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!
I’m a bit of a silk top snob… but I admit, they just don’t lay as flat as I want them too, even when I pull out all the stops. There’s nothing like that scalp though.
I decided to try something different. Knowing that it might not work out for me, I didn’t want to spend big bucks on it. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that I’m always up for a challenge to customize my own pieces. DISCLAIMER: I am not a stylist. I learned how to customize by watching a gazillion YouTube videos. If you have never done any dying or bleaching before, please take time to learn before you just have at it because you have to be very careful not to stain the lace or over process the hair. You’ve been warned!
Usually when I am looking for a new piece, there’s lots of back and forth with a vendor, generally through Instagram. But this time, I was impulsive, and impatient, so I wanted to order something that was ready to ship, and I wanted to add to cart and checkout without the back and forth.
I had heard of China Lace Wigs before, so I decided to get in on their summer sale action. I saved an extra $35 off their already low prices, and shipping was free. They also accept PayPal which is a MUST for me.
Here’s my full, unbiased review. This review is in no way sponsored or endorsed by China Lace Wigs. I purchased this wig and all products myself. I may, however, receive a small kickback as an Amazon Associate if you use the links below to purchase the styling products I’ve recommended below! Using my links helps me earn a small amount of money so that I can reinvest it to test out and review more products for you guys. So, if you’re buying these items anyway, PLEASE support me by using my links (THANK YOU!!).
Here’s the specs: China Lace Wig Brazilian Virgin Human Hair Body Wave 360 Lace Frontal with HD Dream Swiss Lace CF423 Colour as pictured on the site 14 inches 150% density Size large cap (22.75)
It came to $170.56USD plus import fees of $24CAD (about $17USD)
I recorded an unboxing and these were my initial impressions: PROS -Nicely packaged -Inexpensive -Quickly shipped -Soft hair -Nice density -Baby hair -Preplucked hairline -Wavy -Came longer than expected (the ends look thin, but I ordered a 14 inch so the length is actually pretty generous, even after I get the ends trimmed)
CONS -It was orange (colour can vary on a screen, but the picture on the website appeared vastly different than what I received) -Uneven colour- the roots were lighter than the body of the hair shaft which had residual colour from before the hair was processed in the factory -the lace is light, but still a bit too dark for my skin tone which will make it hard to conceal when summer is over -the knots were unevenly coloured -very dark strands throughout the hair -wefting visible along the edge of the frontal -the cap is quite large but I did order a large size so I cut the lace back a bit above my ears and may make some further adjustments to the cap
I always, always, ALWAYS do a test wash when I get a piece assuming that it’s one that I’m planning to keep. When I test washed it, some colour was observed in the water (not a big deal). There was minimal shedding. I was pleasantly surprised with the body wave texture after washing.
I bought 2 boxes of Garnier Belle Colour in colour 50 (about a level 5 neutral brown). The hair took the colour process well but it needed another round of colouring so I bought 2 more boxes. I paid 4×6.99=$27.96CAD plus tax so let’s say $30. You can find it here–> https://amzn.to/3jO0uY3
After 2 rounds of colouring, it was a nice rich, warm medium brown colour (bye bye pumpkin!).
I gave the hair a deep conditioning with Garner Fructis Nourishing Treat hair mask which smells like a tropical island vacation and made the hair super soft. It is very affordable. You can find it here–> https://amzn.to/3g0WjWC
After air drying the piece, I decided to bleach the front knots and the knots along the part line. I used 20 volume developer and BW bleach powder which you can buy at Sally’s. I should have left the bleach on a little longer, but it did lighten most of the knots (some remained black). I then added a touch of powder foundation to further mask the knots. The result was surprisingly good. I added a strip of medical tape to the part line as well after I took the photo below. It helps to hide the appearance of the grid pattern on the lace and prevents my bio hair from showing underneath since I refuse to wear a wig cap.
I added OGX Quenching Coconut Curls Curling Hair Butter to which added beautiful moisture to the body wave of the hair and smells similar to the hair mask I used. You can find it here–>https://amzn.to/39wpsql
Then I topped off the beautiful air dry finish with some good ol’ Moroccan Oil. I like this one here: https://amzn.to/32V7rRg
These got2b products are very commonly used, easy to find, cheap and you can find so many tutorials on how to use them with your wigs and toppers. They remove easily with water, and when I removed this wig, I rinsed the front lace with warm water to get rid of the residue.
For the price of this wig, I am absolutely shocked by how soft and fine it is! It’s been washed 3x and is still really manageable. No tangling noted. It is overall much longer than 14 inches. I knew from watching CLW live on Instagram that I should order a higher density as their pieces did not appear to be that dense. I would say this 150% density piece is closer to a typical 130% but of course this varies amongst different vendors.
The area where the 13×6 lace frontal meets the wefting proved to be problematic. It needed some finessing so that it was not visible. I used my curling rod to smooth down the hair over the wefts to adequately cover them and used hairspray to hold it in place. If this was going to be my daily driver, this would really bother me but since it will only be a piece for occasional wear, I don’t really care if the wefts are at risk of poking out, especially in the era of physical distancing.
The hair is a bit poofy on the top, so that will be remedied with the curling rod as well. It is also in need of a trim but as I said before, it came way longer than 14 inches so that is okay with me. I actually really like wigs and toppers with “whispy” ends as I find they look the most natural. I have done NOTHING to the curls below except adding the products mentioned above. I scrunched the hair a tad after applying and it dried just like the photo below. If you’ve seen the photos of my biological hair, you will know why I like an undone wave/curl pattern… my own curls are WILD!
The lace lays SUPER flat. Like unbelievably flat. “I can’t believe it’s not growing out of my head” flat. This is virtually unachievable with a silk top.
Next time, I would be sure to communicate more with the vendor prior to purchasing. And I would go for a full lace cap next time, meaning that there is no wefting. No wefting= no risk of the wefts poking out.
I will also note that the vendor and I have different opinions on the definition of “virgin hair”. I did not clarify with them prior to purchasing (my own fault) but did reach out afterward inquiring about the colour variation in the hair upon receipt of the item. They denied that the hair was anything but virgin and explained that virgin meant “quality” so in all fairness, they didn’t claim that virgin hair was unprocessed. I did express to the company that I feel this should be more clear for customers, as when I think of virgin hair, I think of my bio hair which is untreated and uncoloured. I spoke with some other hair loss ladies about this and learned that there are wide variations of how manufacturers define “virgin” hair. So do your research prior to purchasing. For the price, I can’t complain. And now my next purchase will be better informed.
If you are on a budget, prepare to invest time learning and doing the work to make your pieces your own. There’s a reason that high end wig companies charge what they do for customized pieces. It’s a TON of work and being a stylist/colourist is a skilled trade. I’m NOT a stylist but I have done enough of my own pieces that I see the beautiful colour work stylists do and know how much time they pour in. So, if you’re paying $200 for a wig, don’t expect it to look like the pieces you see everybody drooling over!!!!!!!!!!
Overall, I really can’t complain about this piece. Would I consider buying from this company again in the future? Maybe. This piece was a lot of work. Since the terminology can vary from one vendor to another, it is hard to know exactly what you’re getting/what processes have been done to the hair. I will be sure to clarify that before purchasing next time. I also want to see how the hair holds up before considering another order so expect an update on this piece.
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?
Working in mental health, I greatly appreciate one’s need for proper support in managing difficult health conditions or facing issues related to body image. As a longtime alopecian myself, I want to offer my insights on how you can support your friend, loved one, partner, spouse, coworker or acquaintance experiencing hair loss. Here’s how you can help.
#1- Don’t mention it until they do! There are different views on this perhaps. In my 15 years since I was diagnosed with Androgenetic Alopecia, I received several unwelcome comments about the thinness of my hair. Without calling out anyone specifically, I will tell you that someone closest to me felt the need to point out my thinning (on my 20th birthday no less) and this had a deep, long lasting negative impact on me.
If someone’s hair is thin enough that you’ve noticed, chances are, they already know! There’s really no need to point it out. It isn’t helpful. I know that this can come from a place of genuine care and concern, but it can be very hurtful to the person on the receiving end. Think about it this way, what if someone you hadn’t seen in a while let you know you had packed on a few pounds since they last saw you? Probably wouldn’t sit so well with most people.
If the conversation happens organically, there is no reason to point out that you had “noticed but didn’t want to say anything.” This isn’t helpful either. Something like “do you want to talk about it?” would be sufficient (see #2 below!).
#2- Let your friend talk about their concerns Vulnerability can be uncomfortable both for the person disclosing, and the person on the receiving end. Don’t shy away from the conversation because it makes YOU feel uncomfortable. Imagine how uncomfortable your friend is living with hair loss, feelings/suspicions of people constantly staring at their bare scalps, feeling insecure, and now feeling the need to have to explain it to everybody. Be sure to actively listen to their concerns. Ask questions if you are unsure about something. It is perfectly okay if you don’t know how to respond, as long as you let them know that you are willing to listen. There is already so much shame experienced by a hair loss sufferer that they don’t need you to make them feel even more ashamed in opening up just for you to shut down the conversation. Don’t change the subject just because you don’t think hair loss is important.
#3- Do NOT minimize or be dismissive about your friend’s feelings Many people I confided in told me my hair “didn’t look that bad” or that they couldn’t tell that I was losing it. This is well-meaning, but unhelpful. It makes your friend feel as though you don’t care about the changes they have noticed in their own hair. You know how your own hair feels when you run your fingers through it- so does your friend. They KNOW their hair is less dense than it once was. It can also be tempting to turn your friend’s “negative” into a “positive” by saying things like “well at least you don’t have to spend hours drying your hair” or “it must be nice to just throw on a wig and go” or “well at least you look good in hats.” If somebody said those things to me, it would most certainly be met with a sarcastic “well gee, I hadn’t considered that.” 🙂
It is easy for someone with a full head of hair to say “it’s just hair”, or to jump straight to “at least it’s not something life threatening.” There is no need to make your friend feel silly or guilty for being upset about their hair loss. How we feel about hair is intrinsically intertwined with societal perceptions of beauty. Our hair may connect us to our culture, family, or remind us of things in our past. It is often the first thing people notice about us whether consciously or unconsciously. While long, lush locks are not inherently symbolic of femininity, we as participants in our current society have been conditioned to feel a certain way about how a woman “should” look.
Side note: there is amazing work being done challenging these ideals of “feminine beauty standards.” But that discussion is for another time! The point of the matter is, if your friend is confiding in you about their hair loss, obviously their hair means something to them, and it is painful for them to see it coming off of their head.
#4- VALIDATE/EMPATHIZE Your friend has confided in you. Now what? “Wow, that must be really hard” is an easy statement to show you are trying to understand from their perspective. This will help them feel heard. Some other things you can say: “It sounds like that is really troubling you.””It seems like your hair loss is really impacting the way you feel about yourself.””I’m so sorry you’re going through this; I’m here to support you.””Tell me what it has been like for you dealing with hair loss.”
#5- Do not jump to solutions/problem-solving Instead, ask how you can be supportive. Maybe your sister’s friend’s cousin’s boss tried this new shampoo that totally worked to grow their hair back, or they used this supplement or that serum to stop their hair fall. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT MAKE THIS SUGGESTION (unless you are a qualified dermatologist, in which case, you can feel free to bring on the evidence based, scientifically proven and independently validated, clinical treatment recommendations)! Allow your friend the opportunity to research their own options and make an informed decision. It would be fine to ask them if they have a plan about how they will handle their hair loss after they have had a chance to talk to you about their feelings and experiences and have felt heard. You can also follow up with your friend later if they’ve mentioned something specific they would like to try to see if it’s working for them. Or, if you really want bonus points, offer to go with them if they talk about trying helper hair or getting a big chop. It can be scary to take these steps to take all on your own!
#6- Thank them for sharing something so vulnerable with you As I said above, it can be extremely embarrassing and difficult to talk about hair loss. Your friend has entrusted you with something they have likely been struggling with for a while. Let them know that you will continue to support them, and that no matter the state of their hair, or what options they choose to deal with their alopecia, you won’t think differently of them.
#7- Respect their privacy by keeping it to yourself If and when your friend is ready to be more open about their hair loss, THEY will do so on their own terms. You do not need to tell everyone you know about a person’s condition. Respect their privacy and do not share unless they give you their express consent to do so.
#8- Celebrate with them Now that your friend has found an option or options that works for them and their hair loss, it’s time to CELEBRATE! Be happy for them. Let them know if you notice a positive change in how they carry themselves. And if they buy a bomb new wig, for Pete’s sake you better notice and “ooooh” and “ahhh” with them. She might even let you try it on some time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you have broken any of these golden rules, revisit the subject with your friend and take ownership. Saying “I’m sorry I dismissed your concerns when you spoke to me about your hair loss” can go a really long way (see VALIDATE!).
Here’s one thing I’ll bet most women with hair loss have in their arsenal of hair products: a wide headband. These are also known as “boho headbands,” “sports headbands”, “tube headbands”. Whatever you call them, they are a godsend!
You can find just about any style, pattern or colour. Some are “turban” style or knotted. I personally prefer a flat, wide style so that I can give it a gathered appearance on the top. You will also find a wide range of prices depending on the brand, the quality of the fabric, or the complexity of the construction. My favourite, beloved, teal tube headband was an eBay purchase for under $5CAD several years ago. She has, sadly, been through the ringer a few too many times and is showing signs of wear.
So why might you need or want one of these?
With so much fabric, the provide GREAT coverage for thinning. This is especially important in the summer months so that you don’t burn your poor scalp.
They are versatile. There are so many variations and so many ways to wear them and they fit with a lot of different looks. You can dress them up or dress them down.
They can help you to ease into wearing hair if you’re nervous about blending your hairline with a wig or topper, or if you are self-conscious about your lace showing (PSA: even if you know nobody is looking at your lace, you can STILL FEEL SELF-CONSCIOUS ABOUT IT!). It can also help if you’re worried about POOF- you can use your headband to help flatten the poof or just to disguise it.
They are great for active lifestyles that might not mesh well with some helper hair. I would worry much less about ruining my $5 headband at the beach than an expensive hair piece. It also keeps hair from falling in your eyes while you’re running.
These are practical and functional to have as part of your wardrobe, affordable and easy to find in stores or online!
BONUS: A tube headband can double as a face mask if you’re in an area where you have to wear one!
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.