Chemotherapy, which is a type of cancer treatment, can lead to hair loss. Some people may wish to wear a wig until their hair grows back.

Several companies offer wigs for sale online. Some may offer free or low cost wigs for people who are undergoing cancer treatment.

This article explores how to prepare for hair loss, the different types of wigs a person may use, and how to purchase a wig online.

Chemotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that can cause several side effects, including hair thinning or hair loss.

Some drugs may cause hair in the scalp to thin or fall out. Others can cause thinning or loss of hair on other body parts, including leg hair, arm hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows.

Hair starts to fall out within 1–3 weeks of starting chemotherapy and may become noticeable 1–2 months later. Some people may notice that their scalp becomes more sensitive to washing, brushing, and combing.

A person can ask their healthcare team if hair loss is likely. Those who are expecting hair loss or hair thinning may wish to consider the following:

  • Cutting their hair shorter: Cutting the hair short or shaving the head before starting chemotherapy may make hair loss less stressful.
  • Using a cooling cap: Talk with a healthcare professional about wearing a cooling cap. One 2021 study found scalp cooling to be effective in preventing hair loss due to taxane-based chemotherapy.
  • Keeping a swatch of hair: If a person wishes to use a wig that matches their hair color, they may wish to keep some hair so that they can purchase a wig that closely matches.

A 2019 study found that most people experienced hair regrowth around 3 months after completing their cancer treatment. Additionally, most people stopped wearing wigs 1 year after completing chemotherapy, though some participants wore wigs up to 5 years later.

It is worth noting that hair may grow back between treatments and then fall out again. The new hair may be different than the person’s hair before they started chemotherapy. For example, a person may notice that their hair is of a different color, texture, or thickness.

Learn more about the effect of chemotherapy on hair here.

People may wish to consider several factors when choosing a wig.

Color and style

Many companies attempt to match a wig to a person’s hair color. People can keep a swatch of their hair and show it to the company to increase the chance of finding a wig that closely matches their hair color.

Alternatively, people can choose wigs of almost any color and style.

Sizing and fit

People should ensure that the wig they choose is the correct size and stays securely in place. A company may suggest measuring the head with wet or slicked-down hair to get a more accurate head size.

If a person decides to purchase a wig before experiencing hair loss, they may wish to choose an adjustable wig. Some people may go down a wig size once they experience hair thinning or hair loss.

Wig type

There are several different wig types, including:

  • Full wig: This type of wig covers the entire hairline and may be suitable for people with more severe hair loss.
  • Partial wig: A partial or half wig only covers a part of the head. People may wish to use this type of wig if they are experiencing hair thinning and want a product that blends in with their natural hair and adds more fullness.
  • Hair toppers: These types of wigs — which people may also call wiglets, top pieces, and hair enhancers — only cover one area of the head. People who are experiencing hair thinning or loss in one area may find this type of wig beneficial.

Cap construction

A wig base or wig cap acts as a barrier between the scalp and the wig. It works to ensure that the wig stays in place.

Only full wigs use wig caps. There are several types of caps available, including:

  • Lace front wigs: These caps feature hair fibers that companies sew into the lace to mimic a natural looking hairline.
  • Monofilament wigs: These caps feature hair fibers that companies tie to a soft mesh monofilament fabric.
  • Hand-tied wigs: With this type, companies hand tie all the hair strands onto a soft, flexible cap.
  • Basic wig caps: People may also call these caps open weft or standard caps. Companies sew wefts or curtains of hair into strips of soft material. These caps are usually the most affordable available.

Materials

Wigs may feature natural human hair or synthetic hair.

Wigs that use human hair are easier to style, cut, and dye. However, these wigs usually require more maintenance than synthetic hair.

Synthetic hair is usually more durable. However, some synthetic hair wigs may not feel or act like natural hair.

Cost

Generally, full wigs that use human hair will be more expensive than other types of wigs and materials. However, high quality synthetic wigs may also be more costly.

People should consider their budgets and which type of wig they require before looking at wigs to purchase.

Additionally, some companies may offer free or low cost wigs to people who are currently undergoing cancer treatment.

There are two types of wig hair available: human hair and synthetic hair. Each type has advantages and disadvantages.

Both types of wigs require care. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends the following wig care tips:

  • Only use wig-safe products to avoid damage.
  • Wash the wigs every 10–14 days.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when washing the wigs.
  • Store the wigs in a wig box or stand to help them retain their shape.

Synthetic hair wigs

Synthetic wigs contain human-made fibers that can feel and look like real hair. This type of wig often costs between $30 and $500. Generally, synthetic wigs last for up to 5 months of daily use.

The quality of synthetic wigs varies, and more expensive wigs are more likely to be higher quality.

Some pros and cons of synthetic wigs include the following:

Human hair wigs

Some wigs may use human hair. This type of wig often costs between $800 and $3,000. Generally, human hair wigs last for up to 1 year of daily use.

Human hair wigs may offer more versatility than synthetic wigs, as people can cut, style, and dye them as they wish.

Some pros and cons of human hairs wigs include the following:

A person can purchase wigs online or through a local wig shop. Healthcare professionals and support groups may also recommend certain companies that make wigs that are suitable for people who are undergoing chemotherapy.

Nurses or social workers may also be able to recommend local charities, organizations, and churches that can provide free wigs.

Some charities and organizations that offer free or low cost wigs include:

  • Verma Foundation: This foundation offers a free wig attached to a hat for people who are undergoing cancer treatment. People will need to fill out an application form and attach a letter from their oncologist or a prescription for a wig.
  • EBeauty Community: This nonprofit offers free wigs to people who are undergoing cancer treatment. People can choose from several different colors, textures, and lengths. This organization asks for a note from a doctor, nurse, or social worker.
  • Wigs for Kids: This organization offers one free wig per child per year. All applicants must be under the age of 18 years and receiving cancer treatment. Additionally, a person will need to find an affiliated salon to assist with measuring and fitting.
  • TLC: The ACS offers low cost wigs, headwear, and more on the TLC website. People can choose from human hair, synthetic hair, full wigs, partial wigs, and headpieces that help disguise thinning hair.

Below are some frequently asked questions about wigs.

Can I wear my wig during chemotherapy?

People should always check with their healthcare team before wearing a wig to chemotherapy sessions.

Although most people can wear a wig during chemotherapy, a healthcare professional may ask a person to remove the wig if they are using a cooling cap.

Where can I find free wigs?

People can ask their healthcare team, support group, or social worker for local wig shops, hospitals, charities, or churches that offer free or low cost wigs.

Additionally, people can also contact charities or organizations online that offer financial aid or low cost wigs to people currently undergoing cancer treatment.

Does health insurance cover wigs?

Private health insurance may or may not cover wigs for people undergoing cancer treatment. A person should contact their insurance company to check for coverage before purchasing a wig.

The ACS recommends asking a doctor for a prescription for a cranial prosthesis or hair prosthesis rather than a wig, as insurance companies may cover some of the costs.

Medicare parts A and B do not cover wigs for people undergoing cancer treatment, as the organization does not recognize wigs as a medical necessity. However, some Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans may offer limited coverage. A person should check what their Medicare plan covers before purchasing a wig.

Learn more about Medicare coverage for wigs here.

People who are facing hair loss from cancer treatments may choose to wear wigs to disguise hair thinning or hair loss. Individuals should consider the pros and cons of each type of wig before making a purchase.

Private insurance companies may cover part of the costs of buying a wig. Medicare Advantage (Part C) may also cover some of the costs.

Additionally, some organizations may offer free or low cost wigs to people who are currently undergoing cancer treatment.