Coping with Cancer - Wigs for Cancer Patients

Coping with cancer can be tough both physically and emotionally. Losing your hair is one of the most common side effects of cancer treatment. It can really affect your self-esteem and confidence. Wearing a wig can help you feel more like yourself and boost your confidence during this difficult time.

For the good of your physical and psychological well-being, it’s important to choose a wig that is both comfortable and fits well. Fitting your first wig can be an emotional experience, it may make losing your hair feel real for the first time. Going to a wig specialist will help as they will understand your feelings and will do all they can to make you feel comfortable during your fitting. 

The stage of cancer treatment you are in and the extent of your hair loss are important factors to consider when and if to wear a wig for the first time. Some people prefer not to wear a wig, to begin with, instead choosing to shave their head before their hair starts to fall out or wearing a hat or scarf during the period of chemotherapy treatment. 

After chemotherapy, it is important to be gentle with your hair and scalp and you may wish to try wearing a scarf, a turban, or a hat as an alternative to wearing a wig. As your hair grows back after chemo, styling options with your own hair increase. When your hair reaches pixie length, you can try out hair accessories like headscarves and hair clips, when it gets a little longer you can choose a "sleek style" or perhaps even a "shaggy" look.

Ways to style Pixie Length Hair

There are many ways to style pixie-length hair. One option is to create several small bunches using a styling product, twirling strands of hair around your fingers. Alternatively, you can create curls or part to one side. (below are a selection of our Pixie length wigs available to buy online)


Bandanas can be playful and fun and can be a great option to cover hair loss for cancer patients. Being shorter than traditional head scarves, square in shape and usually made from lightweight cotton, they are cool and comfortable and great for the summer.

Hats, turbans and fringes.

Additional options for headwear include hats, turbans, and fringes. Consider wearing soft beanies or turbans for everyday wear, or pre-tied scarves in pretty patterns for a more sophisticated look, and wide-brimmed hats or baseball caps for sun protection.

Synthetic Wigs or Human Hair Wigs?

For the many cancer patients with hair loss who do decide to start wearing wigs, there is the option of either synthetic hair or human hair. There is not a lot of difference in the look and feel of either, the most important consideration when your hair is growing back may well be the cost. Synthetic wigs are considerably cheaper and as you may not be anticipating needing a wig permanently an expensive human hair wig may not be a good investment. 

  • Real hair wigs offer the most natural look and feel. The hair is soft and has a shine and movement that is hard to replicate synthetically.

  • Synthetic hair will have less versatility than human hair, however with the right care and wig maintenance fibre wigs can be styled to whatever look you prefer.

  • Weight: Real hair wigs are heat-friendly and will typically feel heavier than a synthetic wig of the same style and length.

  • Delicate: Human hair wigs incur damage from brushing, teasing, backcombing, washing and using heated styling tools

For more detailed information about the differences between synthetic and human hair click here.

The best styles of wigs for hair loss patients - things to consider?

When choosing a wig after hair loss, there are several factors to consider such as the type and size of the wig you choose. In order for the wig to fit correctly, you might consider getting a smaller size, as hair loss will cause the wig to sit closer to the head. If your hair is long, consider having it cut short so that switching to a wig or other head covering will be less noticeable.

If you wish to match your current style and do not wish your wig to be noticed, choose the same volume of hair as you had before, too much hair can make it look obvious that you are wearing a wig. Remember that the wig can be cut and styled by a hairdresser and choose one shade lighter than your own hair.

When is the best time for a newly diagnosed cancer patient to apply for an NHS Wig?

The best time to apply for an NHS wig is right after your cancer diagnosis and before you begin treatment. You should not have to wait more than 2 weeks to see a specialist if your GP suspects you have cancer and urgently refers you. In cases where cancer has been confirmed, you should not have to wait more than 31 days from the decision to treat to the start of treatment. 

NHS and Health Service wigs

Synthetic wigs are available on prescription for anyone from Scotland to Wales in Northern Ireland. There are specific arrangements for patients registered in Wales but treated at the same time in England. 

In England, you may be eligible for a free wig from the NHS but you must provide documentation showing you qualify. In the event your request does not meet the criteria, you can still claim the VAT back on this item.

Buying a wig through the NHS in England

There is no such a thing as a free wig from the NHS in England, you must pay for it first and then claim it back afterwards. Prices for fully funded wigs from the NHS range from £75 up to £175. Partially funded wigs may cost a little bit more. Contact your hospital social worker or clinical nurse, or wig specialist for more information. 

Macmillan Cancer Support Grant

Macmillan Cancer Support gives a one-off grant to people with cancer for a variety of purposes, including heating bills, extra clothing, and wigs. You need to apply through a health or social care professional, such as a clinical nurse specialist (CNS), district nurse, or social worker.

Tips for Colour Matching when experiencing hair loss

  • Take photos of your current own hair style before starting treatment.

  • Save a lock of hair from the top front of your head, where the hair is lightest, in case you want to match your wig to your existing colour.

  • Use natural light, outdoors or near a window, to decide whether a wig matches the swatch

  • Measure your head with your hair wet or slicked down.

  • Choose the same volume of hair as you had before. Too much hair can make it look obvious that you are wearing a wig.

  • Remember that the wig can be cut and styled by a hairdresser or the wig consultant

  • Choose your own colour or one shade lighter

Getting your wig professionally styled

Wigs may be cut or styled in different ways to suit your look and to give that personal touch. The hair on synthetic wigs is extremely dense and thicker than you might like. Don't worry, this may need to be thinned down by trained hair experts for a more natural look. We recommend checking check whether the hairstylist is experienced in cutting hair just in case. 

What to expect at your wig fitting appointment

Selecting and wearing your first wig can be an emotional and even frustrating experience. Experienced wig specialists are knowledgeable and are there to help and comfort you. Many will have a private room to fit your wigs or try them out. Ask to bring a close friend with you to help you through the experience and help you decide upon style, length and colour.

Transitioning back to your natural hair when you stop wearing a wig.

Below are a few tips to ease the transition back to your natural hair after finishing chemotherapy

  • Your hair will continue to grow at the same rate whether you wear a cancer wig or cap

  • Try a moisturising liquid (emollient) instead of soap if your scalp is dry

  • Protect your scalp by covering your head in the sun - your scalp is particularly sensitive to the sun

  • Avoid perming, colouring or chemically relaxing your hair, as this can make it even more dry and brittle

  • Avoid wearing your hair in a tight band, as this can damage and break it

  • If you plait your hair, plait it gently.

Wigs Cancer Patients - What Doctors Recommend

In summary, for many cancer patients wearing a wig helps them to cope with hair loss following chemotherapy treatment both for emotional and psychological reasons. It can help them to feel more like themselves and less self-conscious about their appearance.

When choosing a wig, consider both the type and the size. In order for the wig to fit correctly, you might consider getting a smaller size, as hair loss will cause the wig to sit closer to the head. If your hair is long, consider having it cut short so that switching to a wig or other head covering will be less noticeable. Colour matching will also be important,  generally choose one colour lighter than your natural hair, and remember that as your hair grows back you may wish to mix and match with a variety of head coverings, scarves, bandanas and hats, depending on the occasion,  your mood and even the weather. As you may not be intending to wear a wig for the long term,  only while your own hair grows back you may wish to keep costs down, and if this is the case then human hair wigs may not be a good investment.  Importantly, we recommend using a wig specialist, they have the knowledge and the experience to guide you through the process and will give invaluable advice, take a good friend with you, who you trust to give impartial advice on style, length, and colour and will provide emotional support through the process.   

Take advantage of NHS wigs if you can and remember to claim back the VAT if that is not possible, most important do not delay,  the best time to start the process of sourcing your first wig is right after diagnosis and before treatment starts.