The Case of the Balding Client
I have heard it all, from “ the last stylist fried it” to “The cat licks it out when I am sleeping.” I specialize in hair extensions and believe it or not these are the explanations I received from a client who brought me a handful of extension tips with tufts of her own hair dangling from the end, root bulb intact, to be reattached. I have been an extension specialist for 5 years and had never seen this. I was baffled. Was she pulling out her own hair? Was it falling out? Is it a disorder? If it is a disorder, is there a name for it? Is there treatment?
I considered the possibility that I had made a mistake, that I had misjudged the strength of that particular clients hair. For the average client, a stylist would have to attach a ratio of 20 extension hairs to 1 natural hair for the natural hair to be pulled out by the follicle. The human hair, literally, has the strength of a tiny iron wire. I needed to figure out what I had done wrong, so that I would not do it again and so that I did not have to continue to sacrifice my time and supplies to reattach the tips gratis. After a month of twice a week appointments, and the client presenting with the same issue, I decided that I would add a small highlight to each reattached tip, so that I could tell the difference between the ones that I had originally put in and the ones she claimed pulled her hair out. In one months time, there were very few tips that did not have a blonde highlight in them, and some had two shades of blonde signifying that I had reattached them multiple times. I was baffled. She also did not seem to be appropriately upset. Her hair was being pulled out by the root, and she seemed to be happy to come in twice a week to have them reattached. I began to become truly concerned for the health of her scalp and hair. I was also concerned about my reputation, how would it look for a client of mine to have patches of short hair?
The word alopecia popped into my head, hadn’t there been a chapter on this in cosmetology school? I decided to do what any Generation X-er would do and consult the all knowing web. Google to the rescue! The website Healthtools.com provided some answers in an article titled “Alopecia Areata.” Alopecia is defined as “a condition that presents in round bald patches.” The cause of alopecia is unknown and while the there are treatments, there is not a cure. My client did not have round smooth patches as the article described but had stubbly, irregular ones. I felt like I was on the right track, but did not feel that my client fit the profile of someone with alopecia. Baldness in areas other of the body is usually present when a person has alopecia. My client did not have any baldness. I know about hair, but what I needed was an expert on skin.
A dermatologist might be my answer. I knew a great one. Dr. Steve Caplin...