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Wigs, hairpieces and hats

Most people with extensive hair loss usually caused by alopecia totalis or cancer chemotherapy prefer to wear a wig. In recent years, wigs have improved greatly and it is no longer painfully obvious that someone is wearing one. The Alopecia UK website (see Useful Contacts) has an excellent section on wigs.


In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) will supply a wig if a consultant (for example, your dermatologist) considers it necessary. These are free of charge for hospital inpatients, for under 16s, for 16–18 year olds in full–time education and for those receiving income support or family credit. People on low incomes may get some help towards the prescription cost. (See useful contacts for details of a useful leaflet.)
Acrylic wigs are lightweight and look extremely natural, although they may feel hot to wear. They can be washed (but do not use a hairdryer the heat can make them frizzle or melt). They are pre-styled, so their hairstyle stays in shape after washing. It does not matter if an acrylic wig is worn in the rain. They cost about £60 each (when supplied by the NHS).
Because they are in stock sizes, acrylic wigs can be obtained quickly. They need to be replaced every 6–9 months. Most people have two: one to wear and one to wash. For totally bald heads, special adhesive pads are available to stop the wig slipping, and some women also use them for extra security.
Real-hair wigs. Some people still prefer a real–hair wig, but these cost more than £200 each even when obtained through the National Health Service in the UK. However, they last for 3–4 years. They are made to measure and this takes 6–8 weeks. They cannot be washed, and must be protected from rain. They are also more trouble than an acrylic wig, because they have to be styled and set like real hair, and you will have to buy a wig block for styling it. (See useful contacts for information on wigs and VAT.)
Buying and living with a wig. In her useful book, The Hair Loss Cure, Elizabeth Steel makes the following points about wigs.
  • If you decide to buy your wig privately from a department store, explain your predicament and ask for a private fitting room.
  • You will probably feel you look very odd in the first few wigs you try on – partly because you have not seen yourself with hair for a while. Persevere until you find one you like.
  • Each time, make sure you put the wig on properly – it is quite easy to put a wig on backwards. (The tapes to adjust the size will be at the back.)
  • At home, do not leave your wigs lying around.
  • If you feel happier going to bed in your wig, do so.
  • Remember that at a party you will not be the only one wearing something false. What about false nails, bosoms and teeth?


For male pattern baldness, some men like to wear a hairpiece. Like wigs, these have improved in recent years and some now look very natural if carefully matched to the existing hair. Some clinics suggest implanting clips into the scalp to hold the hairpiece more firmly in place, but this is not to be recommended because it can result in inflammation and infection of the scalp. Modern hairpieces are glued to the scalp and remaining hair, so there is no danger of them coming off. However, they usually need to be adjusted every 6–8 weeks as your own hair grows.


Special hats for people who have lost their hair, lined with soft fleece or towelling, are made by a small company in Scotland (see useful contacts below).

Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Friday, February 26th 2010


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Comments on this article

Posted by Optional on 20/01/2014 at 06:38

My whole crown has very sparse hair, so pink skin shows right through. My remaining hair is in front and some at sides.

Posted by Diva on 13/08/2011 at 07:35

I work on a daily basis with people that use alternative hair( wigs) for various reasons, some of which are alopecia and hair loss due to cancer related medical treatments and I have created a blog to share knowledge about alternative hair( wigs) Hariology & Wigonomics 101

Posted by Shanker Gupta on 24/04/2011 at 07:04

I got bald very early in life, and ask God each day why he make me this way. Why was he so cruel to take away something so precious to me? My friends tease me, and my girlfriends openly joke about it. I have lost all my confidence and could not go out, or face people. I used to be very outgoing and confident, but now, at univeristy, I am invisible. I recently got a wig through the NHS, and had to pay for it, but my dermatologist thought it may help my confidence. People I already knew still laugh at me, and people whom I do not know are always looking at my hair as if they know something. I wory about being ridiculed but I can't go out without the wig because I am so self-conscious. This does not get said often, but as an Asian person, who is fat, and has a very strong Indian accent, I am already quite unattrative to most people, and this just adds to my predicament. In fact, you can say I lok way older than I actually am, and I am so depressed about this. My parents, who bought me a house some years ago, are also going bald, and I am considering a transplant. I do not want to lose chances with women, and I have been single since my hair started disappearing. I am so lonely, and need a boost in my confidence, but here in London, even attractive people get passed by since no one seems to have time or inclincation to stop and help people and make them feel good. If you approach anyone, they all think you want money or something. I don't know but society is becoming so cruel.

Posted by Gucci hats on 18/03/2011 at 06:53

Those friends who alopecia totalis don't worried ,good-looking hats can help you Gucci hats

Posted by Optional on 10/09/2010 at 01:49

Where in the Western Cape, South Africa can I buy an acrylic hair wigg / piece or real hair. Looking for one that is very natural to real human hair. I have short blonde colored hair - my own hair is too grey now and also very thin at the moment. I need advice for a hair piece or a wigg - I want to try it out to see if I like the idea. My own hair is very thin and looks like I am getting bald. Please help me here! Thanks Marina


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Fascinating facts

We each have about 100 000 hairs on the scalp

It is normal to lose 50-100 hairs from the head each day

Each hair on the head grows for about 5 years before being shed

Eyebrow hairs grow for only 10 weeks

Scalp hair grows at a rate of about 1 cm (just under half an inch) a month

A survey has shown that about 7.9 million men and 1.6 million women in the UK have hair loss problems

Each year, American men spend about $900 million on efforts to regrow hair

In the USA and UK, there has not been a bald President or Prime Minister since the television age began

In Old Master paintings, saints are often depicted as bald

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