My hair loss started out as a smooth spot on the back of my head that I noticed a year after giving birth to our son, Colin, in 1989. Jim and I had been happily married for 18 years before conceiving our son, the miracle child! When Mother Nature didn’t cooperate with the home birth we had planned, 3 days of unproductive labor led to an emergency c-section followed by deep vein thromboses in both calves. The good news was that my son was born healthy and I survived the delivery. The bad news was that I believe this experience triggered my alopecia which systematically removed every hair on my body within six months. My reaction was complete and utter terror! I learned that I was not dying, but rather had an incurable auto-immune skin disease. At the relatively young age of 37, my life was over as I knew it. True, but something else was being born, although I didn’t realize it at the time.
My first sane thought came to me when I refused to attend a show that my Rock Star husband (see the Jim Peterik link) was performing. (Everyone knew about my hair loss because our world is very public.) I then made the life-changing realization that I wasn’t going to let Alopecia change my otherwise wonderful life. Nothing would hold that much power over me! No more Why me? No more crying, anger or self-pity. I committed to moving forward and finding real solutions to living with my hair loss. (I have personally never considered going bald in public, but I have met some wonderful women who have found their acceptance in this form and I greatly admire their fortitude and self-belief.)
So, I took my first steps in learning about hair replacement – facial hair and head hair as they are both extremely important. I literally started at the bottom of the ladder with inexpensive synthetic wigs thinking they would be the most practical for my active lifestyle, but slowly kept upgrading the quality until I was spending around $2,000 dollars on a human hair, hand tied wig. I was still disappointed that even though I had what I thought was the best wig available, I still didn’t feel like “myself” – some part of me was mysteriously missing. There were also the limitations of a conventional wig that I had reluctantly grown accustomed to like skin irritation from the mesh cap, the constant worry of losing my wig while doing very normal things like walking into the wind, trying on clothes or sunglasses, and exercising. I didn’t know that the reason my hair eventually turned into a dry, matted, tangled mess was because the hair had been chemically processed (in an attempt to make ethnic hair look like Caucasian), causing the cuticles to re-open and stick together like strips of Velcro. Make-up was a whole other learning process. (See Make-up Techniques.)
Then something wonderful happened in 1997 when I attended the National Alopecia Areata Foundation Conference being held in Chicago, my home town (see the NAAF link). With much relief I discovered the wealth of support, research information and practical resources available for people Just Like Me! I also discovered something that I could have only dreamed of: a wig that didn’t look like a wig! – beautiful human hair that looked like it was growing out of the scalp, felt comfortable and stayed securely in place throughout all types of activities. Enter the (drum roll) Custom-made Vacuum Hairpiece by Freedom Wigs of New Zealand! (I believe this is to be the greatest invention ever for people with medical hair loss.) My life has never been the same after that fateful discovery. The only thing that tops this is my ability to bring the same discovery to You!
Ever since hearing my dermatologist utter those strange-sounding words, Alopecia Areata, I embarked upon what has become a life-long interest in this unpredictable auto-immune skin disease and the role that hair plays in our lives. Research to uncover the cause and find a cure is slow in gaining ground possibly because of its non-life-threatening nature but the fact remains that Alopecia holds a life-altering power over everyone who is affected. How and why does the loss of one’s hair impact the human psyche? Is our hair really that important or does it expose a weakness that we must somehow strive to overcome? Exactly where is our identity forged? One would think that it is made up of our cumulative knowledge and character gained through experience yet I know that I can’t feel truly good about myself unless I am happy with my hair and overall appearance. In the 2008 book,YOU Being Beautiful, Drs. Roizen and Oz make the case that our endeavor to be attractive is deeply embedded in our DNA as a survival strategy. In her “Healing More Than Just Hair” lecture, Dr. Angela Christiano (a leading Columbia University Alopecia research dermatologist) further suggests that “Hair loss is as much a communication disorder as it is part of dermatology.” She knows firsthand the “psycho-social stress” that hair loss causes since her own Alopecia presented in 1996. (See her Video link.) So she is saying that there is a profound connection between our perceived appearance and our means of communicating with others – interesting! Her recommended treatment, by the way, is to learn how to “transform your pain into passion.” That sounds like a good Rx for many of life’s other challenges as well.
As fascinating as all of that psychological stuff is, I think we can all agree on the basic fact that losing one’s hair presents an immediate practical problem: How do we get on with our lives post Alopecia while allowing it to have as little impact on us as possible? My answer to that is in reasoning that since having Alopecia is something we CANNOT control, we must embrace the areas of our life that we CAN control. Areas such as following a healthy lifestyle including diet, exercise and stress management, seeking out a satisfying career, building healthy relationships and finding a balance between work and play. When it comes to your appearance and communicating effectively with others, looking good will go a long way in providing you with the confidence to move forward with your life. We are incredibly fortunate to have available to us a natural-looking, comfortable, practical and durable hair replacement solution: the Freedom Wigs custom-made full-cranial vacuum prosthesis. (See About: Freedom Wigs and the Vacuum Hairpiece.) Getting your life back and feeling like “yourself” again is truly priceless. It makes everything else possible – your goals for career, love and family are suddenly within reach. There’s no need to explain that you don’t have cancer and no need to explain what Alopecia is – unless you want to. Freedom of Choice is what we all desire and deserve to have.
The evolution of this ingenious Hair Replacement Solution has its roots, so to speak, in the Land Down Under. Australia gave us the first suction wig over 4 decades ago using a hard cap made of fiberglass. Utilizing a plaster mold taken of the recipient’s head, the close-fitting cap pushed out the air inside, thus creating a “vacuum” without the need for tape or adhesive to keep it secure. The suction was strong enough to withstand the rigors of an active lifestyle without coming off, thus enabling the wearer to go virtually undetected. Because of the natural-looking scalp and implant, the virgin human hair appeared like it was growing out of the head; it moved, looked and felt like real hair, which it was. The early models were inflexible, heavy and hot, but for those in need, they were a Godsend, until…
Freedom Wigs, Ltd., located in Dunedin, New Zealand, was founded by Murray and Averill Barrington over 30 years ago. Murray’s brother had male-pattern baldness and had been wearing the glue-on partial hairpiece that was manufactured in Australia. But Murray was looking to improve upon it. Being the natural inventor that he is, Murray is the type of person who loves to take things apart and put them back together again – for the fun of it and to satisfy his curiosity. Well, one thing led to another and before he knew it, Murray was experimenting with making full-cranial prostheses out of a more user-friendly material: medical-grade silicone. Women, men and children with long-term, total hair loss began wearing his wigs, grateful to finally have the security of living without the fear of them coming off, as well as having the comfort of a soft silicone cap.
Every employee at Freedom Wigs, Ltd. fully understands the importance of what they do and put our clients at the heart of every decision. Their mission of helping people with long-term medical hair loss has attracted a dedicated team of artisans – many have been there since the beginning – carefully trained in their particular area of the wig-making process. Over the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve noticed that Freedom Wigs cares less about tooting their own horn through fancy marketing than they do about quietly and steadily improving their product. Since I began as an Independent Agent in 2000, they have tweaked the formula of our silicone cap to greatly improve upon its properties. This evolution has yielded an extremely durable, waterproof yet vapor-permeable “skin” that serves the dual purpose of sealing in the implanted hair and providing a secure and comfortable suction. The introduction of the laser scanner in 2008 allowed us to capture a 3-D image of the client’s head which would then be machined into a wooden mold and used in the various production phases ensuring the best cap fit possible. Last but not least, we could never achieve the results we have without being able to source our incredibly precious supply of virgin (unprocessed) human hair. When you consider that each hairpiece requires 15-20 ponytails, it demonstrates the commitment to uncompromising quality that Freedom Wigs insists on.
In the summer of 2015, Freedom Wigs, Ltd. welcomed its new owners, Gary and Deanna Beattie and we have their daughter, Libby , to thank. The time had come for our founders to retire and put the business up for sale. Libby asked the innocent yet poignant question of her parents, “If we don’t buy it, who will?” Libby has been wearing a Freedom Wigs Vacuum Hairpiece since she was a child so she harbors the same concern that the rest of us do: What if the fate of this very special business were to fall into less-caring hands or worse? So, being the responsible and loving parents that they are, Gary and Deanna bought the business and will carry on the extraordinary work that has returned a semblance of normalcy to a good many lives. To their credit, the transition has been seamless and the prospects for future innovation and growth are high – thank goodness!
Visit the Freedom Wigs website at FreedomWigs.com.