Dealing with the Psychological Challenges of Hair Loss—Fear and Acceptance
(Wig shown above: BECKY WIG BY RENE OF PARIS)
When I started this blog months ago, I tried to tackle the feelings, questions, and frustrations that most all women deal with as they go through the process of realizing that they will lose their hair—forever. I would expect the feelings and process is very similar for men as well.
After writing my blog, getting feedback from real wig-wearing women, and learning from those experiences, I wanted to share what I have learned in the hopes that it will help someone out there who is reading this.
Not all hair loss is forever, of course. There are many reasons a person can lose their hair. The shock, loss, and the necessity to learn coping skills are just as traumatic whether you think the loss is temporary or permanent when it first happens.
At first, you may notice a little thinning, then more, and there is hair in the brush and hair in the shower—much more than you have ever seen. Now, you panic. What could be wrong with you? And then it begins, the search for answers, trips to the doctor or doctors. Some get that diagnosis that they dreaded most. They are told that their hair will continue to fall out and it will never grow back. As we know many conditions can cause this, so I won’t go into all that here. I was disappointed in my experience with the medical community. In the end, I had to be my detective, comforter, advisor, because no one had answers for me.
Once I figured out my issue and made my own diagnosis from my research (good research, not from the weird internet sites and YouTube), I felt better. While I didn’t want it to be true, at least I had an answer of sorts and knew it was time for the next step. That is where I found the world of wigs.
Since I had a background in research, I began to research wigs the same way I had researched hair loss. Once I settled on the right wig for me, it didn’t take me long to get over the fact that I was now a wig-wearer—every day. Very soon in the process, I stopped thinking about it and wondered if anyone could tell. The only looks and compliments that were coming my way were all about how much they liked my color, cut, etc. I never told anyone outside my immediate family and best friend. No one. I had more than one person every week ask me who did my hair. I knew then that I had found the right wig, and then was able to branch out as time went on and I gained confidence in my ability to pick the best styles, color, brand, cap, etc.
The challenges will be different for everyone. The acceptance process will be different for everyone also. 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. Ask for help if you need it, that is the most important thing.
Until next week,
No—Don’t Give Up!
This week’s blog was to be about wig rescue…but I changed it to be more about our rescue from wig disappointment. It is about giving yourself a bit of grace, time, and space to find the right wig, one that feels right to you, and one that compliments you, your complexion, and your face shape. Lately, I have been sad to see a lot of people on different media formats say: “I give up on wigs. I’ll just have to deal with this hair loss some other way.” The general theme seems to be that they try one or two wigs, and decide it is not for them. They are upset, disappointed, and often needlessly so. Things might have been different if they would have given themselves more time to do research, ask for help, and to understand it is a journey, not a sprint. Learning to buy a wig, the right wig(s) is a skill. Like any other skill, it takes time to master it.
Reading all the comments and learning about all the disappointments was frustrating. I wanted to give all those ladies a hug and say, “it’s because it is all so new—it feels like too much hair, the color might not be the best fit, you are not used to wearing something on your head—but it will get better with time.”
I am writing this in the hope that I will reach someone or several people who might be going through this now. One bad wig experience does not mean you will never be able to wear wigs comfortably. Even several bad experiences don’t mean failure. Yes, wigs are expensive and can be intimidating to work with at first. But you have to make friends with your wig, make it your own. Once you claim it, you can begin to work with it. Also, you need to manage your expectations. Everyone’s head (and neck length) is a bit different in size and shape, and you will eventually find the wig brands and caps that work best for you, and that will make your journey much easier. Also, please remember that your wig can be modified. I don’t have the talent in that area that I wish I had, so I take mine to a stylist to maybe get it trimmed, or most often just to get the bangs trimmed.
There is a process and a learning curve. A lucky few will take to wig wearing right away and have all kinds of fun trying new styles and colors. But most of us go down a different path. We struggle to learn about wig fit, the different wig caps, the difference in the fibers, wig care, colors, and sizes—it can be overwhelming. In my field, writing, we have “tags” for the different kinds of writers: Plotter or Pantser. I think the same idea can be applied to learning about wigs. Did you start researching all about wigs, view hundreds of videos, pictures, research manufacturers, talk to wig wearers, find wig blogs (a plotter)? Or did you find a local wig boutique and go in and trust the person there to just tell you what you should wear? Or did you go all out Pantser and just order a wig online that looked good to you because it looked good on the model? Maybe it was something in-between these actions, but you get my point. Did you approach wig-wearing in a more thought-out process or did you make an emotional decision? (In writing, a pantser is one who just sits in their chair one day and starts writing with just an idea and maybe doesn’t even know the story or the characters or how they want it to end.) As you can guess, I don’t advise this technique for wig buying. It can get expensive!
So, yes, there is a process, but it’s one that you can learn. I can remember my own experience in my early days of wig wearing. I was too overwhelmed to ask for help. I bought my first wig in a wig boutique, but after that, I owned my process—I did my research, asked questions, and then I ordered my first wig online and never looked back. I was not lucky enough back then to have a company like Wig Studio1. I didn’t feel comfortable asking questions of those at the wig boutique if I wasn’t going back there to buy their products. So, for me, it was research-research, and trial and error.
In closing, I want to highlight two things: 1. please, ask for help. If you are reading this blog, then you know that you can find it at Wig Studio1. There is so much expertise there! 2. Do NOT give up, and if you are in this phase, or if you know someone who is struggling, pass this on. There is a wig and style that is for you, likely there are several, but you will never know that if you give up too soon.
So, next week, I will let you know how my old wig rescue came out and will have some tips for how to rescue your old wigs—or if they should be rescued. Sometimes, it is time to move on. Until then, look in that mirror and see possibilities. Refuse to accept failure and disappointment about wig wearing. If thousands of people can do it, so can you. So, whether you are a plotter or pantser, keep trying because the right wig is out there waiting for you. Before you know it, you will have a collection of your own. The day will come when you will look at your wigs and be happy that you have options, and you’ll be happy that wigs are so well made now—all they need is you to make them your own.
Until next week, take a look at the wigs on sale now (and ongoing) and maybe start there. If you are not sure about style or color, ask for help. There is a world of expertise at Wig Studio1. There are wonderful blogs, videos, and all kinds of great resources. And remember, we are all in this together. Pass it on.