The History Of The Lace Front Wig

Though the lace front wig is apparently not a new thing, it's new to most people outside of the entertainment and health care professions.

"Lace fronts were first developed for cancer patients and balding women," explains Diane DaCosta, 15-year veteran of hair design and author of 'Textured Tresses: The Ultimate Guide to Maintaining and Styling Natural Hair.' "Celebrities have been wearing them for years. These wigs were always used in movies, and drag queens have always used them."

Black hair care has indeed evolved since the days when entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker rode the press and curl to riches becoming the first self-made woman millionaire in the United States (black or white).

Since the turn of the 20th century, the hot comb has been replaced by relaxers, no-lye relaxers, braids, weaves and wigs made from Hawaiian silky, human, synthetic, Kankelon and knotty hair textures. The wig also has evolved, and the lace front is at the top of the heap.

In essence, lace fronts are wigs that have a small piece of lace mesh attached to the front which you attach to your head (by double-sided tape or glue), giving the illusion of a seamless hairline. If one is custom made, human hair is individually pulled through the lace, for an even more realistic look.

"Unlike a weave, you can get more versatility out of a lace front wig," says Ellin LaVar, star of her own show on WE, 'Hair Trauma.' "Also, you can change your style easily and make it look natural on a video because you can't see where the lace starts or ends."

"Usually when you wear wigs you have to wear bangs or pull the hair out in the front, but with a lace front wig, you glue this or tape it down so it looks like your own hairline," adds DaCosta. "But you just can't wear it like that. That's why it's always been a professional thing -- stage, theatrics and movies -- because you have to apply makeup to cover it."

A custom made lace front with the most expensive hair (Remy Indian) can cost upward of $16,000, according to Seheil Stotts, a celebrity hairstylist who recently suggested that a now-bald Britney Spears use one. Most good custom made lace fronts go for about $2,000-$3,000.

Yet for all of their realness, lace fronts are not perfect. Outside of their considerable expense, they can be visible to the naked eye and can come undone if one moves her facial muscles too violently or sweats.

"If you raise your forehead to make an expression, the demarcation of where the lace ends and the natural muscles of your forehead begin, you see a distinct line," explains LaVar. "On TV, it's not as noticable, on photos it can be touched up, on stage you're far away, all of that works. But if I'm talking to you in regular conversation, I'm going to see it."

Speaking of, there have been some very embarrassing photos floating around the Internet where the lace front has shown or the line has "torn" -- the most famous of Beyonce on stage with what looks like a burn on her face.

This is probably how lace fronts became a curiosity in the first place.

Because of the celebrity element, DaCosta predicts that knock-off lace fronts (with cheaper hair) are soon going to be all the rage. Her only reservation is that people are going to damage their hair because they don't know how to properly apply them.

"When this becomes really accessible, [consumers] are not going to use the proper glue, they're going to run out of it, they're going to try to use who knows what kind of glue and tear their hair off," she guesses. "And if you don't know how to apply the makeup, it's going to look crazy."

Even though there are already videos on YouTube on how to apply them, LaVar agrees that lace fronts are not necessarily for the layperson: "The lace is very delicate, it's not something that a person can just put on and take off quickly," she says. "You have to take it off a certain way, you have to clean it a certain way. It's not that easy."

By Angela Bronner, AOL Black Voices,

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