You have been losing hair for a while now and have decided to finally do something about it.
A quick online search points you in the direction of a hair transplant but the thought of going through surgery doesn’t sit too well with you.
Perhaps you don’t mind the surgery but consultations confirm that you are not a suitable candidate for the procedure. Not to mention the high costs involved and the fact that hair transplants are not always successful.
A convenient and painless option is a hair replacement system.
Yes, the wig-like hair; but this time it is specially designed for men dealing with hair loss. Although they work much like wigs and toupees from back then, modern products and techniques provide far more realistic results, therefore making them a great solution for male pattern baldness today.
If you are wondering how these so-called ‘wigs’ work for men, read on. We will tell you how they work and what you need to think about before investing in one.
Table of Contents
What is a Hair Replacement System?
The term ‘hair replacement system’ can be confusing especially for people who are not familiar with this solution. So what exactly is a hair-replacing system?
Well, it is comparable to a wig or toupee because it is worn on a bald head or added to thinning hair, and makes a man appear to have a full head of hair.
What is the difference between a toupee and a hair replacement system?
Technically, a toupee falls under the category of hair replacement systems. However, hair replacement systems are not like the toupee your grandpa wore to hide his balding crown. They are similar in terms of usage but it is a whole new ball game today.
We could say hair replacement systems are the modern, hugely advanced version of great Uncle Trev’s toupee.
Here are a few differences between the old kind of toupee and today’s hair replacement systems.
For one, hair replacement systems are attached to the user’s scalp using special glue or tape. Years ago, toupees were attached simply by clipping a small comb-like attachment to existing hair.
A second difference is the huge variety available today. You can get a hair replacement system in just about any color or material and can even choose the exact kind of hair density you want. It is also possible to have a custom-made hair system made to fit your exact need.
Even if you don’t go through the process of ordering a custom-made hair system, you can buy one and have your barber or stylist cut and style it to meet your individual needs. Back then, men often bought and wore toupees as they were and just lived with any imperfections.
Types of Hair Replacement Systems
Hair replacement systems can be categorized based on three main elements.
The first question is whether it is a stock or a custom-made piece, the second has to do with the source of the hair used and the third revolves around the base material.
Let’s break it down further:
Stock or custom-made hair systems
Stock hair systems
Taken in the literal sense, stock hair systems are the premade ones you would ordinarily find stocked at a store or by your stylist. In the hair replacement industry ‘stock’ hair replacement pieces are those that are cut from bulk rolls.
They come in standard base sizes of 6 x 10 inches, 7 x 9 inches, and 8 x 10 inches. Default lengths vary between 6 and 9 inches.
The main advantage of stock hair replacement systems is the cost. These are significantly cheaper than custom-made ones.
The main downside is that it is unlikely that it would fit perfectly straight out of the box. Different people have varying levels of hair loss and length preferences. You will need to have a professional hair replacement stylist cut and style it to your individual preference.
If you are pressed for time, a stock hair replacement system would be a better choice. Cutting and styling can be done when you buy the piece so you can buy it and walk out with a perfectly cut and styled stock hair replacement system.
Custom-made hair systems
Custom-made hair systems are made on order, from scratch, for a specific individual. The main advantage is that you get to control every last detail to your specific needs and desires. Everything from hair length, color, hair density, and even curls or waves.
First, the specialist measures the size and area of thinning or balding. After that, an exact template of your scalp is taken to develop a skin-like base that fits your head perfectly. It takes the exact shape and size of your scalp.
This is a very important step because it even considers the contours of your head that are specific to you and only you. A base that conforms to these is almost impossible to identify when applied.
Next, specialists clip samples from your existing hair in order to match it to hair that looks exactly like your natural hair. It takes into consideration hair color, curls, and even natural density.
After that, your details are sent to the selected manufacturing facility. It takes between six and twelve weeks to get your custom-made hair system.
Synthetic or human hair systems
Synthetic hair systems
Synthetic hair systems are made from man-made fibers and are the reason they are a lot more affordable than human hair replacement systems.
Besides cost, the main advantage of synthetics is that they come pre-styled and can hold a style regardless of the environment. Even if it is humid outside, it doesn’t get frizzy or lose its luster.
This makes it easier to maintain but can get boring because you can’t style it any other way. It also cannot be colored.
Natural hair systems
Natural hair systems, also referred to as human hair systems are made from real, harvested human hair so they look and feel just like natural hair.
The main advantage of natural hair systems is that they can be styled and colored just like you would your natural hair.
The biggest disadvantage is in their cost because they are significantly more expensive than synthetics. That said, you do get your money’s worth.
They also demand more maintenance because they require regular shampooing and conditioning to ensure they don’t lose their natural luster. Like natural hair, they react to the environment and can get limp or frizzy.
Another key differentiating factor to be considered when selecting a hair replacement system is the base material. The three main categories available are lace, skin, and monofilament bases.
Here is a more detailed look at them.
Lace bases: These have the advantage of an invisible hairline that gives you a natural look. Lace is also preferred because it is breathable, therefore making a lace-based hair system comfortable to wear in warm weather.
It is, however, quite delicate. This means it cannot hold as much hair as other bases, therefore making it unsuitable for users looking for high hair density.
Skin bases: These are the thinnest and lightest bases in the market. They are made of pure polyurethane material with synthetic or natural hair knotted onto it and sealed using layers of more polyskin material.
The thin, clear base gives the hair system a very natural look because it takes the wearer’s natural skin color. It is also the easiest to attach and remove.
Drawbacks of skin bases include a short lifespan because of the very thin base. The synthetic base also means the hair system is not nearly as breathable as lace, therefore making it uncomfortable in warm weather.
Monofilament bases: These appear to be a mid-point between lace and skin bases as they are more durable than skin bases and are clear enough to allow one to see the wearer’s scalp, therefore creating the illusion of naturally growing hair.
They are more durable than lace and more breathable than skin bases.
How are Hair Replacement Systems Attached?
If you are new to hair replacement systems, you may be wondering what kind of magic men use to keep a hair system held so firmly in place.
We did mention that hair replacement systems are an advanced version of toupees worn by men three decades ago. One of the main reasons we make this claim is the techniques used to attach hair replacement systems to the wearer’s head.
There are three main methods used to attach hair replacement systems.
- Liquid adhesives
- Hair piece tape
Before we look at the different methods, here is a guide on how to prepare your scalp before applying the hair replacement system. This is necessary when you are using liquid adhesive or tape.
Clean the scalp (including the hairline) by removing any dirt or oils. This ensures the adhesive works as it should to form a strong and durable bond.
Apply scalp protector over the entire scalp. It helps to prevent damage to the skin and minimizes the chances of skin irritation.
Liquid hairpiece adhesives sometimes referred to as bonding adhesives, come in the form of either silicone or water-based formulas.
Silicone-based ones are preferred because they provide stronger bonds.
Step-by-step guide on how to use liquid adhesives.
Start by brushing a thin layer of adhesive onto the clean scalp. Most products require multiple layers of the adhesive before applying the hair system. For best results, let each layer dry a bit before brushing on the next one.
The adhesive is ready when it is just slightly, but not completely dry. It should switch from being wet to sticky.
Next, apply a positioning spray. This helps to ensure the adhesive doesn’t dry completely before you finish positioning and adjusting the hair replacement system.
To position the hair system, start by placing its front along the front hairline then slowly move backward. Carefully shift the hairpiece as required in order to achieve a perfect fit. Press down on the hair system as you move backward to ensure proper bonding. If you find a section that is not properly placed, lift it up gently, apply a thin layer of adhesive then place it properly.
Lastly, lay down the edges all around the hair system and press down gently. Once it is positioned exactly as you want it, allow it time to dry.
Removing a bonded hair system
The thought of glue on your scalp can be somewhat disturbing. How do you remove it without injuring your skin?
Fortunately, the removal process is quite easy and straightforward as long as you have the right product; that is adhesive remover. It often comes in a handy spray bottle.
To remove a bonded hair system, spray the adhesive remover around the perimeter of the hairpiece. Wait a few minutes then pull it off gently. Start from the back, working towards the front in order to protect the hairline.
If there is any resistance anywhere, don’t worry. Just spray more of the adhesive remover on that spot and then peel off the hairpiece gently.
Another alternative used to hold hair replacement systems in place is hairpiece tape. It comes in a roll like any other tape, although you can choose among different strengths for short or long- term hold.
Start by cutting small strips of the tape. Peel one layer off each strip and stick it on the inside edges of the hairpiece.
When you are happy with the number and position of each of the strips, proceed to peel off the second layer of the strips.
Finally, position the hair system on your head and press down on the outer edges with the tape in order to achieve a strong hold and flat look.
How long does hairpiece tape last?
There are different types of hairpiece tape with varying strengths.
Short-term tape is best if you would like to refresh your hair system every day or every few days.
Extended wear hairpiece tape holds your hair system in place for at least three weeks so it is ideal if you don’t want to think about adjusting it for a while.
Euro Flex tape for instance, can keep your hair system securely in place for five to six weeks. It has small holes along its surface to make it more breathable and therefore more comfortable for extended use.
Hairpiece tape is a popular option because it can be used for quick application and can be removed just as quickly. The main disadvantage is that it leaves a sticky residue on the scalp.
This is the most traditional method of attachment which has been used as long as toupees and wigs have been in the market.
Clips are best if you want to stay away from the potential side effects of adhesives. The hair system comes with small comb-like clips which are strategically positioned on different edges of the inner side of the hair system. You only need to clip them on to existing hair in order to maintain a secure grip.
The main advantage of toupee clips is that you can easily put on your hair replacement system and take it off at the end of the day, therefore, allowing your scalp time to breathe. The downside is that you must have enough hair through which the clips can be passed in order to create and maintain a secure hold.
How Much does a Hair Replacement System Cost?
If you are considering a hair replacement system, the cost is most likely one of your biggest concerns.
It is almost impossible to come up with a standard amount with which one can plan. A better way to wrap your head around the cost implications for a hair replacement system is to break down the different amounts you would need to pay.
The first is of course the cost of purchase. After that, you will need to have it cut, not forgetting general maintenance.
Cost of purchase
The very first cost you will incur is buying the hair replacement system. Assuming it is a stock piece, amounts vary depending on the type of hair system as described.
According to Lavivid, costs for lace-based hair replacement systems range between $250 and $300 while those with skin bases will set you back anywhere between $100 and $300. Monofilament-based ones range between $200 and $350.
With costs for the different bases in mind, then consider that if it is synthetic, it will be a lot cheaper than for similar bases with human hair.
For a custom-made hair replacement system, you would be looking at upwards of $150 depending on specifics like the length, density, and color.
Cutting and styling
If you opt for a custom-made hair replacement system, it fits perfectly and does not require any adjustments. In the case of a stock hairpiece, you will need to have a professional hair replacement technician cut it and style it to suit your individual need and taste.
This service comes at an additional cost which is estimated at $30. This includes $10 for base cutting to match your specific areas of hair loss and $20 for hair trimming and styling.
Just like your natural hair, your hair replacement system will need a good amount of maintenance in order to retain the fresh, shiny look it had when you first had it done.
That calls for products such as moisturizers, gels, sprays, and even shampoo if you opt to wash it yourself at home. It is best to use styling products that are specially formulated for the specific type of hair system. Some may only be appropriate for synthetic hair while others work best on natural hair.
You can expect to spend anywhere between $60 and $300 a month for proper maintenance. Assuming it lasts 6 months, this translates to between $360 and $1,800 on maintenance throughout its lifespan.
Buy two units
This is one detail many technicians forget to mention yet it should be factored into the overall cost.
Why would you need to purchase two identical hair replacement systems at a time? Here is why.
Assume you purchase a great-looking hair replacement system and have it cut, styled, and installed perfectly. After several weeks, you will need to go back to your hair replacement technician to remove it and have your scalp cleaned. The hair replacement system is also cleaned at this time. In the event that there is some minor repair to be done on the hairpiece, or if it doesn’t dry fast enough, you will need another identical unit that can be worn as the first one is being cleaned or repaired.
Why an identical substitute?
Unlike women who are happy to have a totally different hairstyle every so often, a man wearing a hair replacement system needs an identical alternate piece so as to maintain the same look which the world now believes is his natural hair.
How Long do Hair Replacement Systems Last?
How long your hair replacement system lasts depends mainly on the quality of materials used to manufacture it, how it is attached as well as how well it is maintained. All these considered, it can serve you well for between 6 and 10 months.
Let’s take a closer look at these factors.
Hair systems made using synthetic hair generally don’t last longer than a month or two. After that their shiny look and bouncy feel for a curly hairpiece begins to fade. Natural hair systems, as expected, last longer as they are made from actual human hair.
Using the right attachment methods can significantly increase the lifespan of your hair replacement system.
Preparing the scalp correctly does more than just protect the skin. It also ensures a safe and secure attachment that protects the hair system.
For instance, it is important to apply the right amount of adhesive. Applying too much creates bits of excess glue which could damage the inner parts of the hair system.
Your hairpiece is likely to last longer if you always use hairpiece tape as it reduces the chances of damage to the hair system. However, if you prefer liquid adhesive, be sure to follow attachment instructions, as well as removal procedures to the letter in order to increase the lifespan of the hairpiece.
How to Care for your Hair Replacement System
Aside from quality, care and maintenance are the other factors that determine how long your hair replacement system lasts. What should you do and what should you avoid in order to get the best and longest lifespan from a hair system?
Here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
Washing frequency: Wash your hair system no more than three times a week. This way it remains clean and chemical exposure is minimized.
Combing: Use a large wide-toothed comb or a soft 100% boar bristle brush to comb your hairpiece at least once a day. This removes tangles as they develop. Make a point to comb or brush from the root upwards.
Sleeping: Make a few large braids before going to sleep to prevent excessive tangling.
Moisturize: Apply olive oil on the hair at least twice a week to prevent drying. Excessive drying could cause breakage.
Combing: It is important to find a healthy balance between too much and insufficient combing and brushing. Insufficient combing causes the build-up of tangles. Forceful removal then causes excessive strain on the knots which could cause breakage.
Friction: This is caused by hair rubbing against the pillow at night. Constant friction causes damage to hair by opening up the cuticle. To prevent friction, use a satin or silk pillowcase or use a headscarf to cover your hair when you sleep.
Over conditioning: Using too much conditioner is perhaps the most common mistake made in hair system care. Too much conditioner causes the hair to swell which keeps the cuticle layer open.
Another problem linked to over conditioning is when it is not properly rinsed off the hair system and allowed to be absorbed into the base. When it gatherers at the base, it prevents the root system from pivoting 360 degrees which leads to hair loss. Conditioners must therefore be used in moderation and rinsed out completely.
Hair replacement systems as a solution to hair loss are indeed growing in popularity. Nothing beats the convenience of a well-fitted stock piece or the perfection achievable from a custom-made hair replacement system.
When you make the decision to get one of these, be sure to select a professional hair replacement technician and prepare yourself for a drastic but positive change in your appearance.
Will adhesive from hair system attachment damage the scalp?
The layer of adhesive, along with the base of the hair system prevents sweat from passing through as easily as it should. Trapped moisture can cause extreme itching. It is excessive scratching that could damage the skin of your scalp. Using medicated shampoo helps to reduce itching.
Do I have to shave my hair for a hair system?
Yes, it is best to shave all your hair if you will be using a liquid adhesive to bond the hairpiece on a bald or balding head.
Alcohol-based hair system adhesive removers leave my hands very dry. Is there an alternative?
Yes. Alcohol-based adhesive removers are very effective but tend to leave the hair and your hands very dry. You can get citrus oil-based removers which are just as effective but provide a natural alternative that doesn’t dry out the hair, your scalp, and your hands.
What is the difference between a hair replacement system and a wig?
The two are distinctly different. A hair system is much like a wig in that it could be made from synthetic or natural hair. The difference is that a hair replacement system is glued onto the scalp and not designed to be taken off like a wig.
Where does human hair used in natural hair replacement systems come from?
There are four main types of human hair used to make wigs and replacement systems. Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, and European. Chinese hair is most popular because it is finer, which makes it extremely straight.
How does it feel to wear a hair replacement system?
Many men who have had hair replacement systems admit that it feels weird at first. They say it feels like wearing a cap you can’t take off and it is common to get tempted to take it off. The good news is that this feeling passes after a couple of weeks.
Will anyone be able to tell I am wearing a hair replacement system?
If it is applied by a professional hair replacement technician and is well selected to blend with any natural hair growing on your head, it will be almost impossible for one to tell that it is not your natural hair.
Do hair systems fade?
No. A hairpiece should maintain its color for its entire lifespan. However, it will fade if it is exposed to excessive sun or if shampoos containing salt ( or sulfates) are used.
Can I go swimming with a hair replacement system on?
You can swim with your hair replacement system on but be sure to rinse your hair before and after swimming. Rinsing before prevents it from absorbing too much chlorine or salt as you swim. Rinsing it after helps to wash off any chlorine or salt which could damage it if left on.