I Used an AI Software to Make a Wig
Two words. Eight letters. One common refrain commonly used amongst Black women in group chat messages, encounters on the street, and Instagram or TikTok comment sections to show admiration for a perfectly undetectable lace. Even Chloe x Halle sang “Takin’ pictures, make sure you can’t see no lace” in their 2020 single “Do It” to emphasize the importance of a flawless install. With that particular phrase, you’ll know if the $200-plus you spent on a new wig was a worthy investment or the cause of the burn hole in your wallet.
Honestly, it took me years to get to the “What lace?” stage of Black Girlhood. For far too long, I had left my fate in the hands of non-Black, foreign merchants who had co-opted the beauty business with a one-size-fits-all approach to wigs and subpar hair quality to match. As a result, I had to look for a new wig every four to six months, which isn’t the most sustainable, and I had to wear baggy wigs that danced around my nape (luckily, the public was unaware of this). A good-looking wig was hard to come by on Aliexpress or Amazon, so I had to advance to the next level: amateur stylist.
More From ELLE
Like everything else in life, Black women are obliged to deal with the limitations imposed upon them. And when it comes to the wig-buying procedure, this includes limited parting space, low, thin hair density from root to ends, and a significant amount of shedding. There was a new lesson to be learned for every unskilled overseas vendor who was uninterested in learning about the market and consumers they were selling to. Thanks to YouTube University—and its top professors Fabulasityisme, StylesByFash, and Tiarra Monet—I became a star pupil in “plucking 101” and “intro to a flawless melt-down.” Still, I grew tired of spending hundreds of dollars on a mediocre wig, and even more money on wig glues, holding sprays, styling foams, hot tools, and tweezers.
It became clear that no amount of YouTube tutorials or money spent attempting to make an imperfect wig great could make up for an antiquated market fraught with conflict, a problem that numerous Black-owned wig companies have attempted to solve through customizing services and instructional resources. However, not too many companies approached this challenge from a technological standpoint. Technology is expensive, and deploying it to disrupt the wig industry completely would require a lot of work, money, and passion. This is when Parfait enters the picture.
What does yogurt have to do with wigs? Stay with me.
What is Parfait?
Parfait is a full-service wig platform that enables you to completely personalize a wig, down to your specific head size and precise styling details, through the use of artificial technology. Every brand has an origin story, and Parfait’s own begins with hair loss. When CEO Isosken Igbinedion was 10 years old, she had a dangerous reaction to a chemical relaxer that caused her hair to fall out. “I spent the next 20 years navigating this friction-filled, highly-manual market of hair products and services. In those 20 years, I realized really little innovation has been seen to improve the hair buying, customization, and installation process for consumers or even a manufacturing process to make it easier for stylists to serve women,” she tells me over a Zoom video call.
After attending an AfroTech conference in 2018, where one topic was how to leverage technology, Igbinedion asked herself: “How can we use it to improve the lives of people in our communities?”
At the top of her list was Black hair. Thus began years of planning, researching, and saving. “What we found from our research [is] there’s really no streamlined way for you to be able to get the education you need to understand what the right products are to fit, use, and care for your hair. Also, traditionally, most retailers sell raw product, or they’ll sell un-customized full wig units. There’s still a lot of work that goes into customizing the hairline to make sure that the lace matches your skin tone and plucking the lace to the right density so you get a natural-looking hairline,” Igbinedion says. To that end, Igbinedion, along with her CMO Simone Kendle, CTO Ifueko Igbinedion, and COO Marlyse Reeves—four Black women who graduated from top business schools, including MIT, Stanford, and Wharton—banded together to launch a service that addresses the wig-buying experience, layer by layer (hence the name “parfait”)—education, customization, installation, and support—to simplify and luxuriate the process for people of color.
“There are so many ways to customize a wig based off lace type, texture, hairline pattern, color. So because of these different layers, you’re able to customize and create a really fun experience. That’s what we felt our product, and our brand was—it was a parfait. Parfait in French means’ perfect,’ and we provide a very easy and frictionless experience that allows you to customize your wig that’s perfect to you, your unique measurements, features, and preferences,” Igbinedion adds. The start-up raised over $5 million in funding with investments from some notable people, including Serena Williams and her firm
How does it work?
What I love most about the Parfait web experience is how seamless it is to navigate the pages. Shopping on Aliexpress or Amazon can feel a lot like The Hunger Games for hair, having to scroll through a surplus of products to determine which ones are trustworthy. With Parfait, what you see is what you get. When you arrive at the site, you’re greeted with an image with two buttons that either allow you to shop ready-made wigs or launch the site’s “web designer” to fully customize your new wig.
Once you launch the wig designer, you can scroll the sidebar on the right-hand side to choose your texture, which varies in pricing. Next, you can choose the hair color, length, and wig lace size. Parfait units only come in two lace sizes, 13×6 frontal and 5×5 closure, a feature Kendle, who previously owned her own hair company, had a hand in.
“Prior to working with Parfait, I ran a hair company for about five years and was doing lace pieces before they were anywhere near HD. They were terrible and not easy to use, but I also learned a lot about parting,” Kendle says. With traditional wigs, there isn’t enough parting space on 4×4 closure pieces or 13×4 frontals. When you choose your part, you’re typically stuck with a middle or side part because there isn’t enough space to do anything else. Kendle and the Parfait team knew that in order to have a versatile wig, the smallest lace size they could use was 5×5 or 13×6.
The base price of the wig begins at around $480 and increases as you make your customized selections that can ultimately bring your total upwards of $1,000. Other customization options on the platform include haircut, where you can choose to have your wig cut in layers, blunt, or uncut; parting (middle, side, or no part); styled straight, in curls, or untouched or whether you’re leaving the wig glueless or will be using some sort of wig glue. After selecting how your hair will be prepped under the wig, you’ve reached the last step, where the AI technology works its magic.
You’re asked to hold a small card to your head to begin the photo process, in which several dots will appear on your face as you take four photos of your left, right, and frontside of your head. These photos help the software determine your head size for accurate cap sizing and skin tone to ensure the lace color will blend seamlessly. From there, you’ll check out and wait. Your Parfait box should arrive in five to seven business days, depending on how much customization needs to be done.
Frontals and I haven’t always had a good rapport, so I opted for a wavy, 22-inch, 5×5 closure unit (which was comped for editorial purposes) that can be worn glueless or with adhesive for added support.
I ordered my Parfait unit on a Monday and received the package exactly 10 days later. As a former frequent Aliexpress shopper, I expected my lush unit to be housed in a satin drawstring bag with a bunch of knickknacks included to help with the installation process, some relevant (a rat-tail comb and velcro edge bang) and some completely pointless (a wig cap two shades too light and the thinnest pair of lashes).
To my surprise, Parfait’s luxury experience extended beyond the computer screen and into the black octagon box sitting in front of me. I rummaged through the packaging and found the typical hair accessories: rat-tail comb, edge brush, edge band, alligator clips, and scissors. But the best accessory was the zip-down wig storage bag with a hanger to safely store my new wig. A hanging bag for your wig? It doesn’t get more luxurious than that, until I rummaged a bit more to find my first-ever Parfait. I removed my wig from its bag and was instantly amazed at how soft the 22 inches of curls were. I meticulously analyzed the unit to see just how accurate the AI software was. On a scale of one to 10, I’d give the technology a solid eight.
The lace was thin, so I knew it would melt seamlessly into the skin. However, the lace needed to be tinted a tad bit darker to truly match my skin tone. Unlike the see-through Amazon and Aliexpress wigs, the Parfait unit had consistent thick density from root to tip with absolutely no shedding. I secured the wig to my flat, fresh “Meek braids” using the adjustable wig straps sewn to the back of the wig and had a little extra room to work with in case my braids were slightly bigger.
To put it to the true test, I wore it for five days straight during a work trip in Paris. For my own sanity, I initially glued it down to prevent any mishaps, and the words left my mouth instantly—”What lace?”
By the third day of the trip, my glue had dissolved entirely, and I didn’t bring any backup. Luckily, I didn’t need any further reinforcement. Even without any glue, my wig looked just as natural on my hairline and didn’t move an inch since I adjusted the straps in the back for a more snug fit. The waves remained intact for the duration of the trip and only needed a few sprays of water and light conditioner for the curls to return. When I arrived home, I gave the wig a good wash—again, with minimal shedding—and it was as good as new.
BUY IT. I know, I know, the price is a bit intimidating. When buying a wig, the cost is typically the most crucial factor to consider. However, choosing the cheaper alternative will cost you more money in the long term. The better and more sustainable option is to prioritize quality over price because it reduces waste and amplifies the companies that place a premium on value. And very few brands care about producing top-tier products to service its community quite like Parfait. From start to end, Parfait’s experience is rooted in luxury.
Parfait debuted during a period when wig fatigue was at an all-time high. After years of frustration with foreign retailers and thousands of dollars squandered, Parfait is a welcome relief since it provides Black women with the elevated, high-quality hair experience they are due.
Beauty Commerce Editor
Nerisha is the beauty commerce editor at ELLE.com, covering all things beauty (and fashion and music). She has a penchant for sneakers and nude lip glosses, and spends way too much time re-watching 90s sitcoms.