THERE’S MUCH MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE WHEN IT COMES TO THE CREATION OF THE HIGHEST QUALITY, MOST NATURAL-LOOKING HAIR SYSTEMS.
Not all hair systems are created equal, which, if you’ve visited a few different wig shops and hair replacement studios, you have figured out by now. So what makes the difference? “There’s no one right way of creating a hair system,” says Jeanne Sheldon, owner of Allusions Hair Restoration Studio in Cincinnati. “And reputable hair replacement studios will try to match your needs with what they think will be the best solution for you given your budget, lifestyle and hair loss condition. But the key to success is to establish a trusting relationship with whoever you work with.” Lew Hutchinson, owner, Invisions of Connecticut, explains further, “We custom-design a program that works for each client because our goal is to achieve your happiness.
That said, the technology for hair systems is advancing so quickly that the very best new solutions depend on the artistry and skill of the designer and stylist to create a look and feel of one’s own hair growing.”
How hair systems are created
The mold and measurements: This is the most important part of the process, agree hair replacement experts, because if anything is amiss at this stage, the hair system won’t sit properly. Custom hair system designers will usually take a physical mold of your head shape and size in addition to specific measurements from ear to ear, nape to crown, and actual tracings and photos of your exact hairline so the designer can match your desired look. Where the designer decides to tie each hair in place makes a difference to the final appearance, and it’s this artistry that you are relying on. Sometimes old photos are used to match your hairline to the way it used to be.
The hair type, texture and density: The industry gold standard in hair type for a custom-made hair system for a Caucasian woman is 100 percent human European hair. Cynthia Turner–Primus, senior design consultant at HRS of Atlanta, a hair replacement company in Georgia that’s been in business for more than 32 years, explains, “For Asians, we’re able to match their hair texture exactly by using 100 percent human Asian hair and for Caucasian women we also use human Indian hair for its natural wave variation, shine and volume, while not being overly dense. And up until recently, ethnic hair was way too wavy, dense and overly shiny, but now we are able to find just the right process for that type of hair, too.” Hair density also differs among clients and ethnicities, explains Turner-Primus. “While we can match the hair texture by using different types of hair to begin with, we are also careful to match the necessary density the person is used to wearing, which is important. The main thing is that it shouldn’t look like a wig, which is often too thick and dense.”
Conversely, in the case of hair systems custom-created for men, Edward Katz of Edward Katz International Hair Design, Los Angeles, who, along with a staff of 40, custom-creates hair systems on-site, explains that synthetic hair is the optimum choice for men because the color never oxidizes and the hairstyle retains its exact shape through swimming and other activities, combing and washing and can be duplicated exactly every time you need a replacement system.
The cap type and tone: Caps made from the finest French lace allow for the best hand-tying and customization of hairpieces at the hairline, along with the most comfortable, lightweight, breathable, natural look. There are also monofilament machine-made caps that are see-through to the scalp so that no matter which way the hair is parted, the scalp looks natural. While most Caucasian and Asian women use the same basic neutral cap tones, African-American women’s scalps come in many different skin tones and hues that must be customized and personalized in the cap for a natural-looking scalp.
Hand-tied versus machine-made: “The hand-tied hair is more versatile because the knots have the ability to move in any direction, explains Terri Johnston, owner of The Inspiration Salon in Rockford Ill., who specializes in medically necessary hair systems. “This way, you can brush hair forward or back and hair blows naturally in the wind and when you walk, as opposed to the machine-made wigs, in which the hair moves in only one direction.” Turner-Primus agrees — “You’ll still want to be able to style your hair without any inconvenience. You’ll want to let it down or have an elegant updo from the nape. But above all, you don’t want anyone to know you are losing your hair!”
The hairline: Where the skill and artistry are most evident is at the frontal hairline. “It’s the first thing people notice when you walk in the door,” explains Turner–Primus. “We can hand-customize and re-create any hairline, whether a full cap or blended with existing hair, and we try as hard as possible to mimic exactly how your hair used to be,” she says. A lot of the customization to the person’s formal style or ethnicity will happen at the final cutting, designing and styling of the piece while the client is wearing it.” Experts agree that choosing a skilled and experienced hair replacement specialist is the key to a natural-looking result.
The bottom line on custom hair systems
Creating a truly customized, high-quality hair system for someone is a bit of a learning curve on the part of the stylist/designer and the client, adds Turner-Primus. “I really listen to my clients about what they need their hair to do, and they participate in the choices in the creation of their hair system. I take my time to show them how to get the best results. This way we both have a vision of what they’re going to look like — then I make it come true!”