I really wanted to call this blog "Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Sheitels But Were Afraid to Ask," because there's such mystery about the sheitel industry.

So, here, and in my store, Classic Sheitels, I'm going to teach you about sheitels and empower you to spend wisely. My mission is to take the scary out of buying and selling a sheitel.

So read away, and feel free to get in touch. You can reach me by phone at 443-717-1111 or email me at lena@classicsheitels.com.

Or come for a shmooze at Classic Sheitels. We are located in Baltimore, MD, and open for walk-ins every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., or call for an appointment.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

All About Sheitels 2: Virgin, Processed, European…What Does it Mean?!

processed or virgin? only he knows...
Q: So what is virgin hair?

A: The word "virgin" indicates hair that has never been commercially processed in any way. It's not dyed and it's not stripped of cuticle or coated with silicone. The hair is basically cut off some lady's head, washed, cleaned, brushed, and sewn into the sheitel cap. Virgin hair could technically come from anywhere—virgin European, virgin Mongolian, virgin Indian. It may last a few years longer than processed hair (if it's good hair to start out with) but it's very pricey. I would not expect to buy a true virgin hair piece for less than around $2,000.

Q: Nu, and processed hair?

A: So "processed" has a much less specific definition. Processed can mean hair that's simply colored or permed, but it can also mean hair that's been bleached, stripped of cuticle, re-dyed, and coated with silicone. There are brands of sheitels sold as European, but they are actually stripped of the all important cuticle. There are sheitels that are Mongolian, but are virgin hair. It's very confusing, but one thing to know is that most sheitels, from the cheapest to some of the most expensive, are generally "processed" in some way.

Q: In view of this, what does "European hair" really mean?

A: In my humble opinion, it's very hard to know.

Let me tell you a story…back in the day, before I knew anything about sheitels, I bought one that was advertised as "affordable" European hair. The web site had this section about how the owner of the company wanted to provide well-priced European sheitels to everyone, basically out of the goodness of her own heart (forgive my cynicism).

So, I bought two, that's how cheap they were (less than $500 for a full sheitel, about $400 for a fall). When they arrived, I took them to a friend who was a sheitel macher and learned my first hard lesson about sheitels: when something seems too good to be true, it is. Lo and behold, those sheitels were stripped of cuticle. Then, to add insult to injury, when the whole Indian hair crises came up a few months later, the same company emailed all recent customers to let them know that there was a percentage of Indian hair in these "European hair" sheitels.

End of story? Nope, that company is still in business, and they advertise their sheitels as European. Nowhere in their literature does it say anything about the hair being stripped of cuticle. So, unless you know to ask, you would never know.

Also, the term "European" doesn't always signify terrific hair. European hair should come from the heads of women in Europe, generally former Soviet countries in Eastern Europe. But, there are many different levels of quality. A woman who is well-fed and takes good care of her hair will have much nicer hair than another woman who is malnourished, impoverished, and a smoker. Yet, a sheitel can be made with either woman's hair and still be called European.

Q: So what should I do? How can I know?

A: This is my advice. First, ask a lot of questions when you are buying a sheitel. Second, cultivate a relationship with a sheitel macher who has a good reputation and feels trustworthy to you.  

And third and most importantly, stay tuned for my next blog entry! I'm going to be teaching you how to become an educated sheitel consumer so that the next time you buy a sheitel, you'll know what you are doing!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'm Ordering New Sheitels and Want Your Suggestions!

Batya wears a stunning 16" long, handmade, #2 LENA sheitel
 I'm going to be placing an order for some new "Lena's Pre-cut" sheitels very soon and would love to hear what colors/lengths people are interested in seeing in the store (no obligation, of course!). Also, we're going to be ordering mostly pre-cuts, so if you have a style you like, send me a pic. I'm collecting ideas!
Some of our new pre-cuts

Sunday, November 14, 2010

All About Sheitels Part 1: The Almighty Cuticle

This is the first part of a series of posts I'm going to be doing to demystify the process of buying a sheitel/wig. You probably have a lot of questions: these are my answers, these are my opinions. If there is something particular you want to know, please get in touch and I'll try to personally answer your questions.

I'm going to first address the issue of cuticle-intact hair and stripped hair. In my opinion, this is the big dividing line between a natural looking, beautiful sheitel you can get five or more years from, and a less than lovely, stripped sheitel that looks like hay after one to two years.

You never see this advertised, but I think of it as kind of the dirty little secret of the sheitel industry. If someone tries to sell you a "European hair" sheitel and the price seems too good to be true, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask "Is the cuticle intact?"

Q: Ok, so after all of this sermonizing, what is the cuticle?

A: Good question! The cuticle is the outermost layer of a strand of hair. It acts as a protective barrier and is the hair's natural defense against drying damage. If you looked at your own hair under a microscope, the cuticles kind of look like little, flat, overlapping hooks that run in the same direction. Smooth intact cuticles mean longer sheitel life, a more natural look, and no tangling if the hair is sewn into the cap in the right direction (we'll get to tangling in a minute).

Hair that is chemically stripped of its cuticle layer gets dryer much faster. When you buy it, it looks shiny because it's treated with an artificial outer layer made of silicone or acrylic, which will eventually wash away, causing what I like to call the "horse hair" effect—dry, brittle, lifeless hair.

Q: So why strip the cuticle?

A: Because, l'maisa, it's just cheaper to do it that way. Creating a cuticle-intact wig requires a lot of extra work, hence the higher cost. Because the cuticles are like little hooks, the individual hair strands must all flow in the same directions. If the hair cuticles do not flow in the same direction, the little hooks of the cuticles interlock, leading to tangling and matting—the "bird's nest."

(Just as an aside, this is what is going on when you buy a sheitel, and it knots up so badly in the back that you can't get a comb through it, ever. That is a manufacturer's sewing mistake, and should be covered by a warrantee. As soon as you see this in your new sheitel, chas v'shalom, run, don't walk, back to the sheitel macher. This has to be taken care of ASAP.)

So, to cut down on manufacturing costs caused by this very involved process, manufacturers came up with a cost and time saving solution—chemically stripping the cuticle off of the hair. This means that no extra time is needed to make sure the cuticles are all sewn in the same direction. There is nothing wrong with less expensive hair, as long as you know what you are getting—one to two years of wear—are charged accordingly, and do not continue to wear the sheitel past it's "expiration" date.

Q: OMG, wow, I never knew! Can I tell if the cuticle is intact without a microscope?

A: Yes! The cuticles point toward the end of the hair shaft. They aren't visible to the naked eye, but you can feel them. Here's how: first, make sure your hands are clean and dry. Second, slide your fingers along a dry hair from the end towards the scalp. The hair should make a slight squeaking sound. No sound, no cuticle.

And that's the story of the cuticle! Next time: virgin vs. processed hair

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Beautiful pics of a few of our very happy customers...

We'll be adding more pics as they come in!

Beautiful Batya (wearing one of my line of new sheitels, it's a "Lena")

Exquisite Esther

Romantic Rochel

Rock Star Rose

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Our Mission: To Make Sheitel Buying a Low-Pressure, Reasonably-Priced, Pleasant Experience

Hi Ladies,

If you've ever spent a ton of money on a wig that didn't turn out well, this blog's for you!

People often ask me how I got the idea of starting a sheitel consignment boutique. I think it all started seven and a half years ago when I was a kallah. See, I knew nothing about sheitels, and my first one, at $1,800, was a bust.

I wish I'd thought to sell it. Instead, I tortured it through all kinds of recuts, and my beautiful 16" sheitel ended up a hatfall (which I NEVER wore!). I wish I would have been able to visit a consignment shop--a low pressure, friendly environment in which I could have experimented with all kinds of wigs. I wish buying a sheitel hadn't been so scary and expensive and mystifying.

Like, what does it all mean? Open weft, silk top, hand-tied, European, cuticle, processed, skin part, sewn forward, tangling, virgin hair, girdle cap, and on and on and on... And why, when we are spending thousands of dollars, is the customer service often less courteous and flexible than at K-Mart? 

Here at my boutique, we teach you about sheitels and we empower you to spend wisely. So, in a nutshell, that is why I opened Classic Sheitel Consignments. My mission is to take the "scary" out of buying a sheitel.