Human hair topper materials guide
by Rebecca Dawe
It’s important that you understand the language of the hair wearing world. Once you know about the materials you can combine them into infinite ways to suit your purposes. That's why I've created this human hair topper materials guide to teach you about hair and the materials it's added to to create your human hair toppers.
If you want your wearable hair to appear flawless, you still can’t compete with real hair. It’s lighter in weight, undetectable in natural light and has the right movement. If you wash your hair and let it dry naturally (as long as you’re using the right kind of hair) it mimics your own hair. However, not all real hair is equal. Good quality real hair will last a long time and poor quality hair can look like a birds nest after one wash! It’s important to know what quality of hair you’re using and where it comes from so you can achieve the desired look. You can’t always trust what you’re told so try and get recommendations or go for trusted name brands.
Benefits and issues of human hair
Real hair always gives the most natural appearance. You can use hair products and heat to style your hair, however, it does not have the same natural moisture as growing hair so try to keep heat to a minimum (the same is true for your natural hair!). Human hair requires more effort than synthetic hair as it needs to be styled after washing, and it’s extremely porous (absorbs a lot of water) so takes longer to dry. Additionally, in time, (which differs from piece to piece) the hair will oxidise (get lighter), even those made from virgin hair, although low lights can be used to correct this. The type of hair and length will determine the price tag, however, investment at the beginning should save money later on.
The true meaning of remy, virgin and processed hair
Remy hair is hair from a single donor (ponytail cut off) with the roots and ends in the same place and the cuticle running in the same direction. It may already be coloured or permed (unlike virgin hair) but most of the cuticle remains intact. It’s often mistakenly thought of as Indian or Chinese hair, but most hair advertised as remy hair is not cuticle aligned or intact. It is instead processed hair from mixed donors placed in a pile, which means the cuticle is in different directions and tangles. To combat this the hair is then treated in an acid bath and has a silicon coating added to return it to hair that looks and feels good. However, the silicon eventually washes off and the hair becomes very unruly. True remy hair is stronger, with more body, and will last a lot longer. With human hair, you get what you pay for!
Virgin hair is hair that has not been chemically treated/dyed and is the most luxurious and expensive hair, which will last the longest.
Bases & foundations
Ready to wear and custom made
Bases/caps are the foundations on to which the hair is attached. The range of options now available is phenomenal, suiting all lifestyles and budgets. I love all of them and they all have their place in my wig wardrobe.
There’s an insane number of options in hundreds of base material combinations as well as hair choices. You really need to see them and try them before committing, so if you're ordering online check the returns policies. The pictures of the styles and colours can be extremely inaccurate.
Sometimes it’s hard to find exactly what you want readily available. For instance; If you only want specific areas covering, or have a more difficult hair colour to match, or can’t find the right length. In these cases it’s best to get a piece custom made. It takes around six weeks with me, (much longer with other suppliers), but it’s well worth the time to get something that’s absolutely perfect!
A hairpiece can be made of full lace or part lace depending on what you want to achieve. Lace is the most breathable and comfortable base material, however, it is also delicate so needs to be looked after carefully. French lace is thicker and more durable than Swiss lace. Swiss lace is finer and less detectable. It’s important to know how and when you’ll be wearing your hair so the right material can be used. Both come in a variety of colours to match the wearer’s skin tone so it’s pretty difficult to spot anyway. Most wigs and toppers that come with a lace front are actually welded lace, this is stiffer than a French or Swiss lace but is extremely durable.
Welded lace can come in many shades but is generally transparent to help blend with all skin tones. A lace front is placed around where your forehead is, enabling you to wear the hair away from your face and allow for greater styling options.
Monofilament (mono top)
Monofilament is hair which is individually knotted into a fine mesh. This material is much more durable than lace. Like lace, it is transparent and you can see your own scalp through it, so it looks very natural. Monofilament hair takes many hours of skilled labour to hand knot.
A machine wefted wig or topper (standard cap) is the most affordable. The hair is stitched into strips and the strips sewn onto a base. You can’t show any visible hair lines and styling options are very limited.
Many monofilament top wigs and mono toppers have machine wefted sides. The wefting at the sides can be open or close wefted. Closed wefting means a soft material has been placed behind the wefting to add more comfort against your scalp. Open wefting is cooler to wear.
PU (polly) & Silicone
PU stands for Polyurethane and is sometimes incorrectly referred to as silicone (which is thicker). It’s a flexible, strong, transparent material used to create wig caps (with hair injected in) or is placed around the perimeter of toppers to provide areas to attach adhesive or clips. On its own it’s referred to as PU but when placed around another material, like a monotop, it’s referred to as NPU.
Silk tops are very clever indeed! They offer the most natural looking parting currently achievable by hiding the hair knots in between 2 layers of material. The result is a flawless parting that no one, not even if inspecting very closely, would be able to tell that it’s not authentic. Usually you have to compromise with a slightly thicker hair density (amount of hair used on the wig) to cover where the silk integrates into another (thinner) base material, such as a lace front.
Silk areas are also slightly thicker (due to extra layer) and less flexible/malleable.
With this type of base, study where the silk finishes at the front hairline. If you’re a perfectionist, like me, you’ll want your hair to look flawless. If you have a PU perimeter or lace sometimes you can see a slight transition in materials. This can usually be resolved with styling.
Don’t worry if you are vegan, the materials used are not real silk and do not come from animals.
Attaching hair to bases
Individual hairs are hand tied (knotted) to the base material. This method creates more movement and greater flexibility when styling. It’s a highly skilled process and is extremely laborious, therefore the price tag jumps up a fair bit. Most people tend to prefer the softer feel of hand tied hair to machine wefted options.
Single knotted, double knotted, bleached knots, under knotting
Hand tied wigs use different knotting techniques for different durability or appearance. It’s incredibly time consuming and each worker’s skill will impact greatly on the appearance of the finished product.
Single knotting means one tiny knot, which looks better but more prone to shedding, (falling out when washing or brushing). Double knotting means two or three hairs knotted at once, which provides a more durable piece but one that is less aesthetically pleasing. It’s always most realistic to have single knots on any of the front hairlines. Silk bases hide all the knotting so are more durable.
Bleaching the knots is the process of dying the knots lighter to match the colour of the lace. If you are studying a hairpiece closely you can see the knots (you’d need to be really looking for them), but lightening them creates more of an illusion of your hair growing from your scalp. It’s particularly useful for the hairlines on light coloured lace bases with darker hair.
You will often find under knotting around the edge of a hair piece to hide the edges of a thicker base cap. It isn’t the most natural looking.
Silicone injected & Vloop
Hair is individually injected into a silicon base, which gives a very real impression of hair growing from the scalp. This type of system is often used in men's hair replacement systems or womens suction caps. There aren't any visible knots with these techniques.