Hair Loss –The Severe Emotional Impact on Women
(Wig shown above: MAY WIG BY NORIKO)
For those of us who have dealt with hair loss, for whatever reason, or find ourselves dealing with it now, this is not news. We know that hair loss is generally more accepted in men, despite women accounting for 40% of all hair loss sufferers in the US. Hair loss, regardless of gender, can be devastating. It can dent a person’s self-esteem and negatively affect their overall quality of life, the experts tell us. Yes, this is not news to those of us dealing with it every day.
It seems experts agree, however, that women are significantly more likely to suffer emotionally as a result of hair loss and that one in three women will, at least temporarily, suffer from hair loss at some point in their lives.
“Hair loss in a woman is so emotionally devastating that it can trigger a wide range of social and emotional issues that can negatively impact healthy daily living and overall quality of life. I have heard of women that retreat from social situations has diminished work performance, and even alter their healthy living – avoiding exercise, overeating, not treating other medical illnesses – due to their hair loss,” said Dr. Francis. “Due to societal perception differences, it is much more emotional for women, as there is limited cosmetic acceptance of a bald woman. increased societal pressure on a woman to be attractive. The negative quality of life is worse in women.” (Medical News Today)
I have written about this before, but the current talk I am seeing on social media, inspired me to highlight this subject again. It seems that there is a great gap between the need for more research, more help from pharmaceutical companies, more educated doctors (on this subject), and the reality. There has been much more research and activity in the area of male baldness and its cure.
So, here we are, and we must be our advocate for change. We must be the ones leading the way in asking why more has not been done to find the causes and cures. We must step out of the “box of shame” and tackle the issue just as if we were fighting for a cure for any other condition.
The challenges will be different for everyone. There is no one rule about how to handle this, and there is no one answer. Finding answers will be different for everyone, and the acceptance process will be different for everyone. No matter if you are an introvert or extrovert, or always confident or not so much, losing one’s hair is a huge issue. Your hair has been with you all your life; it has been a part of your identity, the way people see you, and who they think you are to some degree. You’re the girl, lady, woman with the long brown hair and silly laugh, or the person with the cute blonde pixie and full of energy. People see you and your hair is part of it. Now your hair is betraying you—your body is betraying you. How you deal with that can make a big difference in your life, but you will need to deal with that, and how you do that will depend not only on the reason for your hair loss but how much support you have.
I am not a psychologist, but one of my best friends is, and I didn’t even talk to her about my experience for a long time, and after I had dealt with it all myself. If you have someone to talk to it can help, even if they know nothing about wigs. Wigs are done so well now that there is no reason for you to ever tell anyone that you are wearing a wig unless you want to do that. Learn about wigs and what is available for you. Take advantage of our wig blogs, helpful demonstrations, YouTube videos, and other forms of education. You can learn not only about wig options but wig construction and care. Ask for help if you need it, that is the most important thing.
Until next time, fight the good fight.
Top Ten Ways to Extend the Life of Your Wigs
- Understand Your Wig Cap’s Construction: Is it hand-tied, machine wefted, lace front, mono top, mono crown, mono part?
- Respect Your Fibers: Read any manufacturer’s care instructions or do a search to find out how to care for your wig fibers. Fiber composition makes a big difference in how to care for your wig. Human hair, blended (human hair with synthetic), heat-friendly or not—they all have different needs.
- Use the Correct Brush or Comb: It’s helpful to get into the habit of combing through your wig after taking it off. Gently (and with the appropriate comb type) remove any tangles. Smoothing and separating the hair fibers before storage will not only keep your wig looking its best, but it will be ready for wear the next time without worry. Always comb in small sections, slowly, starting at the ends and moving toward the crown. Careful of pulling too hard. You don’t want to unknot any fibers from the crown.
- Store Your Wig with Care: Everyone seems to have their own method. If you rotate your wigs a lot, keeping them out and on wig heads/stands is fine. If you have too many for that, you can store them in the box they came in, careful to make sure the fibers are not twisted or out of shape if you will be storing them for longer periods. Some people hang them from pegs or similar setups. If you are using boxes, remember to store them so that you can read the name on the box for easier access.
- Watch That Heat, Please: This is always a scary thing the first time you try it on your wig. Remember that synthetic hair does not respond like human hair. Start with the lowest temperature that is advised rather than the highest. Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to high temperatures will shorten the life of your synthetic wig or topper.
- Don’t over-wash! Washing your wig, especially over time, will cause some shedding and a slight loss of density, no matter how gentle you are. Everyone is different, and you can adjust the when to wash rules to you based on several things: how many hours a day your wear the wig, does your head sweat, how many products do you use, to name a few. If you take the wig off and can smell the wig cap, that’s a clue. If your fibers seem to be sticking together, that’s a clue. If your fibers look dull and lifeless…yes, a clue. You get the idea. Use good judgment, and with the idea in mind that the more you wash, the shorter the lifespan.
- Use Silicone-Based Products: (and other products) On Your Wig, sparingly. Over time, the use of any product will cause a buildup that can result in a lifeless, dry, and flat look. A thoroughly washing is the only answer.
- Don’t Sleep in Your Wig: Both static and sweat cause frizz, often resulting in tangles which will result in damaged fibers, and so on. It’s not worth it.
- Don’t wear your wig to the gym: No matter how cute that guy is at the gym that you want to impress or how much more attractive you feel with your wig on in general, think twice. If you must wear a wig, set aside one wig, maybe one that is shorter, and aging, one that you only wear for this one thing. Otherwise, opt for another type of headgear.
- Don’t Wear Your Wig in a Swimming Pool: The chemicals in the water are not your wig’s friend. Invest in a head wrap, bathing cap, or if you do go in and don’t plan to get your wig wet at all…. but you do, rinse it out immediately and condition it lightly, letting it air dry overnight before trying to comb through.
Your wig is an investment, both financially and emotionally. With a little thought and care, it will last you a long time and help you look your best along the way.
Please see WigStudio1 videos for more on wig care. There is a great store of information on the site.
Until next time, can you believe it’s time to think about holiday hair?
Talking About Hair Loss
When dealing with hair loss for whatever reason, it is often the case that your friends and family won’t know what to say to you. There will be a range of thoughts and feelings on both sides. If your spouse or partner is struggling with how to help you, here are some suggestions that might help.
- Be honest about your feelings and ask them to listen to those feelings without judgment. Hair loss can elicit strong emotions as it signals a change in appearance that may impact self-esteem. Those emotions might present in different ways. Explain that you need time to deal with this and that your mood might be somewhat rocky for a bit.
- Explain that you need time and support and let them know what they can do to help in that regard.
- Ask for what you really need. Do you need financial help to afford a wig or someone to help you find places that sell wigs? Do you need help talking to your insurance company about reimbursement for wig costs due to a health condition?
- Keep the lines of communication open. The loss of your hair and/or changes in a health condition will be new to your family members and/or friends too. Most likely they will have no idea how to help you or what to say or do. Don’t withdraw from your family and friends, they can be your support system, but they will need to know how to do that. They will be looking to you to tell them.
- Don’t become a recluse. Be kind to yourself—exercise, practice meditation, listen to music or engage in other activities that can keep your emotions in balance. But don’t hide away and carry this challenge alone.
- Find a support group. Until you feel comfortable with wig-wearing, participate online with those going through the same thing. (WigStudio1 has a fabulous Facebook group). You will not only get emotional support, but you will also get a real wig education. You can benefit from the experience of others, not only in dealing with hair loss but in getting to know all about wigs. It’s a priceless resource.
- Baby Steps. Know that it gets easier! Feelings about hair loss may change over time. You will become comfortable wearing a wig, and not just comfortable but secure about how you look. It is easier for some than others to adapt, but everyone does eventually. You will come to see that you, the real you, is still there no matter what is left of your bio hair or what wig you are wearing. You are not your hair.
- Talking to Children about your hair loss: It may be helpful to keep in mind that children benefit from simple and clear explanations that are easy to understand. (You know your children or the young people in your family best).
The American Cancer Society often reminds patients to provide concrete, age-appropriate information when speaking about a health issue, including your hair loss, to your children or younger family members. Some children will want to hear more detailed scientific explanations, and others will be satisfied with general information. Answer the children’s questions as accurately as possible. Take their age and prior experiences with illness into account. If your loss is due to cancer, Oncology social workers can help you to find the best ways of engaging in these conversations given your child’s age and developmental stage.
There is help and support out there so don’t try to do it all alone.
Wishing you a happy and productive autumn and remember to check out the WigStudio1 Facebook group. And happy wig buying. So many wigs, so little time…
Until next week,