How To Make Even A Cheap Halloween Wig Look Real Good(ish)

by Virginia Duan
Originally Published: 
Wide choice of cheap wigs on mannequins to buy for a halloween costume

Halloween is upon us and everyone knows that one of the quickest ways you can transform a look is to add a wig. The problem is that a good wig costs money — especially if it’s made of human hair and not synthetics — but not all of us are willing to shell out big bucks just for a Halloween costume.

However, just because you’re budget conscious doesn’t mean that you want to look like you are! After all, isn’t that why “baller on a budget” is a thing? Plus, whether your wig is expensive or not, you likely want it to look as much like your actual hair as possible — and the key to that is in the customization. Read on for some tips on how you can make even a cheap Halloween wig look more like the real thing.

Choosing a wig

Depending on the kind of wig you get, your attempt at getting a realistic look will be easier or harder. After all, like all products, wigs are not all the same and the range and quality will vary across materials, cost, and manufacturer.

Save money and buy one from a hair or beauty store

Costume shops have a huge markup on wigs because they can! After all, costume stores have to make their money somehow, and they’re saving you an extra trip, right? However, if you want something of quality for less, make the extra trip to a beauty supply or hair shop. Plus, a specialized shop will have a lot more selection and range from which to choose!

Get a wig with a lace front

The general rule is that wigs seem more realistic if you can’t see the hairline — especially if it’s made of synthetic material. One way to get around this is to buy a synthetic wig with bangs (or cut bangs.) Another is to buy a lace front (a wig with a very thin, almost sheer lace material at the front of the wig to mimic a realistic hairline).

Bonus tip: if you do decide to get a wig with a lace front, try to choose one where the lace front matches the skin tone of your forehead. If you can’t, it’s not a dealbreaker. You can use concealer on the inside of the lace at your edges or wherever you part the hair to help it blend in better with your scalp.

Consider clip-ins or hairpieces

Hey, wigs can be expensive, hot, and itchy. Maybe you aren’t changing your natural hair color and just want to add body or length (or maybe just a pop of color.) You can do that by buying clip-ins or hairpieces of different lengths and thicknesses at your local hair shop and have them clip into or under your hair.

How to prepare and style your wig


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Now that you have your wig, customizing it — as well as implementing a few hacks — will make it look as real as possible. Pro tip: instead of styling the wig as it’s on your head, set it on a styrofoam head. This way, you can also easily style the back, too!

Cut or trim it

Most wigs when they come fresh out of the box have blunt cuts and don’t really look that great. If you have some skill with scissors, give the hair a better shape and or trim so it looks more natural. If you’re worried about ruining it, you can try first with thinning scissors which will give a softer effect. (You can always take it to a professional hair stylist, but that kind of ruins the whole budget vibe.)

Dye it

This usually works better on blond hair, but you can definitely color wig hair — but make sure it’s one made of natural human hair fibers.

Use a wig brush

If you’ve ever had to comb out a doll’s matted hair, you’ll know that using a brush for regular hair will damage the doll hair. The same goes for wig hair. Normal brushes are too harsh and can break or hurt wig hair, so make sure you get a wide-tooth wet brush to detangle the hair.

Don’t use heat on synthetic wigs

If you have a natural hair wig, you can definitely use heat elements like curling irons and straighteners when styling, but if your wig is made with synthetic fibers, avoid heat! It will fry the fibers and ruin it. Instead, you can try using a steamer and a paddle brush. (This will also loosen some of the tighter curls and help with realism.)

Mattify the wig

Most wigs come with an unnatural sheen — no matter if it’s natural hair or synthetic. Add dry shampoo or hair powder to take the shine down.

Tweeze the part

Wigs often make extremely obvious and distinct parts. You can tweeze out random hairs around the part to soften it and seem softer and more natural.

Add product

Just like your own hair, synthetic wigs and particularly those made of healthy human hair will also need some help. For wet human hair wigs, you can blow it dry with thickening spray in the hair. Use flexible hair sprays if you’re prepping a human hair wig or just starting on a synthetic one. You can set after you’re done with a setting spray, too.

How to care for and store a wig

Once you have spent the money on a Halloween wig, it wouldn’t make sense to waste all the time you spent on styling or getting the funds to pay for it. Plus, the better you care for it, the more it will keep and look real when you re-use it.

Invest in a styrofoam head

You didn’t spend all this time on customization and styling just to throw the wig in a bag in the corner of your closet (and mess it all up)! Most styrofoam heads are about $5 to $10 and will keep your wig neatly styled until you’re ready to wear it.

Use wig-specific products for cleaning

Even if it’s made of human hair, regular shampoo and conditioner contains too many harsh chemicals that will damage the hair. So, when you are washing the wig, make sure you use the right kinds of products so you don’t ruin the fibers (and thus, make it look less like real hair).

Protect your own hair

Yes, I realize that this section is technically about caring for your wig — but your hair also matters! Make sure your hair is dry; damp hair can breed bacteria and mildew. Moisturize your hair because wigs can dry out hair, and consider using a wig cap for comfort and keeping your own hair in place underneath the wig. Experts recommend keeping your hair in braids like cornrows or two French braids to keep your hair tight and flat under the wig.

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