Unpaid review: Yefine Wigs Hair Topper

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.

Manufacturer’s photo of the first topper (custom order) that I purchased from them in 2019. This was by far my favourite piece I’ve owned.
Second topper (the one I’m reviewing) showing the permed curl pattern after a test wash upon receipt.
The curl pattern makes for very easy blending with my biological hair
If you have curly or wavy biological hair, I highly suggest buying a topper that dries with a wave or curl for a more natural blend.

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.

This is the hair’s air dry wavy texture after many, many washes (and several wears since the last wash).

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.

You can see here that there is a bald spot forming on the silk top after months of wear. I’ve moved the part to disguise this and prolong wearability.

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.

This is a close up of the silk top in natural light. It looks very realistic.

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.

It’s best to avoid brushing through the curls on your piece. Instead, use a wide tooth comb to detangle. You can refresh the curls with a spray bottle as needed.
Tip: You can give your topper a bit of lift at the front using a hot comb. This helps keep the hair off the face .

Grappling with the shame and guilt of hair loss

We’re diving deep today…

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 ;).

What are you grappling with the most on your journey? I want to know! Email me at elleshaircorner@gmail.com

You can also read this post over on the HairEditary blog along with tons of other great hair loss resources: https://www.haireditary.ca/single-post/guest-post-grappling-with-the-shame-and-guilt-of-hair-loss-elle-s-hair-corner

Dealing with wig/topper disappointment: Part 2

Aftermarket customization, alteration, maintenance and repairs can help you manage your wig/topper disappointment. Each piece is as unique as its wearer and may need slightly different modifications.

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.

Now what?

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?

-Is it feasible and worthwhile to invest (potentially hundreds) more money to make this piece my own? If not, refer back to Part 1 here: https://elleshaircorner.wordpress.com/2020/09/22/wigtopperdisappointmentpart1/

-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.

-Am I sure that I don’t want to resell this piece on sites such as @TradingTresses on Instagram or on Re: Silk or Lace https://silkorlace.com/collections/re-silkorlace

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, wilmingtonhairrestoration@gmail.com
-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 info@cameowigs.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
– 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 wigmakingclasses@gmail.com

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)

LaPaul Hair Spa
-Traditional salon services and alternative hair services
-Human hair and synthetic hair and care products
-Contact via http://www.lapaulhairspa.com on Instagram (@lapaulhairspa) or lapaulhair@gmail.com

Want to learn more about wigs, toppers, and hair loss? Visit https://silkorlace.com/blogs/main

Q&A with the ONE AND ONLY Heather Scott

Heather Scott, a hair loss sister, owner of Pretty Wigs to You and the creative genius behind The Helper Hair Box joins us today on Elle’s Hair Corner!

Elle: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

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!

Elle:  How can people support the Helper Hair Box?

Heather: You can follow us on Instagram www.instagram.com/helperhairbox or visit our website to get your very own Helper Hair Box www.helperhairbox.com

Elle: Any final thoughts?

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!

For every 6 Helper Hair Boxes sold, 1 box is donated to a child experiencing hair loss. For every 12 boxes sold, a child receives a wig!
You can support this amazing cause by visiting http://www.helperhairbox.com

Dealing with wig/topper disappointment: Part 1

Every piece is unique and different. Each will need different modifications to customize it to the wearer’s liking.

Delving into wigs or toppers can be life changing. Transformative even. It can help restore confidence, and support in coping with diagnoses associated with hair loss. It becomes a way of life for many living with Alopecia or medical hair loss. Wigs have become so common, so mainstream, that they are seemingly everywhere. There are no shortage of hair sellers or alternative hair options to explore! For those who wear hair regularly, one becomes compelled in their search to discover that perfect piece. For someone just discovering the world of helper hair, it can stimulate a newfound sense of optimism.

You’ve been saving up your pennies! The time has finally come to purchase that piece you can’t stop thinking about! It’s still in stock. How has nobody else scooped it up? Your heart is racing. Add to cart…click! You’ve just dropped some major cash on a new wig or topper and your adrenaline is rushing! You know this will be the perfect piece- it HAS to be. The cut, colour, style, hair type, size- it’s everything you’ve been hoping for. And she’s all yours! You’ve got a good feeling about this one…this will be the one!

Your excitement about this piece only grows while you patiently await its arrival. LOOK! There’s the mail truck!

You open the box and suddenly, a pit in your stomach. Something seems off. This is IT? This, my friend, is wig/topper disappointment…

We’ve all felt that disappointment. It’s all too common in the hair world. Hair purchases are laden with emotion, positive and negative. So many hopes and dreams for a better, more positive view of the self become wrapped up in these purchases.

Add to that the fact that it so incredibly difficult to shop online for hair! How things appear on the screen, how they are described by a seller, and how they are perceived by the recipient can vary widely. Even if you go into a shop to buy your hair, there’s a chance of wig disappointment. You picked the wrong colour, or the piece ordered for you doesn’t look like the store model you tried on. You’ve taken a chance on a colour you’ve been eyeing but it isn’t what you expected from the small colour sample or tiny square of pixels.

In this 2 part series, I’m going to walk you through how to manage this wig/topper disappointment.

First things first: breathe! It’s going to be okay.

The best advice I can give you about managing wig/topper disappointment is to prevent it altogether. It can be extremely overwhelming sifting through hundreds of listings, understanding different types of cap constructions, grades of hair quality, brands, and other features. You will want to do your homework before investing big bucks and get familiar with these basics. You also need to have an idea of what features are most important to you. If you like the flatness of a lace top, you might not get that with a silk based wig or topper. If you want a natural scalp, a silk top may be the way to go. If you don’t know the pros and cons of the various cap constructions, you haven’t done enough research.

Even if you know exactly what you’re looking for, and/or are an experienced buyer, making an impulsive decision to purchase a piece can lead you to miss details, or to purchase without ensuring you have had all of your burning questions answered! It can also lead you down the road of compromising on some of the aforementioned features you previously decided on. I get the temptation to make a hasty purchase because many of the well-known brands sell out quickly! But it can lead to costly mistakes.

Here are some MUSTS when it comes to preventing wig/topper disappointment:

-I said it already, but it’s worth noting again. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! You need to know wig/topper basics, cap construction, and take accurate measurements.

-Work within your budget, and even below your budget because as you will read in part 2, you should plan for aftermarket expenses to make your piece your own. Don’t forget about shipping costs and import fees!

-Become familiar with a seller’s return policy in advance of your purchase. Some sellers charge a restocking fee and/or require a piece to be returned within a specific time frame, with minimal or no modifications. This way, in the event a piece is not exactly what you’re looking for, you will know what to expect as far as returns/exchanges and be prepared for this. As a side note, you cannot and should not expect a seller to waive a restocking fee just because you don’t like something about a piece, have changed your mind, or because your financial situation changes (unless there is a true defect, in which case you should communicate directly with the seller to understand their policy about defective items). Restocking fees help minimize returns and account for the time spent prepping a product to ship to you, and then re-washing, re-styling, re-listing, and re-packaging items for purchase. You should also verify the seller’s return policy on custom orders as they sometimes differ from stock pieces.

-Factor in the cost of return shipping and restocking fees into your hair budget. Consider this a “try on fee” which some wig shops will charge. If you have the opportunity to visit a wig shop to do an in-person try on, expect a mark up compared to prices online, but this will let you have the opportunity to see, touch and try on a piece. Don’t feel pressured into buying unless you are certain about a piece.

-Schedule a consultation if its offered by the seller you are looking to purchase from. Some have free consultations and others charge a fee. Virtual consultations are sometimes offered. The fee is generally nominal and costs much less than a restocking fee so if you have a lot of questions, concerns, or are an inexperienced buyer, having a consultation can end up saving you money in the long haul. Communication is a huge part of making a good hair investment! If you aren’t satisfied with a seller’s communication or openness to answering your questions, try another seller!

-Make sure you read a seller’s FAQ section on their website and ask any and all additional questions before buying. You can ask a seller to describe a colour as it may show differently on one screen versus another, so having a description may be a more accurate way to familiarize yourself with the tone and shade to make sure you are ordering something that fits with your needs. Wigs and toppers also tend to be styled for photos so ask about the air dried texture if this is important to you. Request more photos if needed.

-YouTube is your friend! Get on there and watch a ton of wig/topper reviews, colour spotlights, tutorials and demonstrations to get a feel for a brand or colour you are considering. This is especially important in the case of purchasing synthetic wigs/toppers because you are pretty well unable to modify the colour of synthetic fibres. Read reviews on Facebook and other websites to see what others have experienced dealing with a brand.

-Talk to others whose pieces look how you would like yours to look and ask them what modifications they have made to their piece. This will give you an idea of a piece’s potential. It is sometimes helpful to look at unboxing videos so that you can see how a piece looked upon arrival and scroll through someone’s Instagram feed and/or YouTube channel to see if they have follow-up videos/photos of a piece post-customization.

If it’s too late for prevention, here’s what you can do:

-When you first receive your new topper or wig, you should take it out of the box and thoroughly inspect the piece for any obvious defects or flaws. You should also look at the colour in both natural and indoor lighting to make sure that it is the colour that you are hoping for. However, if it is a human hair piece, know that the colour is generally, but not always, a resolvable issue.

-Pieces can sometimes arrive with “box hair,” the helper hair equivalent of bed head. Or it may come styled differently than how you would generally style your own hair or pieces. You may also notice the uncut lace and the clip/comb placement. Look past all of this easily remedied issues.

-Put your emotions aside. We don’t tend to do our most objective thinking when we are overly emotional (positively or negatively). You may be over the moon about a piece and hastily cut the lace only to realize the cap doesn’t fit. Or you may feel disappointed with the purchase and resort to lashing out. A clear head will allow you to work out any issues cordially with a seller. Occasionally, issues are unable to be resolved and third party resolution can assist (PayPal or credit card protection).

-You don’t have to make up your mind about a piece the second you take it out of the box (unless it’s love at first sight!) Being familiar with a seller’s return policy will give you some flexibility in taking a day or so to think about whether you can make the piece your own. Try it on a couple times. Take photos. Ask a friend. Wear it around the house.

-If you have decided a piece does not and cannot work for you, initiate the return/exchange process per the seller’s policy. Items MUST be returned in the condition in which it was received and within the timeframe or a seller may ship it back to you at your expense and decline your refund request.

-If you have decided that a piece will not working for you, but don’t want to pay a restocking fee, reselling or consignment options are available. Facebook, Instagram (be sure to check out @TradingTresses), Poshmark, Craigslist, Kijiji and other online selling tools can allow you to recoup some of your money. You will need to incentivize your buyer to purchase from you by offering a discount unless you are selling a highly sought after piece. Why would someone pay full price from you when they can purchase directly from a seller and have the option to return or exchange? Sites such as RE: silkorlace (https://silkorlace.com/collections/re-silkorlace) or Doppelgänger Wigs will accept gently used pieces for consignment. This means they will do most of the legwork for you, but will cost a percentage of your sale.

-If you’ve decided to keep a wig or topper that isn’t QUITE what you wanted, or you’ve missed the return deadline, you can give your piece a function. Be creative! Can it become your gym hair, pool hair, updo hair, yard work hair, weekend hair, date night hair, hat hair, wash day hair, unexpected knock at the door hair? You get my point.

-Whether you decide to keep, return, exchange, resell or consign your piece, you should look at every hair purchase as a learning opportunity (albeit, a costly one). You will learn what you like or don’t like about a piece, which features you enjoy, which sellers you would buy from again or avoid, and any considerations you need to make to level up your next hair buying experience. Buying hair gets easier with more experience, so you will always be more in the know for your next purchase. And there WILL be a next purchase because even the best quality hair and caps don’t last forever!

Take it from me, someone who has experienced topper disappointment, it totally sucks when you think you’ve finally found your unicorn piece, only to find it’s not quite what you expected! Stay tuned for part 2 where we will hear from some wig experts who will help us tweak our pieces and make us shine!

Laura, who blogs under the name Elle Anne, is all too familiar with wig/topper disappointment. She has learned to see a piece for its potential or lack thereof upon receipt.
In Part 2, we will dive in to all sorts of customization, alterations and adjustments that can be done to improve a piece’s wearability.

Making the choice whether to treat your hair loss- Part 3

Read on to learn more about Jot’s history with treatment for Androgenetic Alopecia

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!

Jot, a HUGE thank you for your contribution :)!

Making the choice whether to treat your hair loss- Part 2

Helen spills all about her decision to treat her hair loss

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!!

Thank you for your contribution, Helen!

Stay tuned for part 3!

Making the choice whether to treat your hair loss- Part 1

Personally, I have accepted that I will always have hair loss and wearing hair helps me to cope with the choice not to continue treating 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!

This is me after my second baby. This was years after I had stopped treatment, and right around the time I decided to purchase my first hair topper. I was okay with my decision not to treat my Alopecia but did not enjoy the way my hair looked.

5 things you can do RIGHT NOW to help you cope with hair loss and body image issues

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!

  1. 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!
  2. 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 yourself will 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Grief and hair loss

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!

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.

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