Saturday 19th September 2020
Well, What Do You Call Yours?
Blog by Key Contributor Jacky
Wow, thank you for reading my blog last week and have you seen the new Christine Headwear collection? I love all of it and will need to save a bit to purchase some lovely new items. Super Autumn colours and something for everyone, personally I am especially impressed with their new vest and as I’m still recovering from a Lumpectomy, and full nodal clearance on the right side (which is often tender from the drainage site and scar tissue) the vest looks like a comfortable blanket in which to wrap myself up in, perfect for cold starts and feeling cosy.
The Alopecia UK group are 15 years old this month and people are busy creating awareness and raising money for this wonderful charity. My banner is on Facebook as now I’m comfortably loud and proud of being an Alopecian for 30+ years and hope that I can help highlight our band of members in any way possible.
This week I wanted to pick up on a topic of conversation on the Alopecia UK page around the topic of the word “Wig” and how it makes people feel and what do you calls yours? I am in total agreement users said that it is a horrible word; equally, it makes my skin crawl and I avoid it on most occasions which is difficult working where I do. I use the words hair, hair piece, unit, custom made, piece, item. In fact, I create different names for different clients, I usually wait to hear what they call it first and then adopt their chosen name.
I have heard a few people calling them by a pet name such as Bo, Bob, Kylie, Kim, Beverly even “Wives” after a bad auto-correct! I suppose most stock items have “people” names and people might use these names instead of the W-I-G word.
How do you feel about the word “Wig”? Phonetically, I feel it is such a harsh word - it’s short and brash - and for me it conjures images of clowns, judges, fancy dress and badly constructed, poorly fitting things that look either like a birds nest or matted rug on top of someone’s head. The dictionary definition is: "noun. a covering for the head made of real or artificial hair", there is a second definition for wig (wig out) chiefly: "Noun. Amer. Become deliriously excited".
I can’t say I have ever felt 'delirious' in a wig... more content, and after an indulgent night - miraculous.
For us Alopecians we need certain hair items to help us exist in a world that does not accept it normal to have little or no hair, although we are working very hard to push this misconception out of the window.
Male clients in particular struggle a lot with the whole discussion around hair and the terminology used and often prefer top pieces or hair systems. Many manufacturers use words like “Tech” to describe gents pieces, perhaps this is because guys like gadgets and technology, making it a safer, more 'masculine' word. For men it is numbers that are used instead of named colours for hair choices. Although I do know of some men who would like a Stevie Auburn Sugar, the majority would prefer an Aki 640 or a custom made Cyberhair in 720.
I think men are becoming more confident to talk about hair loss and how it makes them feel, they are also experimenting more with microblading and looking at ideas to help them cope with “losing features and a sense of identity”. Matt Lucas used Duncan Goodhew as his source of acceptance and inspiration and many of our ways of coping are around finding people like us. There are so many male celebrities rocking the bald without us thinking about it: Dwayne Johnson, Samuel L Jackson, Bruce Willis.
Have you seen Black Panther? I demand that you do so, a film long overdue for creating Black superheroes (Rest in peace Chadwick Boseman). Finally, a film with a strong female hero with what has to be my standout moment of all time, Black Panther – Casino Fight (2018). Okoye (Danai Gurira) throws her wig as a weapon of distraction, this has to be the ultimate use of a hair piece and let’s face it what we all would like to do, I sat up and laughed loud and long at this scene, ask any Alopecians and they will agree. I wanted to simultaneously run around and jump up and down and find someone to agree with me, I felt both in awe and empowered, Okoye didn’t want the wig on in the first place and she certainly didn’t need it in the fight scene or during the rest of the film. This is the first time I have felt that "Yes! That’s what you do with it, go girl" energy.
Thank you to whoever wrote that scene!
Whatever our phobias are based on or where they originally stem from have genuine influences on how we feel about ourselves, we all have mental preconceptions that we have to navigate, and the most monumental ones are around our appearance and how we believe others regard us, it is really difficult to break down these ideas and make new ones.
Hair loss is such a big life changing condition that needs as much support as anyone can offer, time and again we are told there is no cure, it is heart-breaking.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if when we got up in the morning we could step into a tube that cleanses us, designs and fits our clothes, hair and general appearance, it would also tell us what food or medicines we needed, how much and what type of exercise we should do and what time we should go to bed by.
We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time pondering the latest clothes fashions (well okay, not all of us), buying and trying things that we will never ever wear and often getting increasingly annoyed about our purchases.
You can’t afford to do this with hair, it has to work for you and not against you, there is no point in getting something in the wrong colour or if it hurts you every time you wear it as it is the wrong size.
As for what to name it, well I can tell you what I call mine...
Usually hair, it’s my hair, when I take it off it’s my hair and when it’s on it’s still my hair.
I used to have a phobia about human hair wigs and wearing someone else’s hair, in fact I have just shivered writing that. It is a bit odd though when you think about it, no? Just me? The way I think about it now is... well, I don’t - I either take the ostrich route or remember that it is a commodity and not from one source, but many. Lots of hair gets donated but mostly there are markets where it is sold and used for the manufacture of my hair and when sourced ethically like this has helped to give incomes and a method of future incomes to many. Thankfully with the pieces I own from Trendco I know this to be true.
My hair is not me, but it does help me to feel more like myself. This is key to my own happiness and personal acceptance, however only in writing this blog for you this week, I have realised that written and spoken language, imagery, idols, influences and a whole other multitude of factors are contributing to make my world a much less lonely place. I hope you feel the same.
Saturday 12th September 2020
Blog by Key Contributor Jacky
We see the launch of the new Christine Headwear collection this month and it is only fitting that I write a blog whilst wearing my favourite headwear item.
This BB Turban with ribbons has the uncanny ability to make me comfortable in any weather, plus the colour makes my eyes pop and helps me to feel more cheerful. It is made from wool and polyester and is also called 37.5 as it really does keep you at that perfect temperature...
I have been reading plenty of articles this month as it’s Alopecia Awareness and the message is coming through loud and clear that whatever makes you comfortable is the right choice. How others react to finding out we have Alopecia is another matter entirely and we cannot change this reaction but perhaps we can influence a different response. In an article written by a fellow Alopecian Linzi Jackson-Barrett “Don’t tell me I’m brave for showing my bald beautiful head” published in the Metro on 5th September she discusses the comments she received from 2 ladies, whilst attending a theatre show.
It is these comments that put most of the fear into us Alopecian’s and the fact that we have to continually justify our appearance. I am not ready for these battles and conversations on a daily basis but I do usually have them whilst on holiday as I rarely wear wigs abroad. I also perhaps have more time to spend on my skin care, makeup and jewellery which I find necessary to carry off wearing only headwear, the thought of having no hair, headwear or makeup makes me feel highly anxious. Linzi’s article is challenging the way we are regarded, it’s a cracking read and I hope people become more aware of the dialog needs to happen or not in this instance.
Our message is getting louder, I have spoken to many people who have said “do you have Alopecia or Cancer”, it was odd to say both over the past year. A “hat” seems to draw peoples intrigue and the first instinct is to view it as a health issue, however how many people wear hats or headwear through both necessity and choice and never have to deal with the questions we Alopecians get. It’s getting tiresome answering them and I feel like having a badge made: I am not ill!
I recently stumbled out of bed put my hat on to collect my daughter from finishing her shift at the local pub, this is me, myself and only I putting these conditions onto myself in order to function outdoors, I am sure if I wanted to go out bald I would, but I don’t and so here I am with my favourite hat on.
I have always loved hats, not really the small feather fascinator things but big beautiful hats. I cannot wait to see the new Christine collection for Autumn/Winter and hoping to find a warm cosy knitwear option for what will possibly be another cold and wet one. Hats are such a quick fix, look instantly fabulous and are so much cheaper, comfortable and easier than wigs or hair, it’s a wonder why I don’t have lots.
If you are going through Cancer treatment then I cannot recommend the Christine range for having something comfortable at night to sleep in and looking after you through Chemo and Radiotherapy rounds. I could not believe how exhausting daily visits to the hospital would be, mostly as I was alone for these and driving myself which was a grind, that was only February but feels a lifetime ago.
My Christine Headwear has seen me through most of my hospital treatments, I used part of a twin set as a face mask before they became compulsory. Its great having lots of headwear options giving you versatility and flexibility to mix things up a bit. Clients coming into the salon love to have a chat about hats and what they will need or want going forward, it can be quite daunting as new territory for a lot of people and yes there are always options for men too. I would firstly suggest picking colours that match your wardrobe and style with either an occasion or event. Is it for work? Is it for holiday? Is it for the gym? Or purely for comfort?
Did you see the Trendco Webinar on Wednesday evening with the fabulous Jane Kelly and Bradley (hiding as usual). Jane was talking about hair enhancers and how if a hat isn’t good enough you can use an enhancer to make it look like you have hair underneath, what a brilliant option, simple, comfortable and highly effective, I love this idea and think if I’d have thought about it years ago I might never have gone down the full wig route.
If you need help with your hats there are tutorials on the AUK page on Facebook called 'How do you “TIE” yours March 2016', I think it has recently been reposted but it is great at showing how to wear a simple head scarf and to tie it in different ways, for example the side bun which is my personal favourite.
What is your favourite hat? I have a bright yellow cap that makes me feel super comfortable or a sloppy denim-look bamboo fibre yoga hat that feels like wearing fresh air. The cotton or bamboo ones are super useful and like my favourite BB Ribbons needs a bit more TLC as it is hand wash only.
Christine Headwear caters for all your headwear needs, sunhats, linen blends, swim hats, nightcaps, beanies, head bands and now even an essential protective face mask, they seem to be constantly looking out for everyone and adapting to new demands. There sizes are perfect, comfortable and robust with colours and styles that move along with current fashions and trends.
Of course, there are other companies available, along with pop up independent creative types busy making individual unique items of headwear. Our options are getting much better all the time (remember the standard cotton/velour turban, eek - I am glad those days are over!). Practice makes perfect and finding your style really helps you to get happy and confident pulling off that sexy, rockin' headwear; its time to get comfy and get shopping...
Saturday 5th September 2020
Returning To Work With Hair Loss
Blog by Trendco Team
At the point of writing this I know that a lot of us are now beginning, or have already, returned to our places of work after what has felt like a very, very long but somewhat blurry few months! I don’t know about you but the days seem to have merged into one very long one and I am not entirely sure what I have or have not done during this time!
In any case it got me thinking about those pesky anxieties that we wig wearers have all faced when starting a new job – you know the ones that I mean…those niggling questions that creep into your mind and make you feel so very paranoid about, well, everything! I have found that they’ll never be as bad as they were the first time around starting a new job after buying my first wig but they’re still there. When Trendco asked if anybody would like to contribute to the weekly blog I couldn’t help but think of it as a great opportunity to reach out and share my experiences so that others know these thoughts are very common. Here goes…
Will people know I am wearing a wig?
In short, no…not unless it’s a bad one! If we are honest we all notice things about other people on the street, we are just naturally curious as human beings. We as wig wearers are hyper-sensitive to spotting a fellow wig-wearer because we have got the craft down to a fine art; we know what to look out for, the tell-tale signs of a bad wig – poorly put on with a larger-than-necessary gap between the hairline and eyebrows or to contrast this, a wig that is too far forward! A dense hair-line or a non-existent parting to name a few. See, these things we all look out for when wig shopping and it makes it easier for us to spot than your everyday uneducated wig shopper! People, will be surprised to know you are wearing a wig most of the time if you choose correctly so we should worry even less about new colleagues who will take you at face value on the first encounter.
Can my boss see my wig when he is leaning over me from above?
Now this one plays on my mind a lot. We’ve all had it…sat at our computers and we are approached from behind, our boss is now looking directly down at us with our wig or hairpiece in full view, with us trying to maintain eye contact as to somehow control their eyes from wandering to our scalp like we’re in Danny DeVito’s adaptation of Matilda. Nerve-wracking. Realistically though, how often do we really think the average human spends glaring aimlessly at somebody else’s parting from above? Surely its minimal if at all?
You wouldn’t believe how often this concern comes up when speaking with others – thank god for those monofilament crowns and parts – they’ve got our backs with this one 100%. In fact, I think they may well have been added to wigs purely for this reason and I have been thankful for them on so many occasions.
Should I tell people that I am wearing a wig?
This one comes down to how you feel within yourself, you do not have to tell anybody anything but if you would feel less awkward with the knowledge that people knew then I say go for it!
Will people ask questions?
A part of me argues with myself about this all the time. When I am feeling anxious about being a wig-wearer in certain situations I almost hope that somebody will ask me about it just to address what feels like the giant elephant in the room; talking often helps. Opening the dialogue with others helps. I think the most important thing to remember is that people are genuinely interested and their questions, however naïve, are never personal to you and are not coming from a bad place – however alien they often make us feel. Wigs fascinate just about everybody when they’re shocked to learn that you wear one – I even had one fascinated friend who did not suffer with hair loss purchase one shortly after learning that I wore one, this must be the biggest compliment.
How do I make my wig look as natural as possible?
Now if the tips above were not enough I can extend to you some more tips I have learned.
Do not over-polish your locks – I know, we all have our dreams of looking like a Disney princess but its not a normal every day look if we are honest with ourselves, its also a lot of effort! Choose a wig or hairpiece that is similar in density and volume of what you would expect your biologically growing hair would be.
Dry shampoo can be your friend – It’s like the world’s most well-known dirty little secret, this stuff. We’ve all seen the adverts; it dries oil and grease from your hair to ‘refresh’ your hair on those days when you just can’t face washing it again. The thing is that it also mattifies your hair, so its perfect for use on wigs or hairpieces which are fresh out of the box with that super-sheen that is oh so beautiful but ultimately can leave you paranoid that your hair looks obviously…well…not your own!
This leads me to my next point – keep it clean! Like all hair, you will need to wash your new hair as per the guidelines and using the correct products. Letting your wig become matted and dirty will not help in creating the look of natural hair. Treat your hair like your hair, basically.
Watch out for friction frizz – Wearing a longer piece with a blazer made of other synthetic fibres will over time cause friction frizz, this can be reduced by using the right products.
Get a stylist to make adaptions – Chances are an off-the-shelf out-of-the-box wig is not going to sit perfectly in line with looking like it’s a cut unique to you. You should absolutely visit a salon to have your new piece tailored to a look that you want, add baby hairs, more layers, thin out dense areas. It really will make the world of difference.
Don’t be afraid to style your wig – Have different styles, hair-ups and downs on different days. Change it up. Keep your colleagues on their toes!
One thing we should have learned facing this pandemic is that we should all be grateful for what we have and to take each day as it comes but we all know that can be easier said than done – still, at least I do not have to spend hours making my hair look presentable for the school run before work of a morning! That is something I sure am thankful for.
Stay safe! x
Saturday 29th August 2020
Alopecia & The Butterfly Effect
Blog by Key Contributor Jacky
Hello again and how are you doing this week? I think we should all check in with ourselves and ask that question before we can move along with our day. With Alopecia Awareness Month kicking off on Tuesday I wanted to talk about the butterfly effect, how we Alopecians face the need to emerge from our safety cocoon or in my case sleeping bag of choice and confront life as the beautiful creatures that we all are.
There are so many methods and techniques a person develops to manage living a life without hair. No doubt the hide under the duvet and disappear from view is one that I have adopted and personally mastered along with moving home to the middle of nowhere.
Living a life in the shadows or perhaps a half-life is no way to be, acceptance is key, it starts with loving yourself, taking care of yourself and arming yourself with a multitude set of resources, like having a swiss army knife skills package!
This is the way you must exist in order to survive only then will others accept you and then you can concentrate on the already difficult task of living in what can often appear a harsh and unfair world.
I once thought I could hide myself away moving into the deep countryside only to discover that everybody knows everyone here. I have been dragged out of my comfort zone and propelled onto the world stage more times than I can remember, I mean for heavens sake I’m writing this blog for the world to judge for one!
I have performed in the village pantomimes, not in small parts, oh no, as Prince Charming in Cinderella, as Mrs Cratchit in A Christmas Carol and as the Evil Queen in Snow white and the Seven Dwarves.
Why or how I did these shows was a mystery, helpfully thought I have never seen any recordings of them. In the recent past I have also learnt how to Jive dance (to a basic level but enough to feel great on the dancefloor). All of these very public and highly front and centre activities have one thing in common - my friend Arran.
My first introduction to Arran was in the village talent show, he was dressed as Tina Turner, complete with fishnet tights, 6” black high heels and fake boobs, he also had the most outrageous wig - an orange, blonde and black spikey affair. I have never laughed so much and seen such a fabulously entertaining performance. Naturally, he won!
It was around this point that I began to realise that living a life in the shadows is not much fun, spending time brooding in your own company is totally depressing and it takes a mammoth amount of effort to check out of yourself once you become stuck on a downward path of self-pity and loathing.
Not that this isn’t a realistic and fair emotion to have of course, it’s ok not to be ok…
I have lots of motto’s, I find them and hang on to them for future reference, my latest one is that you should always do everything in your life like a 4-year-old dressed as Batman.
If you don’t have an Arran in your life get yourself a superhero doppelgänger or dust off that costume and go and shake your tail feathers.
Alopecia doesn’t define you and once you are able to accept this your life can get funny again. I currently like scaring my neighbours with polystyrene mannequin heads decorated with sharpie pen eyelashes, lipstick and of course wearing wigs.
Life is too short to keep feeling sorry for yourself or apologising to others when you have an off day, everyone has an off day, some have more off than on.
I am not saying getting to this stage happens quickly, remember I’ve had 35 years to get here; to realise that the most important thing is to never ever grow up. I only wish I had had somebody to pass on this wisdom in the early days so I here I am!
Now, where is my Wonderwoman head band?!...
Have fun and stay safe
Saturday 22nd August 2020
Coping With Hair Loss in Community
Vlog by Olympic Gold Medallist Joanna Roswell
As we sky-rocketed towards the end of our Hair Loss Awareness Month and into Alopecia Awareness Month it seemed only right to invite Joanna back to provide her insight into just how she managed the anxieties that come alongside hair loss, dealt with them and went on to become such an integral part of team GB!
Saturday 15th August 2020
Challenging Expectations: Finding The Right Hair For You
Blog by Key Contributor Jacky
I wanted to express my personal thanks to the Look Good Feel Better team and how amazing I felt after my pamper session at the Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh last year.
The picture of myself on this blog site was after receiving my tutorial and goodie bag and I did indeed feel better (apart from getting a parking ticket outside the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh - don’t worry I managed to get it voided). The Look Good Feel Better team provide an invaluable service that everyone who gets an opportunity to attend, must do so. I learnt great makeup techniques whilst making new acquaintances and having a right good laugh.
Having cancer has made my year an eventful one to say the least but after receiving a recent “All clear”, yes! this is amazing news, I feel that I am physically returning to myself, still without hair. Many people have proffered their “insight” that it might return only to fall back out, but I am happy to say this hasn’t happened. If it did grow back, I would have no idea how to cope with fuzz, stubble or indeed full regrowth. One member of my family once described my hair a lank, yes it was always lacking in volume towards the end of its appearance, but it wasn’t always like that. As a child I had a thick head of hair, it was fine but dense it was also a beautiful blonde/warm brown and poker straight. As a teenager in the 80’s it got spiral permed (like everyone) which increased the volume to the height of Crystal Tipps, remember that show? And helpfully it made the Alopecia seem insignificant.
I was contemplating timeless styles this week and what suits me, I love seeing new styles of wigs and relish the opportunity to try them on but tend to go back to the same place. I admire how people pick and choose new wigs seemingly effortlessly, sometimes having 4 completely different colours and styles, mixing them on a daily basis with apparent ease. There are so many fabulous colours with wonderful names like melted ocean, pastel pink and melted sunset.
I love the beach wavy look, but my colleagues shake their heads when I try the Evanna, yet it looks so great on everyone! I also love the idea of going short like a client was ordering this week, who wanted to tuck the wig behind one ear, yes please. The, “I want to wear a wig and I don’t need it to wear me” idea is so appealing.
I am currently undergoing a mild panic attack over what style to chose next. It is my time of year to pick an item for my NHS allowance and I am completely freaking out, perhaps the choice is too much, or I have forgotten how to shop during this pandemic.
This is crazy, I am so fortunate to have this dilemma and this time I am determined to go for a change, perhaps not a big one just yet, I am thinking forget poker straight, it’s time to go a bit retro.
Will you be brave too? Wish me luck...
Saturday 8th August 2020
"What mattered was that I was happy, felt like “me”, and had some level of control"
Guest Blog by Olympic Gold Medallist Joanna Rowsell
Hello everyone, as we enter into Hair Loss Awareness month, I wanted to take this opportunity to write a bit about my perspective of the psychological impact of hair loss.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Joanna Rowsell and I am a reigning Olympic Champion in the sport of cycling. I’ve had alopecia areata for as long as I can remember and I lost all my hair from my head aged 10. Since then it has grown back a few times but never stuck around for very long, so normally I might have a few patches of regrowth at best.
A common phrase I’ve heard since experiencing hair loss is “it’s only hair”, which of course has always been spoken by someone not going through hair loss themselves. Many people define themselves by their hair, or use hair to define others. Often just simple phrases like “the blonde girl” when identifying someone, which is fine and people do this without even realising it. But it’s not until you experience hair loss that you realise quite how much it can be an identifying factor, either by others or by ourselves internally.
As a child I kept asking my parents why? Why was it happening? Why me? Why wouldn’t it just grow back? I think the lack of control is the most devastating thing – waking up each morning to seeing hair on the pillow, fistfuls of hair coming out in the shower, and not being able to do anything about it.
As tough as this was as a 10 year old, I’d say it was even tougher again aged 16 and then again aged 19, both times my hair had gradually grown back, only for me to then loose it again.
At the third time of loosing my hair I decided I wanted to take back control and investigate wigs. Another phrase I have heard a lot is “but you look great without hair”. I know this is well meaning and I appreciate it. But what I realised was it didn’t really matter if other people thought I looked great or not, what mattered was that I was happy, felt like “me”, and had some level of control.
My first experience of Trendco was visiting their London salon. I was nervous about the staff seeing my hairless head (of course they didn’t bat an eyelid) and privacy when trying on (of course there are plenty of private areas for trying on). I had a lovely time trying on a variety of styles and colours - I tried all sorts of different lengths and each time was amazed at the transformation. At this stage I was probably still too concerned what other people thought and kept asking the opinions of the stylist of what suited me best. I came away with a couple of different pieces and was delighted that these were placed in a plain carrier bag (I was needlessly concerned I’d have to walk down the street with a branded bag drawing attention to the fact that I wore wigs!).
What I’ve realised now when it comes to wigs is that the most important thing is that I feel confident with whatever I’m wearing. I’ve had amazing feedback from people about certain styles but I just haven’t felt right. I think that has a knock on affect to confidence and body language.
For me wigs are all about giving myself control over alopecia, to feel like me, and this in turn gives me confidence to go out and face the world.
Over time my openness about alopecia and wearing wigs has helped me a huge amount when dealing with hair loss. One of the best pieces of advice I was given is that when communicating with someone is “you’re like a mirror”. If I’m shy, awkward and unconfident, this can make others around me respond in this way, and in turn I will feel more awkward. When I’m confident and openly talk about alopecia and wigs, I have had 100% positive responses. Most people know very little about hair loss and how many people it affects, and even less know much about wigs, the different types and how versatile they are. I now love raising awareness and understanding and I truly dig the wig!
Saturday 1st August 2020
“I feel terribly guilty because I have cancer but I’m more worried about losing my hair than having treatment”... - Guest Blog by Jasmin Julia Gupta of Cancer Hair Care
Jasmin Julia Gupta is the Founder of Cancer Hair Care, and the UK’s foremost cancer hair loss expert. With a background as a professionally trained hairdresser. She is a leading authority and regular advisor to major organisations such as NHS England, Macmillan Cancer Trust, Breast Cancer Now, Teenage Cancer Trust, Look Good Feel Better, and others.
Cancer Hair Care is the only UK charity solely dedicated to providing guidance and support for hair loss and hair care before, during and after cancer treatment. They acknowledge that hair loss, for many, is a significant challenge faced in their cancer journey and so we specialise in all aspects of hair loss: from scalp cooling - hair loss prevention, to wig styles and head coverings, to helping new hair growth in recovery.
They are committed to supporting people of all backgrounds, hair types and skin tones. Here Jasmin explains a little bit about her passions, work and various roles:
I’ve been using and recommending Trendco wigs for 28 years, since I was 17 years old. I have fond memories of dashing back and forth in taxi’s to collect wigs for TV makeover shows such as GMTV when during my apprenticeship training at cutting edge salon Trevor Sorbie. I was fortunate to be taught how to cut wigs by one of the best know hairdressers in the world. I became Trevor’s number two and rose up the ladder from sweeping the floors to the position of Director of Hairdressing responsible for salons, education and products globally.
15 Years ago I decided to set up my own charity Cancer Hair Care. I have had women look me in the eye and say, “I feel terribly guilty because I have cancer but I’m more worried about losing my hair than having treatment”, so while I am not a doctor, nurse, or health worker, I know that the practical tools, advice and emotional support I can provide for living with hair loss through cancer can make a huge impact in someone’s life.
By founding Cancer Hair Care I have been able to build a unique charitable service that works closely with medical and clinical professionals to bridge the gap between the doctors and nurses treating patients, and the patient’s own control over how they look - which to me is no less important if it helps to make you feel better! Being a Hair Loss Coach is so important to my life. Many of my team at Cancer Hair Care have themselves lost their hair during cancer treatment and so to share the knowledge I have been so fortunate to gain is always a privilege.
Mmm what is a ‘Hair Loss Coach?’ I imagine you may be thinking.
I do three main things:
1) I coach amazing dedicated hairdressers, wig suppliers, hair loss professionals and NHS clinical nurses how to be up-to-date, competent and confident in best practice advising cancer patients about hair loss
2) Through my charity Cancer Hair Care, where I am the Director of Information & NHS Clinical Services, my team and I support thousands of cancer patients with our FREE support services within NHS hospitals and remotely. Our ‘Hair Loss Help at Home’ service supported thousands of patients during lock down. For example every year we send out hundreds of FREE hair loss dollies that help explain hair loss to children.
3) I am a diversity specialist. I work with the NHS and human rights organisations to make possessive inclusive change. For example I wrote the ‘Afro Hair Chemotherapy Hair Loss Guide’ a global first.
Here are 5 key chemotherapy questions I’m always asked by cancer patients, nurses and hair loss professionals
1. Scalp cooling - Does wearing a cold cap to reduce chemotherapy hair loss freeze your follicles?
2. Time scale of hair loss - When will my hair start to fall out and will it be painful?
3. Wig wearing - Can I wear a wig if my hair is thinning during chemo and scalp cooling or will it cause more hair loss?
4. Chemo curls - Is it true that my hair will grow back curly after chemo - why is that?
5. Colouring hair - When is it safe to colour my new hair post treatment?
If you want to discover the answers to these questions here is how you can find out:
Cancer patients: Contact my team for a consultation and free pack. https://www.cancerhaircare.co.uk/
If you are a hair loss professional wanting to up scale your knowledge come and join my Cancer Hair Care Support Network. https://www.cancerhaircare.co.uk/hairdressers-join-our-cancer-hair-care-support-network/
With huge respect for all my fellow hair loss professionals - Together let’s make hair loss one less worry.
Saturday 25th July 2020
A word from Look Good Feel Better's Sarahjane Robertson - CEO of Cancer Support Charity LGFB
First of all, many thanks to our longstanding friends at Trendco for allowing me to come and ‘chat’ to you and tell you more about Look Good Feel Better. As you may know, we’ve been offering our confidence and morale-boosting skincare and make-up workshops for 26 years and pre-Covid we were working through 141 venues from the north of Scotland down to the Channel Islands – and 27 countries worldwide.
This year we were set to have a record year in terms of the number of people we were able to support – over 16,500 in 2019 – but the pandemic has thrown all that into disarray. In March we had to pull out of all our venues but we were still being told how much people wanted and valued our support. We know that bringing people together in small groups and teaching them lots of tips and techniques that enable them to look and feel more like their ‘normal’ selves again is incredibly valuable and the group dynamic we offer can be transformational in terms of how people feel about themselves and their treatment!
As Brits many of us aren’t very confident about joining support groups and talking about things we’d rather not burden our families with but Look Good Feel Better workshops change all that – giving people a chance to chat, talk to others in a similar situation and generally feel less alone.
Sadly, as we saw on the recent Panorama programme, over half a million people living with Cancer have said they have barely left their homes because they are so fearful of the Covid virus. Our friends at Macmillan have reported that 270,000 people in the UK have experienced panic or anxiety attacks because of Coronavirus.
Here at Look Good Feel Better – despite our income being devastated (-64%) and having had to make extremely difficult and distressing decisions with regard to our staffing levels – we were determined to swiftly switch up our offering and create online support.
Virtual Workshops were developed, trialed and launched within two weeks of lockdown and I am incredibly proud of our team for already holding 40. Like our ‘normal’ sessions, we’re running them for women, young adults and men and they are open to anyone going through any type of cancer treatment. If we can put a smile back on the faces of cancer patients at an unbelievably tough and stressful time then we’ll continue to do just that.
One of our recent virtual participants said afterwards “I wasn’t sure how to use Zoom or whether I’d feel comfortable joining a group online but I shouldn’t have worried. It was brilliant and the lady hosting the session told us so many things I never knew – especially now both my skin and hair look and feel so different. We all had a chance to chat and ask questions and I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s great to see a charity working so hard during such difficult times”.
We are now expanding our online support to offer advice and guidance on hair care, wigs and head coverings; nailcare and body image / styling – all at the request of our beneficiaries. This would have been impossible through 141 locations but is very possible through the power of technology. We can bring the very positive power of Look Good Feel Better into everyone’s homes! One of the rare upsides of the difficult times we are all experiencing.
Look Good Feel Better has worked closely with Trendco for many years and we’d be really pleased if anyone reading this blog wants to get in touch to book into a virtual workshop or suggest it to a friend or family member. Click onto our website www.lookgoodfeelbetter.co.uk for more information.
Huge thanks to Trendco and I hope you are all keeping safe and well.
Saturday 18th July 2020
Covering All Bases: My Hair Loss Story
St Patricks Day 17th March 2004
This was my D day, the day I chose to shave what small amount of hair I had left and cry into the hot bath I had run, so unbelievably hot, but necessary to try to comfort myself. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, uncontrollable tears, real gut-wrenching ones. There were more days that followed like this one but not as tough.
I was 28yrs old at this point, my children were nearly 3yrs and a young 6 months. This has meant they have no recollection of mum being anything other than bald, this is a good thing (I count good things). I remember a GP said at the time, that I could either carry on breastfeeding and lose my hair or stop breastfeeding and it might stop the hair falling out. I felt that wasn’t a choice and I also thought he was like most doctors facing this issue, helpless.
As I was a young 10yr old when I first developed Alopecia areata I suppose it was always in my consciousness, what I mean is that it becomes your every waking thought, your every second consideration and your living daily nightmare.
I didn’t plan my D day, when I woke up the amount of hair on my pillow told me what I had to do, my husband had a set of hair clippers and I went for it. This was a mistake as my only back up was 2 online poorly purchased wigs and some very thin bandanas.
I can’t remember telling friends and family, I don’t think I could, I think I left it all to John my husband, who possibly, like most husbands told no one and we didn’t discuss it – at all, for years, I felt he stopped taking photographs of me and probably because I asked him to (secretly I think he has lots but he keeps them for himself).
I just rocked up…
Every event, Weddings, Christenings, parties, the pub quiz, the school gates, I coped by wearing a wig and a hat wherever possible, which was usually too tight and painful. I never explained to people or told them what was going on it just didn’t get discussed, that way I could avoid the pain of loss and the embarrassment of losing my hair. It’s a weird thing that, my hair, it was mine, I lost it - why?
I wish I could tell you every day it gets easier, I want to say I have totally got the handle of it, the truth is I haven’t but I’m getting there. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 my second thought was ok, so I don’t need to worry about losing my hair.
Oddly I have accepted myself more since having Cancer, it’s almost like I am supposed to look like this because of the Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy and targeted treatment. Last week it was so hot that when I arrived at Hospital I took my hair off to match my fellow Cancer pals and it was such a relief to be free and I think the first time I outed myself in public, although the hair went back on before leaving Ward 15. Not so brave just yet.
Perhaps during lockdown you have learned to manage Alopecia differently, have you even embraced and accepted you for you? There is no right or wrong in anything that you chose to do, perceptions and prejudices are other people’s issues, if you feel good it will radiate through and make others feel happy because you are happy. Some of you like me will still wear battle armour wigs, hairpieces, hats and scarves, some of you will be rocking the bald or the leopard/ hyena look. When you realise how much time and money people spend on making their appearance unique and individual, wouldn’t it be great if we recognised what a wonderful individual group of people we are?
Like in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs we all need to cover our bases, health, shelter, food, warmth, comfort and acceptance is part of this, without covering your bases there is little way of moving upwards.
Saturday 11th July 2020
15 Years of Alopecia UK
- Written by guest writer, Jen Chambers from Alopecia UK
This year Alopecia UK approaches its 15th birthday as an official charity. Charity Development Manager, Jen Chambers, took some time out for Trendco to reflect back.
15 years ago, I was just about to go to university to study psychology with health studies. Having just lost my hair for the second time I now had a sense of grit and determination that comes from an anger at missing out on too many life experiences already. I wanted to get to the bottom of this Alopecia thing. My approach from the age of 11 to 21 was to hide away and just wait for my hair to come back, as then life would start. It did come back. Life did start. But I could not wait around like that again. This was me now, I had to get on with it. And so, I went to university, determined to figure it all out and make sense of what the hell had just happened to me over the last ten years. I studied the psychology of Alopecia at every opportunity that my course allowed.
Luckily for me, at the same time, founder of Alopecia UK, Vicky Bowdage, had that same determination. Having just lost her hair to Alopecia and struggling to find any information on the internet she decided to set up a website. Let’s not forget that the world was a very different place back then! It is crazy to think how far we've come in that space of time. The internet was still fairly new. Smart phones, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, there wasn't any of that. In the world of Alopecia, the starting point for any kind of linking up at that point was the Alopecia UK forum that Vicky went on to create. And wow, how amazing it was. I had spent ten years feeling like the only person with Alopecia and now, suddenly, there were loads of other people in this space just like me. They knew how it felt. All those feelings I had that I felt so guilty about, I wasn't the only one! All the things I struggled with, other people did too! In my university years I spent hours and hours on that forum. As my studies developed and I wanted to find out more about other people’s experiences I went to the support group meetings. I was in Liverpool at the time but I travelled to Preston, Leeds, and Wrexham just to sit with a coffee and so easily share what had previously always been so contained and hidden from other people. Attending a meeting in Liverpool completely changed some of the everyday life struggles for me because it put me in touch with a much better wig supplier. Suddenly a lot of my wig troubles were no more. I didn't need to worry about the wind in the same way or what those sitting behind me in the lecture hall were thinking.
As I started my dissertation on Alopecia and Identity I made contact with the Alopecia UK team to ask for permissions. I ended up going down to London to meet them all and even stayed at Vicky's parents’ house with some other volunteers. After that I went off and I got my degree (with a 1st on the dissertation by the way!). I worked for a bit, I got another degree (Art Psychotherapy), still figuring out the Alopecia stuff along the way but this time looking at things that might help. Then, in 2011, I went along to another Alopecia UK team meeting. One that ultimately led to my life being inexplicably entwined in this charity, becoming Alopecia UK’s first member of staff and eventually the Charity Development Manager.
It has been an amazing 9 years. Filled with far too many experiences to even attempt to write about here. As we approach our 15th Birthday in September you can’t help but reflect on where we’ve come from and the amount of hard work and determination from a multitude of people that has got us where we are today. It has allowed the charity to grow from just a website into one that fulfils aims of support, awareness and research for those with Alopecia in a multitude of ways. Driving back from our Research Manager job interviews last year I remember this huge sense of accomplishment wash over me, that little voice inside me that always pestered me with ‘just keep going, you can do it’. This time she smiled, “we’re getting there!”.
There are so many people to thank for getting Alopecia UK where it is today. It has really been a team effort from those within the Alopecia community. This includes the corporate sector and Trendco. Trendco have always been avid supporters of Alopecia UK, providing free space for support group meetings, sponsoring our events and being a part of our Service Directory. They even provide a 10% discount to all of our VIP Cardholders. Thank you Trendco! We hope to have your continued support for the next 15 years to come!
After a ‘unprecedented’ (who else is sick of that word?!) year we share the same concerns that everyone has for the path that lies ahead. We are working hard to adapt how we work so that we can still facilitate support for those affected by Alopecia. We hope to maintain our resource and workstreams over the coming year despite all the cancelled fundraising events. Currently we are developing a huge 15for15 Birthday Bonanza campaign for Alopecia Awareness Month in September. We hope to see as many of the Alopecia community involved as possible to help look after this charity that has done so much for so many people. Please do complete our Volunteer Sign Up form to receive further information when it gets released.
Jen Chambers is the Charity Development Manager for Alopecia UK. Alopecia UK is a charity working to improve the lives of those affected by alopecia through aims of support, awareness and research. For information, advice and support or further information about what Alopecia UK does please visit www.alopecia.org.uk
Saturday 4th July 2020
Wigs, us and the Little Princess Trust
Super excited to be writing this week’s blog on something very close to my heart. We are so lucky as the Trendco company to be able to work in partnership with the utterly fabulous charity that is The Little Princess Trust.
The Little Princess Trust help young people up to the age of 24. They provide free real hair wigs to anyone who is challenged by hair loss and undergoing difficulties such as cancer treatment. They are also funding pioneering, life-saving research into childhood cancers, their mission is to cure all childhood cancers and therefore ultimately not exist as a charity.
The story behind the charity is based on the very personal experience of Wendy and Simon and their daughter Hannah who sadly passed away in 2005.
I have benefitted from meeting Wendy in person and have spoken to her often. Every person is important to Wendy and by speaking with her, you realise the passion that she has for the charity she founded along with Simon and just how wonderful and hardworking she and all at the LPT are.
For cancer patients and their family dealing with the trauma of diagnosis, hair loss often makes the situation more real and distressing. The highly toxic cancer treatments can cause hair to fall out, and for some types of brain cancers and treatment, hair loss can be permanent.
Young Alopecians can also benefit from the charity and account for around 35% of the wigs that the LPT generously provide. This is such an important lifeline for young people who lose their hair, both devastating and often the cause of immense anxiety issues. The bonus of a wig for a young person relieves these side effects and reduces the stress which perpetuates the vicious cycle of hair loss for an alopecia sufferer. They receive a high-quality wig that is well fitted styled and would ordinarily be beyond affordable for many individuals.
Each wig costs around £550 for the LPT so fundraising is also extremely important to the organisation. Maybe your next bake sale could raise money for them?
What does Trendco do?
Our involvement starts with the referral from the LPT. We then help either within our salons (across the UK) in Edinburgh or through our agents across Scotland.
I would like to think that we enhance the experience of any young person that comes to us and our stylists work a little bit of magic and passion into what they do. I have so many stories but perhaps pictures can speak better here:
This was Unicorn hair made for a young girl who had imagined it. Just how Linda our Salon Manager managed to create this piece of art is one mystery, taking a young person’s dream and making it a fairy tale is something very special.
Our stylists get emotionally involved helping the Little Princesses & Princes that visit us. We benefit from the high-quality wigs that have been made in all varieties of head sizes and lengths of hair. It is so important to get a well fitted wig especially for children as they have smaller head sizes and have soft sensitive skin so they especially need a wig that is comfortable and able to take a bit of rough and tumble.
The youngest person we have helped was 2 years of age and her mum was a hairdresser and she was so thrilled to get her own hair to wear, heart-breaking but rewarding.
How can you help?
Firstly, I want you to consider your next haircut. With hair salons due to reopen very soon, how about going for a more dramatic cut and donating your beautiful locks so that a wig can be made for a young person in need, how would that make you feel, to be able to help in this way?
There are specific criteria that is needed to meet acceptable donations and it is perhaps best to visit the LPT website direct for these. https://www.littleprincesses.org.uk/faqs/
The current message is that they really need longer hair, the longer the better but preferably a minimum of 12”. This is due to the fashion and desire for longer hair and about how wigs are made. In wig making so much more length is needed to create “returns” from the knotted base to enable the hair the lie flat and secure.
It can take around 20 different donations of hair to make 1 wig. This is due to the methods used for selecting hair, these wigs are then handtied, and the wigs that are produced are generally higher in density than a “normal” head of hair. The LPT generously donate around 2,000 wigs per year, this means that they potentially need around 40,000 hair donations (wow) to fulfil the supply of these wigs.
Boys are important too and the LPT, regardless of the charity’s name, they help in any way they can to provide something suitable and our stylists can help to make is work in a hip and funky way.
Regardless of COVID the LPT are still taking donations and have policies regarding the accepted nature of these, again it is best to check on their website.
Whilst we enjoy taking part in this service and seeing the young people, I realise the positives from not getting a referral for a while.
I can’t imagine this has been an easy time though with salons closed and other priorities taking place and working remotely for all of us has had its challenges. I however cannot wait to get back and be able to help in any way for the LPT, it is a truly fabulous charity.
Saturday 26th June 2020
Dressing Up Your Wig: Styling As We Emerge From Lockdown
To follow on from last week’s blog, it now seems as though in parts of the UK restrictions are easing and we will soon be able to see those special to us again – some even venturing to pubs and social spaces! Love and relationships are an essential part of life and we all need to feel connected and loved. Some brave people, we now know, are courageously online dating during these mad times and if you are a wig wearer for this kind of antics you might need a dash of guidance and a shed load of moral support when preparing to see anyone for the first time in a long time…or ever – webcam or in person!
Firstly, what kind of wig do you have? The construction of your wig and the length will dictate your ability to style……
Do you have a short and choppy wig which can easily be spiked or scrunched using a bit of styling product? Or how about boosting a short sleek number with a ginormous bow for a cute and flirty look.
Accessory options are endless, there are sensational Headbands which not only change the look of your wig but can help it feel more secure. Take a look online and you will find tutorials on how to make your own bows. Do you have a lovely piece of fabric like that silk blouse that somehow no longer seems to fit (truth) or could you shorten a dress to create a matching Top Knot headband, how pretty is this idea?
If you are not feeling confident in your DIY skills, how about a parting change (if you have a monofilament top), a big blingy clip or some backcombing to increase volume with a touch of fixing spray, voilà!
Very few wigs can be scooped back into a neat bun or ponytail (every wig wearers dream?) only with a fully lace fronted wig might this be possible.
However, a total relaxed hair up is possible on all longer length wigs. By loosely scooping back the hair, using a few pins and a couple of bobbles, remembering to leave a couple of wispy bits to aid a more realistic softer look.
What is perhaps an easier option is the half updo, keeping it fairly loose, scoop, twist or plat back the top section and fasten using pins and a bobble.
I’m not saying create the perfect chignon, but actually being a wig wearer has its advantages, by pinning your hair to a polystyrene head you can play with styles, fix with spray and pins without getting arm ache, a mouthful, mirror stress or ruining by putting on your clothes on over the top.
Smile and knock em’ out!
Saturday 20th June 2020
My Personal Top Tips for Buying Wigs
It feels only right that this weeks blog is a short, snappy one as you may well have noticed that we have a sale on – I don’t want to keep you…
It did occur to me that it might be a good time to share with you some of the absolute must have pieces of knowledge which will help you make the right purchase! These points are ones which I think are essential for wig wearers, and some of my personal top tips:
- Use the four-finger rule – use your pinkie finger and rest this horizontally across the top of your nose and resting on your eyebrows, the edge of your index finger will mark where the front of your wig should sit at the top of your forehead.
- Use the correct shampoo and conditioner recommended by the retailer. Getting the balance of washing and wearing will enhance the condition of your wig and maximise the wear that you get out of it.
- Watch out for extreme heat, sunlight oxidisation and chlorine damage. I once opened a very hot oven wearing a synthetic wig causing it to shrivel up. I also went on holiday wearing a beautiful warm brown human hair wig and came home with a sun bleached orangey blonde one.
- Be careful with grips, clips, elastics, sharp combs and brushes, I have been a Kirby grip offender and damaged a human hair wig by digging these into the base, yikes. Also stick to a wide tooth comb is best for taking out knots and looking after the condition of the base.
- Use a wig cap liner for comfort and for keeping your wig cleaner for longer.
- Watch out for contact offenders such as collars, scarfs, hats (too tight), sofa’s, animals and children, also nature like brambles and branches.
- Be kind to your wig, give it a home at the end of a hard day don’t just fling it on the floor, if you look after it, your wig will look after you!
Saturday 13th June 2020
Digital Dating, Insecurities & Feeling Your Best During These Vulnerable Times
I think most of us Alopecians watched that First Dates episode where Eve Betts took her wig off and totally mastered how to date and deal with Alopecia - how powerful was that moment?! Not only did she look beautiful, but she also told the story that so many of us have anxieties about experiencing; for that I personally feel I owe her thanks.
I’d also like to say thank you to Jordan who was a gentleman and seemed a genuinely nice guy. It must have helped Eve in what could have been a very awkward date, especially when televised. Can you believe that was 3 years ago?
As Alopecian’s we can feel that our hair loss dominates us and defines who we are and can be somewhat responsible for the breakdown of romantic relationships.
I can safely say my husband did not marry me for my hair, in fact I think it rather annoyed him sometimes, like who wants a face full of hair in the throes of mad passion? (Trying not to sound like a Barbara Cartland novel). But hair is kind of a weird thing, it blows about, it falls out, and what we see out on display is essentially dead matter as it exhibits no sign of biochemical activity…
When I set out beginning to write these blogs my aim was that we talk about our experiences, as the more we do so we can accept each other and realise that we all have the similar feelings, insecurities and that there is no ‘wrong’ way of being.
Interestingly, I had recently heard about people still looking for love and connection and choosing to meet virtually during our long confinement of lockdown, I mean we all need to feel wanted perhaps now more than ever. Fascinated, I wondered how people faired and if it was at all something to be considered as a safe and successful method of dating. I thought how I would feel doing this from the point of view as an Alopecian, what follows is a very personal account of an interview I conducted about an online date that took place:
1. How did you meet and whose idea was it to have an online date?
We met through a dating app, exchanged messages for a short while before then swapping numbers to move things along. Whilst the lockdown situation has been in place the communications made by WhatsApp really did increase quite suddenly and people had fewer options so spent more time talking to strangers – which was quite nice actually! He put forward the idea once he had my number, asking if we could have a ‘Facetime Date’.
2. How did you feel about the prospect and how did this compare with your previous dating experiences?
In short, I was absolutely terrified. As if dating is not nerve-wracking enough for us all, I think you have to put in a lot of work to be a confident enough person to simply turn up, as you are, then sit opposite somebody and just say “Here I am, I am fully comfortable with how I am, take it or leave it”. I have certainly struggled in the past to appear relaxed and I felt this situation would be much harder given the Facetime element, boundaries were crossed, a stranger would see me in my own environment and at a time when we are all so vulnerable without the added element of our own insecurities or hang-ups – plus, who wants to sit opposite anybody on a video chat and be stared at? At least on an actual date you can read gestures and signals as well as closer eye contact.
3. Did you get any helpful advice beforehand?
Actually yes! Aside from all the usual support of your friends trying to soften any insecurities you may have by telling you how wonderful you are, I had friends tell me that it was a great thing – a chance to try something very out-there and ‘of the times’; they also put to me the idea that unlike a date if I felt it was too much I could simply hang up feigning technical difficulties and block the number… I think we all had this idealised romantic story in our heads of two people falling in love during a pandemic and not being able to see each other and then they finally meet (and well the rest just writes itself, doesn’t it?)
4. Did you panic about anything like your appearance or your home/ background appearance?
Absolutely – I think we all do to some extent. The sad thing with the digital age of dating is that whilst we will approach people that we find physically attractive, there is an added element of competitiveness and a ‘there is another one just one swipe to the left’ attitude. It gives you only a few minutes really to grab somebody hook, line and sinker if you even manage to attract them with the photos you use and what you write. We all choose the best photos, of course, and then there is a huge worry that you will be a disappointment when they see you in 3D. Add into this the element of a global pandemic at large, closing down all of the things we use to keep us looking and feeling our best. I was so concerned about my appearance and my house – I cleaned my kitchen to avoid any judgement beyond my physical appearance…
5. Did the date flow or were there any difficulties?
Oddly yes! The date flowed better than some dates I had been on in person – we spoke for about four hours with some breaks in between to nip to the bathroom (which were great because you could ensure that by the time the call had reconnected you had done a full tune-up, checking yourself over in the bathroom mirror etc). I was surprised at how well it went!
6. What format did it take, did you for example cook a meal and eat it at the same time?
We both met for ‘drinks’, so it was after dinner, but I have heard of people cooking meals during quarantine and eating them opposite each other during their dates! I think that idea is really nice, but I can’t say I would like somebody watching me slurp spaghetti through a phone screen for a first encounter!
7. Did it go any further (spill any juicy details here) or would you do it again?
With all things considered we realised we were not compatible in that way and things felt more friendly than romantic. I absolutely would do it again and I would recommend others to do it too, not for the romance element – I still think the best way is to meet in person to let their energy be your gauge – but for your own confidence. I never thought I would be able to sit on a video call, dressed up for a complete stranger who I thought was attractive and say “This is me, exactly as I am, at a vulnerable time in my life, take it or leave it” but I did, and I had a really interesting night which I will not forget!
What a fabulous, insightful account is this? After facing real anxiety issues myself in the past, as I know many who suffer hair loss do, in terms of connecting with ultimately a complete stranger and introducing them to part of your private habitat, it’s so refreshing to hear that this turned into a lovely conversation that lasted four hours! I would call this a huge success!
Its also great to hear that we are not alone in our daily hang-ups on how we appear to others which I think is possibly the biggest battle we face as Alopecians.
Dare I say, it might be easier in some respects to meet someone online without genuine fear of being stood up, missing that taxi/train/bus, getting soaked in that freak downpour, also known as bad hair weather. It also relegates that awkward “waiting for the bill and who pays for what conversation” that happens in regular dating situations.
As a person with any kind of anxiety hang up, you can choose if, when, or how you want to discuss the elephant in the room and that must be viewed as a positive.
The Metro recently published an article regarding online dating do’s and don’ts and reminded us that it is ok to be single. Whilst some people might be craving intimacy in any form, as it’s so very important for us as Humans, the same could be said for others trying to distance from the constant annoyance of sharing the same space with our nearest and dearest for 24 hours a day, it’s just not natural to be cooped up like this.
Being brave in trying new things that are different often leads us to discover ways to make ourselves happy. It’s good to experiment, connect and break up the constant daily merry-go-round monotony of living in lockdown. We shouldn’t just accept our current existence but always seek to make our world a happier one. For some of us that can be as simple as doing our make up in the morning, trying a new look with our hair, getting dressed up and doing things that boost our confidence. Ideally, I think we can all relate to feeling empowered by those things!
And as for dating, my advice is if you are thinking about digitally dating during this time, why not? As the interviewee commented, it was an interesting night and one they will not forget.
Take care and remember to use this time to make happy memories, to work towards being comfortable within yourself...
Saturday 6th June 2020
Finding Your 'You'; How To Choose A Style & Colour When You're Unsure What Yours Was...
- Written by guest writer, Double Olympic Gold medalist Joanna Rowsell MBE
I’m Joanna Rowsell, a double Olympic champion cyclist, and I have had Alopecia Areata for as long as I can remember. I’m writing this blog as a bit of an insight into embracing the condition and my journey to being able to feel more like me!
I lost all my hair aged 10 but didn’t start wearing wigs until I was 19 years old. After a short period of regrowth which then fell out again, I was ready to take the plunge and investigate wigs. To be honest I was really nervous about first visiting a wig salon as I didn’t know what to expect and I was terrified there may be a lack of privacy when it came to trying them on. Fortunately, I needn’t have worried and I was made to feel very relaxed and welcome.
The big question when it came to buying my first wig was what colour?! Having had almost a decade with Alopecia and relatively limited regrowth, I wasn’t even sure what my natural colour should be. Looking back at photos of me as a young child my hair had been quite blonde but had got a lot darker before I lost all of it aged 10. The next question was what style? Friends who had been used to seeing me with no hair at all advised me to go for something short. But I knew if I had my own hair it would be long so I initially discarded the bobs.
The first time I wore a wig I couldn’t believe the transformation! I barely recognised myself, but I liked it! Having been so long without hair, discovering wigs became a journey of taking back control of a condition that had taken so much control away from me. I use the word journey as I don’t think this is an instantaneous thing. I was amazed at the initial transformation of wearing my first wig, but I then needed to work out what was the most “me” and what ‘look’ would make me feel most confident.
Initially I went for long, dark brown coloured wigs. I loved that I looked completely different, but I wasn’t confident enough to switch styles and colours. Despite the fact pretty much everyone knew that I had Alopecia, I wanted to make gradual changes initially - such as stick with the same wig style but change the colour. Over time I moved to lighter colours and tried shorter styles and became more adventurous with trying something different. It was fun!
When I first started wearing wigs I hated people commenting on my hair. (I always refer to my wig as “my hair” because that’s what it is to me). Comments were always lovely, but I initially felt embarrassed and awkward. I’m not even sure why I found these conversations embarrassing and nowadays I’m completely different – I’ll happily talk to anyone about Alopecia and wigs (as well as semi permanent make up and false eye lashes etc) and I find the more open I am, the less awkward it makes a conversation. The biggest thing I’ve learned is we’re all like a mirror – we reflect our emotions onto those around us. Therefore, if I am shy and awkward, it will make others awkward around me. The more confident and open I am, the more relaxed it makes others feel.
My wig journey lead me to move to human hair wigs after wearing synthetic wigs for the first few years. I was desperate to be able to style my hair myself with curling tongs or straighteners, or even better, have my hair done for me.
This was another step towards feeling like me, with my wig becoming my hair. I admit that after many years of not having my own hair I am not a very skilled hairstylist, but I have enjoyed trying to learn, and of course the beauty of a wig is that I can take it off and practice styling on a stand.
I now have a variety of wigs in different colours and styles, both human hair and synthetic, and I change what I wear regularly. I’ve got to the point where I see all my wigs as my hair and I change my look depending on the occasion, the weather, and even something as simple as what clothes I’m wearing. I’ve embraced this as a positive to having Alopecia! The more I change my hair, the more comments I get, both in person and via social media, from people telling me what they think. I enjoy the conversation and love that it’s become an open topic rather than a secret, but I’ve also realised when it comes to my hair, no one else’s opinion matters as much as my own. If I think I look good, then I feel good, and this gives me so much more confidence.
Saturday 30th May 2020
All About The Base
Congratulations, you have found your perfect wig! That is no mean feat as the choices are vast and (quite frankly bewildering) without a doubt requiring of a stylist consultation.
Generally speaking, I am totally in love with my new hair/style for usually around 45 minutes; that’s roughly the time it takes to leave the hair salon find my car and drive home. Sadly, this is also the same length of time it takes to develop a headache if that same hair is way too tight, resulting in my running into the house and flinging off my carefully chosen, perfectly styled and adjusted wig, in any direction. Great work Jacky!
Here’s a fact: every wig needs to be worn in, you must allow a period of adjustment and settling in, like a new pair of shoes that you can’t wait to wear but cripple you in the process. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule but I am generally referring to your stock acrylic option.
The number of times I have gritted my teeth through the discomfort of wearing in a new wig is quite staggering and it is a process which is all consuming; it will be your only abiding thought when you have it on your head.
It might be the case that you will need more adjustments made in order to get it to fit/sit comfortably onto your head as you don’t want it to look like a helmet or fly off in the wind. I have in the past got the plastic clips cut out at the back, my wonderful stylist Magz Drummond is a whizz at cutting out wefts and sewing in bits. She once made me a holiday wig which was made from a pair of tights (I think) she added wefts of hair and tied it all back, I used it in Rhodes in July 2018, pure genius! I appreciate this discomfort does not affect everybody and that, for me, my experience stems from my odd-shaped head - think rectangle or new baked loaf shape and you’ll understand what I mean!
Types of bases:
Wefted, Lace, Monofilament, Dermalite, Dermalace, Hand-tied, to name but a few. Depending on the look and fit of the wig will determine the base that it has been made in. We are now fortunate that manufacturers are very good at this, it is after all their job to know what works.
What do you want? How busy are you, well at the moment the answer might soon be changing from the ‘not very’ to ‘extremely’ but this won’t always be the case. Consider how much time and energy you can devote towards looking after your wig or the practicality of keeping it looking fresh, sleek and perfect. This will be a big factor in the type of piece you end up with.
Wigs do not like clothes, heat or anything that will rub against them like furniture. Friction causes frizziness and unless you have a steamer it might be impossible to fix this. I used to go for short or bob lengths to avoid this issue, I also did my best to wash and condition a selection of wigs, rotating them to get the most amount of wearability.
However, for me it will always be about the base, if it’s not comfortable it’s not going on.
If you’d like to learn more about the different base types available, keep your eyes on our social media pages this weekend for a video about just that – bases!
In the meantime, stay comfortable, stay well…oh, and I guess ‘Stay Alert’ whilst you’re at it!
Saturday 23rd May 2020
Be Kind To You; Chase Your Dreams
- Written by guest writer, Model/Actress Amber Jean Rowan from Hairfree.life
You have to show yourself that kindness when you feel like the world isn’t. It would have been unkind for me to not follow my dreams, for me to accept the things I was facing as reasons to chip away at how I felt about myself.
I think this is something that those of us with Alopecia have to remember to do daily; to be kind to ourselves to stay strong.
One year ago I decided to set up Hair Free (www.hairfree.life @hairfreelife).
Hair Free is an online community that provides a safe space for men and women to talk about hair loss. It is also a creative place to gather information and hopefully inspiration!
Since Hair Free started I’ve been able to meet & connect with so many people that share similar experiences! It’s amazing! It’s allowed me to grow personally & feel even more comfortable in my own skin.
Hair Free gives you the opportunity to become a part of an empowered strong community!
During these times make sure you’re taking time just for you (when possible), time to tune in and see how you are feeling! Time to be kind to you! Be there for you, take yourself on a date!
For me yoga & long walks have been my saviour! If you would like any further tips you can find out some extra information here.
Lots of love from me,
Saturday 16th May 2020
First Salon Experience
So we all saw Boris’ speech and I think we all felt the same level of uncertainty right after. There has been a lot of speculation as to what will open first and when, who will be able to return to work and open their businesses back up. I know for one that I will not be going anywhere. I fall within the vulnerable category, as I am sure a lot of you reading this will too. However, it did get me thinking about how you define a salon (essential or non-essential) and what implications those businesses will face when reopening, but more so about how important an environment the salon is; how much I miss being within that space and my first experience within a salon.
For years I was a Regis girl, I loved going to the salon in the basement of a large department store called Alders in Redditch, Worcestershire. I would get foil woven highlights put into my mousey brown hair and love every bit of the 2 and a half hours of pampering.
I had Alopecia then, they helped on my Wedding day pin all of my lovely hair up into a Grecian goddess style managing to hide the small patches I had with a million Kirby grips, much to my husband’s annoyance (the grips not the patches).
Then I started a Degree, we moved to a new house, had another baby and the combination of all of this resulted in total hair loss. Once the dermatologist has washed his hands (no Covid-19 pun intended) of you, you might get offered an NHS prescription for wigs.
Mine was for 2 per year and I would have to pay the prescription charges for these, at that time it was around £110.00.
I still had family ties in Redditch and the list of wig suppliers were all over the West Midlands area, in places that were unfamiliar, so it was lucky that I found Sue. Sue has a shop in Bromsgrove called Wills Wigs, it used to be very near a college I had attended to complete my HNC in Business & Marketing, so as a creature of habit I was happy as I knew the area quite well.
Sue’s salon was entirely different in set up and feeling to most conventional hairdressers, highly informal, relaxed and in an enormous sunny room. I think the premises has now moved (I am talking about life 16 years ago).
Sue was very helpful and patient, making what was quite an anxious experience almost pleasant and it is no surprise to learn that she is still working in the same industry today! 2 Wigs were never enough per year, so I used to supplement by buying extra ones. Thank you Sue x
I am so grateful to the stylists I have met in my life that have helped me find wigs that suit me and have made me laugh and smile during a daunting, highly personal process. The Trendco Edinburgh team are friendly, hardworking and like nothing more than to make clients happy too, I think that is what I miss the most. Zoom catch ups and video consultations are all well and good, and an incredibly valuable option for us all right now, but the love, care and attention you receive when visiting a salon is truly priceless.
I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to get back to being able to be around that one-to-one care that you receive when you are feeling vulnerable – in fact, I am pretty sure that a lot of us are missing that attentiveness right now!
Stay hopeful and stay well x
Saturday 9th May 2020
Human Vs Synthetic
This question gets pondered by new and existing Alopecians usually on a daily basis. I would hasten to add nearly all new clients are very quick to judge and dismiss synthetic fibre wigs almost instantly.
Now I am going to throw you a curveball here and say that I can not advocate the benefits of a synthetic wig highly enough! During my 30’s, when studying for my degree whilst also being a working parent, I don’t think I could have managed without my easy-to-wear instantly styled wigs. The choice and variety now are frankly staggering, often bewildering and another topic for conversation possibly some other time – I could go on for hours...
We receive and service a lot of NHS clients living and dealing with conditions that limit what they are permitted to get based on cost purposes. It can be a lottery on where you live and what this allowance will be. Admittedly, I do find this confusing myself. If you needed a leg or an arm, you would get a leg or an arm regardless of whether it would cost an arm and a leg.
Wigs are treated as appliances, if you consider a household appliance such as a kettle, washing machine or fridge freezer, imagine your life without these in it. Alopecia for some people is like this.
I admire and almost hero worship Alopecians who embrace the bald and I would add that I have never, ever thought it doesn’t look good on them. As for myself I am nowhere near able to do this.
For some, human hair is a pain, it’s hard work looking after it, washing, maintaining, styling, expensive. You have to worry about things like shedding, colour changing (due to sunlight and oxidisation). Ok so a lot of these things can be avoided with special care, rectified and serviced but these all amount to additional costs of course.
But, my goodness how I love my real hair, my scalp and sensitivities have changed over the years and there is nothing, absolutely nothing that compares to a custom-made wig - its sheer bliss!
I don’t think the question should be if you should choose real human hair over an acrylic fibre one but rather how you want it to fit into your lifestyle. Speed over effort, ease over maintenance, practicality over style?
Most importantly please remember you wear it; it doesn’t wear you.
Self-care and Stay Safe! x
Saturday 2nd May 2020
The Isolating Wig-Wearer: Self-Care, Your New Best Friend!
Some of this might not be news to you, in fact you might already be doing it, but we have been contacted by a lady who does not usually take her wig off in front of others and is now in lockdown with a partner who to her knowledge does not know she wears one…
Wow, what a tricky situation to now find yourself in, I’m imagining in this instance you could even be stuck with only one wig to wear too. First and foremost you are going to want to do what we’re all doing right now and keep your wig or hairpiece looking as fresh and gorgeous as possible during this time…
Let’s just put it down to self-care! My current favourite excuse to pamper myself every single day. Purrrr!
Here’s some tips:
- Wig Brush – this might seem obvious to some but its totally essential to be able to brush your wig without putting any stress on the base, to make your wig look sleek after you wake up and start your day you’ll want to do this! We have some great wig brushes on our website and within our Trendco salons.
- Wig Liner – I would advocate that what is underneath your wig needs more regular attention than your wig, wait… hear me out on this…
A fresh liner each day will improve the longevity of the wig and stop it from getting as greasy or smelly. There are so many to choose from, elastic (like a pop sock, who remembers these?), net, bamboo, Trendco BB liner, Joli wig bands. It is essential to handwash these on a regular basis in your favourite soap, alternate daily, then you can appreciate the fresh scent all day, every day. At a time when we’re all washing our hands so much who is going to notice if you sneak off into the bathroom for a little extra ‘hand-washing’.
- Wig Sprays – Choose ones that really nourish or enhance your wig by adding a shine. In a locked-in situation you might consider one with an ANTI STATIC feature. Most sprays come slightly scented and its important to select one that leaves no residue after brushing, the last thing you need is a build-up of product. In fact, that would be quite awful!
- Silk pillowcase – Phnaar, no don’t snigger and I realise this might be a tricky purchase at the moment, but if you are sleeping in your wig you need to think about life preserving it. By that I mean any wig will suffer from friction. If your wig is acrylic, the friction from rubbing on your pillow or clothes will cause the ends to frizz and stick together like glue. If your wig is human hair, the knots will break and the hair will shed. Friction will cause permanent, lasting and devastating damage. These pillows are also meant to be great for preventing wrinkles – there is your excuse!
- Wash if you must, if you use tape for attaching your wig, please take this off and if possible, wipe the base that comes into close contact with your head. I realise not many of us wig wearers are following a Joe Wicks style daily work out, but we all sweat and this bacterium needs to be taken off your wig. If it gets to the point where enough is enough (you will know) wash and dry your wig following its specific care instructions.
- Final point, DO NOT USE TALC! Omg you wouldn’t believe what some people do to their wigs, but this was a biggie! Ladies of a certain generation would use regular talcum powder to “refresh” their wigs, don’t do it, talc will only make your wig look dull and grey (no matter what colour it originally was, yep, it is now grey. You have just aged a great deal right before your partner’s eyes!). The Talc will cling to any part of the wig and create a build up of what can only be described as…well…gunk.
Most wigs look great for around a week after being lovingly washed and styled. I have heard of wig wearers managing to make theirs last much, much longer, although I haven’t tried spending 24hours a day with them myself. The difficulty in washing is the length of time it takes to dry and where you do this, my favourite spot is next to the boiler.
You might be able to set yourself up in another room, yes I hear you sigh, have a complete pamper session day with body, hair and makeup and remember to treat yourself kindly as we all need our own space and to feel good even in confinement.
Once we’re out of this I think I may even continue my new routine – I am finding the me-time quite therapeutic and I know I’m not the only one. I have a new favourite phrase in 2020 and its ‘self-care’.
Keep smiling and keep pampering x
Life benefits of a wig wearer under Covid 19 instructions
Stay Indoors, stay safe – fabulous, no risk of a freak gust of wind!
Once on the school run this was my doom…oh, the shame! Also, no risk of a nature attack from a tree branch, one once claimed my wig for a decoration, scooping a weft whilst I was trying to navigate a blissful bluebell walk. It happens!
Self-isolate – Well, I’ve been doing this for years, now an expert. I am sure you can relate!
For us wig wearers isolation can be our daily living environment, it’s hard to describe how it feels when the world feels as though it is so judgemental on looks and especially hair. We can become turtle-like and seek hibernation. But being inside right now isn’t such a bad thing – World, come and join me in my happy space!
Exercise once a day – yup once is good enough, thank you!
The monumental effort it takes to force myself to the gym, swimming, cycling or just to get out for a run on a normal day is stupendous – exercise just is not for all of us, but it is important! There are however so many decisions all involving headwear which cause me to spend longer getting ready to exercise than actually doing it! At least now that swimming and the gym are totally ruled out, a wig wearer no longer has to spend so much time making these decisions before just giving up and staying home (ah, my favoured choice!). Running? Well, I could nearly pass out from heat stroke if I choose the wrong one? Cycling, do I ruin my wig from putting a cycling helmet on top, like a double-hat effort? Will I look ridiculous? I don’t know – I should give it a go! In short, there is a lot to think about, but we have time!
Food shopping – Ok, now we’re talking! We have been organised in this art for years, HelloFresh, Gusto, the local fruit and veg home delivery service, Laithwaites, hic! We had a head start with this one at least by previously avoiding supermarkets at one point or another in our lives!
In any case, I hope you have enjoyed reading my musings and it made you smile even if just a little! Your main priority right now needs to be keeping safe and finding ways to bring joy and laughter into your world. It’s not all bad, and it’s only temporary 😊
Now is the time to start trying out new and old styles, watching demos of make-up application and accessorising your look. Let’s have some fun!