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Alopecia Areata Support Network

Women With Alopecia Areata Support Network Blog

Understanding the Vacuum Wig: Q & A With a Hair Prosthesis Expert

Posted by Thea Chassin

March 19, 2014 at 9:03 AM

debbie-fuller-hair-vacuum-prosthesisToday we continue our series of great information from wig manufacturers who are behind the mission and work of BGDL as Sponsors and Business Friends of the organization.

In a previous post we got an excellent education on human hair wigs from Fortune Wigs, manufacturer using hairs tied into a base material with traditional ventilation techniques. (Ventilation is the wig industry term for the knotting technique of attaching hairs with tiny, tight knots into a base).

Now let's learn from Debbi Fuller, East Coast Agent for Freedom Hair of New Zealand, about a totally different type of wig system that creates a suctioned fit onto a totally bare scalp. A vacuum or suction type wig (also properly referred to as a cranial prosthesis) is a 100% custom fit because it's made from a custom mold or a laser scan of your head and all its contours.

Q. What regions and countries (exactly) is the hair sourced from? Specifically, what do you mean by European hair?

A. Hair from people of European or Slavic descent.  It can come from anywhere as long as the person selling or donating their hair has not colored or permed it prior to harvesting.

Q. When you get the hair, what is the process used to sort and then color and treat? What exactly do you do with the virgin hair?

A. Freedom does no processing at all. We blend-cut ponytail hair of similar colors to get enough hair to match the order we have to fill. The hair is blended keeping all of the cuticle going in the same direction so it won’t matt or tangle. Long hair will tangle some as it would if you had your own long hair. Finer hair (e.g. children’s hair) tangles more than adult hair as you know if you’ve ever tried to wash your own kid’s hair!

Q. How do you color the hair to make it all uniform?

A. We don’t ever color our hair. We find virgin hair in that color and just use and blend enough ponytails to fill the order.

Q. What chemicals are used to color the hair? Rumor is some factories use fabric dye which is impossible to color over? Why?

A. We don’t use any chemicals on the hair. If we can’t find hair that is light enough blonde for you, we leave it to you and your stylist to lift it at your styling appointment. It can be highlighted or lifted with color without adverse issues as it has never been dyed or colored or processed in any way before you get it.

Q. Why do wig manufacturers coat the hair with silicone? Does that mean the wearer needs to take extra precautions in taking care of it, especially during the first year?

A. We don’t do this, but it is done to make the hair look shiny. Ours looks shiny anyway as it still has all of its cuticle on it and cuticle refracts light, like a prism. Hair that has been decuticalized looks dull.

Q. Would you like to see regulations on terms like remy, cuticle, virgin, one-process? [editor's note: We would very much!]

A. Yes, it would only benefit us as we only use virgin hair.

Q. What are the wig industry's trends going forward? What are today's customers requesting that is different from, say, 5 years ago?

A. Ours are so customized that this doesn’t really apply. Some people like thin and some like medium and some like thick. That’s just part of our ordering process.

Q. Do you foresee any changes in the technology used to repair a wig? Is the turnaround time getting faster because of newer methods and materials?

A. In our case, repairs are almost as complicated as making a new one. It takes approximately 3 months to repair a vacuum. If you take care of it as suggested by the manufacturer, you should not need to repair it more often than once every year-and-a-half or longer. I’ve been wearing the same one mostly now for almost 3 years with no repairs. I have some customers who cause mechanical breakage of the hair by handling it too much and they need repairs more often. You should never sleep in your hair, wear tight hats or do anything to move the hair back and forth against the ‘scalp’ because it will eventually break off.

Thank you to Debbi Fuller of Fuller Hair for her honest answers on vacuum hair prosthesis manufacturing. We have more answers from other wig makers that we will be publishing in future blog updates. Be sure to sign up below so you don't miss out on any of this series!

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Topics: wigs for women, wig manufacturers, alopecia wigs