Hair loss comes in so many forms and can impact day-to-day activities as well as special events! Fortunately, the market is thoroughly saturated with a wide range of products and options that can suit any lifestyle!
Deciding on a hair loss option that suits your desired activities will depend on 3 things: comfort; coverage; and functionality! Your type of hair loss, and your openness in talking about it will also matter!
Let’s use water sports as an example since it’s hotter than heck here right now! For someone who is open about their hair loss, they may choose to swim or water ski au natural so as not to risk damaging a human hair or synthetic topper/wig. This will be both comfortable and functional but lacking in coverage. Someone less open about hair loss may opt for a well worn topper/wig and/or a hat. This may sacrifice some comfort but would be functional and provide coverage!
As I see it, there are about 5 common options people experiencing hair loss turn to. I’ll walk you through the comfort, coverage and functionality of each so you can decide what’s right for you!
1. Alternative hair (i.e. toppers, wigs, extensions, hair systems). You can do just about anything wearing alternative hair! There are, however, a few things that impact functionality and comfort! It makes a difference if you are wearing human hair or synthetic pieces. Human hair is better equipped for wear and tear, and at a higher price tag! They will react to weather as would be expected with bio hair. This can be especially of interest when it comes to toppers as your human hair topper may respond differently to, let’s say, humidity than your bio hair. Human hair will need some maintenance after getting wet.
Synthetic hair on the other hand will be less reactive to moisture and will retain its style memory! It will also maintain its colour even after prolonged sun exposure unlike human hair options! Synthetic hair will need more upkeep after being wind blown or participating in higher intensity activities. You should exercise caution when wearing regular, non-heat friendly synthetic fibres when cooking or around a campfire!
If you find a well-fitting alternative hair option, expect a greater level of comfort. If a wig is too big or too small, it can slide or feel tight. Topper and extension clips can be uncomfortable when there isn’t enough hair to clip into so you will want to make sure you have the right size base!
You can also expect great coverage with alternative hair which will help to minimize the focus on your areas of loss.
You will find mixed responses to the question of whether alternative hair is hotter in the summer months! I’m here to tell you that it is, at least in my experience. This does impact comfort in the steamy heat!
2. Scalp concealers come in various formulations and are readily available for purchase. There are compressed, tinted formulas applied with a brush or sponge. There are tinted root sprays and dry shampoos and there are hair fibres that cling to natural hair to give the appearance of a fuller, thicker hair shaft. All of these options are best suited for those with mild to moderate thinning. They work by reducing the visibility of your scalp.
Generally there is little physical discomfort associated with these products assuming that you don’t have any sensitivity to the ingredients. A combination of powder and hair fibres can provide a great deal of coverage if applied correctly, and you can tailor the application to the areas in most need of coverage!
Applying hair spray to keep these products in place all day can improve functionality. That doesn’t mean they are “life proof” though. Getting caught in the rain or having an extra sweaty workout could cause some products to run off of the scalp. They can also prove to be a bit messy, rubbing off on clothes, pillowcases or under fingernails!
3. Hats, headbands or wraps will score high in comfort and functionality, and depending on the style, can also provide great coverage! With so many styles, colours and patterns to choose from, and with the cost effectiveness and low maintenance, there really are no down sides that I can think of! You will want to ensure a good, secure fit and that the fabric is suitable for your desired activities!
4. Some combination of the above can serve to meet your unique lifestyle needs! Nail your topper blend by filling in your hairline with fibres. Increase security and comfort while reducing reliance on clips and adhesives by pairing your wig or topper with a hat. Use a wide headband for sun protection and fill in any exposed sparse areas with dry shampoo. Be creative!
5. Come as you are. The shame one feels about hair loss is overwhelmingly a social construct that you have full liberty to disregard! It as as reasonable an option to rock your natural look and shed the shame as any of the above. Kudos for owning your natural beauty and existing in the world exactly as you are!
For so many years, I spent a whole lot of time and effort avoiding drawing attention to/talking about, hiding, and even burying thoughts about my hair loss. I would go as far as avoiding talking about anything hair related even if it didn’t involve my hair woes.
I’ve shared before that I used to go to great lengths to conceal my hair loss with dry shampoo, hairline powder, fibres, back combing, short hair cuts, hats and headbands before I dove into alternative hair wearing. I did these things with the hope that I would blend in and never have to face the question I dreaded most: “Why is your hair so thin?”
It may sound like an intrusive question, and it is. Also one that would have turned my face red as a beet. We can rationalize that it’s natural and normal for others to be curious about a visible difference. In some contexts, questions may even be welcome. But most often, questions about hair loss are more painful than the person asking can imagine! And I speak from experience. I’ve been asked or have faced comments about my thinning hair on numerous occasions. While I had spent so much time avoiding the subject, I did myself a disservice by being wholly unprepared to respond effectively.
Preparing a tentative script ahead of time can help prevent an emotionally driven response. Although it might feel good to respond with anger, it probably won’t leave you feeling good about the conversation. A script can also help you be more in control of the narrative around your hair loss and your attitude can make a huge difference! It can help ease the dread you might feel about this type of question.
Here are some potential responses depending on the outcome you’re hoping for:
If your goal is to let the person know their question is unwelcome, you might say:
“People don’t normally ask me that. It seems like you might be curious, which I understand and that question was upsetting to me.”
“This isn’t the time or place to discuss something so personal.”
If your intention is to share with someone at a later time, you might say:
“That’s really something difficult for me to discuss. I would be willing to share more when I’m ready.”
If you’re looking to raise awareness about Alopecia, it might sound like:
“I have a condition called (type of) Alopecia. It means my hair loss is caused by hormones and genetics. There isn’t much I can do about it and I’m working on accepting that.”
“This is something I wish more women would talk about. Your question makes me wonder if people know just how common hair loss is.”
This isn’t the only question I’ve dreaded. The other biggie being: “Is that a WIG?”
This one is equally likely to invoke an emotional response. For me personally, this bothers me less, not because of the question, but because I’m in a better place where I feel less ashamed overall. I did get this question in late 2021 from someone important to me. It wasn’t the question itself that gave me a twinge of anxiety, but the air of judgment I perceived. Even though I wasn’t impacted all that much, I found it helpful to be prepared with a response and you might too!
If the question is too sensitive, or perhaps poorly timed, you might say:
“Maybe consider the setting the next time you ask about something so personal.”
If you wish to avoid a direct answer:
“I’ve spent a fair bit of money on my hair” followed by a swift topic change!
If your goal is to normalize hair wearing:
“Everybody’s wearing hair these days!”
When responding to these triggering questions, it does help to be prepared so that you’re not caught off-guard. Consider your own communication style. Are you passive/shy? Do you avoid conflict or directness? Give yourself permission to let someone know that their question has impacted you. Give yourself permission to shut it down if the time and place is not appropriate for the conversation. Humour (inclusive of sarcasm) are also reasonable given that hair loss is hard enough!
May you bear these intense conversations with the self-compassion we all deserve!
I’m totally guilty on this charge. Buying toppers and wigs only for them to sit in my closet. They’re safely tucked away, minding their own business. Not hurting anyone, right?
But their only hope is to be worn because, otherwise, they are just expensive box stuffing.
Toppers and wigs aren’t cheap. Especially if you purchase quality products that you look forward to wearing.
Here are some tips on getting the most out of your hair purchases instead of having them take up space:
1. Calculate the true cost of a piece by dividing the purchase price by the expected number of wears. A $1000 topper worn everyday for a year is about $2.74 cents per wear versus that budget piece you got for $500 that you’ve worn twice. $2.74 versus $250 per wear is a huge difference.
2. Recoup some of your cost by selling pieces you aren’t using very often. Even though you will lose money on the sale, your piece will stop collecting dust and it feels liberating to let go of unused items! If you get $300 for your $500 wig, you dropped your price per wear from $250 to $150 and can reinvest these funds for something more suitable.
3. Store your pieces properly. A well kept topper or wig can safely sit in a box for quite some time if you plan to wear it in the future. Storing the piece washed, conditioned, fully dried, tangle free, in a cool, dry place, while maintaining the integrity of the cap in a box is ideal. Try to keep the original box, or buy a sturdy one to protect the hair from dirt, dust and light.
4. Invest in maintenance of your pieces. If they’re sitting idle because they have oxidized, gotten dry, need to be steamed, or have an outdated style, an alternative hair specialist or skilled stylist can help. A new cut, colour, a deep condition, replacing clips, or making cap alterations will greatly improve your hair wearing experience.
5. Avoid making impulsive purchases. A calculated investment into a piece you know you’ll wear comes with research, patience and getting to know your preferences. A hasty purchase can lead to disappointment. I get the temptation to check out as quickly as possible so you don’t miss out on your favourite brand’s stock drop, but there’s always going to be another piece that comes along.
6. Pay the restocking fee. If you get some hair mail that just doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to initiate the return process. It can feel like an expensive try-on fee, but an unworn full priced placeholder is even more costly and guilt-producing.
7. Check out all my other tips on avoiding topper/wig disappointment here and here.
Got a piece collecting dust? Consider a revamp or selling it. Some use, or recouping some of the cost is better than nothing!
Follow for more hair loss and alternative hair tips.
Social media platforms are rife with influencers for all kinds of products. There are celebrity or pseudo celebrity endorsements, influencers with large followings and micro influencers with small, targeted followings.
The hair world is no exception. Influencer marketing is an effective strategy for brands that choose to use it. It gets the company’s name and offerings out there. It can also pose somewhat of a dilemma in the hair loss community given that wigs and hair toppers are high priced items. It’s one thing when you’re “influenced” to buy a $50 pair of shoes. It’s another thing altogether when you feel compelled to drop $1000+ on some new hair because influencer “X” said “Y” about the product.
Does this mean that all social media marketing is bad in the hair world? There are definitely some advantages for consumers. Gifted items give content creators a product to showcase in a way that is different from traditional websites. Usually retailers photograph their products in professional studios, or at least well-equipped home studios with access to lighting, models, and/or mannequins/props, and photo/video editing that make products more appealing. By contrast, an influencer, particularly a micro-influencer gives consumers a chance to get a feel for a product on a “real” person. That’s not to say that social media accounts don’t have access to the same equipment that builds excitement about a product. But you’re likely to see the product in a more natural setting than a studio. An influencer who knows a lot about the products they’re demonstrating might give you more detailed information about a piece than the company’s website. They will also generally show you how to use, wear and modify the product to suit your needs. This is especially important as alternative hair rarely suits the wearer straight out of the box! Especially true of companies that have a greater capacity for using this type of marketing, you can envision a product on various face shapes, skin types and on those from different walks of life.
Here’s what you should consider when it comes to deciding for yourself whether a product is worth the hype:
Has the person been transparent about the product being provided to them in exchange for the content creation? Like many parts of the world, Canada has consumer protection legislation that requires these types of relationships to be unequivocally explicit that a product has been gifted. Why is this important? Think about when you see a celebrity endorsing a skincare product in an advertisement. How likely are you to believe the claims that it will reduce wrinkles, improve skin texture, and brighten your skin? Or do you make the assumption that said celebrity has access to high quality dermatological treatments and cosmetic surgery? You may find yourself hopeful that the product lives up to its marketed hype to a small degree, but you know you’re being sold something that requires a healthy amount of skepticism. An undeclared gifted item can influence decision-making without really giving pause for critical thinking. This may not be someone’s intention, but there are ethical concerns here nonetheless. Most hair loss accounts that I have seen are pretty explicit about declaring gifted items. Transparency is important when it comes to building trust with your audience.
You should also consider the substance of the post you are viewing. You might see a product review that focuses on the quality of the hair, how a piece is constructed, and it’s wearability. Generally a review that only touches on positive aspects of a product should be considered biased. With very rare exception, there is almost always some small opportunity for improvement whether it is the colour, cut, or something with the construction. In the hair world, these gifted reviews are usually done when the product is in brand new condition. While it is nice to see the product as you would expect it to arrive, toppers and wigs have a shelf life. Hair becomes dry or damaged over time. The cap can begin to stretch or become worn out and hair can shed with repeated washing and wearing. Follow-up reviews are extremely insightful as they can give consumers more information about how long they can expect to be able to use their piece and what maintenance it will require.
Personally, I love to see and make product demonstration/educational videos. I find it valuable to learn about a piece and be able to visualize how it could work for me and my hair loss situation. It may also dissuade me from purchasing something that won’t work for the severity of my hair loss.
It is great to look at detailed stock photos on a website such as a close up of a silk top in all it’s scalp realism glory, but seeing that compared to a piece with a lace top cap construction gives you a visual sense of the difference in thickness and how each lays on the wearer’s head. This is also a great way to pick up tips and tricks to improve your hair wearing experience. I will never forget seeing educational content that introduced me to using barber’s velcro to replace clips on a topper that would have otherwise caused sensitivity in spare areas!
Discount codes are another signal that a content creator has partnered with a brand to show a certain product. This is definitely not unique to hair! This does not always mean that the person gets a kickback when you use their code but this varies from brand to brand. If you’re planning to buy from a certain brand, USE A CODE! Who doesn’t love to save money?
To sum up, look for content creators who are transparent about their collaborations and whose content seems balanced and informative!
Social settings and family gatherings can increase vulnerability or sensitivity about wearing hair and hair loss. It can bring about worries that others will point out our thinning, patches, or faux hair. Feeling anxious is a normal response when we think we might be ridiculed or rejected, even over something that is outside of our control.
It is also possible to increase our confidence in light of hair loss and hair wearing, and the need for this becomes even more apparent leading up to the holidays when these conversations are more likely to happen.
Preparing a script, setting boundaries, and changing our self-talk are 3 ways that we can feel more confident at our upcoming social gatherings.
An unwelcome comment or question about your hair can catch you off guard. For me, this has made me feel flustered in the moment, and only after the fact do I come up with the response I wish I had given. Having some simple responses tucked away can help you feel ready to respond swiftly and clearly. Here are some gentle ways to respond to unwanted attention to your hair:
1. “Yes, wearing hair (powders, fibres, hats, headwear, a buzz cut) helps me cope with my hair loss.” This pointed response can make it clear that the question is highly personal. Depending on your relationship with someone, it can open up further discussion or shut it down entirely.
2. “Yes, it’s a wig. Do you want to borrow it?” A light hearted sense of humour is sure to diffuse an awkward situation.
3. “It makes getting ready so much easier!” You can certainly follow this up with more information if you feel comfortable. Taking a no big deal approach to the topic cues others to make it no big deal.
It is normal for people to be curious and ask questions, but it’s also okay to let people know your boundaries, in other words, when, how, what and if you’re willing to share and with whom. There are some relationships that feel easy to share- typically those in which we feel safe and free from judgment. There are also those in our lives who feel it’s appropriate to ask; don’t consider the shame and embarrassment one might feel on the receiving end; and/or lack tact and intend to embarrass someone.
1. “I would prefer not to talk about it.” This one really makes your position clear that this is neither the time nor the place for the questions.
2. “I’m not looking for advice. I’ve weighed all my options and this is what works for me.” No, I don’t believe onion juice will grow my hair back, thank you very much!
3. “I’m a little surprised by your question, because people don’t usually ask me that.” Use this response to make a point that it’s rude to ask about physical differences (obviously, context matters!).
How we speak to ourselves matters! Take a moment to listen to the words you are thinking about yourself. Do they cause you to shrink down? Avoid others? Pick out your every flaw? Do your limiting thoughts run wild with all the reasons you can’t do certain things because of your hair loss? The best way to move past our indoctrinated beauty ideals is to shift our self-talk. We can make a conscious decision to speak kindly, gently, intentionally to ourselves. Imagine yourself standing tall, accepting where you’re at with your hair loss, and make every effort to be freed from the power it once held over your life. Try these:
1. “My worth is not defined by my appearance.”
2. “I’m doing what works for me and I don’t owe anyone an explanation.”
3. “I release myself from the power my hair loss has held over me.”
Wishing you all safe and happy gatherings! Hold your head high!
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!
When I first started shopping online for toppers, density was the last thing I thought to consider. It can be such a confusing element of hair shopping because there are various ways to describe density and it can vary from brand to brand. Density can even vary from piece to piece since toppers and wigs are hand made (sewn by hand or someone is assembling them with a machine).
You’ll see different descriptors used to tell you a piece’s density such as light, medium and high density, or percentages such as 120% or 130% (or more, or less). This refers to the amount of hair sewn into the cap. A higher density will pack more hair in on the cap, and by contrast, less on a low density piece. In my experience, 130% or medium density tends to be most commonly stocked. In other words, density can mean that the hairs sewn into the cap are closer together, with a tighter part, and/or more or thicker wefting on the back of the unit.
A high density piece will be full and voluptuous. A light density will have a more manageable amount of hair, though it should be carefully crafted to ensure there is enough hair to cover “tracks” or wefting on the back of the piece and also so that the cap is not noticeable.
What density should you look for? This will totally depend on personal preference. It will also depend on whether you are purchasing a topper or a wig. Here are some things to consider:
1. How much bio hair do you have? If you still have a fair amount of bio hair to blend with a topper or some types of wigs, a light or medium density should suffice. Let’s say, for example, your bio hair is mostly intact but you have a thinning part, you might like a small base, light density topper designed to provide a small amount of coverage. If you have diffuse, all over, significant thinning, and not a lot of hair remaining, a larger cap with a medium to high density might meet your coverage needs. If you are looking for coverage only, and not to add a lot of volume, light density is okay. If you are into wigs, you’ll get to look for a density that feels comfortable for you without the need for blending. The density is generally included in the item description but this can differ from one manufacturer to another. Be sure to watch reviews on a piece out of the box, before it has been customized) to get a feel for the density. As wigs have a larger cap than toppers, they will have more hair attached and thus, it can feel a bit overwhelming at first. Keep in mind that you can customize the density (thin a wig) if it feels too heavy.
2. How easy or difficult is your colour/texture to match? My hair is ashy/cool and curly, so it tends to blend better with higher density toppers, but with some finesse, I can make lower density work too (like this low density Jon Renau topper pictured above!). Why is cool toned hair more difficult to match? The vast majority of human hair harvested for wig manufacturing begins as a dark colour that is lightened to create custom colours. In the lightening process, warm undertones become exposed. The hair is then coloured, so even a piece that starts out being cool toned will oxidize over time where it develops a warmer or brassy tone. The beauty of human hair though is that it can be toned and there are endless colour options, particularly if you work with a skilled colourist familiar with alternative hair. The beauty of synthetic hair is that the colour will not oxidize! Texture can be a tricky thing to match because all human hair behaves differently. There are varying degrees of wavy/curly texture, so it is a good idea to know your own texture or curl pattern that you want to achieve and ask the seller or an experienced alt hair specialist about perming or about using products and/or hot tools to match your texture.
Matching texture and colour is a non-issue for wigs, for the most part since blending any remaining biological hair is optional. However, if you are wanting to replicate your bio hair, it’s best to book a consultation with a seller to determine your needs.
In the case of both toppers and wigs, dimensional colour, and/or a good colour and texture match, and seeing a stylist will help you. If you have short hair that you are blending with a longer topper, more density will make this discrepancy less noticeable.
3. What kind of styles will you be wearing? Light and medium density pieces are preferable for updos as it doesn’t feel as heavy when pulled back which reduces the chances of your piece sliding out of place or causing any discomfort. Sometimes the weight of a heavier hair topper pulled back into a ponytail or bun can place too much strain on biological hair when attached with clips. There are methods you can use to mitigate the risks of damage/discomfort, but we will save those for another post.
For a glam look or for coverage purposes/ease of blending, go for a standard density or higher.
No matter which density you choose, there are endless styling options when it comes to wearing hair and YouTube tutorials will definitely come in handy.
4. What are your hair goals? Of course these goals will differ for everyone. They can range from practical coverage of thinning areas to avoid UV exposure of the scalp or to reduce reliance on toppers, fibres and/or other topicals, or purely aesthetic aspirations and a boost in confidence. Some will prefer a discrete transition and to not feel overwhelmed by their new hair by incorporating a light density wig or topper. When I was first starting out with alternative hair, I remember feeling like even smaller base, standard density pieces had too much hair. However, sometimes all it takes is a bit of layering and face framing for a new wig or topper to feel less heavy.
For others, ease of use and styling will have them reaching for a medium or high density piece. This eliminates some issues with blending or variation in length between bio hair and helper hair for a more seamless look as previously indicated. The use of alternative hair can also expedite a morning routine as you can style the hair early in the week, and because you are not going to wear it to bed (with the exception of a bonded system), it will retain the style for the next wear. A topper or wig that checks most of your hair goal boxes will hopefully be one that you can “throw and go.”
There’s no one BEST option when it comes to density. Personally, I wear both high and low density for different features, seasons and styles.
Buying your first, second, or even tenth hair topper can be stressful. Not to mention trying to adjust to wearing a new (or new to you) piece. Some of the biggest issues you might face include: discomfort from the clips; not knowing how to style your new hair; or feeling insecure about your sudden lush locks. Here are 6 tips to help you feel more comfortable and confident!
1. Measure properly and do your research before buying. Hop on YouTube and check out the various tutorials on measuring properly for a hair topper. Measuring your area of loss, and determining where your topper needs to sit in order to clip into a sufficient amount of healthy biological hair, and determining the amount of coverage needed is super important. Toppers are measured front to back, and side to side, and the measurements are typically included in a listing. Make sure that the listed base size matches up with your personal measurements. Base size obviously isn’t the only consideration when buying hair, but it is definitely one of the most important items as it is not something that can (easily) be changed. Check out this post here for more information about other considerations before buying to reduce your chances of disappointment.
2. Move and add clips to your liking. Pressure sensitive clips on toppers are generally hand-sewn onto the base of a topper (or wig). A couple snips of the thread and the clip will easily release for repositioning. If you can sew a button, you can definitely sew a clip. There are a couple reasons why you might want to move or add clips on the cap. If you’re like me, you might not have enough hair to clip into at the temples, therefore, moving the temple clips back a couple centimeters can really improve wearability. Many toppers come with a comb attached to the front. This is useful for many, but if your hairline is sparse or slippery, some will opt to replace the comb with a clip(s) or Velcro. You might also want to add additional clips around the perimeter of your topper for the purpose of rotating them which can reduce strain on the areas of your bio hair into which you are clipping.
3. Reduce strain on bio hair by using alternative attachment methods. It will almost always benefit you in the hair wearing realm to be creative and flexible with your pieces. There are some really helpful products available to give wigs and toppers more security or to improve comfort. Velvet wig grips have been around for a while but now there are lots of variations (there is also a silicone option!), and even a “topper grip” that is, obviously, specifically designed to wear with a topper. The concept of velvet is that it provides gentle friction against bio hair or skin and against the wig or topper to prevent it from sliding back away from the hairline. In the case of toppers, the front clips attach to ribbons sewn on the grip, and a clear cord attached to the grip secures the topper around the circumference of the head. Because the cord is clear, it is virtually undetectable along the nape once the hair is draped over it. The cord also gives gentle tension to pull the front of the topper flush at the front, and for me, this gives me a flatter result than with clips alone because I tend not to clip front clips as taut because it can cause me discomfort in sensitive areas. The topper grip can be used in combination with back clips and/or tape or glue (if the topper has a poly strip or lace front at the hairline). Another option to replace uncomfortable clips is to use “barber’s Velcro” or hook and loop grippers. Some amount of biological hair is required for the hook and loop grip to grab onto. It is admittedly a bit of a delicate process as the Velcro can pull bio hair and can also irritate sensitive scalps, so some trial and error is definitely recommended. These can be sewn, taped or clipped onto a topper. If none of these methods suit your needs and reduce discomfort, chances are, you may need to upgrade to a full wig. Many women choose this option as the idea of clipping into potentially fragile bio hair isn’t ideal for everyone.
4. Add an accessory. If you’ve read through my soapbox speech about my love of wide headbands, you will know that they can be a very functional part of the alopecia wardrobe. Headbands solve a number of issues when it comes to hair loss, and are another means of reducing the reliance on clips in sensitive areas 😉. They can provide coverage, sun protection, and provide additional security, not to mention the innumerable styles and prints available to jazz up any hairstyle. While I do use headbands with and without my topper, I have traditionally shied away from using other types of accessories before I started wearing hair. For some reason, the jump into the alternative hair scene felt like an invitation to try out different clips, ties, scarves, etc. You can also use these accessories to try new styles that you couldn’t achieve with your thinning hair, which leads me to my next point!
5. Try a new style you couldn’t achieve with your bio hair alone. I’ve mentioned before that I kept my pre-topper bio hair cropped very short which meant styling options were limited. This was in an effort to avoid sad looking ponytails and other updos, and to give the appearance of more fullness. But I couldn’t help feeling like I was missing out on trying new trends or looks along the way. My thin bio hair is not, and probably has never been (less a few good teenage years) French-braidable. One of the first things I did when I got my first topper that I actually wore, was French braid my hairline in with the front of the topper to blend. It took some time to master, but I felt like this gave me a seamless blend, and it was very satisfying to have more options to look put together. I still like trying new styles, and while my go to looks are pretty basic, I’m a girl who appreciates having options available. Bangs are another style that didn’t suit my bio hair (so.much.scalp!) , but now they can be part of my style anytime!
6. Hold your head high. It can be a shock initially to go from thinning hair to flowing locks. One may worry what others will say, if coworkers will notice, or that they will have an unfamiliar reflection in the mirror. These concerns are valid, and I applaud you for taking the leap into trying something new to help you cope with your hair woes despite your worries! My personal mantra when it comes to my helper hair is “everybody knows and nobody cares.” Now, this may not be entirely true because chances are, and my experience has been, most people are clueless when it comes to wigs and toppers. The average person doesn’t spend time studying hairlines or widening parts, unless that person has hair loss, wears/sells/makes hair, is a hair dresser, or a health professional. An awkward encounter is always a possibility (think nosy coworker, etc.) but someone pointing out your hair wearing is much more likely to be about them and their need to satisfy their own curiosity than it is about an actual concern about your wearing it. So assuming that everybody knows may be a bit of a generalization, but it definitely helps me deal with the wondering “do they know?” There will inevitably be situations that make you feel vulnerable, like going for personal care services or being under fluorescent lighting which can make toppers and wigs more noticeable, but I find that I always felt vulnerable in these situations with my bio hair anyway. You will find a strategy that helps you deal with this! Also, anyone close enough to you to notice doesn’t care about your choice to wear hair. Your dentist doesn’t care. Massage therapist or chiropractor- nope. Lash extension it’s- definitely not. And not only do they not care, it’s also none of their business!
Once you’ve mastered your blending and styling skills, your confidence will increase, and you can rest assured that you will receive more positive commentary about your hair than nosy inquiries.
I hope this is helpful in improving your hair wearing experience! Reach out on Instagram to chat about all things alternative hair and hair loss!
Losing your hair is frickin’ hard. Suddenly, or perhaps, if you’re like me, gradually over time, you look in the mirror and it’s hard to reconcile the image looking back at you. From an onlooker’s perspective, or maybe advice you might get from a seasoned hair loss sister (or brother!) or concerned acquaintance, the solution is to simply buy some nice hair and carry on. But is it really that easy?
Cost is obviously a factor associated with hair loss, which I’ve touched on before. The expense of proper assessment, the cost of treatment, and now the (ongoing) cost of purchasing headwear. Wigs and hair toppers can be a burdensome and ongoing investment, which requires, for many, careful allotment of expendable funds.
Cost is not the only barrier to effective coping with something as life-changing as Alopecia. May I be bold enough to say that HOPE can be a barrier? YES, we need to be hopeful that things can get better; easier. But sometimes we cling to the hope that we will return to a former version of ourselves; that we will find some miracle product that causes that reflection in the mirror to gleam back at us a restored or improved version of ourselves. Hanging on to this type of hope, for too long, can be counterproductive. Our expectations need to be kept in check, grief managed, and to stumble upon the support and strength to move forward and transform.
Stigma is another barrier. Maybe we can’t allow the word “wig” or, heaven forbid, “toupee” roll off the tongue as easily as we might like. (Side note: the word toupee is commonly still used for men’s hair pieces, but given the stigma, this type of hair piece has largely been rebranded as “hair toppers” or “hair systems” and some other industry buzz words). They aren’t inherently dirty words, but we’ve been conditioned to attribute them to perceived flaws. The fear of judgment for wearing a wig or topper is so excruciating for some that they wait years to take the leap, and when they do, they spend countless hours checking and double checking their reflection so that they can go undetected in public. These deeply ingrained beliefs and fears are hard to shake, and can be especially impactful depending on how your culture or social circle value hair and/or respond to concerns about hair loss or body related concerns (see: ISOLATION).
Then there’s guilt and shame. If you’ve been following my posts, you know that I’ve dedicated an entire post to this subject (find it here). Much of the guilt experienced by hair wearers is attached to cost, and much of the shame is tied to the stigma of both hair loss and hair wearing as above. Unpacking the guilt and shame are necessary steps in the acceptance process.
Comfort. Oh, comfort. Take a look at the many cap constructions available on the market and you will see this descriptor everywhere. Luxury caps that promise to be both undetectable and effortless, easy and suitable to all day wear. They feature velvet, silicone, soft lace, suction caps, or other materials intended to improve wearability. Even some of the most expensive, best fitting wigs can still cause discomfort- this is especially true when you think about the layers that some use when wearing wigs- a wig cap to contain biological hair or to protect the scalp, then a wig grip for added security, then the wig (plus any styling accessories; possibly glasses; and in a covid world, also a mask!). Toppers aren’t exempt either. Toppers are partial wigs that attach to the hair on top of the head with pressure sensitive clips that can tug on the wearer’s biological hair, especially with prolonged wear. So what comes first? One’s appearance or one’s comfort? Even with a perfectly fitted custom wig or topper, nothing can replace the ease and comfort of one’s own natural hair. For this reason, some Alopecians will opt to buzz any remaining hair, and either rock the look or incorporate headscarves, bandanas, turbans, or other types of hats and wraps into their wardrobe. It is a beautiful thing to exist as you are in the world, but exposing a buzzed or bald head to the world opens one up to the wandering eyes of strangers- another potential source of discomfort. It’s like having a dark secret scrolled across your forehead for all to read. It fuels the existence of assumptions from onlookers about one’s health, personality or style which makes it an individual choice whether this is tolerable.
With an overwhelming number of options on the market, it’s no wonder many are stunted in making their first purchase. Above, I’ve described just a handful of the available features that one considers when buying hair. Wefted, lace front, silk top, hand-tied, permatease, synthetic, ear tabs, adjustable strap, monofilament, polyurethane, multi-directional, closure, glueless. So.Many.Options! Not only are the cap construction options overwhelming, but figuring out who to buy from, how to take care of your piece, and then the steep learning curve associated with getting it to look natural! No wonder entering into the alternative hair world is so confusing!
Feeling isolated and alone in your journey is a surefire way to fuel despair. There are 2 major reasons why one may choose to keep their hair loss private: shame (as discussed above and in a previous post); and invalidation (or anticipation thereof). If you’ve ever opened up to someone you trust about your hair loss, only for them to minimize your pain and tell you “it’s not that bad!”, you’ve feel invalidated. (If your loved ones don’t know how to support you, have them read this post). Alopecians largely keep their hair loss quiet when they fear how others will react, whether about their loss itself, or their decision to don headwear of their choice. Rather than hope for acceptance of your decision, DEMAND it. Make sure the people in your life know that it is ultimately YOUR decision, and let them know how you feel about it. Something like “I’ve made the decision to start wearing wigs because I don’t like how my hair looks- this will be a positive step in helping me cope with this and I need your support” will get your message across.
I’m sure there are more barriers and each will experience them to a varying degree and in different combinations. I’ve touched on a lot of these topics in other posts, so be sure to poke around if you’re new to my blog!
Alopecia and other forms of medical hair loss can be a dark and perilous journey. It is one that is often misunderstood by those around us which can also make it feel lonely.
I recall feeling earlier on that it would consume my entire life and that I would never be able to live a normal life without worrying about scalp showing. I missed out on many opportunities in my late teens and early 20s because of fear that the wind would blow the wrong way, that I was going to get caught in the rain, and couldn’t be caught dead poolside. I would pass up social outings for the very reason of not wanting to spend hours primping and fluffing for (at best) mediocre results.
Life carried on, and continues to carry on, as it must with each of us. It goes without saying that the world doesn’t stop because we are sad about losing something important to us, but seemingly trivial to others. There is a difference between repressing feelings about hair loss, and embracing the journey. I spent years of my life just burying the feelings deep. I would look in the mirror, do what needed to be done, and then basically carry out my days in denial about the loss itself, and the toll it took on me emotionally and psychologically.
I would also cycle through “not caring” (ahem *pretending not to care) about my hair, and then frantically searching for solutions for regrowth and volume. I found products that temporarily masked the sting such as dry shampoo, scalp powders, and hair fibres. Hair extensions were a complete waste.
Then one day, down the bottomless rabbit hole that is YouTube, I stumbled upon a channel called Alison’s Journey. This led me to other content creators also struggling with thinning hair. Watching how candidly they talked about their hair loss and their practical solutions that allowed them to carry on and rebuild their confidence was incredibly inspirational. I suddenly felt as though I would be able to move forward in a positive way, armed with more information and tools, and longing for connection with others who truly understood what I was going through. This was my turning point! It instilled hope in me that there were options yet to be explored, and planted the seed for me to reclaim my sense of identity despite my thinning hair.
I put out a call on Instagram for others to share their turning points with me. I thought it would be helpful to put together some different experiences with the intention that others might relate and draw different lessons from other hair loss sisters. And boy, they shared some POWERFUL stuff.
Neveen (@neveen.wood) “I think what helped me was talking and meeting folks in the community! Like you!”
@her247hair “For me the turning point was when the pain was bigger than the fear. That is even a quote I think I saw somewhere. You take action once pain is higher than the fear of unknown. I guess finding some communities (back in the day that were forums) with similar people and learning about their solution was something that helped a lot. Also focusing on solution was quite freeing as I felt there was something about this hair loss I had control of. After 3,4 years of doctors and treatments and hoping for world hair loss solution – I just saw that I can hope for something that may never happen and lose the best years of my life over this. I also asked myself what would I remember my 20s for when I am old? Would I want to remember how depressed I was and avoiding social life OR would I find a solution (doesn’t have to be perfect!) and just move on? Living life.”
Whitney (@smallsassystrands) “My turning point was definitely ordering my first topper. It was easy to choose a topper brand based on seeing so many girls in the community. I chose my brand and I looked at all her photos of customers for hours. I’d let girls know when choosing a brand to look at their page and look at all the customers that they have shared photos of. Also since it can be competitive to turn on notifications from their favorite brands. Ordering a topper was so scary but I think most times even if it’s not quite right it’s better than my bio hair so I could either be self conscious in my bio hair or not as quite as self conscious in my topper. Ordering a topper was def my turning point because I knew there was an option that didn’t consist of using half of bottle of fibers, etc.”
Gail (@lets_talk_hairloss) “I think my turning point was when I got my first wig and I had just started a new job and went from disguising my hairloss with headbands and hairpieces to coming in the next day from having long brown hair to a short ash blonde lob…too fast a change to be a just have had a cut & colour and everyone was noticing so I just decided to be open and after that I just realised it doesn’t need to be as hard as I think it does. I just needed to learn to accept it because I can’t control it and that’s what I try to remember when I have a bad day.”
@abscrackers2 “I love seeing all your posts and everyone in the hairloss community on Instagram has helped me so much. I’m a 52 year old mother of 2 and also a foster carer in the UK with my husband. I just wanted to say that I never really did Facebook or anything and when I decided to open an account on Instagram it has really changed my perspective on social media. When I first lost my hair within 2 weeks in 2018 I felt so alone and felt sorry for myself without showing it to my family and friends. I wore hats and scarves for 2 years but everyone around me said I looked good of course even though I never felt it. One day I found @baldmothertucker on Instagram and I have not looked back! It lead me to buying a wig or 2! And then to this amazing community of people like myself going through the same thing! And so it goes on I am so glad I tried Instagram as it really has given me so much more confidence and everyday I am finding and learning so much about other people like you and helping!”
Collette (@superbald) “My turning point was actually sharing my bald head on IG and finding so many other alopecians just like me for daily support. I have more confidence now than before.”
Amanda (@instahairsister) “A little bit about my hair loss/body image story… So, I was 29 when I started to notice my hair thinning. It got really bad after I turned 30. I bought a human hair wig. It looked good for a while, but no one ever taught me how to properly care for it. So it started to get matted and gross after a while and I just had to deal with it because we had such limited funds at the time. My self consciousness about my wig caused me to eat a lot. I was severely depressed. Admittedly, I was suicidal for a while. At the time, the way I looked impacted me so much; and I thought that my family would be better off without me. I started using Instagram more. I hadn’t really used it a lot before and thought I would learn more about it. I was searching hair, and hair related things at the time- and suddenly, by the grace of God, I stumbled upon the account of @kimdubs_ and that’s when I felt the flood gates of the hair loss community open for me!!! I stalked @kimdubs_ followers list and who she followed and I found this amazing hair-sister community! I found love, hope, support- but the most important thing that helped me get over my “hump” is that I finally felt accepted. I finally didn’t feel alone. And don’t get me wrong- I HATE that any other woman has to go through hair loss. But it felt so good knowing I wasn’t alone. A few months ago I started doing yoga, and I’m down to 137 pounds! Finding the hair-sister community hasn’t just changed my confidence- these women have helped build me up over the last 18 months and helped make me into who I am now. Women that have never met me before, they loved me, lifted me, accepted me. I’m so grateful.”
Nat (@nattynoonoo7) “It was 2 years ago after having Alopecia for more than 30 years and I took part in an Alopecia mindfulness study. There was one session where we had to focus on what we struggle with and I went really deep with this! In fact many of us did which I don’t think the mindfulness coach expected! I was crying and a complete mess talking about how my Alopecia felt so heavy and I was sick of it controlling my life. It was a realisation. I felt like I was outside looking in on myself and seeing how I had let my condition control my life! It’s so easy to push down thoughts and not give attention to them but they have to resurface at some point. Through the guided mindfulness questions I had no where to hide only to focus on the feelings and through that I could truly examine how I was feeling which at the time made me feel broken has actually been the catalyst to start putting the pieces back together.”
Jen (@currentlyjen18) “For me, the turning point was the moment I realized it was the wondering that was holding me prisoner. Could they tell? Did they know? Are they staring? Do they have suspicions? Will they say something and embarass me? How will I react? How will they treat me? This had been the constant loop in my head for YEARS and I was exhausted. I knew the solution was simple. If they knew I wore hair, I would be free to be myself without the shackles of wondering. So I told everyone and it felt very powerful because it was my choice on my terms. That was when I started to heal.”
Valerie (@valerinafuentes) “After almost a decade living with alopecia, I had a car accident that left me in the ICU for 4 days and off from work for 3 months. The accident put my priorities into perspective and hair loss was definitely not one of them. I was filled with gratitude to be alive, with or without hair. After the accident, I stopped monoxidil, laser comb and all the things I was using looking for re-growth and chose to start wearing hair. Ever since, I haven’t looked back.”
Thank you to everyone who shared. Community and connection and pretty hair to wear are definitely themes. Everyone’s turning point will be different- but almost always, it should include support, whether virtual or face to face. Inspiration is all around and my hope is that reading these turning points helps you generate ideas about where to find it! It will propel you into a whole new leg of this difficult journey!
If you have a turning point you’d like to share, comment below or connect with me on Instagram @elleshaircorner
Usually when wigs and toppers are being reviewed, they are all shiny and brand spankin’ new…They look lovely, healthy, shiny. But it is impossible to know how a piece will hold up over time so this is why I always like reading about well-loved pieces! I’m going to show you my Yefine Wigs hair topper that I purchased in March 2020 to show you how it has held up with regular use and gentle care. If you’ve never heard of Yefine Wigs, they are a wig and topper manufacturer in China.
Wait. You must first glaze over this disclaimer: Buying hair directly from a manufacturer has pros and cons. There are risks involved such as not being able to return a piece, no guarantee on quality, or specifications being lost in translation. Buying directly from a manufacturer allows some flexibility in getting the features you want and typically reduces the cost of the piece you are buying. With that said, plan on spending some additional money on import fees (depending on where you live), brokerage fees, and customization.
If you’re not already following her on Instagram, my friend @thin_hair_flair has a very thorough guide to walk you through the process of purchasing hair directly from a manufacturer. I highly recommend reading and sticking to the guide if you’re thinking of doing this! Also, if you are a first time hair buyer, I urge you to consider buying from a well-known reseller with a generous return policy to avoid making any costly mistakes!
Oh and by the way, this is a vendor I have purchased from 3 times. They have NOT asked me to review their products and I purchased this myself so the views expressed are my own entirely. I first ordered a custom, fully hand tied topper from them in or around April 2019, which I have since sold as my hair had gotten longer than the topper. It was a beautiful, lightweight topper with finer hair. The piece being reviewed today is a stock item I purchased in March 2020.
SPECS: 8X8 hair topper with a 4×4 inch hand tied silk top and wefted back; curly (permed); originally ordered in the colour 8 (vendor described the colour as ash brown, however, it had warm undertones from day 1); hair texture unspecified (coarse); 18 inches upon receipt but trimmed to approximately 16 inches; standard density 130%.
This is the piece I get the most questions about on Instagram because pieces that air dry with a curl are hard to come by. Both the colour and curl pattern are a “good enough” match to my biological hair. The density of the piece is high enough that it covers the colour difference easily. Sometimes, with lower density hair toppers, the biological hair can poke through at the back, so if there is not a good match of colour and texture, it can sometimes be noticeable. Check out this video here to see why density matters when it comes to curly hair and toppers:
As I mentioned, this piece was permed to achieve the air dry texture. This is something you can request when ordering direct from a manufacturer, or you can have your stylist perm a piece for you. Permanent solution can be damaging, especially on lighter coloured hair. As you may know, hair used to make toppers, wigs and extensions typically begins as a dark colour and is bleached then re-coloured before it hits the market. The bleaching process is extremely damaging to the hair. In the case of the hair on this particular topper, it is dry despite my best efforts to baby it and to deep condition it regularly. It is unclear what shape the hair was in before processing, but my best guess would say it was healthy hair initially. But it has had the cuticle removed, it has been bleached, it was coloured and permed in the factory, and I have since coloured it as well, so it makes sense that the hair is dry.
It might surprise you to learn that I actually prefer mid-grade hair. Here’s why: the texture of my own hair is dry and frizzy, so it blends more easily with pieces that, too, are dry and a bit on the frizzy side. I do own a very lovely, shiny, straight hair topper with beautiful “European” hair, however, it does not blend well with my own without a significant amount of fussing. Of course, the desired hair texture is based on personal preference. All hair will need maintenance, however, mid-grade hair will need more upkeep and will need to be retired sooner than higher quality hair. This piece is now nearing 9 months old, has endured regular wear, and the silk top is starting to show signs of shedding. My best estimate is that she will last me until spring with gentle use and a good trim, then will need to be repaired or retired.
This piece is an 8×8 with a 4×4 silk top and wefted back. I find this cap size very comfortable despite my advanced thinning. I removed the comb from the front of the cap when I received the piece because I know from experience that combs don’t work well for me. The comb isn’t necessarily uncomfortable for me, but it does not offer me any added security as my hair is too “slippery” for the comb and does not prevent the piece from sliding back. I added a “hook and loop gripper” using double sided wig tape to this piece in lieu of the comb. This offers a more secure attachment, however, admittedly, it does add a bit of bulk in the front. I found once the cap was a bit more worn in and better formed to my head, I was able to remove the gripper and rely on the clips only to keep the piece in place. This helps it to sit more flush. The cap sits flat, but not as flat as the first piece I purchased which was fully hand tied. I tend to find hand tied pieces to sit flatter. This piece also needs the bulk flattened with a hot comb after a wash so get rid of the “poofiness” but again this is a personal preference. Some do like the volume on top.
Within the 4×4 silk top, I have had to move the part to be more of a center part than a right side part to cover up the small bare spot from wear and tear. The silk top looks very natural. I do, however, prefer a larger amount of parting space- a 5×5 or the entire cap if possible but this usually requires a custom order. The piece came with 6 pressure sensitive clips. It has one that is now coming loose which is a very easy, quick sewing job to fix, requiring only a needle and thread. If you can sew a button, you can sew a clip. You can add more clips to your hair toppers and wigs for added security, or for the purpose of rotating clips to reduce tension on any sensitive areas or to reduce the risk of traction alopecia.
I spent years colouring my biological hair in my teen years. I stopped colouring it when my thinning became noticeable in the hope that this would rectify the damage and stop it from falling out (I was in denial). This means I’ve been rocking my natural mousey brown bio hair ever since which is incredibly hard to match. Hair that starts out dark will reveal its warm undertones when lightened. This makes it harder for me to find ashy pieces that match. A stylist has been able to get a “close” match for me in the past, and I can also get a close enough match on my own, but this topper taught me a very important lesson about colour matching. It does NOT need to be an exact, or even “close enough” match if the piece has enough dimension. It took a few months of wearing this piece in the factory colour for me to realize that it needed dimension. I added a subtle root and some lowlights in a slightly darker, cooler colour than the base (usually I just dye all of the hair the same colour). This dimension made a world of difference in being able to achieve a satisfying blend. If your piece is feeling dull, there are some great tutorials on YouTube to guide you through the process of sprucing up the colour of your human hair pieces (sorry- you can’t colour synthetic pieces reliably). Not keen on doing it yourself? Check out my post here to find an experienced alternative hair stylist to do it for you.
Purchasing directly from a manufacturer can be risky, but overall, I have been very satisfied with this purchase. It may not have come in a fancy box, but it has been one of the easiest pieces to maintain (because of the perm), and I have appreciated the ease and convenience of the seamless blend with my natural hair. It was an affordable piece as there was no retail markup. Approximate lifespan: anticipating a few more months of use, therefore, I estimate a 1 year lifespan. The quality of the hair was lower than the first piece I ordered, however, the first one was straight so it didn’t have the additional processing. The hair is more coarse than the first piece which had more of a European texture. As for the 3rd piece I bought from them, stay tuned 😉. This cap is well-constructed with a generous base size. The density is suitable for blending with natural curly hair without having required any thinning.
Can there be a happy ending to a hair loss story that is riddled with guilt and shame? Not without some serious unpacking!
Shame is inherently tied to our perceived inability to live up to societal standards. We are slowly conditioned from a young age to believe we ought to exist in a particular way to be accepted, and when something gets in the way of that, it’s easy for shame to creep in. Being suddenly faced with looking different gives you automatic entrance into the arena of public judgment and fuels the fear thereof, internalizing the shame.
This is where the importance of NORMALIZING kicks in, as well as the need for challenging socially constructed beauty ideals. One can do this individually and it can occur collectively. We all know somebody who rocked the buzz cut or the blue mohawk to “stick it to the man” before it was trendy. Those people took it upon themselves as individuals to free themselves of the pressure to exist in a certain way. They showed up, for themselves, as their selves, authentically.
But for those of us who haven’t been so bold, it’s been indoctrinated into us that girls ought to wear pink, and be nice, and have their hair just so. Flowing locks and bikini bods being hailed as the ultimate show of femininity; makeup seen as a rite of passage for girls of a certain age. Yes, there are pressures on men (and others on the gender spectrum) to look a certain way, and a man’s own experience with body insecurity, whether related to hair loss or not, is valid and is, too, shaped by that same ingrained thinking about how they “should” be. But hair loss presents a uniquely different set of challenges for women in many cultures where hair is equated with beauty. So loosing that hair can make us now feel inadequate since we may never again have biological hair that is “desirable”.
This standard by which we measure the “adequacy” of our hair is used as bait to sell us all sorts of products intended to regrow or strengthen our hair (this also applies to skin, shape, and lifestyle in general!). We’re lured by promises of sprouting new hair and regaining our beauty that once was. Then we’re left feeling even more ashamed when these potions don’t deliver. Sure, I see the occasional commercial for men’s minoxidil, but the majority of such marketing is geared toward women just to remind us that we will never be good enough.
Add to that the fact that most wig companies market their products using models who’ve been made up and dressed by teams of stylists and makeup artists, with professional lighting, filtering and editing. Imagine one’s disappointment when the wig arrives and doesn’t have quite the impact it had on the website.
There is much that is being done to normalize female hair loss and other body image issues. The body positivity movement has given us, collectively and individually, the opportunity to pause and reflect on what we have been led to believe about how one “should” look. This is the remedy to shame… breaking down those long held beliefs and questioning them. On an individual level, it sparks a shift in one’s thinking that they can embrace their physical self as they are, or they can take control and make any physical changes they desire. And collectively, it unites those with common experiences of overcoming the stigma which creates a ripple effect amongst others with a similar story.
While I feel much less ashamed about my hair loss now that I’ve processed my hair loss trauma over the last 15 years, I still battle with feelings of guilt. I feel guilty that to have that socially desirable hair, I will spend thousands of dollars over my lifetime on alternative hair. Thousands of dollars that could otherwise be spent on my children’s education, donating to charity, or saving for retirement. I used to feel guilty for obsessing about my hair, for spending hours styling it just so, or for missing out on opportunities for fear that my hair might get noticed. It can be confusing, and further compact your guilt when faced with comments from others that “you don’t need hair to be beautiful” or that it is vain to give so much energy to something so seemingly trivial when hair is the very thing you can’t stop fussing over.
And on top of the guilt of spending this money on myself, there’s the ethics of human hair sourcing to consider. It is well-known in the hair loss community that there are unsavory tactics used to source human hair for extensions, wigs and hair pieces. It is difficult to know exactly where hair is coming from. It is difficult to know whether those labourers making wigs, hair toppers and extensions are being paid fairly, and whether “donors” are compensated and/or freely giving of the hair for the purpose of creating products that will hit the retail market. So I already feel somewhat ashamed about my sparse crown and guilty about needing to buy hair, I stumble upon some new guilt wondering whether someone has potentially been exploited for the hair that now sits atop my own head. It feels icky to be faced with the idea of buying mysterious hair whose origins are unknown, and so-called “ethical” hair, which comes at a premium, is out of reach for many.
Phew! That’s a load off! I hope you are catching on to a theme here on my blog… that hair loss is never a cut and dry issue with a straightforward solution!
Here’s how I’m combatting this guilt: I try to be a conscious consumer in my purchases how and when I can. I choose to primarily purchase my own clothing, my children’s clothing, and household items secondhand when possible (did you know you can also purchase hair secondhand?). I try my best to shop locally for staple food items when I can as I can get a better sense of the working conditions of the people that work on the farms and in packaging plants. I contribute to charitable organizations that promote causes that speak to me. We try to reduce our consumption of wasteful or unnecessary items. I will remain cognizant of the ethical issues in the hair trade, and if/when possible to verify the origin of the hair I’m purchasing, I will do so. However, the lack of transparency in the hair business makes it difficult to know for sure, so I will channel my guilt into being an all around conscious consumer when and where I can. I encourage all hair wearers to ask the tough questions, to encourage vendors to obtain ethically sourced materials, and to just continue the conversations about the ethics of the hair industry.
There also comes a time when one makes the decision to prioritize their own needs. If you are struggling with hair loss, and you breathe a sigh of relief when you put on your alternative hair (that cost you a small fortune!), inhale that relief, and exhale that guilt! Yes, it is expensive, but if this is the choice you are making to help you cope, YOU are worth it!
In no way am I implying that one SHOULD or MUST feel ashamed or guilty for wearing hair, because for some, it is a saving grace when faced with the devastating impacts of hair loss. Being conscious of our own guilt and shame is important. Name it as such. Sit with it for a while. Is it helping you or holding you back? Is it making your hair loss journey more painful than it needs to be? Give yourself permission to let *some* of it go… I say some because hanging on to a healthy level of guilt will serve as your constant reminder to be a conscious consumer ;).
So, you’ve decided to hang on to that imperfect wig or topper. Or have you missed the date to return? Was it final sale or secondhand?
Whatever the reason, how are you coping with your disappointment?
In Part 1 of this series, we covered what to do to prevent wig/topper disappointment, what to do upon receipt and within the return window, and seeing each piece as an opportunity to improve your buying experience the next time around.
I’ve spoken with some alternative hair specialists to learn all about aftermarket services to improve the wearability of wigs and toppers. We can break them down into 4 basic categories: customization; alteration; maintenance; and repairs.
This topic requires a preface. It is incredibly important to manage our expectations when it comes to wearing the hair from someone else’s head and/or synthetic hair. If you have found a piece that is without its flaws, you are one of the lucky ones! Teach us your ways! Even a so-called “ready to wear” piece will need to be modified to suit the wearer. No piece is going to be perfect, and no piece is going to replicate your natural hair (no matter how expensive it is :).
However, there are so many options when it comes to making a piece a little closer to your desired specifications. As I pointed out last time, there are some very easily remedied issues such as removing and replacing clips and combs, changing the part, cutting the lace, and restyling, all of which you can do yourself. Pieces often come out of the box looking less than perfect. Since you’ve already committed to keeping the piece, a good first step is to perform a test wash of the hair. This will allow you to reset the part, begin to form the cap to the shape of your head, see how the hair air dries, see if the hair smooths out or holds a curl, and really start to see a piece’s potential. You should also take your piece for a proverbial test drive to get a feel for the fit, the hair, and how it makes you feel. Without wearing a piece, you can’t possibly know what modifications you would like to have done. You might assume, for example, that you want the hair all one length, only to find out later that the long pieces in the front weigh you down. This is why wearing it around before altering is important.
To help us look at some of the available customization options that can be done by a professional stylist, I spoke with Taya from LaPaul Hair Spa in British Columbia. Not only is she a stylist experienced in working with helper hair, Taya also has Alopecia Areata, an unpredictable autoimmune condition that attacks the hair follicle. Taya embraces her hair loss, but she also recognizes the value of helper hair in boosting the confidence of the wearer. When it comes to customizing, Taya recommends taking small steps. “Sometimes less is more,” she tells me. “Consider making small adjustments before you overhaul the alternative hair you own. For example, if you have a wig that you feel is too dark, consider adding babylights or face framing highlights to it instead of lightening the entire wig. Sometimes those subtle reflections make a world of difference.” She reminds us also that thinning bulky areas of a wig can help too. Just as with biological hair, the right hair cut for your face and personal style can make a piece your own! Make sure when you are buying your pieces, that you are keeping in mind to add additional length than your final desired look so that your stylist can customize it for you.
Naturally, some stylists are more comfortable than others when it comes to working with alternative hair. Given that wig and topper hair is expensive, does not regrow, and that human hair does not uniformly respond to chemical processing, and has likely been heavily processed before hitting the market, the reluctance of some stylists/colourists is understandable. Taya suggests that there needs to be trust between the client and the stylist, and working with someone who is confident and passionate about helping those with hair loss will help build that trust. If there’s anyone who is passionate about helper hair, and understands the value and meaning associated with a hair piece, it is definitely Taya!
If you are having your piece customized by a professional stylist, communication is very important! When consulting, you should come armed with inspiration photos and as much information as you can get your hands on about your piece. It is helpful if you know what processes have already been done to the hair as this may affect it’s ability to take colour or be lightened. A piece that has been heavily processed will need to be assessed to determine whether additional processing, such as perming, is appropriate. In the case of synthetic hair, you will want to determine whether the piece is regular synthetic hair or heat friendly. A stylist can cut synthetic hair, but it is very difficult, and in most cases, impossible to alter the colour of synthetic hair. In some cases, temporary spray colours, root powder, or fabric dyes can be used to change the colour, but the results can vary. There are ways to add or remove curl with synthetic hair, even hair that is not heat friendly, but you will need to do your homework before attempting this! Bleaching knots to achieve a more natural hairline or part is another service that can be offered by stylists, though this cannot be achieved with synthetic hair.
Some possible alterations to improve a piece’s functionality include: resizing or fitting a cap; adding or removing hair (wefts can be added or removed, and individual hairs can be added or removed- this will depend on cap construction); adding a lace front; adding polyurethane or silicone strips or other material that facilitates security/comfort; filling in sparse areas; turning a wig into a fall; or replacing short hairs with longer ones (such as replacing bangs that do not suit the wearer).
To walk us through some common alterations that can be done on ready-to-wear pieces, I chatted with Gretchen Evans (@gretchenmakeswigs on Instagram). Gretchen specializes in making fully customized units from scratch and has celebrity clients wearing her pieces for theatre and film! She tells me that “learning to customize a [manufactured] wig can be an invaluable skill.” She says that learning how to sew “darts” to resize a wig can improve both comfort and fit for the wearer. Gretchen even works on “ready-to-wear” wigs which she customizes to the buyer’s specifications by completing alterations such as removing bulk, creating more natural details such as a cowlick and finely detailing the parting area. Sometimes, she finds replacing the lace front on a manufactured wig with a finer lace front with a customized hairline can give a more realistic look. Learning how to do these alterations, she says, can give the effect of a fully handmade, customized wig at a lower price point.
If you are any bit crafty, you can find some great tutorials for how to turn a wig into a hair topper which is another alteration that can take an improperly fitting piece stuffed in the back of your closet and give it a new function for those with some biological hair to clip into! There are also some alteration specialists such as Cameo Wigs that can repurpose a wig into, for example, a hat fall.
You should keep your eye on @devwigs on Instagram. Devorah is a Canadian sheitelmacher who specializes in wig alterations. She is well-known amongst her clients for her ability to achieve very natural looking hair lines by individually sewing in baby hairs at the front of a wig. She performs other sorts of alterations such as flattening a silk top, debulking (thinning), adding wefts, filling in areas missing hair, and custom fitting caps. Her before and after photos are proof that alterations make a difference not only in the look of a sheitel, but in the confidence of the wearer also.
In addition to these customizations and alterations, you will also need to invest in quality products and commit to some maintenance of your piece to prolong its wear. There are many grades and types of hair available and chances are, the hair you are purchasing will respond differently than your own biological locks. They may require special products to increase longevity or to have the hair behave the way you want it to. Taya recommends skipping products that contain sulfates, parabens and sodium chloride to keep hair hydrated, soft and shiny. She tells me that Jon Renau offers quality products for both human hair and synthetic pieces. Make sure, whatever you are using, you are reading labels, and when in doubt, check with the wig or topper manufacturer or seller, or a licensed stylist for product recommendations. Steam has been known to prolong the life of synthetic hair so investing in a steamer may be worthwhile if you enjoy the ease of wearing synthetic locks. Both human hair and synthetic can become dry and will require occasional trims to manage any breakage/damage. Conditioning treatments are also offered by some alternative hair professionals.
You want your investment to last as long as possible. Not only does the hair itself require maintenance, sometimes caps require upkeep also. They can become damaged with regular wear and require repairs. Gretchen mentioned to me that some of the aforementioned skills cross over into wig repair work and learning how to repair them can make them last much longer and makes one’s investment more worthwhile. Caps can stretch overtime so even if they do not need to initially be resized, they made need to be taken in later to return to a snug fit. Lace fronts can become damaged, ripped or sparse so they can be repaired or replaced. One tip I’ve picked up along the way is to hang on to excess lace trimmed from new lace front pieces to be used to repair any holes in lace wigs. This will require some basic sewing skills.
Whether or not you attempt these customizations and modifications on your own, or leave it to a professional depends on a number of things. Here’s what you need to consider:
-What level of risk am I comfortable taking?
-Is there someone experienced near me who can make the adjustments I am looking for, or can I afford (financially and in terms of time frame) to mail my piece to someone who can do the work?
-What experience do I have colouring hair, and how familiar am I with colour theory?
-Am I willing to change the colour or cut of my biological hair to match if a colour job or haircut do not turn out as expected?
-Generally, alterations will decrease the resale value of a piece (even if it costs you a fortune to have it done professionally) because it can limit a secondhand buyer’s options for additional customization and impacts the integrity of the hair.
In summary, just because a piece does not look or function the way you want it to NOW, it does not mean you are out of luck! There are numerous DIY options and professional services that can help you make your piece wearable and combat that disappointment!
Here are just some of the contacts you can reach out to for aftermarket customization:
Anna Mullet (Advanced managing cosmetologist since 2013) -Colour services including: lowlights, adding dimension, root drag/deepen root, reverse balayage, ombre to balayage, toning -Colour correction or multi-process services require consultation -Highlights based on consultation and strand test (requires chemical waiver as the client understands lightening the hair is not recommended by the manufacturer) -Cutting, thinning, shaping -Shampoo/style, conditioning treatment -Mail-ins accepted -Contact via Instagram (@thehelperhairfairy) or Facebook messenger
Audra Rackley (Wilmington Hair Restoration) -Wig/topper customization (mail ins accepted) -Cutting services -Colour services including: root shadow, root melt, toning, foils, balayage, colour/colour refresh -Wig/topper repairs/resizing -Deep conditioning treatments -Contact through Instagram @audrarackleyhair or Facebook, firstname.lastname@example.org -Located in Wilmington, NC, USA
Cameo Wigs -Carries exclusive line of human hair wigs and wig products -Full service salon with full colour, repair and enhancement services -Located in Toronto, Ontario -Contact on Instagram or at email@example.com or Instagram @cameowigsto
Dev’s Wigs -Wash and sets -Addition of custom baby hairs -Fill in of bald areas on wig/sheitel -Wig thinning -Weft removal -Velvet cap -Hand-sewn highlights -Deep conditioning treatment -Conversation of full wig to hat fall -Fittings – Bang replacement -Ear tab removal, wig surgery, debulking, clip repairs, addition/removal of lace front -Contact on Instagram @devwigs
Gretchan Evans (Wig Maker and Educator) -Virtual and in person wig making classes -Custom wigs -Customization of ready to wear wigs -Hair pieces and handtied weft for film, theatre and individual clients -Wig repairs -Contact on Instagram (@gretchenmakeswigs) or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
Jolie Faulkner (IBE Certified) -3D realistic rooting -Colour refresh -Melted colours -Carved out layers to give realistic movement to the hair -Tutorials for clients -Holistic low tox hair colour and products used -Mail-ins accepted -Contact 760-805-8779 or on Instagram (@holistichairmama)
Heather: My name is Heather Scott. I live just north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada with my hubby and my 3 young kids! I’ve had Alopecia since the age of 3 years old, and I’ve since made it my life’s mission make help others feel beautiful about their hair loss!
Elle: What has it been like living with Alopecia from a young age and more recently, coming out about your hair loss? How did others in your life react? How did you know it was time to share your Alopecia story?
Heather: Life has been an emotional roller coaster for the past 30 plus years dealing with alopecia. My very first patch started at just 3 years old, and it was a childhood of patches of hair falling out and growing back in, always learning creative ways to wear my hair to cover my spots. I did get bullied a little bit in school, being called “baldy,” etc but the thing I remember most is the boys who stood up for me! I didn’t tell many people about my Alopecia during my teen years or early adult life. I kept it to myself- it was my thing- I never wanted to talk about it with anyone. My best friends didn’t know; even most of my bridesmaids at my wedding didn’t know. I hid it very well even though I was fully bald and wearing wigs at that point for 10 plus years.
When I came out about my hair loss. I think a lot of people were in shock because they had no idea I ever wore a wig. Everyone was super supportive, but firstly shocked! I’m not exactly sure how I knew it was time to come out to the world about my Alopecia. I just had this awakening, that I am meant to help others feel beautiful about their hair loss, and in doing so I needed to come out to the world about mine. So one day I just did it. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my husband that I was doing this- I just did and it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me!
Elle: You are a busy woman running Pretty Wigs to You and now launching the Helper Hair Box. Tell us a little bit about these.
Heather: My first business is Pretty Wigs To You, an online wig boutique exclusively selling Jon Renau wigs! I ship to both Canada and the US for free. I also have a Wigs To You option in the Toronto area, where I will meet clients at their home, hospital or cancer centre.
My second business started because I would often get parents reaching out to me for advice and support for their child with alopecia, some of these parents couldn’t afford a wig for the child so I would personally donate a wig and include fun things inside the box for the child.
That’s when the idea for Helper Hair Box got started. It is a seasonal subscription box for both women and children. Filled with items to help with their hair loss, build confidence and give them a chance to try new items. Some items that are in the boxes are hats, scarfs, make up, inspirational books, accessories and helper hair if the recipient wears helper hair and if not there’s more fun items to rock the bald look!
As my way to give back to the hair loss community, I donate a box to a child for every 6 boxes sold, and I donate a wig to a child for every 12 boxes sold.
Elle: Is there a particular client you have helped that sticks with you the most?
Heather: Yes, a mom of a teenage girl reached out to me, looking to get her daughter her very first wig, since she was starting high school. This was during covid and I couldn’t personally meet her, so I sent her a few different wigs to try on at home, she picked a style she liked and we had it ordered in her colour. Her mom told me that her confidence level has been lifted since wearing that wig, and she feels like her old self again. Both her and her mom reach out to me all the time, about questions and how to’s. I feel like I have walked them through this whole new world of wig wearing and Alopecia. I saw myself in her as a teenager, and I’m so honoured to have been the one to introduce her to the world of alternative hair wearing.
Elle: What motivates you to continue doing what you are doing?
Heather: I want every woman and child who is going through hair loss to feel beautiful and not alone. My compassion for others is what keeps me motivated to do what I do. I’m a friend and support person first and a business owner second.
Elle: What is the most popular wig you sell? Do you have a personal favourite? How do you decide which wig you will wear?
Heather: The most popular synthetic wig I sell is Zara by Jon Renau. She is actually one of my everyday wigs to wear! She is long and affordable! My most popular human hair wig would be a tie between Carrie by Jon Renau and Blake by Jon Renau. I always rock blonde wigs, my colour is 12FS8 Shaded Praline. I get wig overwhelm (if that’s even a thing haha). I see so many wigs on a daily basis, that when it comes to buying a new one for myself, I never know which one I want! On a day to day basis I stick to my usual look either Zara, Scarlett or Rachel and for special occasions I wear my human hair Blake wig!
Elle: What is your message to others coping with various forms of hair loss? What is the biggest thing that has helped you cope? What do you wish you had known earlier on in your journey?
Heather: My message to everyone with or without hair loss is to be proud of who you are, always! The biggest thing that has helped me cope, is to be confident! Daily positive affirmations and not worrying about what I think others are thinking of me! I wish I would have known sooner about the wonderful support on Instagram! So many women have their own hair loss related accounts, and I think that is such a wonderful idea, to share our journey with others going through the same thing!
Heather: Thank you so much for allowing me to tell my story and for the chance to tell the world about the Helper Hair Box Subscription Boxes. I’m so happy that we were able to connect. Cheers to alopecia and hair loss!
Say hello to Jot (IG: @thin_hair_flair) who has become my international friend! I have so enjoyed getting to know this lady and chatting about hair, hair loss, and life in general. She was kind enough to agree to fill us all in our her history with hair loss treatments.
What type of hair loss do you have?
I was formally diagnosed with androgenic alopecia via a scalp biopsy over 25 years ago. Both my parent had thin hair, so I guess it wasn’t too surprising that I inherited the crappy hair genes too.
How did you come to the decision to treat your hair loss?
I went and saw a dermatologist about some skin issues and she mentioned that my hair looked like it was thinning. I hadn’t even noticed this myself! She then referred me to Sinclair Dermatology (probably one the world’s leading dermatologists dealing with female hair loss issues) for the biopsy, who confirmed the diagnosis, and then I can’t remember if it was him, my GP, or the first dermatologist who recommended that I start taking spironolactone and using topical minoxidil. I do remember being told that both medications had been safely used in women for many years (and this was confirmed by my endocrinologist who cleared me of PCOS) but I was advised that I would have to stop taking the drugs for at least 6 months if I wanted to start trying for a baby.
I understood that taking these drugs would be a lifetime commitment, and being in the health and science field myself, I trusted that the specialists were giving the best advice based on the research at that time, so I was comfortable with my decision to go down the medication path. I will add that social media sites like Facebook and Instagram weren’t around at this time, so I didn’t know anything about fibres or toppers, or even wigs for that matter. Saying that though, I don’t think this would’ve made a difference to my decision.
What treatments have you tried?
In terms of medication, I’ve tried topical minoxidil, spironolactone, finasteride, duasteride, oral minoxidil (both in tablet and sublingual forms) and flutamide. I’ve also tried other non mainstream medical stuff like laser therapy, and acupuncture, and over the years taken some supplements (like those hair, skin, and nail ones), iron, and Vitamin D (I am always very low in both of those). With iron at least, there is some good evidence that for hair loss, it has to be at a certain level in our bodies.
One good thing was that the dermatologist (now the third one) who I had been seeing for many years, also had androgenic alopecia, and every drug she suggested I try was something she was also taking. So I guess if she felt it was safe for her to be taking it, I was also comfortable with it. I did make sure that I put in some time to review some of the clinical studies about what I was being prescribed. I went back to Sinclair Dermatology last year, and right now, they’ve put me on a compounded drug which includes bicalutamide, spironolactone, and minoxidil.
Has treatment been effective?
I get asked this question a lot but find it really hard to answer. The treatment definitely hasn’t allowed me to maintain a full head of hair, and it has thinned to the point where I either need to use a lot of hair fibres, or a topper. But over the years that I’ve been taking the medications, my expectations have changed. I really just want to slow down the loss as much as possible, and maintain what I have for as long as I can, so that I can continue using fibres or a topper.
If my hair loss got so bad and I had to transition to wigs, I’m not sure how I’ll cope because I don’t even like the feeling of having a hat on my head for too long! So this is what I am trying to avoid. Saying that, Sinclair takes progress pictures, and over the last 15 months it looks like I haven’t gotten any worse. If anything, there might be slight improvement, but nothing to write home about.
Considering I’m also now post menopause, and hair loss usually worsens at this time, I think I’m ok with my hair loss stabilising. The other thing for me is that it’s hard to know whether my hair loss might have been significantly worse if I hadn’t been on the meds all these years.
Has treatment impacted your lifestyle?
Spiro really screwed up with my cycle which was pretty annoying and also concerned me, because of course as females we often start thinking the worst when this happens. I’d take breaks from taking that, and my cycle would normalise again although it would take longer each time.
Topical minoxidil gave me an itchy, dry scalp, plus I just found it a bit tedious to have to apply, so I didn’t persist with that for very long. With oral minoxidil, I’ve noticed increased facial hair growth. It’s pretty ironic that the hair is growing where I don’t want it to! But I had been prone to this even before taking minoxidil, and there’s many more methods that can get rid of this, so I’m not fussed and it’s certainly not a side effect which stops me taking it.
Finasteride was the one medication that significantly reduced my shedding, but my libido took an extended holiday when I was taking it, so that side effect was enough for me to stop taking it. However, this can also be a symptom of menopause which I was going through at the time, so maybe this side effect wasn’t due to the medication. Either way, I felt it was best to stop taking it.
I know that having kids is really important for many women, so understandably thats often a reason they don’t want to take the meds. I knew from a very early age that I didn’t want to have kids, so I never really needed to stop the medications (although I occasionally did because I just got lazy).
But considering some of the potential side effects that some women do experience, they haven’t been too bad for me.
What do you want others to know about the decision to treat or not treat their hair loss?
You really have to weigh up the pros and cons, and decide what is right for YOU and your lifestyle. All medications have side effects, even over-the-counter and natural stuff, so keep that in mind.
Firstly get a proper diagnosis from a dermatologist who specialises in female hair loss (and not many of them do, so do your research). Ask lots of questions and don’t just get your advice from women on social media. Yes, ít’s a lifelong commitment to use the meds, but that’s if they work for you, right? And hair loss is a chronic condition, so just like any chronic condition which has no known cure (yet), medication will need to be ongoing.
But, if you don’t think they’re doing anything for you, whether it be regrowing your hair or reducing your shedding, or you experience side effects that you can’t manage or find too disconcerting, then you just stop.
It’s interesting, many years ago there seemed to be a stigma attached to wearing alternative hair, but that’s come a long way now and it’s accepted. What I see now, is a stigma attached to the decision to take medication. I see women on social media actively discouraging others not to even try the meds because that’s what they decided was right for them.
I would just say to these women, don’t try and convince someone that what was right for you, is right for them. Respect their freedom to choose and if you can’t support them, at least don’t make them feel bad.
What’s one thing you wish you had known about hair loss, coping with hair loss, or alternative hair earlier on in your journey?
I think that overall I coped pretty well with my hair loss and kept myself well informed (from the medical sense) of what was out there.
My mum had used scalp concealers and gotten a custom made topper (although I don’t remember it being called that), so I was familiar with these. Of course, both of these have come a long way, and with Facebook and Instagram, I’ve learnt a lot more about these non-medical ways of managing my hair loss.
On reflection, I would probably have gotten a topper much sooner. Despite the medication, I could see that my hair was still thinning, but I waited until it got super thin, before I bought my first topper. So of course to me, it looked so strange, way too much hair, and very noticeable when I first wore it. I felt so uncomfortable! But I think if I had bought a lightweight, low density topper in the early stages of my hair loss journey, it may have looked much more natural and much less drastic a transition.
I would say that in many ways, things would be easier If I was starting my journey now. Apart from my mum, I didn’t know any other women, let alone someone my age, experiencing hair loss. But now there are so many hair loss support Facebook groups, and of course a huge community of women on Instagram, so these are great resources that are easily available. I would encourage anyone going through hair loss to get involved with this social media community, but keep in mind all of your options when it comes to treating your hair loss.
So while Jot and I have the same diagnosis, our approach and commitment to treatment have varied greatly. You cannot base your decision off of someone else’s experience, but by reading about others’ journeys with hair loss treatment, you begin to look at all of the considerations you need to make before you decide about your own. Reach out to other hair loss sisters and learn about what they have been through with medical intervention, lifestyle factors that contribute to their decision, and go from there!
Meet Helen, our contributor today! I reached out to Helen as she is a fellow hair loss sister and fellow Canadian. She is fairly well-known in the hair loss community and does amazing product reviews on her platforms! I asked her to weigh in about her decision to treat her hair loss which was triggered by chemotherapy.
“Hi! I’m Helen, also known on YouTube as Shrimpy McGee. If you’ve ever looked up info for women’s Rogaine and minoxidil tips, you might have seen me there.
“Fun coincidence: Like Elle, I’m a Canadian.
“I totally understand that Rogaine and minoxidil are not right for everyone, and there are so many valid reasons why. But for me, they were, and continue to be, absolutely great for my hair journey.
“There are a couple reasons why I am a devotee, the most prominent of which is that I never suffered any Rogaine side effects. Not even one. But I did have to wait patiently for about 4 months for growth. When it worked, it really worked! And it’s still working.
“I use it once a day in the morning, and I only buy Men’s Rogaine foam or men’s generic minoxidil at the 5% strength. It’s available over the counter. Don’t let the packaging and warnings fool you, the men’s and women’s at 5% strength are identical. I made a video about this if you ever want all the reasons as to why, and Rogaine doesn’t hide the fact, either (https://youtu.be/FusmS1P_urY).
“One of my audience members tells me that in Korea, they are only sold as one product and they are not gendered. Two thumbs down for the “Pink Tax.”
“The other reason I use minoxidil is that I never really discovered toppers until I was well into hair regrowth. If I did, I probably would have switched over to them and never bothered with minoxidil! They just give hair such a lush look. And if we’re real, all the celebs are using alternative hair from Ariana Grande to Mindy Kaling, so why shouldn’t we? The stigma is lessening every day.
“You see, the things to know about minoxidil is it can cause (temporary) hair shedding, itchy scalp and irritation and the kicker: once you start, and if you grow hair, you can’t stop using it or else that hair will fall out. And of course, it doesn’t work for everyone. Also, not everyone wants to be medicated for hair loss.
“For me, it’s a worth-it tradeoff. I really love how my hair looks now, it’s grown nicely, and realistically considering I am post-menopausal, this is as good as it’s going to get when it comes to bio hair.
“Every day I am flooded with minoxidil and Rogaine questions in my Instagram DMs. I try my best to answer everyone! I’m even starting to get sponsorship offers, but the products are always things I would never recommend. Maybe not scams, but not things that people say work.
“So in August of 2020, I started a Patreon support page. Over there, I offer exclusive posts for my supporters delving into topics that can be a little too hot for YouTube. Please do consider supporting me there if you can, it’s the place where I can offer much more one-on-one help in a private setting. https://www.patreon.com/shrimpymcgee
“But either way, know that we are all in this together. The hair loss community is one of the best, sweetest and most affirming groups of women online. And a thank you to Laura aka Elle, for the work that you do and for sharing your experience…and for letting me contribute here!”
So if you read part 1 of the “Making the decision whether to treat your hair loss” series, you know that Helen and I have had very different experiences with minoxidil. Our hair loss experiences are also vastly different so again I stress that it is important to get a proper diagnosis and follow-up with your qualified healthcare practitioner regarding medical management and side effects. Helen has been consistent with her treatment and is lucky enough to have benefitted from it!!
This is Part 1 of a 3 part series about treatment options for hair loss. Check back for guest posts soon where 2 other women from the hair loss community share their experiences with medical management of thinning hair!
Chances are, if you are early on in your hair loss journey, you have treatment on your mind. You will want to see your qualified medical professional for proper evaluation before starting any treatments. Start by visiting your GP or nurse practitioner and request to see a dermatologist. I have also heard of other women speaking with their endocrinologist and/or OBGYN about hair loss so these are also appropriate starting points and they will help you decide what, if any, other evaluation is necessary. Do your research to better understand what medical tests and labs should be completed.
There are a number of treatments that are available for female pattern hair loss. I am less familiar with treatments for other types of Alopecia, so this post will focus on my experience with treatment and management of Androgenetic Alopecia. Like any medical intervention, there will need to be a risk/benefit analysis done to understand the implications of treatment. Be sure to thoroughly discuss this with your doctor.
After I was diagnosed with Androgenetic Alopecia, I made the decision to begin treatment that was recommended by my dermatologist. This included iron supplements and topical Minoxidil. The diagnosis was made by visual inspection of the hair and scalp and from taking a medical history. At the time, I was not aware to ask for things like a scalp biopsy (I was only 19 when I saw the dermatologist) but I did complete a series of lab work to check hormone function and iron levels. I have spoken about my experience with treatment in a previous post so I will give you a quick synopsis: I started with Minoxidil 5% topical liquid applied to the scalp twice daily and over-the-counter iron supplements as I was borderline anemic. I maintained this treatment for some time despite having an allergic reaction to the liquid solution (my dermatologist suspected that propylene glycol was the culprit). I have been a long-time eczema sufferer so my skin has been known to flare often, but it was unusual for my scalp to flare. I briefly stopped minoxidil use to treat my scalp inflammation with a medicated shampoo and switched to minoxidil foam once this was cleared. Even with switching to the foam, I noticed an increase in eczema on my hands and fingers and ongoing scalp itchiness that was impacting my quality of life. It also made my hair look a greasy mess all the time which did nothing for the appearance of my thinning. I was needing to wash more frequently to manage the greasiness which made my hair dry and brittle.
I continued on for about 2 years with the minoxidil, but upon follow-up with my dermatologist, it did not appear to be regrowing any hair so I decided to stop treatment. I now understand that minoxidil isn’t always meant to grow back hair you have already lost, but to slow the rate at which thinning occurs but I did not know this at the time. I was given minimal information about treatment/prognosis at the time of diagnosis, and I was so young that I did not understand the implications of a lifelong commitment to the topical remedy. The counsel I received from my GP was “well at least you will never be completely bald” which was, obviously, unhelpful. My iron stores are a bit better more recently and I continue to take iron supplements occasionally.
I knew that having a family was a priority so this contributed to my decision to halt treatment since minoxidil is not recommended for use during pregnancy/breastfeeling. Following my discontinuation of minoxidil, I tried various other remedies including: Nioxin; castor oil; various other shampoos; the “no ‘poo” method; scalp massage; essential oils; Nizoral (meant to be a DHT blocker); vitamins (biotin, B3 complex, collagen, Hair Skin and Nails formulation, iron), and derma rolling. Nothing was improving the density or quality of my hair, so I opted to get it chopped very short and grew out my hair colour.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the hair care industry is rife with claims that products will grow back your hair. You should be looking for products that can demonstrate unbiased, clinically proven results. PLEASE don’t look at the claims on the label and get your hopes up about it growing back your hair!!!!!!!!! Just because Suzie’s sister’s friend’s mother grew her hair back with a magic potion, it doesn’t mean you should buy it.
There are some other factors that influenced my decision to stop treatments. It was very costly to continue purchasing new products to try. Minoxidil is expensive and is a lifetime commitment so this is something to bear in mind when making your decision. Lifestyle factors also matter when it comes to making the decision about treatment. If you plan to become pregnant and/or breastfeed, there are some types of treatments that are counter-indicated. Treatments require you to be very consistent and are a long-term commitment so if your lifestyle does not permit you to do this, it is unlikely to be effective. There are no guarantees that the treatment will be effective! There can be side effects and some people have concerns about using chemicals on their skin and/or orally to treat hair loss.
To sum up, these are the considerations you need to make before making a decision:
-Your type of hair loss, proper diagnosis, and treatment options recommended by your practitioner to meet your individual needs -The management of other health conditions and management of side effects of any treatments -Is the treatment supported by unbiased clinical research? -The financial cost of treatment knowing that it is an ongoing commitment in order to see and maintain results -The understanding that stopping treatment can undo any progress seen -The chance that it may not work/chance that it will slow the progress of your thinning -Lifestyle factors
What I will say is that I try to maintain good overall health, take vitamins, take iron, try to eat well and exercise, and I opt to wear hair full-time (mostly). I treat my bio hair as gently as I can and use products with fewer harsh ingredients. I am not anti-treatment, but I am anti-treatment for me and my hair loss. For this reason, I have 2 contributors who have chosen to treat their respective hair loss situations, so check back soon for those posts to hear about their experiences!
Hair loss can have a significant impact on one’s body image. The 2 are inextricably linked. Body image, or the way we see and feel about ourselves, has implications when it comes to self-esteem and confidence. Poor self-esteem can be so pervasive in our everyday lives that it impacts our mood, thoughts, interactions with others, and even keenness to pursue opportunities.
When it comes to hair loss, many Alopecians are self-conscious of their scalp showing, of people noticing their thinning, wondering if people can tell they are wearing a wig, or if they look unfeminine (this is not to say those without hair are unfeminine, but ask the hair loss community and this subject comes up often!). Many have spoken of avoiding certain events or activities due to their hair. Think water activities, bright lights, dating, speaking engagements and more!
Sure, we all have things we don’t like about ourselves or our bodies. But too heavy a focus on those vulnerabilities or perceived flaws, can cause our self-esteem to take a hit. This can cause a whole host of issues including low energy, low mood, isolation, avoidance, loss of motivation, disinterest in pleasurable activities, negative self-talk, and much more!
There is growing awareness around body positivity and self-love in the media, social media, in schools, amongst parenting circles, and social discourse. There is so much amazing work being done to positively influence youngsters in particular, but as adults, it can be more difficult to shift our thinking in order to accept our bodies as they are because we have been immersed in a certain mindset for a longer period. Breaking those self-berating habits takes practice!
SO! Whether you are young or old, tall or short, big or small, hairy, bald or somewhere in between, this post is for anyone who is struggling with their body image or struggling to cope with hair loss. These tips will not resolve issues overnight, but a little practice everyday will put you on a path to a better view of yourself! Self-love and self-acceptance is a marathon, not a sprint!
PRACTICE GRATITUDE- We hear this all the time. But what does it actually mean? It is a shift in our mindset to focus on those things in our life that bring us joy, that teach us a lesson, that make us who we are. It is being grateful for opportunities, for loved ones, for lessons learned. It is good to be grateful for what we have, but a focus on materialistic things is not the intent and will not improve your body image. Of course there will always be circumstances that we lament, but even these can present opportunities for learning and growth for which we can later be grateful. Learning to quietly revel in small victories like a hot cup of coffee, a good laugh with a friend, stillness in nature, can set the stage for a more positive outlook. Gratitude needs to be intentional and authentic, so you will need to focus your energy on the things that are meaningful to YOU!
SET GOALS- We cannot overcome body image issues overnight. But we can set goals to help get us there. It also feels satisfying to achieve goals whether they are related to our body image or not. It is important when setting body image goals to really understand where the issue is coming from: were you bullied; has society taught you that you don’t “fit the mould”; has your body let you down in some way; are you overly occupied with what others think of you? Resolving these issues takes a great deal of self-reflection which can be difficult but necessary to grow. Before you can overcome these issues, you must first acknowledge and accept the significance of your suffering. You have to understand the depths of your pain and grief to move forward. Once you have figured out where the issue(s) stems from and how profoundly present they have been in your life, it’s time to make a game plan to take back control. Set your goals such that you can slowly chip away at them instead of tackling everything at once. Establish long-term goals and short-term objectives that will help you get there. You will want to use self-compassion when setting your goals…berating yourselfwill only stifle your progress. Keep the mindset of “thriving in spite of”. You acknowledge your challenges, and you chase your dreams anyway. Hair loss related goals may include: becoming more open about hair loss; leaving the house with or without your wig/wrap, etc); coming to terms with and accepting your loss; educating others/raising awareness; reconnecting with interests you have set aside; and so on.
HAVE SELF-COMPASSION- In other words, be kind to yourself! Accept that you are flawed as we all are, but you don’t need to beat yourself up about it. Part of being compassionate to oneself is learning to love, accept, and respect oneself solely because you are choosing to do so. By relying on ourselves for our own validation, we are sure to get it. When we love, accept and respect ourselves, we put our own needs first. We begin to see that even if we make mistakes, we are still worthy of self-love. We learn to forgive ourselves for making mistakes. Take some of the empathy you have for others, and direct it inward. This leads to gentler, more productive self-talk which stimulates more positivity.
CELEBRATE WHAT YOUR BODY CAN DO. Maybe your body isn’t the shape you want, doesn’t have the hair you desire, doesn’t have the skin you see in beauty advertisements. Maybe you have wrinkles or cellulite or freckles you don’t love. But that body has been there for you through it all. Try to treat it the way you would treat a dear friend. Focus on the things your body has done and can do instead of the things it lacks and can’t do. Every body is good at some things and every body has its challenges. When we’re constantly comparing and competing with others, it is easy to dismiss what our own bodies need, excel at and are capable of. This is your chance to shed all those long held “should” beliefs about your body and instead, give it the credit it deserves for all that it is and can do.
CONNECT WITH PEOPLE WHO MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD- We all have those people in our lives that make us feel lousy. That one person you know will make an undermining comment that will get under your skin. It is no wonder that this impacts our emotional well-being and feelings of self-worth and it’s impact is directly correlated with the amount of exposure to this person. Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you. Those who are there to be your cheerleaders and support your ventures. The ones who are as happy for you for pursuing your dreams as they are to pursue their own. Don’t have anybody like this in your life? Set yourself a goal to meet new people and spark some friendships.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of things you can do to improve your coping, nor are they cure-alls for existing insecurities. But by prioritizing these things, you are making space for progress and acceptance.
So what is it like to lose your hair as a young woman? I can only speak for myself, but I have connected virtually with hundreds of other Alopecians who have gone through it as well. There is a grieving process…not only grieving the loss of our hair, but also grieving the loss of many other related things be they relationships, confidence, our self of sense, and missed opportunities.
I liken my experience to the 5 Stages of Grief by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. No, I am not saying losing hair is like losing a loved one…OBVIOUSLY it doesn’t hold nearly as much value as a human life but I will tell you how I went through these same phases because of my ever more prominent scalp:
Stage 1- Denial Me: I must be seeing things because 18 year old woman do not lose their hair.
My hair first started thinning at the hairline. Unlike other types of alopecia, Androgenetic Alopecia can slooooooowly creep up on you. It was so subtle that nobody else seemed to notice either. I would look in every mirror I passed and convince myself that “it must be the light” or “everyone’s hairline looks like this.” At the time, I didn’t notice any extra hair fall, so how could there even be a problem? Maybe, I thought, if I stop taking birth control, this will go away.
Stage 2- Anger My loss continued to progress for the first half of my 18th year. My part started to widen. I started to notice more hair fall and what I thought was breakage from dying and styling my hair. I saw everyone around me with full, thick, healthy heads of hair so why was this happening to me? Why did this life have to choose me to go through this awful process of being robbed of my crown? I was angry about spending so much time and money on products to hide my thinning and at needing to use chemicals to fix the problem. I was angry at myself for having such intense emotions about something so trivial. I was angry that I was enduring this alone; that nobody was as concerned about it as I was; that nobody understood. I was infuriated with doctors for minimizing my hair loss. Angry at myself because it must be my fault!
Stage 3- Bargaining I heeded my dermatologist’s advice, increasing my iron intake and using minoxidil religiously despite reacting poorly to it. I used it daily even though my scalp became angry and inflamed. I went through the “dread shed” and convinced myself this was a sign it was working (for some- it does work, but did not for me). I stopped colouring and heat styling my hair. I shampooed less frequently, and then not at all. Then I used medicated shampoos and serums. I rubbed lotions and potions on my scalp everyday. I did oil treatments. I tried anything I could find on Google (I didn’t know better back then!). I got regular trims. I exercised, ate well, and took vitamins. I felt these things were the price I needed to pay to get my hair back. At the time, I’d have done anything if it meant getting my hair back. I was certain if I did everything that I was “supposed” to do, it would get better.
Stage 4- Depression I tried many things to get my hair back. They sadly did not work. I gave up. I felt badly for and about myself for a long time. I was convinced I was utterly undesirable and unlovable, that I was somehow flawed as a person because of my lack of hair. I turned down social outings (I also grieved the loss of my social identity and missed social opportunities). I struggled to look people in the eye for fear that I would catch them looking at my sparse hairline and part. I hid under hats, headbands, and various scalp filler alternatives. I refused to swim or get my hair wet. If somebody commented on my thin hair, I really took it to heart. I would ruminate about it for days and weeks, convinced that everybody was judging my thin hair.
On top of all of these thoughts and feelings, I also carried on like nothing was the matter, which made me feel more alone, because nobody understood.
Stage 5- Acceptance I spent years beating myself up about my hair loss. I was completely consumed by it, until I started learning about beauty ideals being socially constructed. I started to question everything I knew about femininity and what makes a person beautiful. Sure, we all grew up being told that “beauty is on the inside” yet nearly everyone in my life was doing at least 1 thing to improve their exterior. But I began to see that I was more than just my hair. That I needed to carry on with my life. That I needed to build up the other areas of my identity that made me feel proud. I worked hard in school and earned my qualifications. I pursued a fulfilling career. I started prioritizing self-love and self-acceptance. I have built a beautiful family with the man I love. I found pass-times that allowed me to be me. I began to realize that it didn’t matter if other people looked at, talked about, or at all judged me for my hair, because I knew there was more to me.
Just as grieving is not a linear path, neither is grief related to hair loss. There have been periods where I could just forget about it; where I could will away my negative emotions about it; where I could focus on other things for a while. Then it would suddenly keep me up at night wondering if I was okay; or if everyone was noticing; or if people were talking about how thin my hair is. I had to find positive outlets to work through all of these thoughts and feelings. There are still days that I resent having Alopecia, but it doesn’t eat away at my soul as it once did. There are inconveniences and expenses that go along with it. There remains insecurity about it. But I have adopted an “it is what it is” attitude about it. I am in control of the narrative I tell myself about hair. I am in a better position to challenge my perceptions of beauty which means seeing beauty in myself and others.
I’ll leave you with my final thoughts- acceptance does not mean I don’t care about my hair, my hair loss, or my appearance. I have just pushed myself to accept the solutions that have helped me to cope in a more positive way. Whether your journey has been similar to or vastly different from mine, know that it is okay to feel whatever you feel about Alopecia, or other body insecurities. It takes time to process, to find support, and to cope effectively.
Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any blog posts. I will continue to share more about what can help you cope with hair loss!
Everybody meet Kristina! She is a fellow hair loss sister and the DIY bonding QUEEN! Read her story, then check out her additional resource if you want to learn more about semi-permanent, non-surgical hair replacement!
“I am wearing hair for 7 years now, after I willingly decided to stop being depressed about my hair loss and do something about it. For five years I have tried almost everything under the sun -Minoxidil, Toppik, different natural hair growth treatments, pills, vitamins… Spent most of my savings as a student on products and doctors, listened about numerous different diagnoses and speculations. All of which did nothing to come to solution how to stop the hair loss or tell me what is wrong in the first place.
“Doctors, family and friends all said this is in my head and it will get better. Right…
“Hair loss just kept getting worse and worse while I started panicking more and more as how to hide it. And I hid it well. Spending an hour after each showering, putting Minoxidil and painting my thinning scalp with DermMatch. Still, hair continued to become thinner and thinner.
“In the final year, I haven’t worn the hair down at all, because it just felt like an old lady hair, it didn’t behave like healthy hair and I just hated it. This wasn’t me and it occupied my whole world. I started feeling depressed as nobody seemed to understand the fact that I WILL indeed lose hair. I even stopped talking about it to anybody as they would perceive it as being vain as superficial as they could not see what I see.
“Fortunately at the time, I have found my tribe at a few hair loss sites, where I connected to women like myself. Women who have shared their similar stories. This opened my eyes to the scary truth that there is a huge amount of women losing their hair. Severe hair loss DOES happen to women which confirmed my fears, but also made me more and more comfortable seeing how they cope and the solutions that exist. So at that point I have started focusing more on the solution and have learned a lot during these years before diving into hair replacement.
“I had one major precondition in choosing my solution – it had to be able to support my active lifestyle. This is what hair loss robbed me of – I stopped doing sports and would just lay and sleep as much as I could to forget and escape the reality. Always being known as optimistic and cheerful person, I was becoming depressed without sport. So I figured my most suitable solution would be the hair replacement – giving me that freedom to be active and not to think about hair for days. This was my only way out if I wanted to continue living my life being only 25 at the time and not accepting to spend my years being depressed.
“I have managed to research online about the toppers and bonding, contacted several vendors, calculated costs in the long term…I had to. Being a student in a country where hair replacement was almost never heard of (Central Eastern Europe) and the living standard is not as high as in the other countries. If I were to do this – it had to be financially possible in the long term. After a year I was ready for my first order. Made a custom head template, sent it to chosen vendor and ordered my first hair piece. Bought all the supplies I needed – some online and some locally – and prepared myself with a shot of strong alcohol 🙂
“On my first day of bonding, I had a very close friend by my side who knew what I was going through. She was my support to go through this. My hair piece was beautiful but I felt so scared. Still, seeing my hair and seeing that hairpiece that is soon to replace that wispy thin hair just made me positively nervous and excited. We took our time, following my written script word by word, step by step. Trimming the hair was the hardest part but I decided firmly and just hated my hair so much and said: “Goodbye bio hair, if you don’t want to serve me, there is another one willing to. I am taking the steering wheel in my own hands and nobody will control my life but myself!”
“Just that act alone was such a burden coming off my chest and made me a stronger woman I am today.”
A HUGE thank you to Kristina for sharing her story with us. If you want to learn more about bonding, whether you’re considering having it professionally done, or doing it yourself, or maybe just curious to learn about the process, Kristina’s e-Book is a MUST READ! She also invites you to check out her private Facebook Group “Bonding Sisters”.
I cannot stress enough that whether or not to and how you tell your loved ones, friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers, strangers, about your hair loss is a completely individual choice.
Here’s a bit about where I’ve been, where I’m at now and where I’m going in this sense, as well as my call to action!
You’ve learned about me that I am a private person. I don’t like others to know when I’m struggling with something. I’ve also got a bit of “it’s nobody’s business” sass to me (this goes for more than just alopecia!). So while I’ve cracked open a bit with being vulnerable, I’m still of the mind that my personal medical information is NOBODY’s business unless and until I choose to share it. I don’t HAVE to tell anybody anything. The grocery store clerk or my coworker have no practical reason to know about my alopecia or why I conceal my hair loss in the ways that I do.
So why am I sharing so publicly about it now then? My target audience is HAIR LOSS SUFFERERS who are where I’ve been! There is solace in sharing a common bond with somebody who has had so many similar thoughts, feelings and experiences. My hair loss is not a deep dark secret anymore but I don’t broadcast it to everyone I know in my physical world. Maybe I will get to that point and I admire those who do. I think it is important for hair loss to be as normalized as someone needing to wear glasses and for others to be as comfortable talking about it as we are in our virtual community.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that a few days ago, I shared a bit about my journey with some friends and family members. Here’s how it went:
Friend A- said she knew I was always sensitive about my thinning hair but didn’t know that I had alopecia. She took a scroll through my blog and now is following along on my Instagram page (HI BABE!). Friend B- a total cheerleader for me doing the blogging biz. She was nothing but supportive and was happy to give my stuff a read. Friend C- disclosed experiencing her own hair loss after having her baby and was relieved that she was not the only one. My beautiful sister-in-laws said they had NO IDEA that I was ever experiencing hair loss because of my hair magic 🙂 My brother- totally unexpectedly cool about the whole thing. I don’t handle awkwardness that well but he totally breezed through the whole conversation about it without making me feel awkward at all. My Mama Jo- she’s been there through it all. Came to the dermatologist with me all those years ago… I told her when I got my first hair piece. But she didn’t know I was sharing publicly. She even wants to guest blog on here about her own hair! Are you guys down for that?
I may not have told many people but this felt light a HUGE step for me and I feel a little lighter. Maybe the day will come where I respond to a compliment about my hair with a “it’s a wig” if I feel like it. I’m unpredictable like that so we will see if the mood strikes.
How will I get there? Slowly but surely, with support, patience and self-love. The more people I open up to, the less ashamed I feel. The more we talk about it collectively, the less alone someone may feel if they are where I was all those years ago first facing my diagnosis.
This is my call to action…. Whether you are experiencing body image issues or insecurities about your hair, your weight, your nose, infertility, feelings of inadequacy, a personality trait, WHATEVER it is… I challenge you to tell ONE person you trust about it. Once we are aware of our own insecurities, we can hide them, or we can face them head on. Telling one person we trust is a good, non-threatening way to reach out for that support we need and to have at least that one person on our team.
Don’t worry if your person doesn’t know how to react. Send them to my previous blog about supporting someone with hair loss. TELL THEM WHAT YOU NEED FROM THEM! Do you need them to commiserate with you? Do you need them to listen? Do you need them to snap you out of your funk? We cannot expect that the people in our lives are mind readers so it is on us to be clear about our needs. It is a good idea to be clear about the type of support you need before you go to your trusted person. If you’re not sure, think about the following: -What is it about my insecurity that is bothering me the most? -Am I concerned about the way other people are looking at me? -Do I need to feel loved and accepted? -Do I need validation? -Do I need to hear that the way I’m feeling is normal? -Do I need to know I’m not alone? -Do I need to vent? -Do I need a shoulder to cry on? -Do I need someone to hold my hand while I’m working through this? -Do I need a push to get back to doing the things that make me ME?
Your friend can’t solve these issues for you but reaching out makes you more accountable to start working on these issues Your support person can’t do the healing for you but they can be there for you while you do it. Maybe they can help you process some of this or they can steer you toward a professional to help you work out the rest. Or maybe telling that one person is just a cathartic release that ignites your healing.
Who knows about your hair loss? How did they react? Who has supported you?
I’ve had a rocky relationship with my hair since late childhood when my hair turned from straight and blonde to curly and brown. I didn’t know how to care for it. I got teased for rocking a “tomboy” look because I would slick it back in a bun everyday because I didn’t know what else to do with it.
Fast forward to high school when I learned how to tame my fine but plentiful curls, but resented them. I would straighten them, colour them, bleach them, anything to try to change them from what they were to something else.
When I finished high school, my hair started to slowly thin. I didn’t suspect it at the time, but I now wonder if there is a connection between taking birth control and my thinning hair. By halfway through my 18th year, the thinning was noticeable enough that I went to my doctor. He minimized my concerns but ran a blood panel. When I went for my results, I distinctly remember him telling me that my iron was low which was likely the cause but sent me to a dermatologist. I waited months to see the dermatologist who took one look at my labs, blurted out the words “Androgenetic Alopecia”, words that I had never heard before, and told me to take iron and start minoxidil and my hair would magically grow back. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. I followed up with my GP about the treatment plan and diagnosis and he simply told me, “at least you will never be completely bald” as if that was of any comfort to, at the time, 19 year old me. I did this treatment (iron tablets and minoxidil drops) for a little while, but I reacted adversely to the minoxidil and decided to stop. The medicated treatment made my scalp itch unbearably, most likely an allergic reaction, according to the dermatologist. I switched to the minoxidil foam and used Nizoral shampoo at his recommendation and continued for another year with my hair continuing to rapidly deteriorate. I decided not to pursue any additional pharmaceutical treatments due to the need for lifelong commitment. I also knew that any gains made would be at risk if I stopped treatment, and knowing that I wanted to have children in the future meant that I would need to stop the use of minoxidil during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
In the meantime, I tried other crazy remedies that Dr. Google suggested: onion juice; Nioxin shampoo; Hair Skin and Nails vitamins; scalp massages; low ‘poo/no ‘poo methods; micro-needling. I considered accupuncture and scalp micropigmentation but did not pursue these options.
I spoke to family and friends about hair loss and they simply minimized it. They told me it looked thin because I was keeping it cropped short, but in reality, I was keeping it short to make it look thicker. I remember experiencing unwelcome comments about my thin hair throughout my 20s. A family member poking fun at me on my 20th birthday about it was truly devastating. Then, away for a wedding, I noticed just how “see through” my hair had become in the harsh bathroom lighting at our hotel. That’s when I began obsessing over my loss. I was frantically looking to Google for answers. My part was widening, my hairline was thinning, and my hair was overall much less dense than it was in my teens. I started disguising my thinning using dry shampoo, creative styling (aka back combing the heck out of it!), using a deep side part, wearing wide headbands, hats. There came a time when I couldn’t look people in the eye because I didn’t want to catch them staring at my sparse hairline and crown. I even obsessed about it on my wedding day!
I became cautiously optimistic when I was pregnant with my first child as my hair looked a bit better throughout. If you don’t know, the hair cycle changes during pregnancy due to hormonal changes there is less shedding that occurs until about 3 months postpartum. I went for a trim right around the time of my first postpartum shed. The stylist commented “wow, if this is what happens to your hair after having babies, I’m never having any.” This impacted me for a very long time, and I struggled to regain any confidence after this. I forced myself to muster up the courage to go to a new stylist and was up front with her about my thinning and told her about the horrible experience I had had prior to that. I started seeing her every 6 weeks for a trim to maintain my chin length angled bob. This made the thinning less bothersome for me for a while but required a lot of maintenance.
Since my hair wasn’t taken from me all at once, I grieved, albeit slowly, for a long time. Marriage, motherhood and a professional career slowly chipped away at my insecurity and grief about my hair loss. I started to see that there were more important things in life, and that the people in my life didn’t care if I had any hair at all. You will hear more about this shift in my thinking in later posts. My hair loss still bothered me, but I knew I had to carry on. I experimented with fibres, and then a combination of fibres and scalp makeup and kept my hair cropped short for quite some time.
My hair was in rough shape after the birth of my second child. I decided to experiment with alternative hair after much research. I took to YouTube to learn all about different options (I can’t wait to share all the YouTubers and Instagrammers that first inspired me with you all!). My hair was too thin for extensions at this point, so fortunately, I stumbled upon toppers. With my husband’s support, I bought my first relatively inexpensive topper to experiment with. When I took it out of the box, I was devastated because the colour didn’t match . I was too embarrassed to take it to my stylist to have her colour match and cut it so I took to Youtube once again to learn to do it myself which turned out okay. I learned a lot from this piece about my likes and dislikes. I knew I needed a bigger base and a different type of cap. So I kept doing research before ordering my next piece.
I finally opened up to my stylist about wearing hair when I bought my second piece. She colour matched it beautifully for me. The confidence this gave me was overwhelming! I was suddenly welcoming of having my photo taken, of going to gatherings, of letting my hair down at the beach. It was truly freeing. I finally felt like me again!
When I returned to work after maternity leave, I was too embarrassed to wear my piece. This seems to be an all too common fear amongst women taking the leap into the world of alternative hair. It wasn’t until I took a new job in a different department that I decided to go for it. Sure, it has raised a couple of eyebrows here and there, but it was better than the alternative, and made me feel more confident.
Now, I’m off work after having my 3rd baby, so most days, you will find me, with or without my helper hair, on the trails with my hubby, 3 kids and a dog in tow. I am blessed!
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of the wonderful online hair loss community. There is something profound about the shared experience of hair loss that builds one’s confidence in and of itself. This has led me down this path of sharing my journey more openly. I am proud of how far I have come with acceptance. If only I had found the type of support this hair loss community offers sooner in my journey! I would have spent so much less time obsessing about my loss and instead, looking at solutions. A year ago, I would have never considered showing ANYONE (except my husband…maybe my doctor) my scalp, let alone having photos and videos posted on Instagram. My hope is to inspire even one person, wherever they may be on their hair loss journey. I have gained so much from connecting with all kinds of amazing Alopecians near and far and for this I am truly grateful.
There is no cure for androgenetic alopecia. There are treatments but I’m focusing my efforts on other things. Professionally, I specialize in helping people cope with mental health disorders. I want to use my professional knowledge and personal experience as my contribution to the hair loss community.
Welcome to Elle’s Hair Corner. As you may have seen, “Elle” is for Laura- that’s me! Laura’s Hair Corner just doesn’t have the same ring to it! Why the corner? That is literally where I store my hair…in the corner of my bedroom.
For a very long time, I allowed my hair loss to define me… so before we dive into my hair loss story, let me tell you about some of the other things that are important to me and have a presence in my life.
I am a mother of 3. I have a wonderful husband. We are nature enthusiasts with a spirit for exploration and adventure (more to come on that soon!). I love yoga, cooking and baking, dark chocolate, wine, the beach, comfy clothes, thrift shopping and green tea. I’m a strong advocate for self-care, self-acceptance, and self-love.
I have a fulfilling career in the mental health sector. I spent a good chunk of my life in school and have achieved an undergraduate and a master’s degree. Being in the helping profession was a calling for me, and has helped me to grow as a person. I learn and have learned so much from the people I serve.
I’m an empath and introvert through and through. I believe in authenticity, which is why I am working on being more vulnerable and putting myself out there a bit more. I find joy and feel called to help others. I am open-minded. I think of myself as accepting, but I recognize and acknowledge my privilege and inherent biases. I am very practical, and focus my efforts and energies on practical things. I strive for balance in all that I do. For reference, I’m a cis female with she/her pronouns (if you don’t know what that means, please look it up!).
I do not enjoy washing dishes or looking at them piled in the sink (you see the conundrum?). I HATE folding laundry but for some reason, I don’t mind washing it. If I start a task, I do not like setting it aside and coming back to it later unless it’s one of the aforementioned undesirable tasks. I hate when people show up unannounced, though I have done the same my fair share of times. I dislike conflict and don’t take criticism well.
Now, the biggie, and probably why you’re here- I have Androgenetic Alopecia. I won’t bore you with the medical mumbo-jumbo because if you found my page, you certainly can find this information on Google! While you’re at it, you can read up on other forms of Alopecia as well!
I began losing my hair noticeably at the age of 18, just after I finished high school. By the middle of my 18th year, the thinning was bad enough that I sought medical advice. I saw a dermatologist at the age of 19 and was diagnosed. I was told that if I took iron and used minoxidil, my hair would grow back. It did not. I know this diagnosis is a tough pill to swallow and it has taken me many years to come to terms with it. Hearing from my doctor that I “would never be completely bald” was of little comfort to me at the time of diagnosis. I have endured countless negative comments about my thin hair, as well as comments from well-meaning loved ones minimizing my hair loss. I’ve tried many different methods and products for “concealing” hair loss. I can’t wait to share more about my favourites with you! I won’t try to sell you on any magic potions for regrowth, because I’m not a dermatologist, and what I’ve tried for regrowth hasn’t worked for me. What you will find is my honest opinion about any products I discuss.
I want to hear your hair loss stories too! I would love to have diverse experiences represented on my blog. Whether you’re a woman, man, elsewhere or nowhere on the gender spectrum, a child (with your parent’s permission), person with a disability, person of colour, if you’re experiencing hair loss or wear hair for other reasons and want to share, please email me at email@example.com and let me know if I have your permission to post on this blog.
While I have come to terms with my hair loss, I know many are at a different phase of their journey. I will do my best to commiserate with you, empathize with you, lift you up, or hail your self-acceptance. What I won’t do is try to diagnose or tell you how to treat your own hair loss….you’ll need a physician for that!