The Making of Alopecia Hairstylist
Updated: Jan 16
Disclaimer: Photo Overload!
As promised in my first blog, though later than anticipated, I'll take you on my Alopecia journey. First, I should probably explain that Alopecia Areata, the type I have (there are different types), is an autoimmune condition. I don't like the word disease, though that is how it is classified and there is no known cure for it, is where your body views your hair/hair follicles as an invasion of sorts and attacks it. In my case, my body has elected to only attack patches of my hair. It started sometime after I had my son (my second and last child). Judging by my Google search, just now, there is a such thing as Postpartum Alopecia. https://www.belgraviacentre.com/blog/hair-loss-after-pregnancy-and-childbirth-postpartum-alopecia/ Of course, I'm not too inclined to think mine would (still) be called Postpartum Alopecia 22 years later.
Side Note: this is why I stress to my expecting clients to continue taking their prenatal vitamins after the birth of their baby, at least until the baby is 6 months old. ESPECIALLY if you're breastfeeding! My thought process is that the hair is less likely to shed as much as it normally would postpartum if they are continuing to replenish their body's depleted vitamin intake. New mom's hardly get any sleep, much less eat..much less eat foods that have enough nutrients to keep their body functioning at 100% while getting used to their new normal...I also explain that I am in no way a Medical Doctor...of any sort. However, I am a mom who endured a significant amount of hair loss after the birth of her last child.
Before Alopecia, I always had hair. Though it may not have been as thick as my dad's, sister's or my brother's (my mom has fine hair); it was definitely more coarse/drier than everyone else's in the family. I never wore weaves, extensions or wigs until my hair got to a place where I could no longer camouflage the missing parts. Thus, began the 10 hour sessions locked away in the bathroom deconstructing weave; chemically relaxing; coloring the grays; cutting and gluing pieces of weave into the missing places like a jigsaw puzzle. Trust me, this process was WAAAAAAAAAAAAY more tedious and frustrating than that sentence reads!
When I was younger, I remember taking trips to Kingston, Tennessee to visit my Granny (my mom's mom). She had her very own salon! I think she is where I get my entrepreneurial kahunas from! Though I was always a Tomboy, who LOVED climbing; jumping; and tumbling off of and onto any object. I secretly had an interest in doing hair and other things my juvenile mind deemed as "girly." I had Barbies that I would chop hair off of, until they were almost bald; and some that had chin length bobs. I would crochet clothes for them (yes I can crochet, I also wanted to be a fashion designer), while watching The Incredible Hulk and The Dukes of Hazard. My other grandmother, my dad's mom, who lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (my home town) had a friend named Mrs. Thompson. She and her sister taught me and 2 of my neighborhood friends (Shae and Miki) how to crochet over the course of a Summer (though it could have lasted longer than one Summer, time flies when you're having fun! I LOVED learning how to crochet and spending time with my friends, including the older ones.
Though I've always loved hair and doing crafty things with my hands, there was a time I thought I wanted to go into the Army but I won't bore you with that story...all I knew was I didn't want to go to college like the majority of my family before (and since) me. I come from a LONNNNG lineage of Educators, on both sides of my family. And me? Ha! I barely survived high school (and middle school)! However, at the STRONG suggestion of a former boyfriend, who was by all accounts, an "illegal" from Mexico; would eventually convince (and escort) me to enroll in and attend Pellissippi State Community College. I attended for 3 or 4 semesters. I was there just long enough to claim a double major of English and Psychology and had earned a 3.464 GPA but never finished! And yet, somehow I am STILL paying back the measly $4k I borrowed in student loans in the late 90's (for real, in real life)! Initially, I was told I only needed 2 Math classes to continue with my course of study, which I took. What I wasn't told, at least not until after I took 2 Remedial Math classes, that I BARELY passed was, "oh no hunny" *insert strong Middle Tennessee accent here,* "you have to take 2 COLLEGE level Math courses!" With great trepidation, I attempted to take a college level Math course, twice. And I dropped out, twice. Lowering my GPA to a number I never bothered to rehearse...because a 3.464 GPA just sounds better. LOL! My futile attempts at school were all during the time my children were in elementary school and the pressure and anxiety to become "somebody" was stronger and weighed heavier than ever!
The stress of being a single mom, going to school and working 2 jobs started to take a serious toll on me. My hair started coming out more and more and I would find it EVERYWHERE! I would even find it in the dishwasher! I finally went to my Primary Care Doctor, sobbing uncontrollably, and was told "pffft it's stress...it's just hair, it's not a big deal..." Yeah, a real Doctor, with a medium size afro, said that to me! Feeling completely helpless and defeated, I decided the only thing for me to do was to go to Cosmetology School, to see if I could find out why my hair was coming out and fix it myself! I enrolled in one school; studied there and collected 740 hours of the required 1500 and had to withdraw (a story for another time, perhaps in a book). I enrolled in Reuben-Allen College (in Knoxville, TN) and studied the entire 1500 hour course there, because the first school I attended lost their accreditation and NONE of my credits from the other school were transferable! I had to start ALLLLLLL over again!!! Truth be told, I wasn't too upset (but I was upset) about it because I really hadn't learned anything in the 740 hours I collected at the previous school. Unless, of course, if you count learning that "all black girls know how to finger wave and braid." That is, all except me...I finally found a school I loved; instructors I loved (except that one but she served her purpose-teaching both life and Cosmetology lessons and for that, I am grateful); classmates I loved and I LOVED the curriculum! I immersed myself in the study of hair. What I discovered in my studies was I had Alopecia Areata and there was no cure...wish I had known that before I spent THOUSANDS of dollars on lotions, potions, injections and shampoos claiming to "regrow your hair!"
After finding out my hair was pretty much a lost cause, I became determined, from that day on, to be sure if I ever encountered a client with even the slightest hint of thinning (or excessive shedding), I would recommend they see their PCP or more specifically a Dermatologist or Endocrinologist, sooner than later to have a panel of tests run (check their thyroid and any vitamin deficiencies)! I feel it is my duty because my Hairstylist never told me. Maybe she neglected to tell me for fear of me thinking the then, quarter size patch of missing hair was somehow her fault. Who knows! Of course, it has taken me MANNNNNNNY years to get to the place where I can speak publicly about and definitely blog...and post...on the interweb...about my Alopecia journey. But I have FINALLY decided that although I have Alopecia, it will no longer have me! Cliche' I know, but I am free of the shame, guilt and embarrassment of something that was never in my control. Besides, when I really think about it, I LOVE the direction Alopecia has taken my life! Without it, I probably would have never striven to reach my full potential in the industry that I love so much. I LOVE it when my clients tell me they've never had a Stylist that cares for their hair (and scalp) the way I do! I LOVE it when my clients tell me they've never had a cut as great as mine! Of course, to you it may just be hair; but for me it's much more! I get to tell beautiful women, children and men, how much they are appreciated, loved and how much they mean to me...it's a ministry (thank you for that realization LaTrell). I listen to their stories; I relate to their stories...I cry with them; and on bad days, they cry with me...I visit them in the hospital; I attend their funerals (2 so far); I cry for them and I pray for and with them. I even have a client who jumped up, wet head, cape and all, and prayed THE most beautiful and powerful prayer I think I've ever heard (again, thank you LaTrell). To say I LOVE what I do, is an understatement! But above all, I LOVE that I am no longer focusing my attention on whether or not my hair will come back...because it always does...sometimes once a week; sometimes every other week and other times 6-8-10 or 12 weeks. The personal and spiritual growth I get from those hair encounters mean more to me than my hair ever growing back. #BigFacts
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the Glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and Glory of the children of God. Romans 8:18-21 NIV