Hair Replacement Systems
The advantage of hair systems is that they make your head look exactly the way it used to look, or the way you want it to look. This is not something you can get with surgery.
Hair systems use human hair attached to fine, thin bases, which are stuck to your head with adhesive, tape, or clips. The best hair systems are not visible even from up close, and even when you wear your hair slicked back or in a very short cut with the scalp visible. Wind and water will not dislodge your hair system.
Hair systems can work with any kind of hair loss, though if you want a hair system for baldness caused by chemotherapy, it is a good idea to order a system two months before you expect your hair loss to start, so the manufacturer or retailer can look at your natural hair and design a similar system that is ready when you need it.
Using a hair replacement system
There are stock hair systems and custom-made hair systems. Stock hair systems are ready made and cheaper than custom-made systems, and you will find them in most standard colors and styles of hair. If you want a custom-made system, you can get one that looks just like your own natural hair and in styles you prefer. Custom hair systems can be made to cover bald spots or to cover your full head (‘full cap’ systems).
You need to shave your head to attach most hair systems, which you may not like. The advantage is that once you have the system on you will look better to others, and no one will see you with the shaved head.
If you don’t want to shave your head, you can go for an ‘integration’ system. An integration hair system is personalized to your head and hair, and it has slits to pull your natural hair through. This can work if you have short hair. The disadvantage of an integration system is that it needs to be refitted frequently as your natural hair grows, and it strains your natural hair and can lead to more hair loss. All integration systems are custom-made, and require you to fix the area of parting and the direction in which you comb your hair before your system is designed. A regular hair system, on the other hand, gives more flexibility about the parting and the styling of the hair.
Hair systems with a base made of fabric or ‘lace’ look most natural. They can be dyed to your scalp color, and they allow your scalp to breathe, so you will not feel uncomfortable when it is hot or when you sweat. Lace base hair system, however, are delicate and may need to be replaced after a year, or after two years with careful handling.
There are also hair systems with bases made of polyurethane, or ‘skin’. These also look realistic, and they last longer than lace bases. But they are not breathable (though they may be advertised as gas-permeable), and can be uncomfortable when you sweat. Both lace and skin bases can be attached with tape or adhesive, and provide a strong grip.
Some older-style hair systems use bases of silicone. While silicone is very safe, non-reactive, and durable, it is difficult to dye it to skin color and attach with glue or tape. They may be attached by vacuum or suction, and because your scalp needs to be hidden you will not be able to wear very short hairstyles or pullback hairstyles.
Hair systems also come with different kinds of hair. While hair of any color or texture is available, hair used in a hair system can be divided into synthetic hair and human hair. Human hair looks better and is easier to manage than synthetic hair. The best kind of human hair systems will not tangle, though this is a big problem with synthetic hair and processed human hair of poorer quality.
Where to shop for hair systems
Hair systems used to be the preserve of ‘hair clubs’, which sold you the systems and took care of attachment, removal, and maintenance problems, often tying you in with a contract.
Now a lot of hair-system makers try to reach customers directly. They sell you the system and teach you how to put it on, take it off, clean it and take care of it. If you prefer to go to them for services, they do it for a fee. For most people, this is the best arrangement.
When you are looking to buy a hair system, a good idea is to go to a retailer who orders direct from the manufacturer, or to a manufacturer himself. Avoid situations where middlemen are involved – you will not only save money, you may also get a better variety of hair systems to choose from and better flexibility if you want to design your own system.
The best hair systems are labor-intensive, and they may not be made by the biggest companies in the business. Fortunately, they may not be the most expensive either. Though you realistically have to pay more for a better system, in this business those who made substandard products will often charge what they think the market will bear. So do your research before you pay the money, and don’t buy from the first salesperson you meet.
There are horror stories of getting your (scarce) hair chopped off when you believe you are getting a trim from the person who also sells hair systems. If your head is shaved before you know it, it is better to sport the shaved look awhile than do what the man wants and buy a hair system from him!
Some hair system manufacturers now sell over the internet, and send you fitting kits that you mail back to them with the measurements for your system. Seeing the person who is going to make your hair system, however, is always better. Their measurements will be more accurate, and they will be able to give you tips that you cannot get over the mail about choosing or designing a hair system for your own kind of hair loss.
Ask to meet other customers of your hair system retailer or manufacturer, and see their before-and-after photos. Try out sample hair systems before you buy one.
Once you place your order, your hair system may take up to 8 weeks to get ready.
How to get the most out of a hair system
Though they are versatile, hair systems are high-maintenance. If you take care of your system, however, it will look good and survive a long time.
A hair system can go out of action when it needs cleaning, detangling, coloring, or any other kind of servicing.. So you should ideally have two hair systems, one to wear while the other is getting repaired or conditioned.
You will need to periodically adjust your system as your natural hair grows so the attachment stays secure and your real hair blends with the hair on the system. This is true even if you shave your head and wear a full-cap system, but it is especially important if you use one to cover a bald patch or an integration system. Your growing hair will need to be cut to match the length of the hair on the system.
If you are using a hair system with good quality human hair, it will not develop split ends. But like natural hair, hair on hair systems can break, come off, and discolor from too much washing or exposure to the sun. Dyeing, at home or with your hair technician, can solve color problems. Light colors like blond fade more than darker colors.
The edges of the system, especially if it is made of lace or skin, will start to look frayed with time. Hair system makers will replace hair the system has lost or increase or decrease the thickness of the hair, and replace the frayed edges of the system.
Using specialized products for attaching, removing, cleaning, and conditioning your system will help it look good longer. Because artificial hair does not have sebum which nourishes natural hair and prevents it from drying out, products especially meant for hair system hair use gentle cleansers that don’t remove moisture, and conditioners that mimic the effect of sebum.