Most people with extensive hair loss – usually caused by alopecia totalis or cancer chemotherapy – prefer to wear a wig. In recent years, wigs have improved greatly and it’s no longer painfully obvious that someone is wearing one.

1) Wigs

These are lightweight acrylic and look extremely natural, although they may feel hot to wear. They can be washed (but do not use a hairdryer – the heat can make them frizzle or melt). It does not matter if an acrylic wig is worn in the rain.

Because they are in stock sizes, acrylic wigs can be obtained quickly. They need to be replaced every 6–9 months. Most people have two: one to wear and one to wash. For totally bald heads, special adhesive pads are available to stop the wig slipping, and some women also use them for extra security.

Real-hair wigs. Some people still prefer a real hair wig, but these cost almost £200 each even when obtained through the NHS in the UK. However, they last for 3–4 years. They are made to measure, taking 6–8 weeks. They cannot be washed, and must be protected from rain. They are also more trouble than an acrylic wig, because they have to be styled and set like real hair, and you will have to buy a wig block for styling it.

If you decide to buy your wig privately from a department store, explain your predicament and ask for a private fitting room.

You will probably feel you look very odd in the first few wigs you try on – partly because you haven’t seen yourself with hair for a while. Persevere until you find one you like.

Each time, make sure you put the wig on properly – it is quite easy to put a wig on backwards.

At home, don’t leave your wigs lying around. If you feel happier going to bed in your wig, do so.

Remember that at a party you will not be the only one wearing something false. What about false nails, bosoms and teeth?

2) Hairpieces

For male pattern baldness, some men like to wear a hairpiece. Like wigs, these have improved in recent years and some now look very natural, if carefully matched to the existing hair. Some clinics suggest implanting clips into the scalp to hold the hairpiece more firmly in place, but this is not to be recommended because it can result in inflammation and infection of the scalp.

Modern hairpieces are glued to the scalp and remaining hair, so there is no danger of them coming off. However, they usually need to be adjusted every 6–8 weeks as your own hair grows.