How to make that cheap plastic wig look good

Just after last Halloween I got a couple $5 wigs from the post-Halloween clearance sale.  One of them was rainbow, which I was very excited about, but the fact that it was $5 was pretty obvious.  It was bent from being in a package and impossible to brush and generally not very cute.  It looked nothing like the picture.

Fantasy & Reality


This wig is not even the same colors.  It’s clearly been cut and also styled some way that made it pastel.  And there’s a whole pink layer that doesn’t even appear to be visible here.

Suffice to say, not accurate advertising.  You can see how sketchy it looks on the sides in the picture of me, just bent and weird.  With a hat on and me twisting it to the side I could get a decent photo, but it was way too ratty to wear, which was too bad because I quite liked the colors.  I gave up on it, but not quite enough to throw it away.

Then I got invited to the SC Pride Sweetheart Gala for Valentine’s and I felt like it would be criminal not to try to make the wig work, so I did some research and, with my short amount of time, fixed it up to the point that people were asking if it was my real hair.  There are other methods (boiling or blowdrying on low with plastic curlers), but this is what I did.

1. Wash the wig — I used All laundry detergent and lukewarm water.  Fill the bathtub a couple inches with a bit of detergent, let the wig sit in the soapy water for a minute.  Rinse in lukewarm water.  Smoosh in a towel to get excess water.

2. Fabric Softener — I stole a Bounce dryer sheet from my boyfriend and just rubbed it through the damp wig, trying to get every strand.

3. Towel dry more, remove big snarls with your fingers, and then hang to dry.  The cap will take a while to get semi-dry.  I let it dry for 4-5 hours before the next step.

4.  The fabric softener made it much easier to comb through the hair and it was quite soft, but it didn’t fix the weird bends in the hair. The wig and the internet tells you not to use curling irons on synthetic wigs, but I only had about 4 hours until the Gala, so I was willing to experiment.  The wig was still slightly damp from the fabric softener.  I have a Conair Instant 1″ Iron with 25 heat settings — the highest is 380, I don’t  know what the lowest one is in degrees — but I put it on the lowest setting of 1.  It was too hot to leave my fingers on, but didn’t burn me if I touched it briefly.


5. Then I curled it two layers of hair tracks at a time — or in five layers, excluding the bangs, which I dealt with separately.  The way I curl is the front inch of hair is curled away from the face, Farrah Fawcett style, and the rest of the hair is parted in the middle and curled towards the face.  Bigger curling iron gives you wavy hair rather than ringlets, if that’s how you want to go.

THIS IS A SLOW PROCESS.  It took me three episodes of Doctor Who to do the whole wig.


I left the curler on for a bit longer than I would my normal hair, until the hair felt hot through, always checking to makes sure it didn’t feel melty, but it never did.  Lots of places recommend you clip the curls to let them set, but I let them cool hanging down because I wanted more of a wavy effect than a very curly one.  It still set quite curly.  Much easier to curl than real hair.

The really nice thing about the curls is that they revealed some variations in the color that just weren’t apparent in the wig as it was.  It also made the hair look much softer and less frayed at the ends. (These pics are next day, after having worn it for 5 hours, including for some dancing — the curls held well).


6. Style the bangs when you’ve put the wig on your head.  There’s too much guesswork, even if you’ve got a fake head to style on.  The long bangs on this were nice because they hid my hair up front and allowed me to pull back the hair in bobby pins to reveal the layers better, and get the unflattering green off my face.

7. Go be fabulous and if someone asks if it’s your hair be like, “I own it, so yeah!”

Before and After

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How to make that cheap plastic wig look good

12 thoughts on “How to make that cheap plastic wig look good

  1. 2

    It took me three episodes of Doctor Who to do the whole wig.

    I must get my timepiece calibrated to the Doctor Who episode timekeeping system. “How long do you cook a soft-boiled egg?” “One-tenth of a Doctor Who episode.”

  2. 3

    Hey there…you might say I have extensive experience with synthetic hair due decades of braiding. I have found boiling water or a commercial grade steamer (extra points if you have one with its upholstery brushes) and a dab of silicone based lube for detangling and shine….

  3. 4

    I will never understand women or their hair style choices but I think that you look far better in the “before” pic than the “after”. Keep in mind, I am male and at least 30 years older than you so my opinion is quite likely irrelevant. On the other hand I agree that the picture of what the wig is supposed to look like is awesome.

  4. 7

    It has been well documented that the continuous use of hair extensions can cause damage to your own hair, scalp and hair follicles. It is vitally important that you ensure that your hair and scalp are in good condition before proceeding to choose to add Remy hair extensions, weaves, pre-bonded tips or clip-ins. If you are using the sew-in method of attachment then ensure that your own hair is healthy strong and more than 2″ in length.

  5. 8

    I hope this works, Halloween is my favorite holiday but usually I’m something that either requires my hair looking terrible (zombie) or I just put my hair up in a bun and use the colored hairspray, which has always looked good. But now my hair is really short and thinner than it used to be and I wanted something long and full. So when I found a purple and black wig that was big long and curly I fell in love with it. I just opened it and the long curly part doesnt look too bad but the purple bangs are all over the place and look terrible on so many levels, tomorrow after work I’m going to attempt to fix it, I’ll let you know if it works lol, might even post up a picture.

  6. 11

    […] There is nothing wrong with buying a less expensive synthetic wig when Make sure that your wig is washed, clean and ready to go. When it comes to synthetic wigs, which on a lower market can look ‘cheap,’ use laundry detergent and warm water to make sure your wig is clean. Let the wig sit in soapy water, and dry gently with a towel to avoid tangles. If you are in a hurry, the powder of dry shampoo gets rid of that false shine in synthetic wigs. […]

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