My decision to buy a wig had nothing to do with Kylie Jenner and everything to do with laziness. After listening to India Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” once in high school, I stopped chemically straightening my hair and have been fighting an uphill battle with my naturally coarse hair ever since. For the record, India Arie never sang about how time-consuming it is to deep-condition your hair several times a month. I prefer to keep my beauty regimen simple in order to maximize my sleeping time. After trying a slew of other styling options—microbraids, which took nine hours to do; Kurly Klips, Afro clip-ins for which I absolutely don’t have the patience; good, old-fashioned extensions, which are crazy expensive. So in a last-ditch attempt to protect my wallet and my edges, the hair on my temple thinned from years of stressful hairstyles, I ordered a wig from Qingdao, China.
Here’s me, in all my microbraided glory:
A photo posted by ziwe (@ziwef) on Jan 30, 2016 at 1:10pm PST
Unfortunately, I have the attention span of a seven-year-old boy in between Adderall prescriptions. As for extensions, well, I love them. In fact, I love weaves so much so that I started a GoFundMe page to support my fresh weave campaign. I received $10, which is enough to buy a single strand of Indian Remy. So a wig, it seemed, was my best bet.
My “up-and-coming artist” (read: broke) friends knew exactly where to find the best deals online: aliexpress.com, a wholesale beauty and hair site that sells products at major discounts. After two weeks of research and mulling, I landed on this wig:
It had nothing to do with the model. Ladies and gentlemen, heed my warning: Many wig companies (RPG Show, Diva Wigs, any boutique on AliExpress) use the same stock photos for their products. My guess is that someone from a foreign country googled “beautiful smiling black lady” and arbitrarily assigned the photo results to wigs. I paid $140 for a lace-front wig with 18 inches of black Brazillian hair. After the purchase, a customer-service representative, Emily, immediately contacted me about customization. I know nothing about Emily except that she misspelled most words, referred to me as “honey” more times than I’m comfortable with, and used emoticons with the abandon of an angsty tween on AOL Instant Messenger. But she was sweet and helpful—she offered me the option of a wig with a middle, side, or free part, and allowed me to pick my lace color (brown). The only source of tension between Emily and me was that I requested a wig that was 150 percent density and she told me I’d have to pay an extra $20 for it. To avoid my plight, I recommend finding a wig that’s billed up front as having more than 150 percent density. I ordered the wig on a Wednesday, and it arrived exactly a week later. It looked… sketchy at best:
The packaging looked like it had been trampled by a herd of water buffalo. But as the old adage says, don’t judge a wig by its crumpled, questionable cover. When I opened up the packaging, I found that the wig itsef wasn’t ready to wear—I’d had a feeling that would be the case, but I’d also been silently praying I’d somehow be able to put on my fresh wig in five seconds and look like Rihanna. But the extra lace was attached, there was no clear part, and the knots were still black. (Black knots are the easiest way to spot a wig. You must bleach them or cover them with makeup, and only then can you achieve diva wig status.)
Remember, laziness is the reason I wanted a wig. Yet here I was, about to invest more time and money into styling. (I customized my wig myself, but faced with the option again, I would absolutely choose to go to a salon and pay to have someone make it pretty for me instead.) YouTube is home to an array of wig tutorials that even the most remedial beautician (me) can decipher. I consulted this video for tips on bleaching the knots, an involved process that requires a styrofoam head, hair clips, a hair-dye brush, a comb, tweezers, gloves, bleach, developer, and a color corrector, all of which you can buy at a beauty supply store. I spent about $23 on all of the supplies. You mix the bleach, developer, and a color corrector into a paste, turn the wig inside out and apply it only to the lace. (For those of you who don’t want to put the effort into bleaching the lace, just use makeup on your part and tweeze out hairs. It has the same effect, is much easier, and doesn’t require chemicals.)
I wound up having to bleach my wig three times, because apparently I’m the Goldilocks of wig bleaching: The first time I made the paste consistency too thin, the second time too thick, and the third time it was finally just right. You want to make sure the paste isn’t runny because it’ll bleed through the cap and bleach the hair.
The next step is to tweeze the baby hairs and part to frame your hairline and give it a natural effect. I consulted more YouTube videos (this one and this one) for advice on this process. One important tip: Err on the side of caution, because it’s easy to overdo it at your part and create a gaping bald spot in the middle of your wig. You’re not trying to create a nesting ground for gulls overhead. It’s not cute. I mitigated the urge to pluck too much hair by removing one column at a time. Be sure to pluck out the black knot, as that’s what makes your part look #fake and #basic. As far as hairlines are concerned, I alternated between plucking out the edges and trying on the wig to make sure my hairline framed my face. Once this process is complete, I cut off the additional lace, and my wig was finally ready to wear.
I braided my hair into cornrows (what the uninitiated have been referring to as “boxer braids” lately, ugh) and covered them with a wig cap to add a layer of protection between my natural hair and the wig.
Before putting on the wig, I fastened the attached bands to make sure the wig would be extra tight. (If this still doesn’t work because you have a comically small head, like I do, feel free to use bobby pins). After all of that effort, my wig looked like this:
I’ve grown to love my wig; it does look and feel just like my real hair. The only difference is it doesn’t place the same stress on my edges that other styling methods have. And my natural hair is truly protected against the elements, which allows me to keep it healthy while still experimenting with styling. In total, I paid $183 for everything—the wig, bonus density, and tools I needed to customize it. It’s not the most expensive hair purchase I’ve ever made, but it certainly isn’t the cheapest. And overall, I’d say it was worth the price.
Prior to buying my wig, I’d always been paranoid about how unnatural hairpieces looked. I’d seen so many episodes of Maury with unsuspecting women getting their wigs snatched, and I didn’t want to suffer the same embarrassing fate. In spite of this fear, I’ve worn my wig every day for the past three weeks and the only person to snatch me was Queen Beyoncé when she dropped Lemonade. (She snatched my wig, snatched my edges, and snatched all my money for The Formation World Tour.) I’m hereby incorporating wigs into my beauty regimen—the only question is, what option should I go for next?
Article Credit: ZIWE FUMUDOH via allure