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The good news first: You got a gorgeous new wig that is totally worth its "$eriously?!" price tag because it's long, real hair that makes you look like Beyoncé—or a whole lot like yourself before chemotherapy. The one snafu is that it's constantly tangling.
Anyone who has worn a wig or weave will tell you that this struggle is real. Synthetic, natural, expensive, inexpensive—they all end up in knots. Luckily, hairstylist Kim Kimble, who works with celebs like Beyoncé and Shakira, has some expert ways to prevent this and to detangle. We chatted her up and got her top tips.
Why do wigs (even really expensive ones) seem to tangle more often than your own hair? "Tangling can depend a lot on how well the wig is made and whether the cuticles are all going in the right direction or if it's been processed with some kind of chemical or color; if the hair has been laid in wrong or it's been treated, then it's more likely to tangle. But any wig will tangle more than your real hair because your scalp produces natural oils that keep hair from drying out and getting caught in itself, and of course wigs do not do that."
What's my first line of defense against wig tangling? "The first thing you have to do is use the proper shampoo and conditioner—a very mild, not-stripping shampoo, and both products should be sulfate-free and have a low pH. I like to set [the wig] on a [wig] head and shampoo it on the head so that it keeps its shape. When you wash it, you can't scrub it like you'd scrub your hair. You have to run your fingers through it like a comb, rubbing your fingers through it as you go and kind of squeezing it. You want to rinse it very well by dipping it into water and pulling it out. You have to be gentle. How often you're shampooing depends on how often you're wearing your wig. If you're not exercising in it and not putting a ton of products in it that are building up and you're taking it off to go to sleep at night, you shouldn't be washing it more than once a week."
How should I be brushing my wig to both prevent and tackle tangles? "The best time to comb it is when you're combing conditioner through the wet hair. Then you let it dry and brush it again. Use a wig brush that's made for extensions and wigs, those little plastic ones work great; a boar-bristle brush works well, too. If you're working out a tangle, you want to start at the ends of your hair first—you should be doing this with your real hair, too—if you start from the top and go down, you make the tangle bunch up more. If you have extensions in, you want to hold the base when you brush or comb."
Extension care seems a little more complicated since they're attached to your head, so you can mess up both your extensions and your real hair if you're not careful. I remember watching so many episodes of America's Next Top Model when a girl new to sew-in extensions would end up with terribly matted hair. Are there extra precautions to take with extensions? "The main thing is using alcohol-free hair products. And the same kind of low-pH shampoo and conditioners we talked about earlier; sulfate-free products that won't strip the hair. My K2 Beauty Untangle Conditioner is made especially for gently detangling extensions. Leave-in conditioners are great, too."
A friend was just lamenting that her wig always seems to get tangled at the nape of her neck—and that also seems to be a frequent complaint on Internet forums about wigs. Is it the heat of one's neck that's making the wig get all wild? Can that be prevented? "I've found that wearing certain fabrics—like wool or anything that's really fibrous—or anything that has a bulky collar tends to cause your hair to ball up on the back of your neck. It doesn't happen as often if you're wearing silkier fabrics, and it doesn't happen as often if you have a straighter-hair wig. But you will have to brush out this spot periodically during the day to prevent tiny tangles from becoming bigger problems. It is difficult to simply solve this issue, but I've found that attaching some tracks in the back of a hand-tied wig helps keep it from getting tangled at the nape because it makes a little heavier in that spot."