From Blah to Beautiful (Snip, Snip)

You’ve heard me mention this before–a decent synthetic hair piece should last you anywhere from 4-6 months. My Milans, which I consider to be really great from a synthetic standpoint, last me between 5-6 months.

It’s funny, as the months go on, I always think that my toppers seem to be in really good shape. They are still fairly swingy, they aren’t losing hair and they don’t seem overly dry. But then, you run your fingers through a new piece and the magic happens.

Wow.

Synthetic hair is just that–synthetic. But there is a period of time where it does feel like human hair. Like, legit human hair.

It’s almost uncanny.

Now, if you were to compare it to actual human hair, I’m sure you’d notice a difference. But when you are comparing old-synthetic hair to new-synthetic hair, the difference is pretty extreme between the two. It almost makes me want to start wearing a new piece right away.

Almost.

There are two big obstacles that hold me back from doing so, however.

The first is cost. Cost wasn’t too big a deal before I moved. But now, with two houses and a hefty daycare bill, spending money on new hair pretty much makes me want to sob. I need to make my pieces last as long as humanly possible.

The second is the break-in period. Sometimes toppers are fine to wear right out of the box.

Most often, they are not.

They need to be wet down, re-parted, deshined, rooted, etc. Not everyone does all of these things, but I do, so my list goes on and on.

When my current topper starts to feel too dry, or too weighed-down, or too, just BLAH, there’s one thing I know to do that helps it instantly (actually, there are two, but we are only talking about one today).

I cut my bio hair.

Yep, seems a bit strange right? That something that’s laying underneath the topper could make that big of a difference. But, I promise it does.

Even though my real hair has always been limp and flyaway, whenever I’d take an inch or two off it would always feel so much more healthy and light (but, light in a good way, if that makes sense).

(Do you fellow hair-wearers remember those glory days of getting your bio hair done at the salon? I miss those scalp massages…)

A good wash of my topper combined with a trim of my bio hair makes the piece feel 10x better…and I’m not sure why. Washing always brings it back to life a little (be sure to use a good spray-in conditioner), but bringing up the length of my bio hair helps the whole thing to feel light and new(er) again.

Depending on your hair style, you might not even need to make it into the salon. You all remember how I cut my own hair, right?

This picture is now a few months old. It’s sad to see my old house in the background. Boo. My hair feels amazing here, though!

noriko milan marble brown

I probably took off about two inches bringing it ever-so-slightly longer than the Milan I wear.

What do you think? Can anyone else attest to the fact that giving your hair a trim sometimes makes your pieces look and feel so much better?

P.S. If you’re a savvy reader you’ll notice this isn’t my current color (Almond-Rocka), but rather my “old” color, Marble Brown!

Follea Wigs and Toppers: Is Follea Worth the Hype?

In the beginning of the year, I told y’all (I can say that now, being in Texas…) that I’d like to start featuring some readers’ stories on my blog.

I know so many of you think that you and I are literally the only human beings out there suffering from women’s hair loss, but I can assure you, we are not!

Below is Isla’s story—she recently purchased a Follea Lifestyle topper (T100, 14″, medium, color C5030) and was interested in sharing her Follea story with you all.

Isla’s Follea Story

I’m 21 and I have Androgenetic Alopecia that I triggered to start early by quitting my birth control pill (Ortho Tri-cyclen). I started taking the pill at 17 & quit taking it at 19 (wasn’t trying to have a baby, just got lazy), which a few months later caused my hair to start gradually thinning. I never had any “dread shed”; the hairs just became smaller and eventually didn’t grow back at all.

To make sure this was the true cause of my loss I had blood work done—all normal—and met with a trichologist. He did a dermoscopy (saw my hair follices on a super-magnified screen) and he confirmed my belief that I had Androgenetic Alopecia. In areas where there should have been 3 hairs there would only be 1, and while some strands were thick and brown, others were smaller and either white or clear.

Miniaturized.

It turns out I am genetically predisposed to get Androgenetic Alopecia (thanks, Dad), but it wouldn’t have started for several decades if I hadn’t messed with my hormones. There is no cure for AA, but I went back on my pill because it is high in estrogen which is supposedly good for hair loss. Being back on the pill, it feels like my loss has stabilized, but of course, nothing has grown back.

As I was trying to figure out why I was losing my hair, I was also looking for ways to disguise the thinning. In the past two years I’ve tried it all: hair fibers (Toppik looked like sawdust in my hair, although Caboki was better), Bumble & Bumble Dry Shampoo (a god send, thank you Lauren!), toppers, wigs & extensions.

At first, I did okay with just an EasiPart topper. It was synthetic and undetectable if I wore my hair up. Down, however, it just didn’t match the texture of my bio hair for it to be believable.

Needless to say, I’ve been extremely self-conscious about my hair.

For a while, I slipped into a funk and didn’t want to go out or do anything. I was torn between thinking I was being ridiculous—after all, it’s just hair!—but, on the other hand, looks really determine how you feel about yourself.

If you don’t look good, you don’t feel good.

It might sound vain, but I can’t help feeling that way, especially when I’m only 21! Either way, eventually I got sick of being a shut-in and decided to keep trying.

Real wigs terrified me since people would obviously be on the lookout for me wearing one (what if it falls off or someone pulls it off?!?!). I still had a good amount of hair at this point, so I tried extensions instead, mostly because they are more “acceptable” by society. At first I had a HORRIBLE weave done because I was trying to save money, but that backfired. It itched like crazy & looked insanely bad after the first day; my thin hair just couldn’t cover the tracks so you could see them everywhere. I ended up trying to take it out myself with pliers & caused a lot of damage before I went back and had the stylist remove them.

Oops.

Then I tried tape extensions, which were a huge step up from the weave. They were so comfortable and I could hide the tracks by wearing ponytails, braids, etc., but I still didn’t have enough hair on the top of my head to be able to wear my hair down. Extensions only give volume underneath—not at the top where I need it. They caused some traction alopecia in addition to my hair loss from wearing them up so much.

Have You Heard of Follea?

After wasting a lot of money on products that didn’t work for me, I decided to shell out the cash and buy a Follea toppette.

Most people with hair loss have probably heard of Follea: Follea is supposed to be the best supplemental hair on the market. It makes me sick to think of how much money I spent (I could have bought a car), but I also have a very bad habit of being able to justify almost anything I do. My justification for this was that it could potentially give me my life back, and how can you put a dollar amount on that?

Thanks to my brother and other rude people in my life, I’m too insecure to wear anything that looks less than flawless, and I figured if Follea doesn’t do it, then nothing will.

But, I wasn’t disappointed. In fact just the opposite!

When the Follea topper first arrived, I was a little freaked out because it literally looked like the top of someone’s head had been carved off & put in the box (sorry if that’s too graphic, it just looked THAT real). Follea hair is European which matches the texture/density of my bio hair perfectly and the hairs are attached individually using a “french-knot” method, so it has a little bit of scalp cleavage that extends all the way to the back just like an actual part.

My Follea looks extremely realistic, even to my meticulous, ridiculously self-conscious eyes. I had to dye my hair to better match the piece (which actually plumped my hair & made it look a lot thicker. I will keep doing this from now on).

However, it still wasn’t 100% perfect.

Even though the Follea topette looked extremely realistic (even the front which I can never get to look real with hair pieces blended in perfectly with my bio bangs), European hair is known for being very fine. The Follea hair looked flat and it didn’t flatter my face at all.

What I ended up doing was putting in a few more tape extensions for a little extra volume. I never had the piece cut or styled. I curl the Follea once a week and curl my bio hair/extensions and either wear it in a low pony that looks really cute/voluminous & pull some strands out around my face, or I do a half updo. That way I can fake more volume with a clip than if it just hung naturally limp. Curls suit my face much better than straight hair does, and I think it makes the topper virtually undetectable, versus if I were to wear it pin straight.

Thanks to this blog, I’ve also found two other pieces that meet my high standards when it comes to wearing hair. When I am giving my hair a “rest” from the extensions, and to preserve the Follea, I alternate between the Code Mono wig by Ellen Wille (Thanks again, Lauren!) and the Effect topper, also by Ellen Wille.

The wig I wear with my own bangs out and pinned into a sort of “bump” that covers the lace front & I sewed clips into it so it would feel more secure.

I *love* the layering of the back of this wig, and it is much fuller than the Follea so I don’t have to have any extensions in to get that nice volume (but not too much volume that it looks wiggy).

The topper I wear strictly in up-dos, like buns, and messy things, mainly just for added volume; the texture of it stands out too much from my bio hair to wear it down.

Bottom Line

So, after two years I am finally okay with how I have managed to get my hair to look (though it is annoying how much time/effort/work/money I have to put into it… but the result is worth it).

Although, I hate how I can never run my fingers through my hair and anytime I touch it I have to be mindful of how I’m touching it. That gets annoying, too.

The worst is when someone compliments my hair, because now a lot of people do (maybe they notice a difference?). I feel guilty since half of it isn’t even really MY hair, like I’m lying about who I am or something, but I just say “thank you” and try to change the subject.

I still have some insecurity issues to work through, and it will be interesting to see how dating goes (ughhh, how do I say my hair is almost all fake?) I’m also anxious about the future since I hear Androgenetic Alopecia only gets worse with time, especially if it starts when you’re young (what if I loose my bangs and can’t blend wigs/toppers to look real enough?!).

But, I can’t think about that stuff right now.

I’m living in the present instead and I’m switching my focus once again, this time to working on becoming a stronger person & working on my confidence—I think that will get me a lot further in life than having fake hair.

Isla before helper hair:
thinning-hair-wet

Isla after Follea:
topper-follea

Follea-topette

follea-topper

Don’t you love Isla’s last words? I know I do.

Be on the lookout next week for a follow up from Isla…you won’t want to miss it!

Update: Isla’s update is up on my Super Secret Page (for April 2015). What’s this, you ask? It’s a page that only my email subscribers can access. I post the link to this page in every email you get from me so you’ll always have it. Not on the list? Sign up now to get instant access to the page.

Introducing…My Bald Spots. Boo.

Maybe you’ve been considering helper hair for awhile but haven’t been quite ready to take the plunge. You know it might help you feel better about this whole hair loss thing, but you’ve got some concerns. Hopefully I’ve addressed some of those (Yes! Helper hair can look natural. Yes! There are a ton of styles and colors available. Yes! It’s pretty affordable).

But, there may be one that weighs heavily on your mind. In fact, I’m sure of it because I get emails about this at least three times per week. They usually go a little something like this:

“Ok, Lauren. I’m ready to take the plunge. I want to start wearing hair but I have just one more question for you. Does wearing a topper with clips cause your hair to shed faster? Or, cause bald spots?”

Hmm.

In terms of causing hair to shed faster, that’s an easier one. For me, no, it didn’t cause increased hair fall.

Now, the bald spots…

That’s a loaded question. And it all depends on how you work with your topper.

Let me explain.

Traction Alopecia (bald spots) CAN Happen!

Bald spots can happen. It’s called “traction alopecia”, which is hair loss caused by continual pulling on that hair. You’ve probably seen traction alopecia before: men sometimes get it if they wear ball caps often (the cap rubs in the same place, day after day). Cultures that wear braids often have this issue. Lots of celebrities suffer from this (and regular people, too!) due to hair extensions.

If you’re not careful, it CAN happen to you…as it did to me.

traction-alopecia

Most toppers will arrive with 3-5 clips already sewn into the piece, and this is a-ok to start with. As you wear your topper day after day, week after week, however, you might find that your more sensitive areas are prone to bald spots. I don’t feel my topper pulling at all during the day, but, it must be…I have the proof, after all.

traction-alopecia-bald-spots

For me, I noticed this after about three months of continual wear—and while I’ve worn several different brands of toppers, it’s happened with every single one. Traction alopecia doesn’t discriminate, folks! I did sew in additional clips on the very first piece I wore, but I have NOT done it yet with my Milan.

(Interesting note – I only have bald spots in on the two areas in my pictures. The hair in the back of my head is unaffected, likely because it is stronger.)

Even though I noticed it, out of sheer laziness I didn’t do anything about it. I know this will sound crazy, but because I wear hair full-time with no plans on returning back to my wimpy bio hair, my bald spots didn’t phase me too much. Those of you wearing hair might understand (maybe!) but I’m sure those of you on the fence are reading this with a horrified look on your faces.

My #1 Rule to Prevent Traction Alopecia!

It’s fairly easy to prevent a good majority of traction alopecia due to topper clips by following the #1 rule I pass on about this subject. I’ve mentioned it in blog comments, within a post or two, and in every single email I’ve had you ladies about this topic: SEW IN EXTRA CLIPS.

Extra clips are your friend. They are the single best way to prevent traction alopecia/bald spots caused by clips pulling on your hair.

These are the ones I use: Topper clips

I’d recommend if you want to use these clips, you order with time to spare. I believe they come from China so they always take a few weeks to arrive. Why do I like these?

1) They have silicone to help prevent slipping (some will still happen but silicone definitely helps)
2) They are cheap!
3) You get a ton of them

Or, if you have older pieces laying around, harvest the clips from those. Sometimes, they “wear out” over time (meaning, they don’t hold as well because they get slightly bent out of shape, but in a pinch they will do.

If you have access to a local wig shop, you could ask if they carry them, too. The place near me (before I moved) charged $10 each, which was robbery, so I prefer to stick with ordering online.

One word of caution. The ones from Sally Beauty Supply did NOT work for me. Either my hair was too thin or they did not have enough grip, but my hair slid right through them. I’m not a very good sewer, and I was frustrated that I spent a good half hour sewing those on for them not to work at all.

(Don’t let this scare you–if you can sew a button, you can sew on a clip! I’m just not great at it, nor was I good in Home Economics, back in middle school.)

Here is my list of supplies needed to sew on additional clips to help prevent traction alopecia:

1) Clips
2) Curved needle—I highly recommend a curved, upholstery needle. Not only is it easy to weave in and out of the piece, but it’s stronger. You’ll need the extra strength on pieces that have a polyurethane (PU) rim. Many pieces have them, particularly at the front.
3) Thread—I just use any ol’ thread.

Sew the extra clips (make sure they are facing the correct way) around the perimeter of the piece. What I recommend is to flank any existing clips with new clips. So if you have one at back-center, sew one to the left and one to the right of it.

What this does it allows you to take pressure off your hair; every few wears you can use another clip location so you aren’t putting too much tension on one area of hair. We need to keep every precious hair we have, don’t you think?

So, what am I going to do about my bald spots?

Once I find the box my supplies are packed in, I think a little sewing project is in order. I’ve counseled you guys long enough on doing this, and it’s time I practice what I preach. I’ll be sewing in additional clips as soon as I can!

I’ll keep you all updated with pictures so we can see if the hair grows back. I’d imagine it will (it did with past pieces, but I HAVE been wearing this one awhile), but there likely comes a point of no return with traction alopecia if the hairs keep getting pulled out long enough, you know?

Current topper wearers, have you experienced bald spots cause of traction alopecia since you’ve started wearing hair?