Choosing the best wig shampoo is largely a matter of what kind of wig you are trying to clean. Some wigs are made of human hair, while others are made of synthetic fibers, and they require different care. Wigs with highlights also may require a particular kind of shampoo, again somewhat depending on whether it consists of synthetic fibers or human hair.
The best wig shampoos are often sold in beauty supply stores and are formulated specifically for gently cleaning either synthetic or human-hair wigs. Synthetic wigs require special handling, because they are made of fibers instead of real hair. For this reason, some wig shampoos are formulated more like a laundry detergent for delicate fabrics, and some stylists recommend using a delicate fabric detergent as a wig shampoo. Soaking a synthetic wig in fabric softener also is sometimes recommended.
Another option for cleaning a synthetic wig is to use a baby shampoo or other gentle shampoo. The key is to use a gentle cleanser that will prevent the wig’s fibers from fraying. Deep-cleaning shampoos should be avoided, because they can strip some of the color out of your wig.
Once a synthetic wig becomes matted or stiff, it is difficult for even the best wig shampoo to bring it back to life. Synthetic hair generally does not absorb the moisturizers in a shampoo or conditioner, though a deep-conditioning shampoo is sometimes helpful in untangling a wig. You can sometimes extend the life of a synthetic wig by choosing the right wig shampoo, though many synthetic wigs wear out rather quickly, regardless. How long such a wig lasts depends more on the quality of the wig than the shampoo.
Human-hair wigs tend to cost more and last longer than synthetic wigs, though they still need special care. Part of the reason extra care is needed is that human-hair wigs are often processed multiple times. This happens when a wig is dyed to change its color or a permanent is applied to make the hair curly.
Some stylists recommend using shampoo for processed hair on human-hair wigs. If your wig is highlighted, for example, you could try a shampoo made for color-treated hair. A human-hair wig that is curly also might work well with a shampoo formulated for hair that is chemically treated.
You will probably use a wig shampoo less than you would use shampoo on your natural hair, because wigs generally do not need to be washed frequently. Over-washing a wig can actually wear it out faster. Even if you are wearing the wig every day, washing it once or twice a week is usually enough.
How you use wig shampoo also is important. Cool water is recommended, because it is gentler and causes less fraying and frizzing than hot water. Gently swishing the wig in a basin or sink filled with cool water and a cap full of wig shampoo also is recommended over harsh scrubbing, which can damage the wig. After washing the wig, it should be gently patted dry and placed on a wig stand to dry.