Wig bases and foundations
In this section there is a lot of detail that will help you to understand some of the technical words associated with a wig. For some people it won’t be necessary to go into such detail as a wig supplier will have this knowledge. However you may find it helpful if you are buying online and not sure what options to go for, looking for a longer-term wig choice and for people who want some in-depth knowledge before they buy.
Let’s take a look at the different terms wig terms used to describe wig bases and foundations:
Wig bases and foundations
- The base (cap) and weft of a wig
- The difference between a cap and wig cap
- Production techniques
- Machine produced wefts
- Hand knotted/tied
- Types of wig base
- Weft base
- Monofilament base
- Lace (mesh) base
- Silicone base
- Suction base
The base (cap) and weft of a wig
The inside of the wig is called the base but may also be called the weft, wig foundation or cap. It is the base that comes in contact with your scalp. There are several different types of wig base. As well as the different types of hair e.g. human or synthetic hair, the base can also affect the comfort and look of your wig, hairpiece or hair replacement system.
The difference between a cap and wig cap
The base of a wig maybe also be referred to as the cap especially when it comes to wig sizes. For example most ready to wear wigs come in a regular cap size of 54cm. There are two types of ways the word cap can be used in relation to wigs:
- When it comes to the base inside of a wig, it may be called the cap of the wig.
- A wig cap is separate from the wig. A wig cap is put on the head before putting on the wig. A wig cap can be worn over hair or on a bare scalp to make the wig feel more comfortable.
It is helpful to have a brief overview of the two main techniques used to attach hair onto fabric to produce a wig or hairpiece. This is because you will hear these two terms used again and again.
Machine produced wefts
The vast majority of synthetic wigs and hairpieces are fully produced on sewing machines. This is why synthetic wigs are generally cheaper then human hair wigs as they are less labour intensive. The most common technique used on a machine is to produce a weft base to be made into a wig.
The technique of hand knotting involves individual strands of (human or synthetic) hair knotted or tied by hand onto a base fabric. There are various types of fabrics that hair is knotted onto to make the foundation. Commonly these are a mesh, lace or monofilament foundation. These three types of fabric are very soft and light. A combination of hand knotted hair onto these types of fabrics results in a more comfortable wig. The technique of hand knotting each strand of hair is very time consuming but does result in a very natural looking wig or hairpiece. All human hair wigs and pieces are produced using this technique. This is why human hair wigs and items are more expensive than synthetic hair.
This hand knotted base makes the foundation to make a wig, hairpiece or hair system. The final wig, hairpiece or hair replacement systems will often be hand sewn to produce the final item. Sometimes a sewing machine is used.
Types of wig base
Weft and monofilament base wigs are more commonly worn by short-term wig wearers e.g. chemotherapy wearers whereas lace, silicone and suction bases are more common for long-term wig wearers.
Also referred to as weft, wefted foundation, hair weft
The vast majority of synthetic wigs and hairpieces are produced on a machine made weft. Some human hair wigs and pieces can also be produced on a weft. Wefts can also be hand sewn but this is rare.
Hair, whether human or synthetic, is sown onto strips of material creating a weft. This in turn creates the base. This technique allows air to flow to the scalp and the base to stretch to enable a snug fit and comfort. The wefts are sown together in a pattern to create a full or partial wig or hairpiece.
Weft base wigs can feel a little rough and itchy on the scalp. Wearing a wig cap underneath or having your wig silk lined can help to make your wig feel more comfortable.
A monofilament base is a transparent fabric base that has hand knotted/tied hair attached in a particular pattern that is similar to natural hair growth. This base can be used to create all of or part of a wig. For example it is quite common to have a human or synthetic hair wig that has a monofilament top area but a weft base for the sides and back.
A monofilament base uses a particular technique to produce hair that behaves in a similar way to naturally growing hair. This combination of a transparent base and clever technique creates a very real looking scalp as if hair is growing directly. This technique also means hair can be styled in different ways as the hair can be brushed in different directions making it easier to change a parting or direct hair into a particular style.
Other advantage of monofilament material is that it is very soft and creates very good air flow to the scalp. The monofilament base may be attached to the scalp using a special wig glue. The wig may also have wig straps or wig clips to attach the wig securely to your scalp or connect to hair e.g. for hair thinning or new hair growth.
Lace base (lace front, lace crown, mesh, fine mesh)
A fine lace fabric can be used to line a specific area of a wig. The wig may be a ready to wear or custom made wig. Most commonly lace is used at the front hair line and crown area. The hand knotted/tied technique is applied to attach the hair to the lace or mesh like fabric. The fine nature of the lace laid against the scalp with hair attached is virtually undetectable to the human eye. This means that the wigs, hairpieces and hair replacement systems can look very real.
If the front hairline of a wig has lace it often needs to be cut to fit the hairline of the wearer. This is best done by a professional wig fitter who has the experience to trim the lace correctly. The lace base is attached to the scalp using a wig glue. Additionally some camouflage make up may be used to help blend in the colour of the lace to your own scalp colour. You will often need to practice this technique.
Lace is a very fragile fabric and so is not as durable as weft and monofilament bases. The lace base is often used in wigs, hairpieces and hair replacement systems that are worn by long-term wig wearers. This is because they look best when placed over a bare scalp. Once new hair starts to grow it can be difficult to attach the lace base to hair.
There is much development of this type of fabric that looks and feels very real with advances in technology producing new products and opportunities for wig wearers and hair systems. New systems and options are being launched to the market place on a regular basis.
Silicone or suction base
Custom made wigs or hairpieces can be made using silicone that replicates skin. Silicone has a suction fitting action whereby the heat from the scalp enables the wig to fit perfectly without the need of glue, tape or wig belts. A wig of this sort has to be custom made and is not normally suited to short-term wig wearers. Firstly a mould, either plaster or digital, is taken of the scalp. Each human hair is individually implanted onto the silicone base by hand. This normally takes around 12 weeks. Once complete the wig is fitted onto your scalp, cut and customized to suite your face shape and then is ready to wear. The result is a very natural looking style that is light to wear and breathable. The suction action means that this type of wig can often be worn when swimming, exercising and vigorous action, something that would be avoided wearing most wigs. Next to a hair replacement system this is the nearest thing to real hair.
The silicone base requires a completely hair free scalp to ensure the suction fit. This makes it only suitable for wearing when your scalp is completely bare. If new hair appears then you would need to be willing to shave it off or the wig will not fit and the suction won’t work. Bearing in mind the length of time it takes to make the wig and that you must have a bare scalp, this often makes a silicone suction wig not suitable for chemotherapy wearers and more suited for people with long-term hair loss.
Silicone pads which are small button sized pieces of silicone are also sometimes used to suction fit hairpieces, silk wig liners and other wig bases to the scalp.
Silicone can be used to line areas or line an entire wig, hairpiece or hair replacement system. The nature of silicone means that it resembles skin and is very light to wear.
Next planned review: February 2020