Hair Systems (Hair Pieces)

There was a time when the only options to conceal hair loss were the toupée, the comb-over, or by wearing a hat. Today, the “toupée” is a relic of the past. Hair systems – or, more commonly, hair pieces – have made great strides in allowing men and women with thinning or balding hair to conceal their hair loss. In fact, hair pieces from reputable salons are now fitted to the point where the hair piece is barely distinguishable from the person’s natural hair.



History

Hair pieces and wigs have been around for centuries. In fact, the first evidence of a toupée was found in an ancient Egyptian tomb that dates back to 3200 – 3100 BC. Julius Caesar, the great Roman Emperor and statesman, wore a toupée, and many believe he wore his trademark wreath to hide his receding hairline. In 1900, Sears Roebuck sold toupées through its mail-order catalog, and the first patent for a toupée was filed in 1921 – although the first patent for a hair piece was filed in 1956.

Present-day hair systems have come a long way since the days when men and women had to settle for conspicuous, ill-fitted, or “one-style-suits-all” toupées.  They remain a popular alternative to hair replacement surgery and medication, especially as the look and feel of hair pieces continue to improve.

Process

Some specialists suggest that a user should have an allergy test beforehand to ensure that the skin can tolerate a hair piece’s adhesives, and that there are no allergic reactions to the materials used in the hair system’s base. Once allergic reactions have been ruled out, the individual should consult with a hair system specialist to discuss the colour, style, length, and overall look that they want for themselves.

Because every person is unique, the head must be measured beforehand to ensure that the hair piece will fit snugly and take on the natural shape of a person’s head.  If ordering a hair piece without first trying it out, it is crucial that accurate measurements are taken. Some hair system specialists will create the hair piece from a mold that is formed from the person’s head, thus ensuring a virtually flawless fit.

Most hair pieces are made from human hair. Less expensive hair systems are generally made from dark, straight Asian hair that has been dyed or bleached to closely match the wearer’s natural hair colour. The more expensive hair pieces are usually made from European hair that grew organically in a variety of colours and textures, curly and straight, dark and light. Hair pieces made from European hair don’t have to be processed as much as Asian hair, which ultimately results in the hair looking healthier and sleeker (with regular maintenance). Bleached Asian hair can frizz and break more easily, as well as fade more quickly.

A lot of different things must be taken into consideration before selecting a hair piece. First of all, there should be a discussion with the hair system specialist about the user’s preferred hairstyles. Ventilation – the method used to attach the hair to the base of the hair piece – can be customized to accommodate the kind of hair styles the wearer is most inclined to wear, as well as the overall “look” the person is going for. This could be full and thick, slicked-back, tousled, etc.

The user should also discuss what kind of base they would like for their hair system, as well as the desired method to attach and hold it in place. Most hair care systems are made from a combination of polymers and mesh fabrics. The polymer is usually constructed of silicone and/or polyurethane, and is used to create “skin bases” that closely match the person’s true skin colour. The mesh is usually very fine lace made of nylon or polyester and is used for the more exposed areas of the base – for example, at the front of the scalp, along the hairline.



The keys to a great, natural-looking hair system are patience, education and maintenance. Investing in a hair piece requires a commitment of time and money.

Hair pieces must be washed regularly and any vestiges of hair glue, adhesive or tape must be completely removed in order to keep the base looking smooth and natural. High-quality (and often costly) shampoos that contain little or no alcohol are recommended. They must be

. to a hair system specialist on a regular basis to re-match the piece’s colour to the wearer’s base colour, as the hair piece’s colour will fade over time. The head’s natural hair needs to be trimmed or cut at least once every 4 to 5 weeks to ensure that the hair piece continues to look and fall as naturally as possible. Many specialists recommend purchasing two hair pieces so one can be worn while the other is undergoing maintenance.

Accessibility

Both men and women are ideal candidates for hair systems. They are especially popular amongst those who do not want to take medications like Rogaine® or Propecia® or who want a hair loss solution that is less invasive than hair transplant surgery. Many simply like how hair systems can now be customized to look more natural: women can have longer hair; those with curly hair can get a hair piece that matches their existing curl. The colour, thickness, and density of the natural hair can also be matched. There are better ways of achieving a natural look with a hair system today than there ever has been.

The cost of a good hair piece, however, can be a deterrent (the cost of maintenance is, of course, above and beyond the cost of the hair system).

Hair pieces can be purchased online for as little as $120. Although online retailers offer very precise instructions on how to accurately measure the head for a good fit, the fact remains that users are still not able try on these hair pieces before purchasing them. This may lead to a user ending up with a hair piece that doesn’t match their natural hair or head shape. Also, unlike purchasing a piece from a salon or in-store professional, the user is left to their own devices when it comes to maintenance of the hair piece. One advantage, however, is that performing their own maintenance may save them from $75 to $250 every month.

Hair systems from high-end salons can cost $1500 and up. However, some salons aid in making the price more manageable by combining the cost of the hair system with its maintenance. The entire system can then be paid for with monthly instalments. One obvious advantage to choosing a salon that specializes in hair systems is the personalized care and attention that you will receive. A reputable salon will always ensure that your hair system’s colour, texture, and style are extremely well-maintained.

Whether purchased through a salon or online though, hair systems eventually need to be replaced. This means that the initial cost of a hair piece will have to be paid out again at some point, including the cost of maintaining a new hair system. Those considering a hair system should do extensive research on the cost and maintenance of hair systems at salons in their area.

Links and Testimonials

Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander does an in-depth interview with Richard Farrell of Farrell Hairs to discuss his decision to use a hair system.
From Videojug, a couple of informative videos on how hair pieces are made and how to take care of a hair piece.