Saturday, 4 June 2011

My New Synthetic Hair

Pat, my lovely chemo nurse told me about Trevor Sorbie's charity, My New Hair, since in my job I had only heard of his hair dressing fame. I spent a delightful day with him, and now it is my very important job to let everyone else know what he does for people like me (bald people, not beauty editors).

By now you know my wigs like they were your wigs I suspect - I bang on about them enough - so while I've covered real hair like there is no tomorrow, the bigger and probably more relevant subject of synthetic wigs (since they are cheaper, more readily available and generally NHS prescribed), has alluded me. But now I have one - thank you Trevor - so let me fill you in...

These were my issues with synthetic wigs:

They are very 'wiggy' and obvious. Trevor cleared this up for me with an analogy that he developed from 5 years experience cutting the things for chemo patients with similar worries. 'If you walk past a woman in the street and I ask you what colour her shoes are, you most likely wouldn't have noticed, unless she had no shoes on.' So wise... And perfectly proven when I left his salon in my new wig, and one of those irritating guys in the street tried to sell me some package for a local hair salon, opening with the line 'where do you get your hair done?' Oh if only he knew...

The NHS one will be sh!t. Let us never underestimate the importance of our hair. Trevor has met no less than three women who have refused chemotherapy in favour of keeping their hair. Although that is mental to me, I have never had to deal with an NHS wig. Of which I should also point out, there is no such thing. Suppliers pitch for the hospital account, and as Trevor points out, if someone is offering a fifty pounder over an £80 equivalent, which is going to win? If we take hospital catering accounts as a similar example, we know where the dreaded NHS reputation comes from. (Not the case universally, some are better than others, some offer real hair, and even wig mecca Trendco is an NHS contracted supplier).

They won't look like my real hair. OK so some are better than others, and obviously the better the wig, the more natural it will look, but that doesn't mean the NHS freebie needs to sit in the packet it came in for the duration of treatment (I know this happens a LOT). There are things you can do, and top of the list should be see someone like Trevor who can cut it to perfection - or as near as possible. And never underestimate the transforming power of dry shampoo - a synthetic wig wearers BFF.

Our first stop was Trendco in Notting Hill. Now this may seem silly, since I am now a chemotherapy and wig veteran, but I was still nervous. Going into a wig shop out of necessity and due to illness is a daunting thing, even at the end of treatment (my initial NHS voucher to pick one out from a place in Paddington was politely declined on D-Day - I couldn't bear the thought of having to go through that seemingly humiliating experience on top of everything else). Trevor knows all this stuff, which is why he takes his charity clients to the shop himself, and it definitely helps.

We went through a process of elimination (no poker straight, nothing blonde, no 'Rachel's'), which is important with synthetic because the style you get is the style you get: Aside from a cut, there is no colouring or heat styling these things, which is good even if it doesn't sound it. The maintenance is ridiculously low - no need to get Katie or Claire round to help me me with this one - you just swish it in soapy water, put a little bit of fabric conditioner in (yes really) and it dries back to it's original style. This also saves on rain-induced anxiety and means I am less likely to leave so disgustingly long between washes. Trevor recommends synthetic over real hair for chemo patients for this very reason - not the wash thing, the effort thing. Since we now know the less bother the better when it comes to anything during treatment.

We tried a few out in a private room, (the highlight of which was Trevor stroking my fluffy head like he was part of my family), and settled on the first one we picked out. It came back to his Covent Garden Salon with us, into another private room, where he cut it into my unique new hair, resplendent with fringe.

So far I was mightily impressed. My thoughts of synthetic wigs had been this: cheap, too shiny, obvious. This one has a monofilament layer under the parting, which makes it look more realistic and feel more comfy. The texture is incredibly natural - ever so slightly unkempt, which is very me - if not a tiny bit shiny at the crown, but I fixed that with dry shampoo, since yes, using products on it is fine.

So now I have and love one, there is only one issue with synthetic wigs, and that is matting. Real hair wigs have the same problem but to a lesser degree. It's where it rubs on your collar I guess, but always along the back hairline. Synthetic mattes on a daily basis and is harder to un-matte. This is where the fabric conditioner trick helps, but even better is T-Range Fibre Conditioning spray that I also got from Trendco. It smells a bit funny but it gets the job done.

Due to the common issue of too few hours in a day, sadly not everyone can get the Trevor Treatment (but you really should try), so he has personally trained 380 hairstylists nationwide to do the same thing. In every county in the UK there is someone who can offer his service, and counting. And he doesn't get paid a penny. The man is a philanthropic genius, and I think I love him a bit.

His words as we chatted on the way back to the salon; "If I can make you leave here with a big smile on your face, then I'm happy."

Mission accomplished Trevor, x


  1. Hi Sophie I came here from Maggie's Style Notes thanks very much for the dry shampoo tip. I also have a synthetic wig - the women in the wig shop and my hairdresser were pretty emphatic about this as opposed to a real hair wig but I agree the shininess can be a real giveaway - I call it 'Newsreader Hair' and to me it just looks so fake but I guess as the wearer I am more obsessed with these things than the people who walk past me in the street. I am sorry to hear there is such a thing as an 'NHS wig' - in Australia Medicare doesn't cover a wig at all you will only recover the cost if you have private health insurance I am sure that means people buy cheaper wigs which is probably not a good thing. Xox

  2. Definitely doesn't look 'wiggy' the cut and colour are lovely! x

  3. I was a lucky one - my NHS wig is a Trendco one - so very cheap for the prescription cost. Sometimes worth a look ;)

  4. Charlie Miller, top Scottish hairdresser, does this as well, works with a charity up here. it's great that these guys, at top of their game, do this.

  5. Looks amazing! And you look blummin beutiful in it.

  6. You look great, it was a fascinating read - and Trevor deserves a bloody knighthood! xxx

  7. You look fab and your new hair looks very very natural.

    I love what your doing with your blog. I have alopecia universalis and have been wearing wigs since the age of 12.

    I totally agree with you and Trevor Sorbie (and lots of other ladies who have cancer and alopecia) that the nhs should be providing something better than what they are at the moment, i signed My new hairs petition some time ago now.

    Emma xxx

  8. LovE! Trevor Sorbie is an angel. Is he an OBE? He should be!

  9. Hey! You are looking so gorgeous! Your new synthetic wigs are outstanding. I would like to recommend them to my friend.

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