Note: This article is aimed at women going through chemotherapy, but most of it’s applicable for anyone going bald, male or female, regardless of the reason.
If you go through chemotherapy, chances are you will lose your hair. Some people have a hard time with this because you do look very different bald than you do with your hair. It’s not a you that you’re used to, and it can be frustrating and upsetting. But it’s not a side effect you can change during treatment.
One of the best ways to deal with this problem is to find a look that you’re comfortable with. One that you can go out in public in without feeling self-conscious and without feeling like it’s not you. I’m going to list all the types of head coverings I’m familiar with and give you some information to help you decide which one is right for you.
If styling hair is part of what makes you feel like you, if you want to feel as “normal” as possible, or if you want to hide your illness, then you may want a wig (and if you tell your doctor you may be able to get a prescription).
There are two basic types of wigs: human hair and synthetic.
There’s an instinctive feeling that human hair wigs must be better. They must look more real and be easier to use. Well, that’s not necessarily true. Yes, you may be able to get a color closer to your natural hair (especially for gingers), but like normal hair, a human hair wig will need to be styled every time you wear it. The style may get flat as the day goes (like regular hair). If you really like styling hair and being able to style your hair makes you feel more normal, then you may want a wig with human hair.
If you’re happy with having a set style that you only have to put on or brush, you probably want a synthetic wig. I’m going to talk about wig store options first. They will have a variety of styles on display, and, like shoes, each style may be available in different colors. You can sit and try them on until you find one you like.
I recommend trying any style you see and like, but the styles with a hand-stitched top tend to look most real. They can be thinner than machine-stitched, and the hairs are attached to a transparent fabric. Seeing the scalp through the hair makes it look less like a wig. Some people like to get their wigs before their hair falls out to match their real color better. Others wait until they are bald. If you want continuity at work or in public, get one and start wearing it before your hair gets too thin so that the difference isn’t jarring.
If you can’t afford a wig from a wig store, you can get one from a costume store or from online (they can look real if you know the secret). If you can order online, look for cosplay wigs. They are usually better than those at costumes stores.
I’ll be honest – both will probably look awful when you try them on out of the box. The cut will look all wrong with your face, and there will be extra hair in weird places. The secret to fixing that is to take it to your hair salon. Put it on and have the stylist cut it in a style you like that is flattering (fancy wig stores will also style or cut the wig for you after you buy it if you want). With a cosplay wig in a natural color, you can get a nice synthetic wig for a fraction of the cost, including the price of the cut.
Warning: Never use a hot iron or chemicals on a synthetic wig! You can melt or otherwise damage it!
Some people find wigs uncomfortable or itchy. If the skin on your head is sensitive, you may prefer a soft hat. A crocheted or knitted cap can be very comfortable, and they come in a variety of styles and colors. They’re also good for keeping your head warm around the house (turbans, too).
If your head isn’t sensitive, you may find that regular hats are the look for you. Wide brims, chic caps, or sassy fedoras – there are tons of different kinds of hats. Some will work better with a bald head than others. If you find a style that you really like that needs a little hair coming out of it, you can even buy partial wigs to fix that. Any of the wig magazines sell them (Paula Young, Especially Yours, etc).
If it’s summer, you may find it too hot for comfortable hats, or you may simply prefer the style of a headscarf, bandana, or turban. They are made of very soft cloth, which makes them very comfy. Since they’re mostly cloth squares or tubes, they’re usually cheaper with options available at most malls or box stores. You can get several to try and see if the style suits you. Like hats, these may also be donated to the hospital for patients who need them.
If you’re not sure how to wear one or tie one, there are plenty of youtube videos with instructions for different styles (here are some specifically for cancer patients). There are way too many options to go into detail here, but here are some images to give you a feel for the style.
The biggest problem most women have with baldness is that they think it’s masculine. The secret to feeling feminine with a bald head is accessories. You may find that earrings, eye shadow, and a fitted shirt make being bald plenty feminine. In fact, it can really emphasize your eyes and be very flattering. You may even decide to do something fun like get henna or an airbrush tattoo on it (neither is permanent).
It really doesn’t matter which one you choose so long as you feel comfortable going out in public. You may want to have multiple options – one for each occasion. Once you find new ways to feel pretty and look like yourself, you’ll feel much better about losing your hair.