Who shaves off perfectly good (ok, perfect) hair in the quest to understand what we, as hair-wearers, experience on a day-to-day basis?
Emily Buckwalter, that’s who.
Today, I’m excited and honored to bring to you my interview with Emily, Jon Renau’s amazing Education Coordinator. Some of you had the opportunity to “meet” her at the webinar we partnered on last year (eek, hard to believe it’s been a year!).
Emily has been with Jon Renau since 2012 and is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to both the pieces themselves, and as well as how to care for and maintain them.
At the start of this year, Emily launched her blog The Truth Beneath the Wig. Because she wanted to fully understand what life is like for a full-time hair-wearer, she shaved off her (gorgeous!) black hair and vowed to chronicle her journey for a year.
I’m not sure many women would take on this challenge, and I definitely had some questions for Emily!
Let’s get started!
Lauren: Ahhh, your hair! Why did you decide to do this? How did this idea come about?
Emily: My co-worker Diana Ford had shaved her head two years earlier and did a fund-raising event for Children With Hair Loss.
She learned so much about alternative hair and even herself through the experience, so the idea of shaving my head to wear wigs full time was always in the back of my mind somewhere.
The idea of really taking the leap and shaving my head happened when I was standing in a room full of Jon Renau retailers at a major hair loss conference explaining to them how important it is to wear the hair we sell, when it dawned on me that although I had worn toppers for a few years (for fashion) I had no real experience wearing wigs as a “need”. Sure, I would wrap my hair up and wear it for a few hours for work, but it was not a part of my daily life.
Lauren: I think it’s so awesome that you fully want to understand the product you’re selling. Even so, I bet it was difficult to decide to part with your hair – even knowing it will grow back! Was it a hard decision?
Emily: It took me 3 months of thinking about it before I said anything to anyone out loud.
Lauren: Ah, you had to let it simmer a while.
Emily: For me, actually saying to it someone was the hardest part because it meant that now it was going to happen.
Lauren: What did your family think?
Emily: My husband has been incredibly supportive the entire time. I think that maybe at first he didn’t think I was actually going to do it.
Lauren: You should’ve put money on it!
Emily: The rest of my family was supportive of my reason for wanting to shave my head and wear wigs for a year, but thought it was a bit extreme.
Lauren: My kids don’t know me any other way. They know Mama wears hair and they accept it…and probably think all women do. What did your kiddo think?
Emily: My son took it the hardest. He had just turned 3 when I shaved my head and he could NOT look at me without a wig on.
Lauren: Poor little dude. That was probably a bit of a shock for a little guy used to seeing his Mom look so different.
Emily: He would tell me to go put my hair on if I was walking around the house without a wig or hat on. After about a week of this, I sat him down and told him again why I did it and that it was okay if he was mad at me for it, but that he needed to be nicer to me about it. As soon as we talked and he knew that he was allowed to feel however he was feeling about it, everything changed. He loves my wigs now and tells everyone that I am wearing one.
Lauren: Aww, our kids love us unconditionally, don’t they? What’s been surprising to you on this journey?
Emily: The most surprising thing for me is the amount of guilt that I felt in shaving my hair. I was and am still very aware that this was my choice, while many people (1 in 4 women in the United States) do not have this option and are looking for alternative hair out of need and not want.
I would be out to dinner and see a woman wearing hair and hope that she did not notice me and ask me about my hair loss, or I would be driving down the street and see someone with long hair and think “you have no idea how lucky you are.”
My biggest insecurity during these past few months is what others will think about my reason for shaving my head.
Lauren: That’s an interesting perspective. I know women have hair loss for many reasons, but those of us in my circle think it’s amazing that you’ve done this, so let go of that guilt!
I know you’ve worn both: are you a human hair or synthetic girl?
Emily: I love human hair wigs. I have a few synthetic and although I do love them and wear them from time to time (mostly curly ones), there is something about wearing human hair that makes me feel more comfortable and confident.
They are a lot of work and it takes time to make a human hair wig look good and stay nice, but it is so much cooler to wear and there are so many styling options that you can do.
Lauren: Some people are completely pro-human hair, and some pro-synthetic. I love how while you prefer human, you still break out the synthetic every now and again. There is room for both! Did you have a favorite wig, pre-experiment?
Emily: I have always loved Blake, being handtied and long human hair, I thought she would be my favorite since she looked so much like my biological hair and was very comfortable for me to wear when I wrapped my hair underneath.
Now my favorite wig is Carrie, all the way. I have her in a blonde, red, and even colored one green and blue. She is my absolute favorite and go-to for everything. I like that she has a lace front and the monofilament top so that I can change up the parting and style, and what surprised me the most is how comfortable the wefted back is.
Lauren: Those are completely different! I bet Carrie is fun for the hot summer, especially! I’ve always found Blake drool-worthy, myself. Everyone I’ve ever seen in that wig looks fantastic…that piece is undetectable.
I love that you’re having fun and going bold with color, too! Is the green and blue combo a Jon Renau exclusive color? Kidding!
I’m not sure I could pull off color like that, but it WORKS for you! Finding the perfect color, particularly in human hair, is frustrating for me. What has been the most frustrating thing for you when it comes to wigs?
Emily: I am not as good about caring for my wigs as I should be and the most frustrating part is when I have no clean wigs to wear and I have to spend what feels like hours, washing and styling my wigs so that I have something to wear.
I love human hair but you have to brush it throughout the day to keep it looking nice and to prevent the tangling that happens in the nape area. I had always had to brush my own bio hair throughout the day, but for some reason remembering to do so when wearing a wig can be difficult.
Lauren: Ha, I know, once you have to become cognizant of doing something so routine, it automatically becomes frustrating! Even something so simple as brushing! I totally get that it can take a long while to care for human hair wigs, in particular. That’s probably part of the reason why I’ve only experimented with them without yet committing to one full-time. But oh, to be able to style it any way I want again…! If only they’d invent an instant-styling machine like the Jetsons had!
Speaking of “if onlys”, have you come across any a-ha’s throughout this that might lead to future Jon Renau innovation?
Emily: This experience has taught me how important it is to set the client up with the correct expectation of their new piece and what is going to be required to maintain it. There is a lot of information out there about alternative hair and how to care for it, but that information is not always correct and can sometimes be damaging to the piece.
We are really focusing on how to get the correct care and maintenance information to women who are wearing pieces so that they get the most out of the piece.
Alternative hair can be expensive and there is nothing worse than spending a lot money on an item and not being given the correct information and tools to care for it.
Lauren: Yep, I can see how this is important with all hair, but especially with human hair. We need to treat our pieces like the investment that they are.
Now, let’s be honest…I still fling my synthetic hair all over my bathroom vanity at night. I would never do that with human hair, though!
Two final questions to wrap up. First, what would you tell someone just starting out with helper hair?
Emily: NO ONE CAN TELL YOU ARE WEARING HAIR!
Lauren: THIS! THIS SO MUCH! If I had the “praising hands” emoji readily available, I’d type out 10 of them right here. Preach it, girl.
Emily: Have fun with the hair that you are wearing. I thought that I wanted to only wear a long, black wig, since that is what my bio hair looked like, but I found out that I love wearing blondes.
Don’t be afraid to change up your looks because at first, when you look in the mirror, it will not feel like you (no matter how much it DOES and how many times everyone around you tells you it does), and that is okay.
With time you will be more comfortable and confident wearing your new hair. Give yourself the time and freedom to explore options and feel whatever is it that is going on inside of you during your journey.
Lauren: I love that. You really do need to take the time to just do you. How someone experiences this and processes it can be completely different than how you do – and that’s ok.
One more question and I think this part doesn’t get talked about too often. What would you tell that person’s family/spouse about what to expect from someone delving into helper hair?
Emily: Be supportive and patient and understand that everything that they are going through is only what they are going through.
There will be good days and bad days and the best thing that you can do is understand that it is NOT “just hair”, but rather a part of who they are and who they see every time they are looking at themselves in the mirror or a picture.
The time and space to mourn the loss of that part of you is important, and those around you need to respect and love you even more for it.
Got any questions for Emily about her journey or any of her fabulous wigs/toppers? Drop them below in the comments section.