Budgeting and paying for a wig
Whether you qualify for some help towards the cost of a wig from the NHS, decide to pay privately or perhaps have private health insurance, everyone will need to consider the full costs of a wig including care and accessory items. In this section we will cover some ideas about costs and ways to fund your wig.
Budgeting for products and accessories
As well as your wig, don’t forget to budget for the items below as these will not normally be covered by an NHS prescription or private health insurance. You will need to fund these costs yourself.
- Wig stand – from £4.99
- Care and styling products – from £3.00
- Wig brush and styling aids – from £3.00
- Wig/skull cap – from 50p
- Accessories – from £1.00
Whilst you can choose to buy a wig stand you can also use items from around the home. A tall vase or long tall hairspray can is ideal for standing a wig on to dry after washing or when not wearing.
Care and styling products
It is essential to follow the correct guide for styling a synthetic or human hair wig. You can buy specialist wig shampoos, conditioners and styling products especially made for use on synthetic or human hair wigs. However when it comes to synthetic wigs, this hair is man made and so if you run out of wig shampoo or want to save on costs, a fabric liquid wash and fabric conditioner works just as well. More in-depth tips on washing and caring for your wig.
Different ways of paying or accessing support towards the cost of a wig
- NHS wig supply
- Wig suppliers and acceptance of NHS referral or prescription service
- Private payment – claim back the VAT
- Private health insurance
- Macmillan and other organisations that might support you
- Twice As Nice – by Cancer Hair Care
- More about VAT
NHS wig supply
It may be that you will qualify for help towards costs of a wig from the NHS because your hair loss is due to a side effect of medical treatment. If so you will normally be limited to using a supplier that is recommended by your local NHS authority. These are suppliers who have a contractual agreement with the NHS to supply you a wig. You will normally receive a referral letter which will tell you the details of agreed suppliers.
Read our in-depth section about Visiting your local NHS wig supplier
Wig suppliers and acceptance of NHS referral or prescription service
The NHS referral and prescription charges system works though your hospital’s surgical appliances department. This department follows a strict code of conduct for regulating wig referrals. Many wig shops simply don’t have the infrastructure, availability of services or resources to be awarded NHS status. This does not mean that they do not offer a good service. Each health authority will have selected one or two shops (or services) as its main referral partners – this is just the way the system works.
Speak to your nurse or consultant about your referral letter and details of your local supplier. Read more about Visiting your local NHS wig supplier
Private payment – claim back the VAT
If you are not entitled to an NHS prescription or want to select a wig that is not covered by your prescription such as a real hair wig or a wig outside of the NHS range on offer, it is worth knowing that you can claim back the VAT on a wig bought privately.
Private health insurance
If you have private health insurance you may be able to get help from your insurance company towards the cost of a wig. Also if you are having private treatment then your oncologist may ask you to visit your GP in order to be referred as part of the NHS wig prescription service – however many oncologists and GP’s are unaware of this process. It is well worth calling your local NHS wig supplier to ask for their help as they can often point you in the right direction.
If you do buy a wig you will be exempt from paying VAT.
Macmillan and other organisations that might support you
Certain charities and organisations such as Macmillan may be able to help with a special grant, for example if you are having radiotherapy and need a specialist hairpiece, or perhaps if you are affected by long-term hair loss. Speaking to a Macmillan Adviser can open up the possibilities. Other cancer charties can also help.
Some organisations offer free or low cost wigs via a ‘Wig Bank’ Take a look in our directory for more information.
More about VAT
VAT exemption on wigs
If you pay privately for a wig (and are not using your NHS prescription) then check whether or not your supplier has deducted the VAT charge. You will be exempt from paying VAT on a wig that is necessary for medical reasons as a result of treatment. However not all wig shops offer this service.
Why don’t all wig suppliers offer this VAT exemption?
Shops must deduct the VAT and complete the necessary paperwork (VAT exemption form) at the time of purchase. All NHS referral wig suppliers will be able to offer this however small companies, web sites and wig suppliers who supply mainly for fashion may not. Do check before you buy as unfortunately you are unable to claim this directly from HM Revenue and Customs after purchase.
Head scarves and other fabric and hair care support
At the time of writing there is currently no VAT exemption for other hair care items such as head scarves, hats and other necessity items.
Questions about VAT – HM Revenue and Customs Direct
The HM Revenue and Customs advice service can explain this to you in more details and discuss any other items that you may be exempt from as a result of your cancer treatment. Contact HM Revenue and Customs about wigs and exemption.
Next planned review: February 2025