Money does not in fact buy happiness, but it offers access to opportunities , enrichment, and certain luxuries. Working in a mental health setting, I’m keenly aware that lack of such access leaves people feeling defeated. In the hair world, social media can add an extra layer of hurt in watching glamorous influencers touting their beautiful wigs as the ultimate silver bullet to acceptance and confidence.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever made or been on the receiving end of this assumption: you must save so much money now that you don’t have to get your hair done! CRINGE! This literally couldn’t be any further from the truth.
When it comes to living with alopecia, there is a pretty broad range of options to help you cope, and budget is definitely an individual consideration. The cost of alopecia related products, tests and treatments can prove to be quite limiting, especially with other bills and inevitable expenses.
I was fortunate enough to be diagnosed with androgenetic alopecia in a country with access to publicly funded healthcare. I was able to see a general practitioner and a dermatologist without paying out of pocket. I have learned through connecting with others in the hair loss community that this isn’t the case everywhere. The bills can pile up trying to get a solid diagnosis and treatment plan. Getting a diagnosis can include seeing a dermatologist, endocrinologist, trichologist, and the like. There are blood panels, skin analyses, and biopsies that are used to determine the type, cause, extent and prognosis of hair loss. And let’s not forget about treatments which can range from topical solutions, over the counter remedies, alternative remedies, injections, surgical procedures and so on. With that said, even though access to medical care was available to me in Canada, the topical minoxidil prescribed to be at the beginning of my hair loss journey was quite costly, especially for a university student at that time! As the treatment proved to be quite unpleasant and ineffective (for me), I made the choice to discontinue its use. You’ll want to ask your care provider about the cost of any diagnostic testing, the effectiveness of the course of treatment prescribed and expected monthly cost of treatment so that you can make an informed financial decision.
Then there are the cosmetic options. Hair fibres, powders, sprays, volumizing products, and even scalp micropigmentation. It is worth noting that these products are only suitable for mild to moderate hair loss. These cosmetic options tend to be more affordable than cranial prostheses. They can be very effective in providing temporary (i.e. until your next wash; or in the case of scalp micropigmentation, until the ink injected into the skin begins to fade) scalp coverage, giving the appearance of fuller, thicker hair. An experienced stylist can also help you determine the best cut and colour to get the most out of the hair you have, though of course, as with any hair style, maintenance comes at a price set by the stylist. Scarves, headbands, and various styles of hats/caps can also serve as affordable options for concealing hair loss and are suitable for all levels of hair loss.
A very popular option for coping with different degrees of hair loss is attending a hair loss clinic for hair replacement. Hair replacement typically includes full service bonding of a prosthesis. Given the nature of the customized products, the niche market served, and the service/maintenance involved in hair replacement, the cost adds up! There are benefits to hair replacement such as always having your hair on, a very natural looking appearance, a fully customized semi-permanent unit, and a strong hold for security. When visiting a hair replacement centre, be sure to get a detailed outline of the anticipated costs based on your own unique needs to determine if this aligns with your budget and hair loss goals
Wigs, toppers and extensions are largely used by those experiencing varying degrees of hair loss. Extensions require that one has enough hair on top to cover the extensions clipped, sewn, glued, or otherwise attached to the head. Toppers are suitable for those with mild thinning to moderate hair loss. Wigs can be worn by just about anybody assuming a good, comfortable and secure fit. There are some lifestyle factors to consider in deciding whether one of these options could work for you but we’ll leave that discussion for another day. Wigs, toppers and extensions come in a wide variety of styles, colours and price points. This depends largely on how the piece is made, what it is made with, quality, and where it is purchased. You can expect to spend anywhere from: $50-$500USD+ on a synthetic wig; $150-$500USD on a synthetic topper; $500-$4000+USD on a human hair wig or topper. You read that right- $4,000+! Extensions are a bit more affordable depending on how they are made, the hair type and quality. Generally, buying fully customized pieces from an experienced seller is going to cost a bit more than buying a wholesale piece. Wigs, toppers and extensions are a big investment given how labour intensive they are to make and maintain. The other consideration to make is that these pieces are not a one time investment. Toppers, wigs and extensions will have wear and tear over time and need to be replaced. Plan to replace your synthetic pieces every 3-6 months; every 6 months to 2 years for human hair. Don’t forget to calculate the cost of care products, customization and maintenance!
Here are your take home messages for today:
- Know your budget and stick to it! Look for solutions that fit your lifestyle without creating significant financial hardship. There are temptations abound online so steer clear of sites or pages that make you feel pressured to go over budget. Budgeting and planning ahead can also help you to save toward a larger purchase down the road.
- Do your homework- know the cost of the services or products you’re considering- and not just the upfront costs but also the aftermarket service costs.
- Sleep on it! Making impulsive or emotionally driven decisions can end up costing you more money. Doing your due diligence when deciding on treatments and when researching brands can potentially save you from costly missteps.
- Consider secondhand wigs, toppers and extensions if you’re on a tight budget.
And what if most or all of these options are beyond your budget?
First of all, acknowledge that it isn’t your fault you’re going through this, and it’s okay to feel frustrated about your financial circumstances.
Contact your insurance company to determine if your plan includes coverage for any testing, medical treatment, or a cranial prosthesis. There are also wig banks you can reach out to to see if you qualify for a donated piece!
Ask loved ones for financial contributions or gift cards. I know it’s hard to ask for help, but it’s a little easier when you ask around holidays or birthday 😉.
Whether you can afford medical and aesthetic products or not, the inner work on this journey is necessary. You don’t need to spend a fortune to learn and internalize your inherent self worth!