Wigs 101: The differences between costume, cosplay, and “good” synthetic wigs

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Originally posted on May 07, 2013 by Heather Hershey

Cosplay has been a popular activity at ComiCon and other conventions for many years. You may have noticed a recent glut of cosplay wigs available on Ebay, Amazon, and other retailers. So what gives? Here’s a brief rundown of some of the major differences between Halloween and other costume wigs, cosplay wigs, and the every day kind of wigs that we sell here at CysterWigs.


About: These are the sort of wigs you can buy from WalMart and costume stores certain times of the year.

Price: They can range from the extremely cheap to somewhat convincing, with prices that range around $15 – $40.

Usefulness: These wigs are primarily meant for one time use.

Hair Fibers: Always synthetic. The fibers tend to be really cheap and will tangle and break at the ends with little wear.

Cap Construction: These are the cheapest wigs you can possibly buy. As a result, the caps tend to be very cheaply made. You don’t get a lot of hair, which means that the wefts (or tracks of hair sewn into the cap) are easily visible. The caps have no fancy features: no monofilament or lace fronts, heat-friendly fibers, or anything like that. The caps tend to run really small or really large. They also lose their cap shape pretty easily.

Wearability: As anyone who’s worn one of these can attest to, they are very itchy to wear because of the shoddy cap construction and scratchy doll-like hair used.

Overall Realism: These wigs are definitely not intended to look realistic. Everyone will know they’re part of a costume. The front hair lines, for example, are often atrocious and the fibers are ultra-mega shiny.

Wearable Life: These are basically intended for one time use, but perhaps they’ll get you through a weekend.

Conclusion: As long as you wear them as intended — as part of an obvious costume you only wear once or twice — then you will be fine with this kind of hair. 



About: These wigs are worn by cosplayers, people who go to conventions or parties dressed like their favorite (or sometimes the most obscure favorite) character from Anime, video games, or some other cool pop culture source. They come in natural shades and, most often, fun, super bright color combinations reminiscent of a cartoon…on purpose. 😉

Price: Ranges from $17 – $50. These are relatively inexpensive, but since most of the people who cosplay tend to be younger buyers who are unaware of the overall wig market (because they don’t have to wear them every day), you’ll see a lot of message board posts where they complain about $35 being “expensive”. (God love ’em.)

Usefulness: These wigs can be used multiple times, but are not intended for daily use.

Hair Fibers: Mostly synthetic, occasionally made of cheap human hair (from generally unethical sources). These synthetics are almost always silky Kanekalon, but some are Futura, meaning that they’re heat resistant.

Cap Construction: These are slightly better than Halloween wigs, with a better fit. They still lack any fancy cap options that lend to the overall realism (like mono tops or lace fronts). They may still have issues with obvious wefting. Occasionally they will have skin parts on top of the rose lace.

Wearability: These wigs tend to be heavy (especially longer ones) and can hold heat in very well. They are available in elaborate designs and colors that may not hold up during extended usage. Due to the cheap cap construction, many have crazy bangs that will need to be trimmed or otherwise altered. Even high quality synthetics have a wearable life with everyday wear of about 3 – 6 months. The wearable life of a cosplay wig is about a month of everyday wear.

Overall Realism: These can sometimes look very realistic. Most don’t on purpose.

Wearable Life: About a month of every day wear.

Conclusion: These wigs come in cool, fun colors and styles that can look great as part of a cosplay or as a means of switching up your look for a night out. Not recommended for every day use unless you intend to dispose of it after a few weeks.


About: These are the most natural kind of wigs you can buy without having one customized specifically for your head. High-end synthetics and human hair wigs like the ones you’ll find at CysterWigs.com are made specifically to be worn every day in comfort. These are also occasionally referred to as hair prosthetics, alternative hair, and “chemo” wigs – though anyone with hair loss or a passion for style can enjoy these, not just “chemo” patients.

Price: These range in price from about $50 – $1000+ . It all depends on which options are important to you.

Usefulness: These wigs can be worn all day long, every day, for multiple months.

Hair Fibers: Kanekalon and mono fiber synthetics are common. Heat resistant synthetic fibers that can be heat styled are also commonly available. Some brands have their own fiber formulas which can make for more natural or lighter weight hair densities. Colors tend to be more natural, but some companies dabble with fun colors too. Beautiful highlighted shades and rooted color options (which add beauty to the appearance as well as an added dimension of realism) are also available.

Cap Construction: The sky is honestly the limit – which is why there is such a wide price range associated with this kind of wig. These can come in junior, petite, average, and large wig cap sizes. Monofilament tops, parts, and 100% hand-tied caps are common. These can mimic the appearance of a real scalp and the hairs will pivot naturally where sewn, giving the hair natural movement. These wigs have more hair, but tend to weigh less. Wefts are virtually invisible due to hair density and craftsmanship. There are a lot more options with this kind of wig. You definitely get what you pay for in most cases. You can get any feature you want to make the wig look more natural.

Wearability: These are the most comfortable wigs you can buy online.

Overall Realism: These are the most realistic wigs you can buy online…hence the price difference.

Wearable Life: Synthetics get about 3 – 6 months of every day wear. Human hair wigs can last YEARS with every day wear, depending on how you care for them.

Conclusion: Comfortable, lightweight, and very realistic – wigs designed for every day wear come in a wide variety of brands, styles, shapes, colors, and cap constructions. It’s not hard to find a cute one to match your needs and your budget. This is what we specialize in. Let us know if you need any help finding the right wig for you.

A beautiful quote to get you through the week

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Originally posted on April 03, 2013 by Heather Hershey

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today, take a break from all concern, worry, striving, and effort. Those later two can seem down-right unAmerican, but sometimes it’s a good thing to just sit back, clear your mind, take a deep breath, and BE. Inhale…exhale…PEACE.


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Originally Posted on April 27, 2013 by Heather Hershey
Updated on August 11, 2016 by Heather Hershey

Tips? Frost? Highlights???

Wig hair colors and combinations can be even more complicated than the options at a salon! Here’s a handy crash-course in some of the terms you may see in our color listings. I’ve listed everything in progression from least fancy to the most complicated.



(Shown: Obsession in Burgundy – a discontinued costume wig)

This is an easy one to spot. You’ll usually see it on less expensive wigs, like costume wigs. lower end “hi fashion” wigs, or value styles. The color is the same throughout the wig with little to no variation or blend in tone. These do not look particularly realistic to most people due to the uniformity of the color.



(Shown: Madison by Envy in Light Blonde & the discontinued Ariel by Estetica in R30/28/26)

Most of the colors you’ll come across in our wigs are blended tones, meaning that multiple variations of color are blended together in the same wig to give the hair a more natural and nuanced color profile. Some wig brands blend in a more dramatic fashion than others. Envy, for example, generally blends two tones that are one level apart, like what you can see in their Dark Blonde color. This accomplishes an expensive straight-from-the-salon look. Other companies blend in a more subdued fashion. For example, Ariel by Estetica (above) is being shown in a three tone blend. The colors are blended very close together and in small sections, giving the hair a more natural variation of color.

Blended colors are usually indicated in the color code with a slash or period between the colors. The R30/28/26 above, for example, is a blend that is mostly a #30 (a medium auburn), with some #28 (Irish copper) blended in, and a little #26 (butterscotch blonde) thrown into the mix for flavor. Usually the order they are presented indicated which tones are most prominent, with the first color listed usually comprising the majority of the blend.



(Shown: Emma by Estetica in color RH1488)

Highlights come in many varieties, and we’ll discuss some of those here. Most of the regular highlights you’ll come across are subtle, with the color variations only being a shade or two off from the base color. Most basic highlighted shades are a base tone with a highlight tone about one level lighter.

Like blended shades, highlighted shades usually have a slash or periods in the color code…but not always!You may also see the letter “H” in the code. There is no universal convention for naming highlighted wig colors. This makes it tricky, for sure!

Each brand does this a little differently. In the case of the RH1488, this is a #14 (honey blonde) base with #88 (soft gold blonde) highlight. The “H” in the color code tells us it’s highlighted and the order they are presented gives us the base and highlight shade.

Most wigs with traditional highlights will place the bulk of the highlighted coloration in the front of the wig to “frame the face” or on the top layer of hair to add dynamics to the overall appearance of the hair. Only certain specific kinds of highlight distribution schemes (such as Jon Renau’s “Syrup Shades”) will result in highlights all throughout the wig.


(Tori by René of Paris Hi Fashion in Chocolate Frost)

Frosting and Highlighting are not necessarily two different things although they are thought of as two different things.

Frost is another kind of highlight. Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. A frost tone is always lighter than the base shade, and is often many levels lighter than the rest of the hair – which is why it’s called frost. The highlights also tend to be slightly smaller pieces all over the hair.



(Shown: Jamison by Estetica in R12/26CH)

Chunking is just like highlighting, except large sections of hair (IE: “chunks”) are used to create a bold, youthful, salon-fresh kind of color scheme.



(Shown: Christina in color R613/20H)

Low-lights are a bit like basic highlights in reverse, with the lighter tone providing the base and the darker tone adding depth via slightly darker coloring throughout. Christina, above, is a great example of this. R613/20H has a light French vanilla blonde base with dark golden blonde lowlights.



(Shown: Orchid by Estetica in RT330RT4 and Ignite by Jon Renau in 12FS8 aka Shaded Praline)

A rooted wig color is often highlighted and will have darker roots than the rest of the hair. The roots can be a little darker (like the color on Orchid, above) or can be dramatically darker than the surrounding hairs (like the color on Ignite).

This does two things for you:

1) It obscures the hairline of non-monofilament wigs so it’s harder to tell you’re wearing a hair piece

2) It gives wigs the appearance of new hair growth, like you need to get a touch up at a salon in a couple of weeks. Both effects enhance the realism of your wig.


Gradient roots are just like “shaded” roots, except the rooting is often a medium or dark brown and slightly longer and more dramatic than a traditional rooted color.


These are a hybrid between dramatic gradient roots and ombré colors. Rooting is usually quite dark compared to the base shade and very long, with the roots usually ending somewhere near the mid-face. The color gently fades into the base shade where the root ends, similar to ombré coloration.


Ombré colors usually start darker at the top and gradually transition into one or more other colors as they progress down the length of the hair shaft. These can be subtle and approximate natural hair lightening in the sun (balayage), or they can be more dramatic with more pronounced colors to look like you spent serious time in the salon achieving the color. Ombré colors can be rooted or unrooted.



(Shown: Spicy by Jon Renau in FS26/31 aka Caramel Syrup)

Syrup Shades have a lot more highlights than regular highlighted colors and these highlights tend to be wider than normal, but not quite a chunk. The highlights go all through out the cap, crown to nape, with the highlight shade(s) making up about 1/3 – 1/4 of the overall color of the hair.


I hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions about color, please send an email to support@cysterwigs.zendesk.com.


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We love playing with hair — and we hope that you do too!
There are lots of great reasons to embrace the wear of alternative hair!
Here are just a few…

  1.  Wigs are fun!
  2. You can reinvent yourself on a daily basis!
  3. Have you always wanted curly hair? Or straight hair? Or red? You can have it in SECONDS  with a wig, without having to break out the mousse.
  4. Sometimes wearing a wig can actually save you hundreds of dollars you might have spent at a salon!
  5. Doesn’t everyone want to live in a world without bad hair days ever again for the rest of their life? 😉
  6. Wigs can provide you with confidence and even take years off your appearance!
  7. We are on a mission. More than 10 million women of childbearing age have a condition called PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It is the most common cause of female-pattern hair loss in pre-menopausal women. We want to help them find their dream hair!
  8. A lot of women lose their hair for a bunch of reasons. It’s NEVER their fault. We understand that and want to be a compassionate place for them to rediscover their beauty.
  9. Sometimes gentlemen like pretty hair too. And you know what? We love them too!


Thank you for visiting our little corner of the interwebs.


PS: Please be sure to contact our awesome Client Care Help Desk or visit our private, secure Wig Knowledge Base and Interactive Community if you have any questions!


– Heather and the Team @ CysterWigs.com