Are your Hair Extensions painful & causing you concern? If so, read on, and be smarter than I was!!!
There are several reasons why I'm sharing this story, one, is to serve as a warning to anyone considering or wearing hair extensions that are painful, heavy and tight, and two, to show other hair loss sufferers I genuinely understand how they feel.
Having been born and bred in Northern Ireland in 1969 with Afro/Irish hair to say it was the bane of my life would be an understatement. There were no hairdressers accustomed to dealing with my texture of hair, and I longed to have hair like everyone else, hair that blew in the wind, long, straight and shiny. My teenage years were literally a 'hairmare'.
Moving to America aged 20, I was excited to see many mixed race women with the hair I dreamed of having. I soon found out this was not their real hair which both shocked and intrigued me. "How could this be?Were they wearing Wigs? They didn't look like Wigs!". I was soon to learn it was a form of extensions, called a 'Weave', which was somehow sewn into the hair. Well that was all I needed to know.
A few days later I was sitting in a salon in Philadelphia having it applied. Cornrows also known as scalp plaits were braided throughout my head, and wefts of hair then sewn unto the plaits. I can still remember how tight and heavy they felt, but being young and desperate to have my dream hair, I didn't complain. I wasn't given any information on how to look after them, and I stupidly didn't even think to ask. All I can say is I was young and blinded by the desire to have them.
I left the salon, loving my new 'do', flicking and swishing all the way back to Wildwood, New Jersey. Everyone loved my new hair and I felt like a new person. Yes, they hurt like mad, but what did I care, it was worth it, or so I thought.
Over the next few days, my weave began to get very itchy and the pain was getting more intense. I decided to wash it to see if it would calm it down, but the shampoo was stinging my scalp and the extra weight of the water was making it worse. I rinsed as best I could, and wrapped my head in a towel. I could barely sleep that night with the pain, which didn't ease the following day. I got a friend to take a good look at my scalp as I was starting to get very worried, and she told me it was covered in red spots, which looked extremely raw. Having spent the majority of my wages on my hair, I had no money to go to a Dr or back to Philadelphia to the salon, so I went to a Pharmacist for advice. He told me I would need to get them removed and also gave me cream to apply to the 'tension spot's as he then called them.
Over the next week, I applied the cream as I wanted to see if it worked. As ridiculous as it sounds now I was still reluctant to have my beautiful new hair removed. The cream seemed to be easing the itch, but unbeknown to me at the time, bacteria was forming within the cornrows, as I was unable to thoroughly rinse and dry them.
Three weeks in, I started noticing a very unpleasant smell, and pus forming on the tensions spots. Right that's it, these needed to come out. My poor friend, bless her, got a pair of scissors and did her best to work through my weave, removing them as best she could, trying not to hurt me or dry heave with the smell.
The full extent of the situation was apparent when I went to the mirror after they'd all been removed. I was horrified. My poor scalp was covered in sores, pus, and bald patches. Although relieved to be free from the weave I was horrified at what it had done to my hair and scalp. I cried for hours, and didn't want to be seen by anyone. I was panicking how could I go to work?What am I going to do? Will it grow back? Tying a scarf around my head the next day, I ventured out the door to the Pharmacist again, who looked at my scalp in disbelief. He told me the bacteria had caused an infection, and it was most likely the hair follicles my have died altogether. He wasn't sure if the bald area's would grow back. I stood listening to him, like a little lost lamb, bought the new cream he advised and walked home in a complete state of shock.
The next couple of weeks I wore baseball caps and scarfs, used the cream religiously and began to notice the majority of my hair recovering. However the main area's of my concern where at both sides of my head, as the weight of the weave had been consistently pulling at my hairline, so they obviously took the brunt of the damage.
Fast forward a few months the sides remained sparse, and the psychological effect had thoroughly kicked in. I felt naked, exposed if I wasn't wearing a scarf or cap. I didn't want to go out, I felt ugly, unfeminine, stupid and angry at myself for letting it happen. I did my best to cover it up, using Mane spray and waterproof mascara, which was okay during the day, but would leave marks on pillows or if anyone hugged me, they'd be marked. It was mental torture for so long, and I think the biggest hurdle was learning to forgive myself for allowing it to happen.
As the old saying goes time is a great healer, and over the past 29 years it's been a cathartic journey of acceptance and forgiveness. It has lead me to become a Hair Extension and Hairloss Specialist, who is passionate about each client's natural hair, offering and applying systems with honesty, care and perfectionism. It's taught me to source and train in the safest and innovative methods, ensuring each client's hair is continually cared for. It's inspired me to become a Wigmaker offering new solutions for women with Alopecia including Frontal Fibrosis. And it's also raised my levels of compassion, as my heart feels deeply for the many women whose stories and trust I'm humbled to have. My hair loss became my vocation.
If you've read this far, thank you for your time. I hope it has been insightful and of some help to you. If you or anyone you know is considering hair extensions or currently dealing with hair loss, please don't hesitate to pass on my details or get in touch, I'd be more than happy to connect, even if it's just for a chat.
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