I’ve had the opportunity to interview Susan Falcone, who is an independent hair replacement consultant, and founder of www.crownedbeautiful.com. Her website is dedicated to teaching women how to properly transition into bonded hair replacement for partial and three-quarter hair systems faster, easier and with less emotional stress. In addition, Crowned Beautiful is committed to bursting the stigma associated with female hair loss and educating women in overcoming their emotional connection to it. Please visit her site to learn more – she has a lot of great information.
Since I’ve been dealing with hair loss for almost ten years now, and may soon start wearing a hairpiece, I knew Susan would be the person to consult. Here are my personal questions to Susan, followed by her response:
If my hair loss progresses, I feel like bonded hair replacement will probably be my best long-term solution for having a nice head of hair that doesn’t really limit my lifestyle. But what do you suggest for women like me that are brand new to the idea of wearing hair and might be afraid to take the big leap into bonded hair? Should we start out by wearing clip-on hair pieces or wigs, or just take the plunge and immediately delve into wearing bonded hair?
It 100% depends on the person. Most women start with a topical masking lotion, then graduate to a clip-on topper or integration unit before finally committing to bonding. It’s actually a very natural progression because it helps you to know that you’ve tried everything before bonding. You also get a good understanding of the limitations of each type of hair replacement system so you can make an experiential decision to move forward if what you are doing is not working for you. That progression also helps you to emotionally accept the idea of shaving and bonding more easily because typically you’re so uncomfortable with what you’ve been doing that you’re ready to take that step of shaving some hair to make way for the head of hair you want. That being said, I have also had clients who jumped right into bonding from pretty much nothing after having decided from their research that they didn’t want to deal with discomfort or limitations of clip-ons or integration units. Also, I’ve found that those with very thin hair typically adapt more quickly emotionally speaking than those who start out with more hair. The reason is, there’s less reason to wonder if you shaved your hair too soon.
I know bonded hair pieces usually blend in with your real hair on the sides and back. What if you shave your head completely or are totally bald – can you still wear a bonded hair system then?
Yes, but you would wear a full cap or full lace wig. I tend to advocate for women with androgenetic alopecia or diffused hair loss and try to educate them towards considering bonding a partial hair system because even though it’s hard to visualize, many women often have a usable hairline below the temples and around the back of the head at the nape of the neck. Keeping this hairline both dramatically increases realism and the ability to have a really natural look, and eliminates the difficulty of bonding at the nape, an area which can be very difficult for many people to get a tight bond for more than a few days.
Also, I’ve never been that happy with my real hair color so I was hoping I could get a hair piece that is quite a bit lighter than my natural color. Would I continually have to dye my real hair to match the hairpiece, or how could I wear a hairpiece that is a totally different color than my real hair?
Yes, you would have to dye your hair, unless you were wearing a conventional wig or fully bonded hair system.
One of my biggest personal fears about hair loss is that I’ll never get used to looking at my thinning hair in the mirror. And after I shave my hair where a bonded unit is placed, I’m afraid of the shock I’ll face every time I have to remove the piece. Does acceptance ever happen – where you can look at yourself without your hairpiece and not feel upset?
I know acceptance can happen because I’ve experienced it and I’ve worked with many women that have. This again depends on the person and her coping skills as well as her desire to see herself as a whole person despite a couple of hours every week or two she sees herself without hair. Obviously it becomes less “shocking” the longer you do it. Again, I think those women that have seriously thin hair make the adjustment more quickly because the improvement in appearance is dramatic and well worth the trade-off.
Years ago, when I used to go the salon, they would remove my hair and leave me sitting their staring at my bald head in the mirror. It was horribly depressing. However, once I started doing my own hair replacement, that stopped. I’m busy doing my own hair and not spending my time staring in the mirror and dwelling on my lack of hair. I’m focused on creating the look I want. Besides, it’s only about an hour every 10-14 days that I see that, and like I said, I’m busy doing stuff, not staring in the mirror.
I’ve found that women who are not having a successful experience with hair replacement are more likely to dwell on the shaved head than those who are more successfully managing things and are happy and comfortable with the results. In other words, to those having a good experience, it’s worth shaving their head and it’s worth seeing their shaved head in exchange for the experience they get. A lot of success is anchored in the combination of getting a good education and understanding of the nuances of bonding before you start, having a good product you are attaching to your head, keeping a positive attitude and a surrounding yourself with a healthy support system.
Once you start wearing bonded hair, does it have a negative impact on your hair follicles? If someone has genetic hair loss that is getting progressively worse, they may have come to terms with the fact their hair is never coming back, but for someone that has temporary hair loss, or is not sure if their hair might come back, could they potentially grow their hair back out later on without having damaged their real hair?
I’m not a healthcare professional so I can’t give medical advice on the health of follicles. My suggestion to women is to forego bonding until they know their hair loss is permanent. Also, it’s my opinion that bonding to hair is much more damaging to the follicle than bonding to skin. When you bond to the skin, there is no pulling on the follicle like there is when you bond to hair. This is one of the reasons I do not recommend bonding to hair.
I personally have not noticed a change in my hair follicles, nor have I heard complaints about that from my clients. I have a client that had extensive hair loss in the year following weight loss surgery. Recently she has sent me pictures of significant regrowth under the bonding areas and is considering growing in her hair to see if it’s full enough for her to consider wearing naturally again.
Can you go to the dentist and have yourself flipped upside down and not have the dentist notice you’re wearing hair, even under the bright fluorescent lights?
Yes! I just spent a year in Invisalign braces and went to the dentist every two weeks. He always wore those little magnifying glasses and never once looked at my hairline! After going there for about 8 months, one day the hygienist pulled me aside and asked if she could ask me a personal question. I thought, “Oh God, here it comes!” So I took a breath and said, “Sure.” She said, “Did it hurt when you got your nose pierced?” Just another great example of how we are more aware of our hair than others are.
There is a disclaimer that needs to be noted here though. The realism of your hair replacement mostly depends on the quality of the piece, the type of base and how good you are at bonding and recreating a natural hairline which is totally doable even if you shave your front hairline. However, I still use my own hairline all the way around with a perfect blend between the hairpiece and my hair. I also wear a thin set of bangs which helps diffuse the front hairline. I wear a really fine Swiss lace that is really undetectable. I pretty much never worry about being “found out” even if someone touches my head. When I wore a monofilament base with a poly edge all the way around or a clip-on or integration piece, I was paranoid all the time, because they were not undetectable.
Can you go swimming while wearing a bonded hairpiece, or go on a crazy upside down roller coaster? In other words, are there any limitations to what you can or can’t do while wearing hair?
You can do almost anything. I’ve gone swimming in the ocean during heavy currents. I’ve been on lots of roller coasters. Again, I need to add that no it’s not a problem providing you are bonding correctly. The biggest issue with swimming is learning how to protect your hair before you get in the water. Chlorine and salt water are more damaging to the hair than the bond.
Wearing hair provides some challenges, but if you really want to do something, you just need to think strategically about how to make it work. I have a client that’s a surfer and she figured out how to protect her hair so she can surf with no problems. I have several clients that are marathon runners. I have a client that’s a firefighter. Each person brings their unique challenge to the table and we work through how to best get what they want out of the experience.
The only thing I can think of that I recommend not doing is a sweat lodge because you are profusely sweating in very high temperatures for many hours without a chance for your body to recover back to its natural temperature long enough for the bond to re-cure. Also, if you are involved in a hands-on sport like wrestling or something where someone can get a really good grab on your hair while you’re profusely sweating, I wouldn’t recommend that.
If presented the opportunity, would you go on national TV (like on a talk show), to discuss hair replacement for women? I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode of “Dr. Phil” or “The Doctors,” for example, that talks about the option of wearing a bonded hairpiece for women, so I know this topic would help a lot of women. I hate public speaking and being the center of attention, but wish I could help more women by going public about the struggles of female hair loss.
Absolutely. I would love to do that and educate women that bonding is a viable option and that there is life after hair loss. The obstacle is that I don’t have the resources to hire a PR firm to help me make a connection like that. It’s extremely difficult for one person to secure that kind of guest position on a TV show.
Do you do consultations with people in person at all?
I’m an independent consultant and I don’t sell hair or products so I have to charge for my consultation time. Between the cost of travel and the time involved, it’s not cost effective for most people to do in person consultations so it’s not a service that I typically offer unless there is a special request. I require that clients email me clear photos of specific areas of their head, which is totally acceptable for designing a hair replacement system. Also, The Basics of Hair Replacement for Women Personal Training System™ (PTS) very clearly teaches how to size and spec a hair system based on your unique needs so the client is able to make a lot of educated and strategic decisions on her own. Usually people will use my training system to design their hair system and then we’ll do a phone or Skype consult to further tweak the specs so they are as close as possible to look the client is going for. This works out just as well as an in-person consultation, in my experience.
I’m not sure if you have a job outside of Crowned Beautiful, but when people ask you what you do for a living, what do you say? I guess I’m asking if you tell everyone you meet that you work with women with hair loss, or if you only tell certain people. Currently I feel like wherever my career takes me next it will have to do with hair loss, and I’m not sure if I am open to the idea or not about telling everyone about my hair issues.
I’m also a personal development coach for professional women, a market completely unrelated to hair, but yes, I tell people that I am a hair replacement consultant. Of course they ask what that means so I tell people that I help women with permanent hair loss find cosmetic solutions for their hair loss so that their outer beauty can match their inner beauty and they can move on with their lives. People will then typically ask me how I grew my hair back! I always tell them I am wearing a hairpiece, then they look at me with a puzzled expression so I try to show it to them but they can’t see it. People are genuinely impressed when I’m saying I’m wearing hair and they can’t tell. It’s humorous.
I had to make a decision when I founded Crowned Beautiful to either jump in with both feet or not at all. People kept asking me if I was going to use my real name and this really annoyed me. I asked them how I could help women overcome the stigma of hair loss if I wasn’t willing to put my real name on my website and training program. It’s incongruent. If you’re teaching confidence you need to have it. Besides, I would have been so stressed out trying to hide my identity. The internet is not a place for hiding anything and I don’t think I would have been able to focus my energies on helping women, writing a book and blog or creating a groundbreaking educational product if I was busy trying to keep my identity under wraps. Know what I mean?
Founding Crowned Beautiful and forcing myself to go public with my hair situation totally was the push I needed to fully accept the fact that I wear hair, and not only that, but I really have no stigma around the subject anymore. I simply am not bothered that I wear hair. I’m truly happy with it.
Most women want to find a solution to their hair loss so that they can get on with their lives and not have it be the focus of their life. But I currently feel like I’ll always be thinking about hair loss, which is why I started my blog. Because you help women on an ongoing basis with their hair loss issues, do you ever get get tired of thinking about hair loss?
You know, I was really concerned about this when I was considering getting into this line of consulting. I didn’t want my life to revolve around hair. I wasn’t worried about focusing on hair loss because that is something I’m over. My focus for years has been finding a solution to my hair loss, which is hair replacement. My hair starting leaving me around age 12. It’s not coming back. No sense in focusing on that. So, I rarely think or focus on hair loss, but like I said, I was concerned about constantly being focused on hair in general.
Honestly, it hasn’t changed how often I think about my own hair. I’m in a good place with that. It’s not just about me anymore. It is a profession for me now and so my focus is on my clients and readers and how I can best serve them. And yes, it’s all about hair, but my work is all about focusing on the solution, not the problem.
Final Thoughts: Hair replacement is a complicated topic – thank you to Susan for answering many of my questions! If you have a personal experience with hair replacement, hairpieces, wearing hair, etc., please feel free to share your story (or questions) in the comments.