A letter to wig newbies.

Originally Posted on June 25, 2015 by Heather Hershey

NOTE: This is a recent response to a customer email. I have changed the name and some of her specific details to protect her privacy. I think this is good info for anyone who is new to wigs.

~ Heather

internet-friends
Hi Amy! I am very sorry for the delay. I generally answer the shorter emails same-day, but when it comes to the longer ones, I like to take my time so can give them the consideration and kind of response they deserve.

Please see my responses below:

On May 28, 2015, at 2:24 AM, XYZ <notarealemailaddress@gmail.com> wrote:

Hi Heather, 

I just started loosing my hair because of something my doctor says is Alopecia Areata.

Oh no! I know most cases of A. Areata are autoimmune. Do you think this is stress related? 

My doctor says it has nothing to do with the fact I was dying my hair, but that the stress on my hair from dying it probably didn’t help the hair at all. He says it has everything to do with stress.

You just answered my question for me! 🙂

My doctor said the stress has taken its toll on my body.

I believe it.

I don’t believe this- I’ve been under a lot of stress before so it doesn’t make any sense. 

If this really is A. Areata, then the underlying cause is autoimmune: https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/a—d/alopecia-areata/who-get-causes

However, like all autoimmune diseases, it is greatly exacerbated by stress. This is probably what your doctor was getting at. Whether the underlying cause is hormonal or autoimmune (A. Areata is ALWAYS autoimmune), stress will have a negative impact and make things much worse.

Additionally, like a lot of autoimmune diseases (such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis) the disorder may happen well after the onset of adulthood, so you should not compare your current biological stress tolerance levels to those of your younger self. Unfortunately, these things change. Listen to your body and make peace with it’s limitations. Your journey will be much smoother if you practice compassion towards your body.

Doctors, in general, make a bad habit of spending as little time with their patients as they can because their time is very tightly managed by insurance companies.  This means that it’s highly likely that your doctor just explained this in shorthand and didn’t give you all the details. The website I linked above should be able to help with that.

What kind of doctor is this? If this is a dermatologist, seek a second opinion. I recommend – provided that your insurance and budget permit it – going to a rheumatologist (IE: a specialist in autoimmune disorders) as well as an endocrinologist (IE: a specialist in hormone disorders). This will help eliminate other biological causes and bring you some clarity about the nature of A. Areata, if that is indeed what it is. (Sounds like it, though.)

Extensions just irritated me and my scalp- and the pulling probably made it worse actually.

They probably did. Traction alopecia is another kind of hair loss caused almost exclusively by extensions.

I’m feeling seriously disfigured. Not myself. I’ve always had thick long beautiful hair.

Of course you feel that way! This is a massive blow to anyone, especially women. When my hair would fall out in clumps, I was completely inconsolable. It takes time – sometimes years – to make peace with this. Do yourself a MASSIVE favor and resist the urge to be critical of your mourning period…because it’s normal to mourn your hair, it is not selfish or vain, and it’s deeply personal. Give yourself the space and the time to come to terms with this in a way that is best for you. Give yourself the freedom to express your loss and experiment with your new self-image. In time, believe it or not, this can actually become fun and even liberating! I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but just you wait. 😉

On a serious note: I also recommend only telling people who need to know, like your spouse, your mom, a therapist, a BFF, etc. Making it a public issue will give people permission to comment on it, and that can sometimes make matters worse. If you need to talk to people, be very selective and seek out folks online who are going through the same thing. People may not be able to empathize with the loss you are experiencing unless they are actually walking in your shoes.

People can be very quick to trivialize this and take the position that, “It’s just hair, what does it matter?” (To which I generally counter, “Then why don’t you shave your head in weird, uneven spots and get back to me about how great YOU feel!” LOL) This is a very personal journey and it may be hard to avoid internally criticizing yourself if others feel free to comment and add fuel to the flames. Stand your ground and be your own best advocate both medically and psychologically. A lot of women are not used to being that assertive – we’re trained from birth to be people-pleasers. However, you took the step to write to me in the first place, so I have no doubts that in time you’ll be just fine. 😉

Then, once you are more personally comfortable with your wig-wearing new “you”, you can choose to go more public at your own discretion. Just make sure it’s your decision.

Remember: if someone asks you about it directly outside your sacred circle of chosen confidantes, it is THAT PERSON who is being forward and rude and you are in no way socially obligated to indulge them with an answer. The world doesn’t have a right to know your business – especially about something highly personal like your health – unless you want them to know. At any rate, never forget that the power is yours. 🙂

After looking into wigs, I found your sight, and your YouTube videos about wigs and your story. I want to thank you for sharing everything you have. You are so brave! I’m in such an early stage of this I still hope I can get hair back, but if it doesn’t grow back, I hope I can be as strong as you!

Thank you. And thank you for sharing you story with me. Again, I am sorry for the delay, but this was such a personal and touching email that I wanted to give you the time – and the kind of reply – you deserve.

I have absolute confidence that you will be ok. You will come out even stronger after all of this than you were going into it. It just takes time. One of my favorite quotes should be your new mantra:

In adversity those talents are called forth which are concealed by prosperity.

–Horace

If anyone knows about struggle, it’s a dude from 65 BC. I mean – no running water?! No internet? FUHGDABOUTIT.

I’ve never even thought about wigs before because I’ve always had pretty hair. Something close to my hair style so its not such a dramatic change from my real hair to a wig. And something that has a good looking ‘scalp’ so it looks real. Since this will be my first wig, I was curious about the color of the wigs. You have something on your sight about a possible exchange of colors to see them? If you have anymore info on that, that would be great.

It’s just the color rings. Here’s the info on that: http://cysterwigs.com/pages/color-ring-borrow-and-return-program

Also, I have read on your sight (or heard you say on your videos, maybe I’m not sure) that I could possibly send you a picture of me. Would you be able to help me pick out my first wig?

I would be happy to send some suggestions along. Definitely include a price range, because that is going to dictate what I can suggest.

Also, remember that buying your first wig is a lot like shopping for a wedding dress. It is a highly emotional process and you should definitely take your time. Also, there is a very high probability that you could end up going through several wigs before you find “The One” that you feel comfortable wearing in public. That is just the reality of this game. A large part of that is psychological – there isn’t a wig on earth that is going to feel or look just like your biohair. Because of this, a lot of newbies are quick to reject hair, even if it looks good on them, simply because they had unrealistic expectations. If you think of this as a garment – like a really nice sweater or a pair of glasses – instead of a cure or your grief – you will have much greater success and your frustration will be much lower than if you think a wig is going to make you feel 100% better instantly. For most people, that’s just not a realistic outcome. This is a process, and it takes time and some trial and error. 

If you are very limited in terms of income, I actually suggest making your first purchase from a brick and mortar hair salon so you get the chance to try stuff on before you buy it. They can also provide customizations and tips that can help you throughout the process.

As a general rule of thumb, buying online is less expensive ONLY if you are any one of these things:

1. Not risk adverse and don’t mind if the hair is a little different than expected because you are interested in trying and finding something new.

2. Experienced enough with wigs that you can easily customize or style anything that doesn’t work out of the box.

3. Experienced and know exactly what you’re buying.

4. Well off enough that you have some money to play with and you consider buying wigs fun (again, like shopping for a nice sweater or a purse – IE: the garment mentality I mentioned above)

Wig newbies can sink hundreds (sometimes thousand, if you’re talking about human hair) of dollars on hair before they find what they’re looking for because the lack of experience makes the whole process very daunting if they are thinking with their emotions. The risk is higher with buying online because there are limits to the technology and our ability to convey what certain colors and styles look like. If you’re ok with taking a chance – then you’re fine either way! If you aren’t though, and you’re super picky and only perfection will do, you are in for a world of frustration if you choose to buy exclusively online. This is why brick and mortars can be a great way to start the ball rolling on the right foot. Yes, they can be more expensive up front, but you won’t have the same level of anxiety because you can often leave with the hair you tried on same-day and you’ll know EXACTLY what you’re getting for the money…there’s no guess work involved. That is worth the money to a lot of people, especially if everything about this is foreign to them. 

I hope I was able to help you. Have a lovely evening and please let me know if you have any questions about anything in this email.

– Heather

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