If you’ve ever worn a long wig for a cosplay, this problem will sound familiar: wigs tangle quickly, and brushing them afterwards can often take longer than the photoshoot itself!
As annoying as it is, you should make it a habit to detangle knotted wigs before you wear them again. In this tutorial, I will first explain the procedure for straight and heavily matted wigs, followed by tips for curly and wavy wigs.
German version: Dieses Tutorial erscheint auf Deutsch als Gastbeitrag in SajaLyns Cosplay Blog.
How to brush a wig
To make your job a whole lot easier, spray the wig thoroughly with wig conditioner first and let it air dry. You can use a product specifically for synthetic hair wigs – such as “Wig Wonder” from myCostumes – or any “oil sheen” spray from an ethnic beauty supply store. These products leave a slippery film on the fiber, but won’t rub off onto your clothes later.
My 120cm long Sailor Pluto wig. I’ve worn and detangled this wig about a dozen times and it’s still in top shape!
Impatient wig wearers will often try to comb through the wig with force, because they just want to get done with it. Unfortunately, this makes the tangles worse.
Section off one strand at a time for detangling and clip the remaining hair to the side with a sectioning clip. Try detangling the wig with your fingers first in order to separate major knots. Start at the tips and work your way up, so you won’t end up pushing the tangles from top to bottom.
Only then do you start using a brush or comb. The right tool is key: I recommend using a wide-tooth comb or a detangling brush (Tangle Teazer) with short, parallel bristles. Fine combs are OK for styling, but they tear too much at the fibers when you use them for detangling. Likewise, most brushes for humans are less than ideal for synthetic hair wigs, because they are meant to brush out loose hair. Synthetic hair, however, is made of plastic, which stretches, deforms and snaps when pulled too hard.
Brush the wig carefully and do not use brute force. (Photos from my book: Wigs 101)
How to straighten a wig
You should snip out or straighten any kinked and damaged fibers. To straighten synthetic hair, heat it briefly with a flat iron, hair dryer or hot water. 70–85°C (160–185°F) is the safe temperature for Kanekalon (a common synthetic fiber), while extra heat-resistant wigs can tolerate more.
If you use a straightening iron, pull it swiftly over the fiber and never stop, otherwise you risk causing heat damage.
A blow dryer is safer, especially for beginners, because the air doesn’t get as hot. Direct the warm air onto the wig fiber from above, while gently pulling it taut with a comb or brush. Don’t pull on the fiber too much in the process, or you risk stretching it. Brushing gently while the hair is still warm is enough to smooth it out.
Once the whole wig is untangled enough for the hair to hang freely, you may use hot water to straighten the wig in one go. Heat water to 85°C (185°F) max, and pour it over the area that you want to straighten. Leave out the bangs and the top of the wig, otherwise they will be flattened.
Let the wig air dry before brushing it. If it is still wavy, repeat the process with slightly hotter water, or finish the work with a hair dryer or flat iron.
Straightening a wig with a flat iron, blow dryer heat and a brush, or hot water. (Photos from my books: Wigs 3D & Wigs 101)
How to care for curls
When curls and waves are heavily matted, they are more difficult to detangle than a straight wig. That’s why it’s even more important to care for them after each wear.
As a first aid measure, lightly spritz the curls with water or liquid conditioner for synthetic wigs. Pick a single curl and run your hands over it to smooth out the fly-away hair. If that’s not enough, brush the strand first until the hair is aligned, then smooth it out with your hand.
Now wrap the strand around your fingers to return the curl to its original shape. Once you let the curl slide off your finger, you’ll have a beautifully defined curl again. Since curls are heat-formed, the memory of the plastic fiber ensures that the curls will bounce back into that shape, even when they get wet.
However, if your wig is badly matted, you’ll need to comb out each individual curl and smooth out the frizzy ends with a blow dryer or straightening iron. Then wrap the hot fiber around your fingers to reshape the curl. Hold it in shape for a few seconds while it cools.
In severe cases, it’s sometimes faster to untangle and straighten the entire wig – as shown with the straight wig – and then restyle it from scratch. You can use plastic rollers and hot water or steam to curl an entire wig in one go.
Use hot water or steam to put curls or a body wave into a whole wig. Step-by-step tutorial in my book, Wigs 3D.
The perfect finish
When you’re done restyling the wig, set the style with a generous amount of hairspray or hair lacquer. This will keep it neat and defined for longer. And don’t forget to coat the tips and the underside of the wig with hairspray. This is where your wig is most likely to tangle because it’s constantly rubbing against your costume. Hairspray holds the fibers together and protects against static.
When you shop for wigs, keep in mind that high-quality wig fiber is generally easier to untangle. Don’t skimp on quality for long and thick wigs!
Pick the fiber that works best for you and your project. Some wig brands have extra smooth and slippery fiber that makes for easier detangling, like Arda Wigs’ “silky” line. While coarse fiber is generally easier to tease, spike and style with hairspray, it is also more prone to tangling. You can’t have it all…
For step-by-step guides to wig styling, check out my latest book, Wigs 3D!