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Alopecia

 
If you have started the day by agonizing and engineering your hair to cover spots and thinning please know there are better ways to start the day. You no longer need to agonize over a puff of wind or fun activity getting in the way of controlling your hair. You may not have a choice in the matter of hair loss but you can control how you are going to approach this change.

First lets cover why this is happening and then we can talk about what to do.

What is Alopecia?

Alopecia can come in several forms. It may appear as bare spots that come and go (Alopecia Areata), it can be diffuse (all over thinning), it may be completely all over the head including lashes and brows (Alopecia Totalis), or include all body hair as well (Alopecia Universalis).

At least 2% of the population, more than 5 million people in the United States alone experience Alopecia. All races and ages are affected. It is highly unpredictable and usually cyclical. Hair can grow back in or fall out again at any time- every person has a very different experience. It used to be thought Alopecia was tied to stress related factors but the medical community has recently confirmed it to be an auto immune disorder and can run in families. While there is no official cure, medical researchers are working hard to find a treatment. Your doctor may be able to give you shots, topical applications, or infrared treatments however success rates are unpredictable. The National Alopecia Areata Foundation offers more information on the link between Alopecia and the immune system.

Until a cure is found there are ways to cope with the loss and control your appearance in a very authentic, low maintenance manner. According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation:

"In general, treatments are much less effective for extensive alopecia areata (particularly alopecia totalis/universalis). For this reason, an attractive wig is an important option for some people. Proper attention will make a quality wig look completely natural; every wig has to be cut, thinned and styled, often several times. To keep a net base wig from falling off, even during active sports, special double sided tape can be purchased in beauty supply outlets and fastened to the inside of the wig. For those with completely bare heads, there are suction caps to which any wig can be attached and there are entire suction cap wig units. These state of the art wigs, which make use of a silicon base to create a secure vacuum-fit, are comfortable and easily removed by the wearer."

Will a wig be comfortable? Will people know?

There have been great advancements in wig making in recent years. The caps that the hair is attached to are engineered with several different materials to give you a secure, soft fit. A qualified wig salon should be able to alter and tailor any premanufactured piece so that you will feel confident in almost any activity. Custom pieces offer even more options. While human hair is undoubtedly realistic and perfect for longer lengths, advancements in synthetic hair have created durable, natural feeling strands that are perfect for shorter more active styles.

Is human hair better than synthetic?

Both have their benefits. Shorter styles may be easy to maintain with a low maintenance synthetic wig. Longer styles may benefit from the durability of human hair as it weathers friction much better. A short synthetic wig can easily last a year while one below the shoulder will show wear with in a few weeks. A human hair wig of any length can easily last 1-3 years with proper care. For someone wearing a wig every day year after year a human hair wig is an excellent investment.

Both synthetic and human hair wigs should be washed every 30 wears. Synthetics hold their style while human hair wigs can and need to be styled much like your own hair. You may do this at home or choose to have them cleaned and styled by your wig salon.

What is a custom wig?

Custom pieces are design by Brenda and are usually made with human hair. There are many different kinds of human hair. Brenda will work with both Indian and Virgin European. Indian hair has been processed so it comes in a wide range of colors and has good movement. Because it has been processed additional processing is limited. It is often readily available in stock or can be ordered within one week. Virgin European hair has not been treated so it is exceptionally strong and silky. These are custom made to order and can be styled into any look These custom pieces are excellent for those who are wearing their piece for a year or more.

Vacuum wigs are another excellent option for Alopecia clients who have lost essentially all the hair on their scalp. A mold is taken of the clients head and a cap is created to exactly fit the head and create a suction to the scalp. The hair is imbedded in the cap material creating a completely realistic looking scalp with hair that can be parted and move in any direction. These wigs stay completely secure until the wearer chooses to break the seal and remove the wig. Soft cap versions have some flexibility, hard shells are excellent for sports and high activity. One of Brenda's clients even reports wearing hers cliff diving in Hawaii!

What about gluing your wig down or "systems"?

Wig tape can be effective reinforcement for attaching a wig but if you have an excellent fit it is usually unnecessary. As for gluing, it does allow you to keep your hair on round the clock for up to a month. Many places will require you to make monthly appointments for the wig specialist to glue your piece down. If there is some hair growth, it is trapped under the piece and can become uncomfortable especially since there is no access to the scalp or effective cleaning. I prefer to give my clients a more independent and clean way of managing their hair. I also like to preserve the investment you have made in your hair by reducing the wear and tear. Nothing creates more friction and tangling than sleeping on your hair. It will require daily styling instead of styling once or twice a month. Sleeping in your piece greatly reduces the life of the wig as well as the esthetic.
 
Brenda4 - Alopecia Therapy in Portland, OR
Brenda Kay Owner, Wig Specialist