How a custom wig is different from a mass-produced wig

You might be thinking about having a custom wig built to replace a mass-produced, machine made wig. It’s very common to start out with a decent quality off-the-rack wig and then invest in a custom wig down the line. If you’re thinking about transitioning from a store wig to a custom wig, you might wonder what it will be like in comparison.  It’s understandable to wonder how a custom wig will be different than a machine-made wig and what you should expect. 

First things first. Let’s take a minute to discuss the general characteristics of machine made or mass-produced wigs and custom wigs. 

Mass-produced wig characteristics 

These wigs are nearly always made by machines and are created to be ‘one size fits many’. Most of the time, machine made wigs are at least partially constructed with strips of hair (weft) sewn to an open foundation of elastic bands. This cap structure means the wig foundation can stretch to accommodate a wider range of head sizes. Factory wigs might have a heavy lace front with machine-punched hairlines or a ‘hard front’ concealed with bangs. 

In general, mass-produced wigs are denser – those strips of hair and machine-punching can pack in more hair. They’re often made from synthetic fibers, which can mean the style or texture is permanently fused into the hair. That leads to less maintenance and ensures the wig usually won’t lose its style if you get caught in the rain or perspire heavily while wearing it.

Since the foundation is not custom built, the wig needs to be dense to hide the foundation and the wearer’s own hair, nape and hairline. 

None of these characteristics are inherently bad, by the way. A wig that stretches and then cinches back down will often stay put without much extra work. Since the hair is used to conceal the structure and edges, it’s possible to simply plop a factory wig on with minimal prep or work. And the styles are often almost indestructible. 

Not every machine made, mass-produced wig will be the same, the the above offers a very rough description.

Custom built wig characteristics 

In one sense, a custom wig can be any piece that’s built from scratch and created to the artisans specifications. But for our purposes, we’re going to talk about the style of custom wigs we build, since that’s what our clients will be transitioning to.

Our custom wigs are created entirely from scratch. The wig foundation is nearly always a tailored cap made from sturdy mesh (called veg net). Most of our wigs include a lace front, which is finer and thinner than the veg net. The lace front hairline means that the wig doesn’t require bangs or styling to hide it.

While we do use some strips of weft for some wigs, the majority of our wigs (and in many cases, the entire wig) is hand-knotted. That means each and every hair is tied into the foundation singly, which leads to wigs that are less artificially dense.

Many of our wigs are built with human hair but we do use synthetic hair for some projects. A custom wig usually requires an initial cutting and styling and then at least some re-styling or upkeep and maintenance. 

While most of these things are favorable and lead to improvements in fit and appearance, that doesn’t mean they’re inherently superior or without some drawbacks. 


How a custom wig fits vs how a factory wig fits

In many ways, the fit is the biggest difference. As mentioned, factory wigs are ‘one size fits many’. There are certainly advantages to that flexibility. But any time you create something to be flexible, you sacrifice specificity. A custom wig is tailored to fit YOUR head. That means no matter what size your head is, how much hair you have (or don’t have) or how low or high your hairline is, your wig is going to fit

If you have ever struggled to get a machine-made wig to fit over your head and hair, you already know what an advantage this will be. 

Because a custom wig is made to measure, there’s no reason for it to have an elasticized foundation*. That means it won’t cinch down. Think of a machine made wig like a knitted toboggan and a custom wig like a fedora. One stretched and snugs down, the other perches comfortably. 

Many of our clients initially think that their custom wig is too loose because they’re used to feeling a wig shrinking down around the head. For some, this is a big adjustment and one that can take some time to acclimate to. Of course for other clients, it’s a relief not to have a tight wig digging into their scalp. 

*we do build some wigs with a stretchy panel to ensure the wig will fit even if the person’s hair is longer or shorter or not prepped exactly the same way

Putting on a custom wig is different!

Well, sort of. When you wear a wig, your own hair (if it’s over an inch or so) needs to be contained and secured so it doesn’t slip out from the under wig. That’s true for any and all wigs. 

But there are some differences in how you need to prepare your hair and how you put on and a wear a custom wig.

Prepping your hair to wear a custom wig

When you wear a custom wig with a lace front, you need to ensure your own hair is combed back, leaving your hairline exposed. That’s because transparent lace edge lays across your forehead and the finely knotted wig hairline covers your own hairline. If your own hair isn’t secured off your face, it can show under the wig lace. 

Your own hair should be prepped the same way each time your wear the wig. Very small differences in how you arrange or secure your hair are fine. But anything that changes the shape or size of your head may cause your wig to fit differently.

Here’s what you need to know about prepping your hair to wear a wig

Keeping a custom wig on

We already touched on how elasticized foundation make the wig cinch down. That helps keep the wig in place. But a custom wig isn’t elasticized. So how do you keep a custom wig on your head?

Wig tape, liquid glue and/ or pins! 

Some wigs are short or lightweight. They may well stay on your head with just a dot or two of tape or glue at each temple (more on that below). 

But lots of custom wigs are long or otherwise ‘back heavy’, meaning they may want to slide back off your head if you don’t secure them. 

The good news is that securing a custom wig is easy. But expect to spend a little time experimenting with exactly how YOUR wig needs to be pinned, glued or taped to stay on your head.

This is probably the second biggest concern our clients have if they’re used to just popping a stretchy wig on and having it stay in place. So it’s important to understand that a custom wig will likely need some help. 

If that sounds like a big drawback, it’s good to consider what your specific concerns are.

  • Are you worried it will take too long to get ready? Having to spend time securing your wig may add to your prep time, but once you get the hang of it, it really can be done in just a moment or two.
  • Maybe you’re concerned your wig won’t stay on. That’s a very reasonable concern, after all, no one wants their wig to slide off unexpectedly! Here again, the key is practice. Figure out the best way to pin or glue/tape your wig so it stays put. Then practice doing the things you plan to do while wearing the wig. If the wig stays in place, you’re good to go! If it doesn’t, that’s ok – try again, making changes based on where things went wrong. Keep working until you are confident your wig will stay put through anything. We are always happy to help you troubleshoot wig application, so you don’t have to do this part alone!
  • What if it just sounds like something you don’t want to learn to deal with? It’s ok to decide this isn’t the right time to transition from a machine-made wig you’re comfortable using. There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing your own comfort. 

There’s one more thing about wearing custom wigs….


The wig’s lace front has to be dealt with.

That transparent mesh and those very fine knotted hairlines are one of the things that make a custom wig look and feel so much more natural and realistic. But…the lace margin has some needs. 

Once your custom wig is on and in the correct position, you’ll probably see the edges of your lace front flapping around your temples. You may wonder what you’re supposed to do about that, since they can look a little unsightly.

You’ll need to use a dab or glue or a small piece of wig tape to stick those two spots down. In most cases, that’s all that’s needed to keep the lace edge in place. 

Once you get used to this part, it only takes a moment. But it IS still another step to take and it’s something new to get used to.

And once you’ve taken the wig off, you will have to remove any glue or tape from the lace before you put the wig away. Tape usually peels off in seconds. Glue may take a bit longer to clean off but it will usually clean up in a moment or two if you attend to it promptly. 

Many of our clients worry about having to stick their lace front down and clean it. They also express concerns about having a small margin of lace across their forehead.

We understand – it can look very conspicuous to you when you’re staring in the mirror. But when the wig is on correctly and the lace edge is tacked down, the margin really does disappear against your skin. People really need to be looking for your wig lace to spot it.

That doesn’t mean it’s invisible though – and you should know that before you order a custom wig. 



A custom wig might be less dense

In general, custom wigs aren’t as dense as machine made wigs. Even when they ARE made more densely, the hair is distributed much more evenly across the head, since each strand of hair is placed in the foundation singly. Overall, this is a good thing – it means the wig looks, feels and acts much more like a ‘real’ head of hair. A more natural density also means that a custom wig is cooler to wear since the wig is more breathable. And a custom wig usually weighs less, which can make the wig more comfortable to wear.

But when clients are used to a thicker wig, they may initially feel like their custom wig is a little skimpy. Most of the time, simply putting the wig on is enough to show that even though the custom wig may look ‘thin’ it’s actually the perfect density. 


Custom wigs require some care and feeding

The fact is ALL wigs need some love. But a lot of mass-produced wigs are designed to be very low-maintenance. The style or texture has literally been heat fused into the hair. That means even a sweaty musical number might not really affect the style or overall look. Many of these wigs have extra hair in them so they maintain volume. 

These aren’t bad things, at least in many situations. They can be assets, in fact.

But most of the time, that extra hairstyle durability does come at the cost of a more natural, realistic or comfortable wig. It also means the wig is far less flexible and that it will be harder, if not impossible, to alter the hairstyle. 

Many of our clients are coming to us because they want a wig that looks more natural and realistic and feels cooler (temperature) and more comfortable to wear. But if they’re used to a wig that can handle just about any situation without losing it’s curl, a custom wig can feel fragile and high maintenance.

Like the other points mentioned, practice and proactive maintenance can ease this transition. A few minutes of combing, cleaning and tending to your wig is far better than spending hours trying to undo a mess of mats or a style that’s fallen completely. 

And we have LOTS of resources to help you learn how to care for and maintain your custom wig without it turning into a stressful, time sucking experience. It’s very important to us that our clients enjoy wearing and using their wigs, so we do everything we can to make the learning process and the maintenance easy.

But if you really value having a wig you can put on, take off and not need to spend a ton of time caring for, a custom wig might not be the best option. 


For most people, transitioning from a factory wig to a custom wig is an exciting upgrade. The improved fit, lighter weight and more realistic appearance offset the potential drawbacks. But it’s important to understand that there ARE differences in the experience of using and wearing a custom wig and that it might not be the right choice for everyone at all points. 

We’re always happy to answer your questions, so if you’re thinking about upgrading to a custom wig but want to make sure it’s the right choice, drop us a line. You can also check out “Why a Custom Wig? A frank look at investing in a custom wig” for an objective discussion on deciding to have a wig made to order. 

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