Common Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Sheitel
By: Daniele Sullivan
1) Don't judge a sheitel by its price tag!
The vast majority of people generally believe that an expensive product is better quality than a more reasonably priced one. In the world of sheitels, this principle simply does not apply. The high price of a sheitel often doesn't reflect its higher quality. Although quality hair is not cheap, a higher priced sheitel is often comparable, if not equivalent, to a lower priced one. Both could be made with the exact same techniques and crafted with the same type of hair. The price discrepancy is often an indication that the sheitel has gone from the manufacturer through several middlemen (or in this case, middlewomen!), and each one wants "a piece of the pie". Another possible scenario is a marketing technique used by many retailers, who offer several products of similar quality at different prices in order to respond to the expectations of their target market. In other words, those who want to spend less will be offered a sheitel at a more moderate price, and those who believe that spending more will get a better product will also find what their heart desires. (The seller may also introduce slight variations on the product, confusing the customer even more.)
2) From where the hair?
The sharp price increase of mafia-controlled Russian-European hair (no kidding) in the last few years, combined with the fact that the Chinese companies manufacturing wigs are so good at copying anything (yes, including hair colors and textures), has caused a significant change in the sheitel business. The large majority of wigs are now created with "processed hair", which is human hair that has been vigorously processed with strong chemicals, in order to appear very similar to the "real deal" European hair. Sadly, there is no regulation in place to force the true origin of the hair to be divulged to the customer. Even worse, most of the population use terms like "European hair" to merely convey a style, not an origin. Thankfully, the last decade has also seen South American hair enter the sheitel world, improving the situation by keeping the cost moderate enough for the manufacturers to offer a good, quality-priced option. I even moved my family all the way to Peru to come closer to that hair and familiarize myself with its unique collection process. Quite adventurous? Agreed!
3) Cuticle or no cuticle? That is the question…
The hair cuticle is the outermost part of the hair shaft. It overlaps in layers, forming a microscopic scale. The cuticle gives the hair shaft strength and provides protection against harsh elements. When using "cuticle hair" for sheitel production (generally raw European or South American hair), it is critical to respect the direction of the hair bundles during the entire process, from the moment the hair is collected to the very end of the manufacturing process. In contrast, the processed hair described above has been stripped from its cuticle, and then artificially coated with silicone to restore some type of shine.
But here is the problem: no chemical could remove the totality of the hair cuticle. And the 20-30% of cuticle left behind will be facing in opposite directions, since the hair is inverted during the processing. This will cause a very unwanted knotting problem. If your sheitel tangles, don’t pull your hair out! It is possible to remedy this condition with a specially formulated wash that will strip the edge of the cuticle and make your sheitel manageable again.
Please note: A sheitel made with cuticle hair is not a guarantee against knotting. It will still knot if the hair direction was inverted at any time during the collection or production.
When buying a new sheitel, whether processed hair or cuticle hair, make sure to test the hair in the following way: comb the sheitel with a vented brush, then shake it gently from side to side. Now pass your fingers through it, as if you were combing it, and see if you feel any resistance at all. (You shouldn't!!) Any resistance will pinpoint a future knotting problem.
To test if the hair has cuticle or not, lift a very small strand of hair and rub your fingers from the top (root) to the bottom (end). The hair will feel nice and smooth. Now, separate the hair on this strand and rub your fingers opposite direction, from the bottom towards the top. If you feel a resistance (like petting your cat in the wrong direction), and the hair teases and sometimes even squeaks, congrats!--you have a cuticle hair sheitel! However, if the hair feels exactly the same (top to bottom = bottom to top), then the cuticle is gone and the hair is processed. (Sorry.)
Processed sheitels have a limited longevity, generally about 2 years.
Cuticle hair sheitels have a longevity of 5-6 years with proper care and maintenance.
Both are good options, as long as they were made properly, without any defects, and sold at appropriate prices, with the customer knowing the truth about the hair type and origin.
4) Every brand has lemons; focus on customer service and guarantee.
No wig brand produces 100% absolutely perfect sheitels every time. If you spend time looking at reviews of ANY sheitel brand, you might be puzzled to find some really unhappy costumers, along with the raving ones. Customer service and after-purchase guarantee should be taken into account when making the decision to purchase your sheitel.
To summarize, a professional and dedicated sheitel macher should give you undivided attention and answer all your concerns in a knowledgeable, helpful and pleasant way. The origin and hair type of the wig should be divulged to you, and the price difference between different sheitels should be explained and justified. Make sure you educate yourself! Ask about the details of the guarantee.
And remember: when it comes to buying a sheitel, use your head! And if the worst comes to worst, put your snood back on and run!
is a published master wig designer/wig instructor who entered the world of wig making "accidently" over 20 years ago. She has taught wig making over the last 16 years to many hundreds of individuals from every walk of life and cultural background, including many who are today heads of large wig companies. Daniele's own line of wigs named "custom Sheitel" features the undetectable lace hairline. She also offers consultations, repair service and various types of hairpieces for those suffering from hair loss. Her website is www.customsheitel.com . She is available at 443-447-1880.