Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. If you are experiencing hair loss, I urge you to seek the advice and care from a medical professional.
Memories of My Hair
I used to have the kind of hair that people envied. My thick, long, naturally wavy, dark brown hair was a defining attribute that I coveted dearly. Hair communicates your style and self-expression, and it’s one of the first things people notice about you when they meet you. Here are a couple of photos of my hair at the height of its luxuriousness. My senior year in high school, circa 1998, was the epitome of hair goals. I had no idea that my hair would eventually be the thing I disliked most about my appearance.
Hair loss looks different for everyone. Most of my friends have experienced some form of hair loss; however, most of them experienced normal postpartum hair loss or maybe as a side effect of medications. My hair loss was gradual, and it seemed that it would never recover quite as it did for my friends.
I was diagnosed with Androgenetic Alopecia in 2017. Androgenetic Alopecia is a common form of hair loss in both men and women. According to the National Institute of Health, “this form of hair loss is associated with an increased risk of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is characterized by a hormonal imbalance that can lead to irregular menstruation, acne, excess hair elsewhere on the body (hirsutism), and weight gain.” I suffered from PCOS from the time I was fifteen, and I knew as my symptoms became more severe, thinning hair was in my future. My part began noticeably thinning around 2009.
As a wife, mom, and working professional, I had to prioritize caring for myself while also caring for everyone else.
I chose to treat the most severe symptoms of PCOS because they were more immediately affecting my overall health. Hair loss was on the back burner for the better part of almost fifteen years. That doesn’t mean that hair loss wasn’t traumatic. It was and still is. Instead, I elected to do everything I could to get pregnant with both my sons (2002 and 2008). I chose to have a hysterectomy to alleviate debilitating periods and ovarian tumors (2014), and I elected to have weight loss surgery to lose over eighty pounds to aid in treating diabetes/insulin resistance (2017). All 4 of those events came with the side effect of additional hair loss. My hair loss started to significantly affect my self-esteem when I could no longer hide the thinning with teasing and hair fibers.
Toppers and Wigs
Knowing there was no cure for my thinning hair, I chose to forego painful transplant treatments and “sketchy at best” MLM companies pushing false hope in bottles of shampoo and scalp treatments. Many of these treatments can help slow down hair loss, but there is no cure for Androgenetic Alopecia. Instead, I chose to explore the world of alternative hair.
I purchased my very first hair topper in 2018. A topper is similar to a toupee/mini-wig. Toppers are like traditional hair extensions providing volume and blending with your hair, however, traditional extensions are usually installed underneath the crown of your head. I tried on my first topper at a local wig store to see if it was “fake looking” and comfortable to wear. If you are considering wigs and toppers, I urge you to visit a local store before diving into the online marketplace.
I find wigs more comfortable to wear because they allow my scalp to avoid the irritation the topper clips cause. I bought several styles of synthetic wigs and found that I enjoyed changing up my look and exploring different colors of hair.
In January of 2020, I took a trip to NYC and visited a wig store in Brooklyn where I purchased my first human hair wig. Although I prefer to wear human hair wigs, I keep a few synthetic hair wigs on hand because it’s fun to change up my look.
Thanks! It’s a Wig!
After I began wearing toppers and wigs, I started receiving compliments on my hair. I was hesitant to say anything except, “Thank you!” But I started adding, “It’s a wig!” or “I just bought it!” Similar to how one might say, “Thanks! It has pockets!” It was my way to increase my confidence and start normalizing my hair loss and wig wearing.
As an avid social media user, I sought out Instagram accounts related to female hair loss. It is amazing to see these women sharing their hair loss stories. Remarkably, the idea that hair loss is nothing to be ashamed of is what I love most about the community. They are leading the conversation on female hair loss and wig wearing.
Normalizing Hair Loss and Wigs
Recently, I decided to give myself a buzz cut. I no longer wanted to have hair that made me sad, even if I hid it under a wig. I was tired of feeling like I couldn’t go out without a wig or a hat on and I was tired of letting my hair loss own me. Now, I am owning my hair loss. Society normalizes women wearing extensions and dyeing their hair to cover grays. Society normalizes women wearing faux ponytails. It’s time to normalize women wearing buzzcuts, toppers, and wigs. This is probably part of a larger conversation on society’s standards on how a woman should look, but this is where I’m starting from.
Originally published September 2020
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