To Wig Or Not To Wig?

BNPS.co.uk (01202 558833) Pic: RSC/Ellie Kurttz Happiness is a part in Hamlet - A renowned concert pianist has had his bizarre final wish realised by starring in the recent RSC production of Hamlet...As the skull - David Tennant has been using the skull of Andre Tchaikowski as Yorick, 25 years after the composers death when the artist bequeathed his head to the RSC. Up till now actors have been reluctant to use the macabre prop, but David Tennant had no qualms.

That is the question, and one which every person who develops alopecia is faced with.

Choosing whether or not to wear a wig is a difficult decision, because there are pros and cons of both, and no right answer.  Whether you are old or young, male or female, if you have alopecia you will probably consider wearing a wig at some point.

I chose to wear a wig as soon as I realised that my hair wasn’t going to grow back.  I was young (18) at the time, and all I wanted was something which would make me look more ‘normal’.  My first wig had a thick fringe partly because I wanted to cover up my eyebrows (which were pencilled on at that stage) but also because I felt safer hiding behind it.  After I had my eyebrows tattooed on I was happy to show my face and wear less heavily fringed wigs, but I still wanted to wear one every day.

I have got so used to wearing a wig that it has become a part of my everyday routine – I put it on in the morning and take it off before I go to bed.  The quality of my current wig is so good that I can get away with people believing that it is my real hair.  It makes me blend in, and stops people from asking me unwanted questions, or thinking that I have cancer!

There are however lots of negative aspects to wearing a wig.  First of all is the cost.  They can be very expensive, especially if you choose to go for a premium wig like the one I wear, which costs over £2,000!  Not everyone can afford to spend this much, and as I said in my previous post, I think the government should do more to subsidise NHS wigs so that alopecia sufferers can choose the wig that works best for them.

Then there is all the time and effort that you have to put in to source the right wig for you, order it, get it fitted, wait for it to be sent back (which can take months) and then get it cut by a decent hairdresser who understands how to cut wigs.  I live in London but travel all the way to Glasgow to get my wigs ordered by Jayne Waddell and cut by Scott Chisholm, because they provide the best service that I have come across.

Wearing a wig can also be uncomfortable or itchy and most of all your head can get very hot underneath it!  Sometimes I wish that I could take it off in public, but up until now I have never really considered that as an option.

Since I have started promoting my Wig Free Week however, I have begun to think about why I wear a wig and whether I really need to.  I have met and spoken to people who choose not to, and have started to see the benefit in this.

Not wearing a wig is a lot cheaper and more hassle-free for a start.  You don’t have to worry about ordering, maintaining or washing a wig – you can just shave your head and off you go!  It certainly would give me more time in bed in the morning!

People who choose to go bald might also feel more liberated and free, because they are embracing their natural state, rather than hiding behind something fake and unnatural.  The few times that I have removed my wig outside, usually on a hot holiday when I am sunbathing or swimming, it has been an incredibly liberating feeling!  I didn’t realise how much I missed feeling the sun or the wind on my head until I took my wig off.

A lot of men with alopecia opt not to wear a wig, partly because male wigs are not as natural-looking as female wigs, and partly because it is seen as more socially acceptable for a man to be bald than it is for a woman.   However, boys and men under the age of 30 do usually have hair, so it can be equally as emotionally difficult for men who are forced to go bald as it is for women.  Losing your eyelashes and eyebrows is also just as tough for men as it is for women, and men don’t have make-up to hide behind.

I suppose that another negative side of choosing to go bald is that people might stare at you or ask questions.  I also worry about people pitying me, judging me or even thinking that I am being attention-seeking if I took my wig off, although I would hope that this is not the case!  I guess Wig Free Week will be a chance for me to see how people react, and whether my assumptions are correct or not.

Ultimately, as I said, there is no right answer to the question of whether or not to wear a wig.  Everyone is entitled to choose which approach works best for them whether that is going wig-free, wearing a wig some of the time or all of the time.  As long as you feel comfortable with your decision and free to change it if you want to, that is all that matters.

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