Pros & Cons of Toupees
Reviewed by Aimee Paik, MD
Written by Our Editorial Team
When most people think of the word “toupee,” their brain conjures images of caricaturesque tufts of mismatched hair, plopped on the heads of sad-looking people just trying to do their best. There’s a gust of wind that comes out of nowhere to humiliate an unsuspecting toupee wearer. Or maybe it’s just a static image of Cousin Itt from the Addams Family, hair strewn head-to-toe.
Either way, when we think of the word “toupee,” the next word we think of is “nope.”
But toupees have come a long, long way in the last few decades. What were once considered last-chance options by people whose hairlines were quickly approaching non-existent have actually transformed into a reasonable, financially viable temporary fix for men who want to look and feel their best despite their hair loss woes.
One of the biggest advantages of wearing a toupee is the ability to conceal the appearance of baldness. However, they also have several significant downsides, which means they may not be the best option for treating for hair loss.
TL;DR: Hair Toupees for Men
Male pattern baldness is a common problem that affects around half of all men by the time they reach their 40s. Many men even develop premature hair loss in their 20s, which can be an extremely distressing, confidence-killing experience.
The word “toupee” refers to a small type of hairpiece, usually made of artificial or human hair, designed to be worn at the top of your scalp to cover areas that are affected by hair loss.
Most toupees for men can look convincing when fitted properly but can be costly and inconvenient to deal with daily.
If you want to treat your hair loss, you’ll likely get better results by using evidence-based, FDA-approved hair loss medications such as minoxidil and/or finasteride.
If you have noticeable hair loss, procedures like hair transplantation surgery can restore hair to areas of your scalp affected by baldness.
Below, we’ve dived deep into what toupee hair pieces are and how they can be used to cover areas of your scalp affected by hair loss. We’ve also looked at the advantages and disadvantages of toupees, from aesthetics to cost, convenience and more.
Finally, we’ve looked at several evidence-based treatment options for slowing down, stopping and even reversing hair loss in men.
What Is a Toupee?
A toupee for men is a type of small wig or hairpiece that’s usually worn to cover up a bald spot on your scalp. Most toupees are made from real or synthetic hair and are worn at the scalp's crown — the area at the top of the head that's often prone to hair loss from male pattern baldness.
The term “toupee” comes from the French toupet, which refers to a tuft of hair. During the 18th century, toupees evolved from realistic hairpieces to exaggerated devices that featured padding, cushions and wireframes to create the appearance of incredible hair volume.
People in the olden days were weird as hell.
Today, toupees are marketed under various names — including “hair replacement systems", “hair systems” and “non-surgical hair replacement systems” — and are designed to blend seamlessly with your natural hair.
Compared to traditional wigs, toupees are smaller and made to fit more loosely to cover areas affected by hair thinning or baldness. These men’s hair systems are typically attached with adhesive and can stick to your scalp for three to six weeks at a time.
Toupees are typically made with either French or Swiss lace. Swiss lace tends to be a thinner style and is typically used to lace front toupees, while French lace is a more durable style for men’s wigs and is easier to use for a first-time toupee wearer.
Advantages of Using a Hair Toupee
The biggest, most obvious advantage of wearing a toupee is that it covers up the fact that you’re balding.
This can make wearing a human hair wig or toupee a good choice if you’re interested in hiding your hair loss when you’re in public but don’t want to commit to other treatments, like using medication or getting something like hair transplant surgery.
Disadvantages of Using a Hair Toupee
On the other hand, toupees for men have several disadvantages. These drawbacks include:
The good ones can cost a lot
They need to be fitted by a professional
They can be time-consuming to maintain and re-apply
They’re a temporary fix to an increasingly permanent problem
The first of these is that a convincing hair toupee can be pretty expensive, both to purchase and to have fitted professionally.
Toupees can range in price from less than $100 to several thousand dollars. Yes, really.
As a general rule, the more convincing a toupee looks, the more it’ll cost. You know what they say: Good ain’t cheap and cheap usually ain’t good.
A good quality toupee will need to be fitted by a specialist to match your scalp, unlike less expensive, off-the-shelf wigs for hair loss.
Just like with natural hair, you’ll need to clean and condition your toupee to keep it looking its best. Over time, these hair maintenance products can add up.
Beyond costs, men’s toupees have several other disadvantages. First, there's the inconvenience factor of applying adhesive to your fake hair every three to six weeks and trying to fit it onto your scalp.
While a natural-looking toupee can look almost identical to your natural hair, a bad toupee can be, well… unfortunately hilarious.
Finally, when it comes to actually “treating” male pattern baldness, toupees only offer temporary results. Unlike hair loss medications or surgery, once you remove your toupee, you’ll still be affected by baldness that may become more severe over time.
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What Does a Bad Toupee Look Like?
So, what separates a good toupee from a bad one? Bad toupees can stand out in several ways, all of which are negative.
Common signs of a bad toupee include:
Not matching your hair color. If you wear a toupee, it’s important for it to match your natural hair color as closely as possible. Any contrast in hair color can make it obvious where your natural hair ends and the toupee begins.
Having an artificial texture. High-quality toupees are made from human hair. One of the most common signs of a bad hair piece for men is an artificial texture and appearance, which can often occur with a synthetic wig.
Adding too much hair density. If your hair is thinning, wearing a toupee that gives you a full head of hair can make things up top look awkward and unnatural. A good quality toupee should look as natural as possible, which means matching your natural level of hair coverage and choosing the appropriate hairstyle.
Looking “too perfect.” Very few 50-year-olds have the natural hairline of a 20-year-old man. Bad men’s hair systems often provide a perfect Norwood 1 hairline, which can look unnatural if you’re in your 40s, 50s or older.
Toupee Alternatives for Treating Hair Loss
Contrary to popular belief, hair loss isn’t just something that affects older men. In fact, according to research published in the journal of Dermatologic Surgery, 16 percent of men aged 18 to 29 are already affected by moderate to extensive hair loss.
If you are among this group of men and toupees just aren’t your thing, the good news is you have other options. Possible alternatives include:
Hair transplant surgery
Following a well-balanced diet
Finasteride is a prescription-only, FDA-approved medication that works by blocking dihydrotestosterone, or DHT — an androgenic hormone that can damage your hair follicles and prevent them from creating new hairs.
Our guide to DHT and hair loss goes into more detail about how this hormone is created, as well as the effects it can have on your hair if you’re genetically prone to male pattern baldness.
Numerous studies have found that finasteride is effective at stopping hair loss from male pattern baldness and stimulating hair regrowth.
In one study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, a group of over 1200 men given finasteride experienced a more than 15 percent increase in scalp hair count around the crown over the course of the two-year treatment.
And that efficacy has some staying power. In a 10-year study of finasteride carried out in Japan, more than 99 percent of men who took finasteride experienced no further hair loss, with 91.5 percent even showing noticeable improvements in their hair.
While minoxidil’s exact mechanism of action still isn’t fully understood, it’s believed to promote consistent hair growth by increasing blood flow to the scalp and causing your hair follicles to enter into their anagen (growth) phase early.
Several studies have found that minoxidil works wonders for men who suffer from hair loss. In one study, 84.3 percent of men with male pattern hair loss who used minoxidil for 12 months rated it as either very effective, effective or moderately effective at stimulating hair regrowth.
Hair Transplant Surgery
If you’re dealing with a noticeable bald patch at your crown or an obvious receding hairline that you’d like to fill in with hair, you may want to consider hair transplant surgery.
This type of procedure involves surgically transplanting hair follicles from the back and sides of your scalp (areas that aren’t normally affected by male pattern baldness) to your hairline, crown or other areas with noticeable thinning.
Several methods are used to perform this procedure, each with different costs, advantages and disadvantages — one thing we can tell you in advance is that none of them are very cost-effective.
Following a Well-Balanced Diet
The old saying “You are what you eat” really holds true, especially when it comes to prioritizing your hair health.
Protein filaments called keratin are the building blocks of your hair. If you want to support your hair health and maintain your manly mane, add plenty of quality protein sources like poultry and fish to your diet.
Aside from bumping up your protein intake, incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet can also pose a number of benefits. These ingredients are packed with vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal hair health, and they can also help strengthen the hair you still have.
Our list of foods to eat for hair growth shares specific ingredients that’re filled with nutrients to support hair growth and help you avoid nutritional deficiencies that may affect your overall hair health.
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No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere. Early action is the best hair loss prevention.
The Bottom Line on Hair Pieces for Men
The hair pieces available today are a long ways away from your father’s toupee, that’s for sure.
If you’ve been considering using a hair piece to help you feel like your best, most handsome self while you sort out a more permanent hair loss treatment plan, here’s what you should take away from this article:
They’re good for what they are. A solid, good-quality hair piece can definitely help you conceal your hair loss problems. If they’re fitted properly and cared for properly, it would take a real professional to be able to tell when your real hair ends and your hair piece begins. They don’t require a prescription, they come in all shapes and sizes and they’re almost definitely less expensive than, say, hair transplantation surgery.
They’re not a cure. While wearing a men’s hairpiece offers certain advantages, it isn’t a treatment for hair loss. Although it will cover up the fact that you’re balding, it's only exactly that — a disguise. This means that your hair loss might get worse over time, even if it looks better, thanks to your toupee.
There are more effective treatment options. If you’d like to take real action against hair loss, you’ll get far better results by using medication such as finasteride or minoxidil. These medications are backed by real scientific evidence showing improvements in almost every aspect of your hair health, from growth to overall coverage.
If you’re ready to add a hair loss treatment to your daily routine, Hims offers finasteride online as part of our range of hair loss medications, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate for you.
Looking to do more research? Learn about your options for preventing thinning and maintaining your hair in our detailed guide to the best treatments for thinning hair.