We all have those defining moments that show up on our paths. One for me was a shopping trip to Costco shortly after I lost my hair and before I got a wig. I saw a bald woman there, who was beautiful and vibrant and smiling at everybody, and I thought to myself she truly looks beautiful. She was radiant. I was wearing a cap, but it was obvious I didn’t have any hair. We made eye contact and she came over to me and talk to me. She was going through cancer and had decided to embrace her baldness as part of her journey. She asked me if I was going through treatment, and I explained that I wasn’t, but that I was dealing with Alopecia. She offered a lot of encouragement and kindness, which I’ll never forget. As we were saying goodbye and wishing each other well, I said to her “you’re so beautiful I wish I could be that brave”, and she looked me straight in the eye and said, you are. At the time I never thought I would be able to embrace and thrive in my life with hair loss.
Fast forward a year, and my life brought me out to California. I was still struggling with my loss of hair. For a long time, I kept holding out hope that it was a temporary condition. For some people it is. It’s one of the challenging things about Alopecia, is that its course is different for everyone. I started experimenting more and getting creative with my own wig. I started doing volunteer work for the theater because I wanted to learn more about working with wigs. I knew there had to be better alternatives and ways to style them so that I didn’t look like my grandma. I started taking classes, connecting with Wig makers, and learning tips, tricks, and tools of the trade. Initially, it was all self-serving, I was trying to find a way to navigate the world of alternative hair for myself. In the course of doing this and continuing to work behind the chair as a hairstylist, I began to come across clients who were struggling in the same way that I was. They were unhappy wearing their wig but felt it was their only option. I began to offer my services in the salon for wigs and toppers, sharing what I had learned on my own journey. It was an incredible experience to see the smile and hope on somebody’s face after working with them. They started to feel like themselves and to feel like they too would find a way to accept their hair loss and thrive in life.
After about five years of wearing wigs, I was really beginning to struggle within myself. My hair had grown back and fallen out twice since the time of my initial diagnosis. Each time I grew hopeful that it was over, that I was done with my hair loss. The second time I lost my hair, however, I lost all of it; eyebrows, eyelashes, everything. It was at that time I really had to come to terms with the fact that Alopecia was in my life permanently. Around that same time, my youngest daughter began to develop Alopecia spots on her own head. She was three, and really wasn’t aware of it, but I knew what it meant. I began to think long and hard if she was going to end up on the same journey that I was, what would I do to support her? How would I raise her as an evolving young woman to embrace this challenge in her life? Would I tell my three-year-old that she had to wear a wig in order to be liked and accepted in the world? No, I would teach her to embrace it, to allow it to empower her, and decide to do what felt best for her. I would teach her to love herself with or without hair. I would want her to be comfortable and confident in being herself. And then I looked in the mirror, and I asked myself what I was showing her. I wouldn’t leave the house or be around anyone other than my children without a wig, I never talked about my Alopecia unless I had to. Many of my friends didn’t even know I had it. I started to feel like I was boxed in and I didn’t like it.
It’s interesting how life puts the right people on your path at the right time. Shortly after these realizations, I started to meet other women with Alopecia living openly bald. Up until that point, I really didn’t think it was an option for me. How could a hairstylist be bald, what would it be like to go out into public and be stared at and judged constantly? I didn’t think I could do it. These women that I met were inspiring. They shared they thought it would be a difficult transition, but found it wasn’t as difficult as they initially thought. The more I was around them, the more I realized, living as my true self with something I needed to do. I was needing to make peace with my hair or lack thereof. I was no longer feeling good in my wig and becoming resentful of having to wear it. I was feeling like I had to, in order to keep everyone around me comfortable. I didn’t have peace within myself around this and I was at a point I wanted to.
I decided I was going to start trying to go out in public without my wig on. I went with one of my best friends down to San Francisco, that way I’d be less likely to run into anyone I knew. She was incredibly supportive and let me take the lead that day. Much to my surprise, it was really anticlimactic. Perhaps a bald woman walking around the city of San Francisco isn’t as unusual as I thought. Most people didn’t look twice, and if they did, I was usually met with a compliment. It gave me a confidence boost that I greatly needed. And I was able to begin envisioning a life without the pressure to feel like I had to wear a wig when I didn’t want to. I guess you could say I was making my hair peace. I began to realize that any woman experiencing hair loss has to find that, whatever that is for them.
I realized that wearing a wig for a while was what I needed to do to feel like me and feel good when I went out into the world. That had changed, and it was ok. I no longer felt good doing that. I gave myself permission, to be honest, and honored where I was, and what I needed in the present moment. Whether it was wearing a hat, scarf, or wig or just being bald, I was going to honor what I felt I needed.
I found on this journey of hair loss, there are no rules, it’s all about what works for you at this moment. And what works now can easily change and that’s OK. I was finding so much peace within myself once I adopted this new mindset. A few weeks after my city excursion, I decided to make an announcement sharing with everyone that I had Alopecia and that I’d been wearing a wig, however, I was going to do so no longer. If I was ever in the mood, they might see me in a different style, but from here on out, I was just going to be me and no longer hide that I had no hair.
Taking ownership and making this decision was incredibly empowering for me. It was a shift. In a lot of ways, I had many shifts in my life because of it. I found and landed where I needed to be. This also steered the direction of my career. Because of my experience as a hairstylist, all the advanced training I received, and my own personal hair loss experience, I was able to connect with and help other people going through the same thing. Thus, the creation of my business Hair Peace. I began to do public, speaking, talking about Alopecia, educating, creating awareness, and offering support to anyone that needed it. I became a support group leader, and started volunteering for various organizations supporting women going through hair loss, I became a legislative liaison, going to Capitol Hill to encourage bills, that would require Medicare to allow for wigs for people going through medically related hair loss. It was a step to help move the insurance industry to provide a wig as a benefit.
I speak about hair loss for women because that is where my experience and knowledge are. Hair loss is hard for anyone. For women, so much of our femininity and identity is wrapped up in our hair. There is a lot of focus in our society around it. So even losing a little bit, is traumatic and difficult. I feel like how much hair you are losing doesn’t matter, the process that a woman goes through is the same. It is a process of grief and loss.
Alopecia has taught me many things, and although it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve been through in my life, I am incredibly grateful for its presence. I learned a lot about myself and relating to people, to be humble and more open-minded. It showed me that I had a level of strength and resilience I didn’t know I had. It showed me that I can overcome anything that I choose to. It taught me to be OK with being vulnerable and open to life. To have a deeper level of awareness and presence, and to be less judgmental of myself and others. It taught me how to be comfortable in my own skin. It brought new friendships into my life and showed me how lucky I was to be surrounded by so many supportive and kind people. I learned how to give myself permission to truly be myself and stop caring about what other people think. For these reasons, I wouldn’t change a thing. Alopecia has made me a better human being, a better mother, a better friend, and a better hairstylist. My goal is to help other women find this level of peace within themselves, whatever that is for them. Having support on this journey is imperative.
To be honest, within my hairstory I did find some very dark times. There was a time I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror without my wig on. I was closeted, ashamed, and embarrassed. I’m grateful to say that was only a brief time in my experience. Now when I look in the mirror, I look at myself with love and I feel beautiful, incredibly feminine, powerful, and happy. This is just my experience in my personal hair story. Everyone has their own unique journey and story. What is right for one woman, is not right for another. That’s the beauty of this journey, it’s different for everyone. I’m here to help in a variety of ways. I look forward to joining you on your journey to find Hair Peace.