Every so often when I’m getting my hair done someone will ask me if I’ve ever worn a wig and, like a little child staring down a plate of brussels sprouts at the dinner table, I’ll squinch up my face and shake my head no. That’s likely because my introduction to wigs dates back to my childhood and begging my grandmother to play with one of the pieces that sat atop the mannequin heads she kept around the house. As a little girl, the objects I now realize were my grandmother’s hair lifeline seemed like nothing more than items for playing dress-up. As an adult, I’ve been good on all of it – until now.
When Pantene and Head & Shoulders offered me the opportunity to attend a wig workshop with celebrity hairstylist Kiyah Wright on behalf of their Royal Oils and Gold Series lines, I jumped at the opportunity. I’d been briefed a bit on the benefits of wigs (versatility, less tension on the hair, etc.) over the past few years but I still didn’t really get how they worked. When I was told I’d be custom-fitted for a wig styled and colored by Kiyah I figured this was my chance to learn. I told myself the worst-case scenario was I wouldn’t like the wig and I could simply take it off when I got home that night and never wear it again. Spoiler: I’ve been rocking my unit for a full week now.
As we all know — or at least should know — before adding any type of extension to your own hair, be it wigs, weaves, ponytails, or clip-ins, you need to make sure your own strands (and scalp) are healthy. That’s where Head & Shoulders’ Royal Oils line comes into play. Kiyah recommends using the shampoo and conditioner from the collection to cleanse and moisturize hair, then follow those steps with the Daily Moisture Scalp Cream and the Deep Moisture Masque on the ends of your hair as a treatment. Sitting under a steamer for 30 minutes is the best way to make sure the products penetrate your scalp and strands. Afterward, your hair is now healthy and hydrated and ready to be braided back to provide a foundation for your wig.
As I would soon find out, that foundation really is paramount to having as natural a look as possible when rocking a wig. Since I was already committed to color, I couldn’t risk looking like a full-blown “Love & Hip-Hop” extra with glue and baby hair and edge control galore around the front of my head, but as Kiyah taught me none of those things are necessary for a flawless wig application. After separating a thin row of hair along my perimeter (which is why strong, healthy edges are important), my hair was braided into six braids: two near the front of my hairline and four going from my crown to the nape of my neck across the back. The braids not only keep your hair flat so your wig doesn’t have those unflattering lumps and bumps in the crown, they also serve as the base onto which your wig will latch so, again, it’s important for hair to be strong and healthy enough to keep your wig in place.
I tried on a couple of different units from Kiyah’s Muze Hair line before ultimately settling on The Cleo: an 18-inch, kinky-straight wig with custom honey blonde color. It was my way of switching up my usual jet black hair without doing too much. Plus everyone’s reaction to how the color complimented my skin tone and eye color gave me the confidence to go ahead and be a little bold.
After using bobby pins to securely attach the wig to my head, Kiyah followed the steps seen in the video above, blow-drying my part so that it would be clearly defined and more natural looking. After adding soft curls to the strands and flat-ironing my own leave-out around the perimeter, I was all set and far more in love with my new look than I expected to be. The dark roots on the wig blended nicely with my own hairline and the different shades of blonde and brown really added a lot of dimension.
I confidently walked out of the salon and headed to an appointment where the compliments on my hair immediately started rolling in. And then things got tricky. I got caught in a bit of a downpour on my way home and, of course, my umbrella was nowhere to be found. When I tell you I looked like nothing short of a wet dog when I walked in the door, I’m not exaggerating. I debated just ripping the wig off of my head right then and there, figuring it was fun while it lasted, but I decided to just sit still for a moment and figure out my options before ruining my new look.
After I ate dinner, I realized my hair had air-dried pretty quickly, so I ran my flat iron over the strands and I was practically as good as new (though I’m not as good with curling as Kiyah). Being able to bring the wig back to life was the moment I knew I could handle the maintenance the unit required and I’ve been doing so ever since. Once I got over the fear of not being able to reattach the wig as securely as she did, I even discovered the application isn’t as bad or hard as I thought it would be. As Kiyah repeatedly told me during the installation as she showed me proper pinning technique, “It’s common sense!”
Since the hair on my wig is straight, I haven’t used any product on it other than a heat protectant. Kiyah told me I could switch it up with a twist-out using the Pantene Gold Series Hydrating Butter Creme, but I haven’t tried that just yet, If you opt for a curly unit like The Bey, which I also tried on, she recommends mixing the Leave-On Detangling Milk with water in a spray bottle and misting it over the hair to bring the curls back to life and add moisture.
I realize I’m one of the last few women to give wigs a go, and now I see what I’ve been missing. As convenient as sew-ins have been for me over the past few years, I always miss the access to my scalp when I have one installed. With Cleo (my wig) I can be free at night and actually see the condition of my hair and scalp underneath and be able to add moisture or even relieve itching with the Soothe Scalp Elixir when I need to. I’ve definitely been converted.