Deanna’s Discoveries: How to find a great wig

August 03, 2018 10:22 PM

If you're getting chemotherapy treatments, chances are you will lose your hair.

This is my fourth cancer battle, and the fourth time I've sported the haircut by chemo. The first time I was just 21.


I knew nothing about wigs. I bought that first ugly, ill-fitting wig without help, and cried all the way home.

No cancer patient should endure that.

So, in this installment of Deanna's Discoveries, a local expert helps take the anxiety out of hair loss. My hair started coming out in chunks 13 days after my first chemo treatment.

"Your hair is coming out!” said my six-year-old daughter anxiously as she watched me comb through what was left of my thinning hair.

“And what does that mean?” I asked her and my nine-year-old son.

“That means the chemo is working!." They answered in unison. 

That's what I've been telling my kids for weeks to prepare them for the day my hubby would have to shave my head.

As the children watched, my hair fell to the floor of the bathroom.

I decided to make it a family affair because involving the children often helps to assuage their fears.

I joked as they stared at their bald mommy

"Do I look like daddy?” I asked them. My husband is also bald.

“No!” the children giggled.

It's now the fourth time I've sported this haircut by chemo, and I was prepared, having bought wigs and hats long before I began to lose my hair.

That's key. 

"Particularly if she wants to have the wig stylist copy the look of her own hair," says Sherry Schaefer, owner of Alternative Hair Wigs, a wig store in Penfield.

Schaefer helps women address their number one concern, looking natural. 

“Before the third bout of my hair loss started, I had my hair that looked a lot like this,” said Schaefer pointing to her wig.

Schaefer is bald. She has Alopecia. Clients are always stunned to learn she's wearing a wig.

“’Really! But it looks so real!’” Schaefer says, quoting many of her clients.  “And I say, ‘Exactly. That's what we're going to do for you.’"

First, you must decide whether you want synthetic, human hair, or a wig with a blend of human and synthetic hair.

If you want an inexpensive wig that you don't have to curl, go for a synthetic.

You can wash it in the sink every one to two weeks and let it air dry. It will maintain its curl and style. But long synthetic wigs tangle easily and will become frizzy. Sherry says with care, a short synthetic wig can last about six months if worn daily.

Human hair wigs cost significantly more but will last a year or longer with good care.

While you can style a human hair wig, you should NOT style it daily using heat. A human hair wig made with quality hair will hold your style for a week as long as you don’t sleep in the wig. 

I prefer wigs with a lace front. The lace front creates a natural looking part and hairline. You can find synthetic wigs at many Rochester-area wig stores for less than $100.

But an inexpensive lace front wig may not create the natural look you’re seeking, if it’s not made well.

Here’s a trick.

Lay the wig over your closed fist.  If the wig creates an unnatural part over your fist, don’t buy it.

Often inexpensive lace-front wigs create an unnatural horizontal part where the lace front meets the wig cap.

It will create that same unnatural part on your head when you wear it. 

You can generally find a human hair wig at Rochester wig shops for $200 or more.  

But you want to make sure you’re buying a wig with quality hair.

Wigs with human hair of lesser quality will tangle easily.

Generally the longer the hair, the more expensive the wig.

Human hair wigs of higher quality can cost anywhere from $600 to $2,500 or more. A shoulder-length human hair wig at Schaefer’s store is about $700.

Schaefer showed me how she fits and styles wigs for her clients.

My favorite was a synthetic. That is very popular with chemo patients, a short pixie cut that formed flattering soft curls around the face. 

"And it's closer to what their hair might look like when it comes back," said Sherry.

She points out that chemo patients should consider a wig that will transition easily into wearing your own hair after chemo.

While it's great for every patient to have a good wig, I’m most humbled to wear on my head the sweet messages from my kids.

After I shaved my head, each child drew a message of hope on my head. I have a cross from my six-year-old daughter, a heart drawn by nine-year-old son, and the message from my oldest that read, “This is what a survivor looks like.” 

Sherry has more information on choosing and caring for wigs on her website. 


Deanna Dewberry

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