. Appearance 8. Natural appearance, but not as impressive as lace fronts. Cost 8. Reasonable cost. Comfort 7. Comfortable to wear but not the most light weight nor the most breathable. Hair Density Versatile. Attachment Usually tape is used. Ventilation No under-venting (ie: hair coming from underneath of the frontal unit) otherwise it may show too heavy of a solid line and distort the appearance of a natural hairline.
FRONTAL DESIGN - Others
Besides lace fronts and scallop fronts, you might also come across other breeds of frontal designs while shopping for a hair system. For example, there is Smooth Line Front as well as Skin Front. Smooth Line Front are frontal units designed to create hairlines that go in a smooth line. With this type of frontal design, underventing (ie: hair coming from the underneath of the hair system) is recommended. Skin Front is another type of polyurethane based front except that it is usually thinner. With Skin Front, hair can be injected into the polyurethane base at a predetermined angle in order to create a natural hairline.
Types of Hair
Once you have decided on the base materials as well as the frontal design, next thing to consider would be hair types that will be added to the system. In the old days, it would be just a matter of choosing human hair vs synthetic hair. Nowadays, there is more to the equation and customers should familiarize themselves with the various options available.
Human Hair: This is an age-old debate when it comes to choosing human hair vs synthetic hair. Human hair is supposedly of better quality and better suited for hair systems. It feels more natural and behaves more like your own hair. Human hair is less prone to tangling and it can be recolored as it fades over time. Generally speaking, human hair from European origin are of better quality than human hair from Asian origin. Sometimes human hair is further processed in order to produce a more refined quality. For example, Farrell Hair Replacement uses this process called EuroSilking to "de-cuticlized" the hair and make them look and feel soft and silky to the eye and touch.
Remy Hair: Remy hair is subject to less processing and is widely regarded as the finest human hair possible. It is very expensive and using Remy Hair can easily double the cost of a hair system.
Synthetic Hair: Synthetic hair usually lasts longer and is less prone to breakage or color fading. In the old days, the general consensus is that synthetic hair does not look or feel as natural as human hair. Also, synthetic hair can't always be recolored. In recent years, synthetic hair has gotten a lot more sophisticated. Advances in new technologies have made it possible for some types of synthetic hair to look and feel as natural as human hair and with good durability. Nowadays, many synthetic hair are made with 2 different types of fiber, a mixture of Kanekalon and Toupelon to provide a curl retention.
Cyberhair: Cyberhair is the proud invention of Aderans in Japan, the largest wigs manufacturer in the world. Cyberhair is a kind of synthetic hair. According to Aderans, this patented technology produces hair strands that look and behave more like your own hair than any other synthetic products in the market. But unlike human hair, Cyberhair is durable and less subject to breakage or color fading. One of the main advantages of Cyberhair is "style memory" which allows your hair to be just as active as always, with a sauna and shower afterwards and still be able to re-style your hair to normal with little efforts. Click here to see Aderans' advertisement for Cyberhair.
Robo Hair: Robo Hair aka BIO Hair is available from Advenhair. It is another type of synthetic hair. According to Advenhair, Robo Hair is "heat resistant to 200 degrees Centigrade, fade resistant, anti-static and similar to Cyberhair. These features allow you to blow dry and/or style your hair with heated rollers without the fiber frizzing, drying out or fading."
Gray Hair / Extremely Light Color Hair: In most cases, human hair that is used for hair systems comes in black or dark color. The human hair is usually subject to processing and bleaching in order to match light color hair samples. Because human hair can be greatly weakened when bleached all the way to white or gray, most companies tend to use synthetic hair for the color gray.
Attachment refers to how the hair system is attached to your scalp or balding area. Nowadays, the two most commonly used attachment methods are double sided tapes and liquid adhesives, sometimes referred to as bonding. Weaving was at one time an option where the hair system is literally weaved into the client's existing hair in order to facilitate the attachment. However, in recent years, many believe weaving will cause traction alopecia or hair loss as a result of the tension exerted on the client's own hair. Very few companies use weaving these days except for integration pieces.
Attachment options can be very confusing for the customer as different companies have different names for their tapes and adhesives. In general, it just boils down to double sided tape and liquid bonding adhesives. Which product to use is just a matter of preference. In most cases, customers can use either the tape or the bonding or even a combination of both depending on the customer's lifestyles and the type of bases.
The types of attachment to use depends heavily on the customer's lifestyles. If someone is very active and constantly engages in sports or other strenuous activities, then it is important to choose an attachment that offers the maximum hold so that the customer does not have to constantly worry that the hair system would come loose. On the other hand, if someone is more concerned about breathability of the scalp and being able to cleanse the scalp on a regular basis, then it is important to choose an attachment method that allows easy clean up and maintenance.
Double sided tapes are generally suited for daily or short term use where the customer can remove the hair system and the tapes at night and reattach the next day. This allows for daily clean up of the scalp and the hair system. Liquid adhesives are generally more suitable for extended wearing for over a couple of days or even longer. A certain solvent is necessary in order to remove the hair system from liquid adhesives. It is not unusual for people to use tapes for the front and liquid adhesives for the rest of the hair system.
Whiteliner: Whiteliner is probably the most widely used tape for hair systems. It is sometimes referred to as clear tape. It has a moderate holding strength and is commonly recommended for daily use.
Redliner: Despite its name, Redliner is another kind of clear double sided tape. This tape is suitable for extended attachment. Redliner tends to be more water resistant than other tapes and has a strong holding strength.
Liquid Adhesives / Bonding: Bonding is the fancy name the industry gives for liquid adhesives or simply put, glue. The adhesives may look just like a thin layer of skin cream which you put on the perimeter of the base of the hair system before attaching to your scalp. Depending on the design, sometimes the adhesives can be applied to the entire base of the hair system too. A hard bond adhesive is one that allows for a 4-6 week hold. Note that if you are to use a hard bond adhesive, please make sure you first put the adhesive on a tape and not directly on the hair system.
Ventilation refers to how the hair is added to the base or foundation of the hair system. As a general rule, the fewer the knots the more natural the look, but also the less securely attached to the base.
Single Vent - This method is the most delicate where one hair is vented at a time. It produces the most natural results but at the same time the hair has a higher tendency of falling out as they are not as secure. This type of venting is usually done along the hairlines to produce the best results.
Standard Venting - Under this method, a bundle of 2-3 hairs are vented at a time. While the knots are more noticeable upon close examination, this method produces durable and secure results and hair is less likely to fall out.
Injection - Under this method, hair is injected into the base one at a time. This method is only suitable for polyurethane or silicon base. The results can be very natural as there will be no knots and the hair can be injected at a predetermined angle. Depending on the type of base materials used, the injected hair can be quite secure.
HAIR COLOR / HIGHLIGHTS
Hair color can be very tricky when it comes to hair system. The tiniest mismatch in hair color can be a dead giveaway that someone is wearing a hair system. There are no shortcuts. Attention to details is crucial and sometimes it pays to go to a good full service hair replacement salon because these are the things they can attend to more professionally than if a client does it on his own.
It is very common for people to order highlights for custom made hair systems. Highlights are normally ordered for each part of the system in 5% increments. The various parts are: front, sides, top and back.
Hair color does fade over time especially for systems that use human hair.
Hair density is simply how many hairs are added to your hair system foundation or base. In the old days, high density is necessary because the base materials were usually made of thicker materials and would be easily exposed if hair density were low. Nowadays, with the advance of thinner base materials such as lace, low density tends to look more natural especially with the see through look along the hairlines.
Hair density for a hair system is usually described in terms of % thickness of an average head of hair.
Extra Light = 60% thickness of an average head of hair.
Light Density = 80% thickness of an average head of hair.
Light to Medium = 90% thickness of an average head of hair.
Medium = 100% thickness of an average head of hair.
Medium Heavy = 120% thickness of an average head of hair.
Heavy = 150% thickness of an average head of hair.
CURL / WAVE
When it comes to curl or wave, the choices are: straight, slight wave (or sometimes called body wave), medium wave, loose curl, tight curl and finally African-American curl. It may be hard to find a hair system with perfectly straight hair, somehow there is always a certain slight wave or body wave inherent to most hair systems. Technically, curl size is expressed in millimeters by professionals. The higher the curl size in millimeters the straighter the hair.
40 mm - straight
30 mm - body wave
25 mm - light wave
22 mm - medium wave
15 mm - strong wave / loose curl
13 mm - medium curl
10 mm - tight curl
8 mm - loose afro
4 mm - regular afro
2 mm - tight afro
This is the least troublesome aspect when it comes to ordering a hair system. Most hair systems come with an average length of 7 inches or longer. Hair length is entirely at the customer's discretion during the first cut in for the hair system. However, if you would like hair length longer than 7 inches, then you may have to order that in advance.