Wigs come in two varieties: those made from real hair, and those made from synthetic hair. It is important to know what the hair is made out of before attempting to curl or style a wig, because using the wrong techniques can damage or even destroy the wig. Generally, wigs of a higher-quality are made from human hair, while less expensive wigs are made from synthetic modacrylic fibers.
Before styling or curling a wig, it is a good idea to invest in a wig stand or a canvas block. A good stand will securely hold the wig, allowing you to curl it easily. A canvas wig block is preferable to a metal stand or a Styrofoam headform because it is sturdier and heavier. Secure the wig to your headform with either wig tape or T-pins.
If you have a human hair wig, you can curl it with any technique you would use on your own naturally-growing hair. Human hair wigs can be curled with rollers, pincurls, or curling irons. If you are using a curling iron or hot rollers, make sure that the heat setting isn’t too high, or you may dry out the hair.
Synthetic wigs cannot be curled using a curling iron or any other tool that puts direct heat onto the hair fibers. Since modacrylic hair fibers are essentially a type of plastic, direct heat will melt the hair. Once modacrylic fibers are melted, there is no way to restore or repair them. The best way to curl a synthetic wig is with a hand-held steamer. This device can be found in most craft stores or in the fabric section of a large retail store. In order to operate a steamer, you plug it into an electrical outlet and then fill the steamer with water. Once the water has been heated, steam will come out of the nozzle. Be careful when operating a steamer, because steam burns can be very painful.
In order to steam curl a synthetic wig, the hair of the wig should be dry. Set the dry hair in plastic rollers according to your desired style, and then aim the nozzle of the steamer at the hair, keeping about half an inch away from the hair fibers. Go over each roller thoroughly with the steamer until the hair appears damp or wet, and then allow the rollers to remain in the hair until the wig is completely dry. Once you remove the rollers, you will have a steam-set curl that will last for several weeks.