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, 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

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