How Hairdressers Can Help Those with Hair Loss Problems
As an artist, hair is an excellent and versatile material to work with. Changing its form can be achieved by as little as brushing it or with more effort shaped with a cut, permed, straightened, flicked, twisted, plaited, set , heated. All that before you even think of what colour you would like it to be; no rules there either as if it’s in the colour spectrum you can wear it. The best bit is if you’re tired of that look, change it. It grows back.
But what happens when that material isn’t there? Is your job as a hairdresser over? Do you say good bye to those unfortunate clients suffering hair loss? Or can you help?
I was faced with this question when my sister, Gill, lost her hair through her treatment of breast cancer. Gill, unlike me, was a very girlie girl. She would never have left the house without full make up, hair done to perfection and wearing just the right outfit. Facing the battle of cancer was bad enough but without her hair unthinkable. She turned to me, the hairdresser, to see how I could help.
At the time I had very little knowledge of wigs. They were just something you made fun of when you saw an ill-fitting, badly styled one. Forgetting about the person who put it on their head in the first place, as if that was their preferred choice rather than their only choice once their own hair had gone.
Here began my transformation into a wig lady.
I had read an article about Trevor Sorbie and his charity My New Hair. Through his own personal experience helping a family member during their cancer treatment he came up with the idea of creating a network of hairdressers offering their expertise to those who now needed to wear a wig.
A good wig, well fitted, professionally cut. Hair that looks natural and attractive. Giving the client back a little confidence to face the world and the challenges ahead. All this struck a chord with me and I contacted them.
All about Wigs
Before long I had enrolled in Trevor’s training course. Here we learned about:
Different types of wig. Real hair or synthetic hair. This is an important factor as real hair wigs must be treated like real hair. Hard work if you’re not feeling so good. A synthetic wig is as easy as wash and go. It will reform itself back into your chosen style which actually makes wigs a very attractive option and no more bad hair days.
How to fit a wig. We don’t all have the same size head. One size does not fit all.
How to cut a wig. This really went against the grain of my hairdressing training where there are uniformed patterns to follow to achieve a style. With wigs it is more a case of if it looks right it is right; but remembering it doesn’t grow back.
This made my first few goes very nerve racking. ’ My New Hair’ have a fantastic web site with lots of information for both the hairdresser and the client.
Hairdressers offering hope
I can’t emphasize strongly enough the emotional effect hair loss has on people. There are many causes of hair loss which as hairdressers you may have come across. Male and female pattern baldness, Alopecia, hormone imbalance, Cancer treatment and the treatment of other medical conditions.
Whatever the cause of the client’s hair loss it is devastating. Why? Because we identify ourselves and others by the way we look. It sets us apart from everyone else. The loss of one’s hair is only made worse by the fact it usually comes at a time when you’re at your lowest ebb or darkest moment.
I have had clients walk in to see me with a wig in a bag with a “here it is!” and thrown it to me. They were given the wig by the NHS, usually by a medical professional, not a hair professional.They don’t see the wig as their new hair just something they were told to wear. This is where we as hair specialists come into our own. We can help them choose the right style and colour.
In an ideal world the client will see you before they lose their hair so you can see how they look with hair. If their hair is long it is better to get them to cut it shorter before it goes. This is in preparation for their new look.Once their hair begins to grow back it could take years before it reaches the length it was before the loss or treatment. It may be you're supplying the wig to the client or just advising them at the initial stage on what to ask for from the NHS representative.
Once they have received their wig it is our turn to make it the client’s new hair. One that belongs to them, that is styled for them, that fits snuggly, so the client won’t worry about it coming off in the wind or being pulled off. Experience has taught me to remind client’s to be careful when putting up umbrellas. A necessary task with our weather system, but sometimes when the umbrella goes up, so does the wig.
There is no better feeling than seeing a client walk out of the salon with their head held high, glancing in the mirrors as they pass through. Giving them back the feeling of being normal is priceless. But we mustn’t forget it can be an emotional experience for both the client and the hairdresser and not everyone can deal with the emotions the service may provoke.
Should we charge for this service? I have been accused in the past of making money from people who are sick. So do doctors, nurses, pharmaceutical companies, etc. Hairdressers providing this service know how important it is.
It is psychological medicine. Giving back a little of the clients confidence. These clients paid for their hair to be dressed before the loss, why not after. I include the styling if I provided the wig and charge the price of a cut and blow dry if they provided they own wig.
On occasion I have cut a client’s hair for donation to the Little Princess Trust. They provide real hair wigs for children who have lost theirs. This I do not charge for and let the local press know about the event. This helps promote the service I’m offering and raises the awareness of the charity.
Volunteering with one of the major cancer charities is a good way to start in this new direction. They will usually run their own training schemes. Joining the “My New Hair Network” does involve a small charge for training but you do then have the back up and support of the charity. Most wig suppliers also run training courses for stockist/potential stockist.
It would be great to reach a level where anyone seeking advice on how to deal with hair loss could see a trained professional locally without incurring major expense or inconvenience.
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