PCOS & Hair Loss: Managing the Physical & Emotional [Podcast] - PCOS Diva
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PCOS & Hair Loss: Managing the Physical & Emotional [Podcast]

PCOS Podcast 159: PCOS & Hairloss - physical and emotional “Hair loss will take a lot from you if you allow it to. Although it doesn’t always feel like a choice, we do have choices to make. We have choices to make that can empower us to live our lives with fulfillment, with happiness.” – Y

If you struggle with PCOS, you may suffer from related hair loss. Beyond the physical symptom, hair loss often has a tremendous emotional component which impacts most areas of your life. This was true both for me and my podcast guest Y. I discovered Y over a decade ago when I was desperately seeking answers for my own hair loss. She was a pioneer in education and support for those dealing with hair loss then, and she remains a key figure through her work with her Women’s Hairloss Project. If you are feeling alone in your struggle, this podcast is for you. Listen in or read the transcript as we discuss:

  • The birth control pill and spironolactone for hair loss
  • Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP)
  • Wigs, toppers, & how to make them work
  • Managing the emotional component of hair loss

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Mentioned in This Podcast:

Complete Transcript:

Amy:

I’m really honored to have today’s guest on the PCOS Diva podcast. I don’t know if she knows it, but she was really a hero to me when I was suffering the most with my PCOS symptoms, especially hair loss.

Back after my daughter was born in 2009, I experienced some really bad hair loss. And I felt so alone and really depressed. And I turned to the internet to see if I could find some solutions. And I stumbled upon the Women’s Hair Loss Project. And Y, who is the founder of the Women’s Hair Loss Project was really a lifeline for me. And she showed me that there was hope for women dealing with hair loss. So, I am so excited to have Y on the PCOS Diva podcast today. So, a very warm welcome.

Y:

Thank you so much, Amy. It is such an honor to be here. I was super stoked when you wrote me and you invited me on your podcast because I feel like we go way back, we go way, way back to the beginning of, actually, it was in the same month actually. I checked. It was September that I started my site in 2007, but I didn’t get on Facebook till 2009. And our months were the same as when we started our Facebook pages.

Amy:

Oh, that’s so crazy. I was really thinking about when I reached out to you when I found your site, and it was before I started a Facebook page. But before I really got going with PCOS Diva and the way that you were ministering to women with hair loss and showing them that there were real possibilities of when you could become comfortable with wearing hair. And we’re going to be talking about that.

And that’s something that I ended up doing. And it really provided a lot of freedom and helped me to move beyond that struggle of hair loss. So, I could free up mindshare. So, I wasn’t dwelling on my hair loss so much, so I could do more productive things. And so, you were really instrumental, whether you know it or not, for me, in order to launch PCOS Diva. And now, gosh, how many years later, almost 12 years later, being able to help all of the women that I’ve been able to help as a result of you putting yourself out there and being vulnerable with your hair loss journey.

So, before we go any further, I just want to give women a little bit more information about you. You are the founder of the first online women’s hair loss community created to unite women dealing with hair loss. For 13 years, you have shared your journey online creating an online support network and you’ve educated and inspired countless women dealing with hair loss. Your work has been shown in Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and most recently discussed on BBC, which that is so exciting.

And I have to read this quote from the founder of the American Hair Loss Association, Spencer Kobren says, “There was really no honest relatable voice for women suffering from androgenic alopecia until Y came on the scene. Your Women’s Hair Loss Project changed that and provided women a platform not only to be educated and inspired, but to feel less alone.” So, thank you so much for-

Y:

Thank you.

Amy:

… continuing your journey. And now here we are.

Y:

Here we are. I would never think I would be here on a podcast with you.

Amy:

Oh, gosh, I never back then thought … I didn’t even know what a podcast was.

Y:

Right. I was like, it’s funny because you mentioned the quote that Spencer had written for me. My journey really goes back to 1999. And in 1999, I got off of the birth control pill, Loestrin Fe low and later to find out it was what was considered a high androgen index birth control pill. I mean, I do have a personal opinion that I don’t consider any pills safe. I know that’s a controversial topic, but I don’t really think there’s any hair friendly pills.

Mainly because a lot of the pills that people have deemed, doctors have deemed hair friendly are pills that women have come to me and cited as the cause of their hair loss. So, to me, there’s no hair friendly pill. But I got off the pill, Loestrin Fe, in 1999. And within three months, my hair just started falling out like crazy.

And I was born with a mop of hair. It was the one thing in my life that I got a compliment on more than anything, nothing. Second may be eyes or something, but nothing else, nothing else, just my hair. You have the most gorgeous hair ever. And I remember thinking, I don’t get what the big deal is. We all got hair. What are you talking about? Because that’s how … You don’t know what you don’t know. I fear everybody had the same.

And I started losing my hair, I didn’t understand why. I was in a panic. The internet in 1999 was in its infancy. You go to the internet and you’re looking for a spinning E. It was like these Yahoo sites. There was just nothing available. And the only thing I was able to find was a book by Spencer Kobren called the Truth About Women’s Hair Loss. And he’s been extremely influential in my life since that time point.

And I remember I would go to Barnes and Noble, and I couldn’t actually afford the book. So, I would sit in the floor because they let you sit there if you got a coffee. So, I know that’s terrible. I’m not contributing to buying the book. But that’s what I needed to do. I paid it forward since, but I sat there and I read the book, cover to cover I’d go. And that was my only information. There was no information. There was no help. There was no support.

I literally thought, I was 21 years old, that I’m the only woman this is happening to and what is going on. And I start where everybody else starts, go to the doctor, go to the dermatologist. But what I was met with was, “You look fine.” People were saying that to me years into my hair loss because if you start off with a mop of hair, you’re going to get by for a very, very long time.

But what’s important about that, and this happens to many women, is their hair loss is dismissed and their hair loss is diminished. Because nobody ever knows exactly where you started from. You don’t know that I had hair that was thicker than this wig, two times thicker. You don’t know that the loss is still as significant as if I started with thinner hair. It’s just that people visually think, well, you look good, good enough. I don’t know you’re talking about. You’re crazy. They make you feel all of these things. So, in addition to being confronted with the loss, your feelings are not being validated. So, getting help was pretty impossible.

I went down the traditional routes of treatment. I saw several doctors. I drove hours to see specialists. Rogaine 5% didn’t do anything. I was put on finasteride, the pill just for men, didn’t do anything. I started with Nioxin, which I could buy in the salon. That was the first thing I started with, didn’t do anything. I then swore I would actually never get back on the pill.

But you’re singing a different tune a year later when you’re in desperation, went to a doctor, an endocrinologist and he was world renowned. Let’s put that in quotes, world renowned, who said that if I got back on a hair friendly pill, Ortho Tri-Cyclen and took 200 milligrams, which is a pretty hefty dose of spironolactone, Aldactone, that that’s my shot. That was my shot to regain stability.

And actually, that is of my decisions in my life, that was the one that … That decision I regret because I was stuck on the birth control pill and spironolactone up until the time after I started wearing wigs in 2013. And the thing is, is what I feel and why I feel people don’t often do for themselves is give themselves, give their bodies a chance to heal. I was so desperate that within the year, I was trying everything. I was throwing the kitchen sink at it. And I always wondered what it would have been, would my hormones have stabilized? Would I be in a different situation?

When I started talking to women on my site and I started blogging about it, and people had similar scenarios, my advice to them was if I got a do over and I could do it again, I would wait. I would wait. That pill is always going to be available for you to take if you really want to take it. And what I found was some women that took my advice, it’s not vast. It’s not a lot. But a couple came back to tell me, guess what? Their hair stabilized and their hair returned.

So, they recovered from that situation of getting off the pill, having the loss. And they came and they didn’t know what to do and they’re right on the brink of starting the pill. And I was like, honestly, I wouldn’t do it. I wish I could do it over. And they didn’t. And they thanked me years later. Because a couple of them came back to say it restored for them.

And so, I think some of the decisions we make in our life do dictate it. I may have been on the same path no matter what, but I think that’s important for women to know that give yourself a chance to heal. Give your body a chance to restabilize. We want to take action immediately. We want to just treat it, treat it, treat it, fix it, make this go away.

Well, I’m 22 years in hair loss, and it’s not gone away. I’ve had to make changes to work with it and learn to live with it. And it’s okay, I’ve done it. But in the beginning that haunted me, that caused me more pain. Wondering, did I cause my hair loss with the pill? And did I rob myself of the opportunity to actually correct myself and not have to deal in that suffering?

Amy:

I’m so sorry, that that happened to you and that your story, gosh, how many women listening have had the same thing happened to them. I think that we’re all looking for the magic pill when it comes to hair loss, and the birth control pill and spironolactone, I mean, that is sort of viewed as in the mainstream medical community, I think as that magic pill.

And I love what you said about giving your body the chance to heal. I am a firm believer that your body will come back into balance if given the right nutrients, diet, lifestyle, and that includes good sleep and stress reduction. I’m sure that you’ve seen … Stress for me now is what causes my hair loss. So, I always see it right away, it’ll be down the road. And when I start losing hair, I can usually track it back to not being able to manage my stress very well or a very stressful experience. But other than that, my hair loss is pretty well stabilized.

Y:

You look good.

Amy:

Yeah, I mean, well, I want to talk about wearing hair because that was an integral part of your journey, and mine too, but I can say that I can feel comfortable nowadays not having to wear hair and go out with, I know you call it bio hair, your biohair.

Y:

Yeah, that’s the term that … I don’t know where that came from. It came up whoever made that many, many moons ago. It was already there, bio hair, the term, meaning the hair growing out of our scalp, ladies. If you see the term “bio hair,” that just means the hair growing out of your scalp that’s falling out that we’re trying to repair. That’s our bio hair.

Amy:

Yeah. And I think I’ve become more comfortable with myself. And I look at the women in my family, nobody unfortunately has beautiful, luscious locks like the locks that you were describing. So, it’s part of who I am and I still have the wearing hair is still available to me, which is it’s such-

Y:

And it always will be.

Amy:

Yeah, and it’s such a freeing feeling. And I think what you did for me, Y, is you helped me get off of this monkey, that’s like that monkey chatter in my mind and this constant wheel that I was so focused on my hair all the time. Every time you look in the mirror, you see the hair, you see the scalp, you see the hair in the shower, and it causes more stress.

And it’s just like this self-perpetuating cycle that you look at yourself, and then it causes stress, and then you’d get depressed and all I could focus during those times in my life where I had a lot of hair loss was my hair. I couldn’t focus on anything productive, my work, the work that I was meant to do in this world, anything that really brought me joy and happiness because I was so focused on the hair, and it seems so silly now.

Y:

It’s not though. It’s not silly, because when you’re in it, it’s anything but that. It’s the realest thing on the planet. It’s not, I quit … The year that I started the Women’s Hair Loss Project was 2007. And it was what I would consider a rock bottom. It was people don’t like to talk about it. It’s not the things you talk about at parties, but I was so dark. I was so dark. And you know what, believe it or not at that point, you would have still looked at me as if you weren’t in it or whatever. You’d be like, why are you upset, because there was still here on my head. I was so dark and what was happening I couldn’t control it anymore.

And I used to compete in fitness and figure competitions, and I worked out like it was my job. And I had this passion for it and I quit. I quit it in 2007. And actually, I don’t even know if my trainer to this day knows that’s why I quit. I’m sure I made another excuse, but I quit, bailed out of a competition I was supposed to do because I could no longer basically fake it in the world. I could no longer sweep my hair into a ponytail. I could no longer face the gym. I could not face the mirror. I could not face the shower. I could not face myself and I felt so alone and I felt there was nobody … There’s nobody I had to talk to. There’s no other woman. There was just these dark feelings of I will never have a life again.

And I felt that from the beginning and I started to really feel that eight years after it started in 2007 that I can’t do this anymore. I mean what kind of my life am I going to have? I felt if my hair could not come back and by the way for me, it was, I had to get all my hair back or it was like everything or bust. There’s no middle ground. I was so inflexible in that mentality and that mentality is what held me back and that mentality is what I strive to tell women you have to break through.

As long as you remain inflexible in that mindset that it’s this or nothing, it will be nothing because it was nothing for me. And so, that’s when I started blogging. I was just like, this is going to sound cheesy, I swear it’s the truth, but this is going to sound weird but I was like I’m going to blog and I’m going to talk to myself and make it an online diary journal, make my first post, put up a site. Who’s going to find me? I mean, you just put it up, how do people find you and you just sit there and you just blog. You’re talking to yourself.

But I felt and I have this in a journal of mine that I wrote and it reminded me of the Field of Dreams where he said if you build it, they will come. And I swear that’s the truth. And it kind of gives me chills when I say it because that was what I felt. I was like, in the back of my head, I felt if you build it, they will come and nothing was built and there was nothing out there and it just started with me blogging the daily grind of my life, which was not pretty.

The posts that talk about the inspiration that you see today and I tell women, that is a 22-year journey and those are not the same posts that you’re going to read if you go back to 2007 and ’08 and ’09. They’re different. I was sharing my story and I got past the part of feeling alone once I started the network, the social network attached to it in 2008. But they were not … I wasn’t out there swinging from the chandelier as like, I got this bitch. I own my hair loss. It wasn’t like that.

It took time. It took the time that it took for me to get to the place that I needed to get and people need to be patient with themselves in that process because I feel like especially in today’s digital age of what is being put out there in social media is at times unrealistic. Painting a picture that is not a realistic, necessarily realistic for everybody maybe it is for some, but I think it does a little bit of a disservice to the people that were maybe more like me.

I didn’t just lose my hair, slap on a wig, and then go sailing off into the sunset. This was a process. I mean, you think about it. If I started my site in 2007 and I didn’t start acceptance in 2012, I was interacting with a lot of women during that time. I was being inspired by others. I was wondering what was wrong with me that I saw women join my site and they move so fast, they were able to bond. Do whatever they had to do. Shave their heads, that was a big thing on my site, people shaving their heads.

And I just sat there paralyzed because I had the sticks mentality. All my hair back or nothing and that didn’t change until the day that it changed. And it took, well, it took until 2012, till it changed. It took by force actually. I say it’s a choice and it wasn’t a choice. I had a conference to go to where I was going to be dead set all day. My hair was so thin. I was going to be under bright lights and I’m like, I’m not going to be able to function.

I mean I’m barely functioning going to the grocery store. I get up and go to the grocery store at 6:00 AM before anybody’s there. I run around like it’s like a shopping spree. I get out there as fast as possible. It made my anxiety worse, my social anxiety. And so, I’m like, I’m going to I’m going to stand in front of a conference and be the face of this, I’m like, then how’s this going to be a thing. And so, it was a choice, but it wasn’t a choice.

So, in 2012, I started what was like a massive wig hunt. Basically, the thought of what I had to do made it necessary for me to look. And so, I just started buying on eBay. I started buying from places, various wig places online. And it was just a fail. It was kind of fail after fail after fail. And I remember feeling like, how is this going to stay on my head? It felt heavy. There were clips. I don’t know how this is going to work.

And by the grace of God, a friend of mine who had been on a similar journey and is a dear friend of mine from the Women’s Hair Loss Project, she was in New York and she was at a wig place and she was like, I saw a brand and I think they’re in Beverly Hills and she’s like, it’s Follea. And at the time, they actually had a salon in Beverly Hills and she’s like, “Maybe you want to check them out.”

And I remember I looked at the site and I was so nervous I’m an anxious person, going anywhere new, oh god, can I do it? And I remember making the phone call and Vida answering the phone, I was so nervous. And I went there wearing one of my other wigs that I purchased and that day changed my life because for me, and it isn’t for everybody and I tell that the wigs that I wear or the brand that I wear, it’s not a brand for everybody. This is what I found that made me feel good. A lot of people find other things that made them feel good.

And her treatment of me, her kindness, she was so honest. She was like, “The wig you’re wearing is good.” She’s like, “It’s a good wig.” She wasn’t trying to push me into anything. I was fortunate enough to find a good woman to help me in this process and it made all the difference. I remember I put that thing on and I looked in the mirror and I’m not making use of hyperbole, I had tears. It was like, I saw myself for the first time in 13 years.

Because over the course of time, you’re losing your hair, you’re changing because, I want to use the word for myself, I felt like I was eroding in the mirror. I felt that the hair around me was getting so thin, it was making my face larger. I couldn’t be under bright lights. It’s just the hair didn’t lay right. Nothing looked right about me anymore. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin.

Put on this wig, yes, it was a full wig. I just jumped right over toppers because I couldn’t sustain the clips. Nowadays, there’s ways to work around the clips, but back then there wasn’t. I jumped right into wigs and whatever it took to get used to or adjust to a wig, it wasn’t easy but it was doable because the gain I got from it, what I got from it was seeing myself again.

I realized that day, there was the possibility I wasn’t going to be doomed to a life of living on my couch depressed, pasting my hair on the wall from the shower, not having any control, which is one of the worst things. Feeling you’re alone is one of the worst things in hair loss, feeling you don’t have any control.

And so, the same year I also cut all my hair off. I do shaved back haircut. Basically it’s buzzed at the nape, longer on the front so I can integrate with my wigs. And I cut it off so I took control of my bio hair. I didn’t want to see the loss. Visually, that’s one of the worst things also, seeing the loss. That causes stress. I wanted to be able to switch my hair around. I did PRP. I still do PRP. I think it’s beneficial for me.

Amy:

Can you just … I don’t want to break you-

Y:

Yeah.

Amy:

But PRP, that’s something that I think some women don’t know about. It’s something that I learned about back when I was following you and it was kind of a rare thing.

Y:

Yeah.

Amy:

Now, it’s becoming more…

Y:

More popular.

Amy:

Yeah. So just, I want to make sure you explain what that is.

Y:

So PRP is platelet rich plasma therapy. So, they take your blood and they spin it in a centrifuge and separate the platelets, which has the healing growth factors and they reinject it into your skull. The therapy itself has been around forever.

The application of its usage in hair loss began around the time I started using it. It was kind of in its infancy at that time and I became aware of a doctor doing it in Florida, Dr. Joseph Greco. And so, it was kind of cutting edge for this treatment. It wasn’t cutting edge for the existence of PRP. Sports medicine has been using PRP for a very long time, but they were seeing benefits from actually doing this. Taking the blood, spinning centrifuge.

I don’t want to take away from the exact process because I think a lot of people offer PRP aren’t doing it correctly, so not all PRP is created equal. So, it’s more than just take your blood out, spin a centrifuge and then reinject it. They do something else as well. I’m not entirely clear about medically. But what I found that did for me and I went to Florida for this. I live in Los Angeles because I want to see the guy. I want to see the guy, the guy that was the guy that was basically the first person doing it.

I noticed reduced shedding, which was huge. I noticed a better quality of hair came back, a better pigment. And so, the hair texture quality improved. I had less shedding. But what’s important to know about PRP, and I think some women go into it have not realistic expectations, is that this is not a cure. It’s important to realize my hair has progressively declined the entire time I’ve done it since 2009.

However, I strongly believe that the hair that I do have in my head still can be largely credited for slowing the progression of hair loss. I think some people get … Well, actually, I know for a fact some people get zero results. I know some people are the poster child for PRP. A good friend of mine is. She got out of wigs. The one that sent me to Follea, the one that she was actually bonding then she wore wigs, she sold her wigs. She just does PRP. So, she got out of her wigs through PRP. I didn’t have those type of results.

I wanted enough to sustain it where I could blend my wigs, feel good enough about myself if I didn’t have my hair on, but I wasn’t looking for it to be like I was when I was 21. So, if people are expecting that you’re going to use this and your hair is going to just come back and boom, you’re going to be all back to normal. And if any doctor is telling you that, they’re not telling you the truth.

Because the results from it are typically reduced shedding, slowing the progression and improve pigment quality of hair. Yes. And in some cases, for sure, there is some regrowth and I use that word, some regrowth. Some can come back, but it’s probably not going to be whatever you were hoping that it would be in my view. So, if those things meet the criteria of something that somebody is interested in, just slowing the progression, being able to maintain longer where they’re at, I think it’s a really viable treatment.

I mean, I think my history speaks to is a testament to how much I believe in it because I have done it since 2009. And I flew from Los Angeles to Florida every four to five months to do it. I think they recommend eight, but I wanted to catch it on the four to five months. And it wasn’t until last year that I tried a doctor here locally in Beverly Hills, Dr. Baubac because I couldn’t fly because of COVID. So, I saw him twice last year. I’ll probably see him next month and I’m going to continue on.

And people sometimes are like, “Well, why are you doing PRP if you wear wigs?” Because that’s what makes me feel good. I still want to maintain as much hair as I can of my own, or the reverse. Why do you wear … That’s the reverse question, but the answer is the same. I want to do what makes me feel the best.

Wigs allow me to have control over the way I look, portray myself to the world, how I feel about myself. PRP allows me to feel like I’m slowing the progression of my shedding. So, I have control over that. Cutting my hair off allows me to not see the shed as much. These were key things that I did in my life that got me to a place of acceptance.

Amy:

Well, before I came to your site, I mean I thought about wigs as what I used to play with at my grandmother’s house.

Y:

Totally.

Amy:

Like these curls. She had curly blonde hair. So, she had these curly blonde wigs and-

Y:

Oh my god, I didn’t mean to laugh.

Amy:

Oh no, it’s funny because my sister found a picture of us recently playing with my grandmother’s wigs. So, I never really thought that is a viable option. I mean, I was just thought I was stuck with this really bad hair loss after … I mean, it was particularly worse after my daughter was born with the postpartum hair loss. And I remember being faced with having her christening and we were going to have lots of people who are going to be there.

And I felt horrible about myself at that time. And I remember some … I don’t think you were wearing hair at that point because later on I found Follea as a result of you. But I found this woman down on Newbury Street in Boston, who sold higher end wigs. And I found out that I could just get a topper, because I did have enough bio hair. I just needed something on my crown.

And so, I took my sister with me for moral support. And of course, I had this four-month-old baby and she was with me, and I live in New Hampshire. So, going down to Boston, it’s kind of a trek. So, we went down to Boston, and I got the topper. And it was great because I also had an appointment with their specialists to sort of cut the wig in to my hair. And that’s-

Y:

It was really important.

Amy:

… super important because otherwise-

Y:

That is so important. Come back to that one, because that is really important.

Amy:

Yeah, because when they first put it on me, I felt like, oh my god, I have a toupee on my head. It looks really ridiculous. But then they cut it in. And I had a similar experience that you had, I mean, I was able to look at myself in the mirror and I kind of cried because it was so freeing.

And I realized that now, I can go on and go enjoy the christening and not be obsessing about my hair, even though probably people don’t worry about it as much as you do, obviously. But it’s something that you have to do what works for you so that you can, I always say, move beyond the pain struggle of PCOS, so you can live the life you were meant to live without PCOS holding you back.

Y:

And I love that line. And that actually is the truth.

Amy:

It fits in with the hair loss. And that was what it did for me. And then after you discovered Follea hair, I reached out to them and I got some other pieces and not full wigs, but just toppers. And I’ve used them over the years. And I will say that the quality of their hair pieces, it was superior to that one that I bought down in Boston. And definitely, I think just, especially at the hairline, the part line looks so natural. You just would never ever know. So, I love what you said about you have to do what works for you. But I think a lot of women don’t even think about wigs because they still think wigs are still look very wiggy.

Y:

Well, I guess so, that’s it. So, that’s the other thing. Up until 2012, I had never … I mean, I run my site anonymously as you know. I only go by the initial Y. And the reason for that is when I started my site, I felt I couldn’t be authentic and true, and give the true story of a woman dealing with hair loss. If I put my name on there and thought my journal would be in this Google age, that I’d go somewhere and someone’s going to Google me and they’re going to find my deepest darkest secrets, my feelings, my tears, my angst.

And so, I was like, I can’t do that. So, I was like, okay, just drop all the rest of the letters of my name, and I’ll just use Y. And it stuck and friends actually that I’ve met through my site actually only call me Y. I love it. It’s a part of me. I love the name. I always wanted a nickname, didn’t know it’d be initial, but it is.

But up until 2012, I’m very private. I didn’t show any pictures of myself up until I started wearing wigs.

Amy:

And you used to wear sunglasses.

Y:

And I wore sunglasses. Once I started to do this, now I was like, so I found the wigs up until that point, I didn’t show pictures. That’s just a non-thing. So, I’m an initial and I do writing and there I am.

But after I found out what it could be and what I had not seen before and what I had not seen being put out in public, I was like, I have to push myself to put myself out there in photo and in video, something that is not my forte, something is not my comfort level to do in this world. And so, the only way that I could see to do it was I put on sunglasses thinking like I’m hiding and that’s how I felt I was stealth. It’s like my cat used to hide in the grass but we were looking at it, we above. You could see. I was hiding. It’s my magic cape.

But I did that because that’s what I needed to do. So, as stupid as it might have looked for anybody that wasn’t in it, guess what, the people that needed that information, they needed to see it, nobody ever cared that I did my videos indoors, washing a wig in sunglasses or anything. It was about showing the hair. And my whole journey is about doing it the way that I needed to do it for me and that is what I think women need to do for them.

There are no rules. You need to do what you need to do for me. So, in order for me to get my message out of that time about wigs trying to destigmatize them, try to empower women to know that this is a real option, look at what’s on my head. You can be a young woman wearing wigs and looking as really as great as your friend. Later when I met Sophie, who became a best friend of mine who’s a hairstylist with stylists, I did photoshoots with her. I paid for photoshoots to be done so that I could show.

Her hair is red. She would color a wig red for me. We would do 20 and I did a pink one where we were both pink. Because I wanted to show women that the possibilities of what wig wearing could be were actually endless. And that was my reason for doing that.

And up until … So, it was from 2012 until 2015, I wore sunglasses. And then one day in 2015, I’m like, okay, this is getting kind of tiring wearing sunglasses all the time. And the same ones at that I think. And so, I was just like, “Okay, I’m going to …” It’s almost like I would have been easier to take off my top or something. But I took off my sunglasses. And I never looked back.

And that was my last step two, I guess, revealing myself was taking off my sunglasses, showing my face, and really telling everybody in my life. There’s nobody in my life that walks into it that does not know, including somebody that’s in an elevator that’s like, “Nice hair.” I’m like, “It’s a wig.”

Because it’s just part of I think how I cope with it or how I accepted it. It was like massive exposure therapy. I just started telling everybody left and right, even people that didn’t want to know, people in restaurants, “I love your hair.” “It’s a wig.” “No, it’s not.” “Feel it, right here,” back when you could touch people. That’s how I really … I don’t advise that for everybody to go through that process. But that was my process.

And in doing that, it’s almost like I developed this really, this strange around knowing the reactions that I got were always favorable. I was never looked down upon. They were positive. Nobody has ever been negative to me for telling them I wore wigs. And subsequently when they asked why, I tell them for hair loss. And they were not negative for that. And I know that’s a big fear and concern for a lot of women that, “Oh, I’m going to be judged for it.”

I believe the way that you wear it, the confidence you have in it, the way that you deliver it to people is a huge factor in how they’re going to react to you. So, if I tell you that yeah, it’s a wig. And I’m telling you, “Oh, I have coffee,” you’re not going to have an emotional reaction. If I tell you and drop my eyes and feel ashamed, you might start to feel sorry for me. And I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, because I’m not feeling sorry for myself.

And that’s a big part of wearing hair that I think women have to grow into. Because it doesn’t come from the beginning. I wasn’t telling everybody from the beginning. You kind of grow into that. You kind of become better at learning that people are really into themselves. So, not actually into caring what you’re doing about you. I switch my hair all the time.

I mean, Starbucks, my orthodontist, she’s like, “Oh, I love this wig. You’re so lucky. I wish I could wear wigs.” I’m thinking, “Really? You have a head of hair that’s two times this thickness and you want to wear a wig. Let me tell you, we can switch. We can switch places if you want.” But you get comments like that, “I wish I could do it. It looks so fabulous.” When you have that positive reinforcement, maybe it’s like when you’re a kid and you constantly get this positive reinforcement, you realize this is doable.

That’s how I realized I could live with hair loss because plenty of people, although I choose not to show my hair online has seen my hair, they’re fine with it. Plenty of people know I wear a wig. They’re fine with it. That’s how I knew that there was life after hair loss. There was acceptance. And I came from a place of feeling like my life was over. I came from a place it was all hair or bust.

So, I can get to this place I genuinely feel, anybody listening in your audience or anybody that ever comes across me, I believe in them even when they don’t believe in themselves. Because honestly, if I got here legit, anybody can, because I didn’t think it was possible.

Amy:

Well, it’s been such a joy to watch your journey. And I know you mentioned your friend, Sophie, and what she’s done for you and having a good wig stylist and I know you wanted to-

Y:

Oh my gosh.

Amy:

… touch base on that.

Y:

Yeah. Yeah, the importance of like … I think what happens is especially now because with the internet, there are so many more people that are selling wigs online and so, it’s less hand holding a bit depending on the provider.

But one of the things that’s important to realize is when you go from a box, when you get your hair out of a box and it goes to your head, this is not the way that it’s going to look. Okay, this is not going to be its optimal look. I call it if someone gave it … I don’t care, I’ve been wearing hair for nine years. If you give me a wig and I throw it on my head right now, I’m going to look like Cousin It. It’s going to be coming straight down because the wigs tend to tie down forward. You have to learn how to blow it back, style it yourself a little bit. It’s not a lot of style that you need to do.

But what really transforms it to make it you, it makes it personal to you is when you get cut. It starts lightening the piece up because it’s not heavy around the face itself. It starts looking like a haircut that a woman would have gotten done. You can have highlights put into it, dimensions. The rooting is really important because rooting tricks the eye because you would think, “Who the hell is going to go put a root in their wig.”

So, your wig is looking more real when it has a root. It also helps to blend your bio hair. So, you have a darker bio hair. You can wear a blonde wig with a darker root. So, I do pull out … This is a lace front wig, which your audience can’t see. So, none of my hair on this one is pulled out except around the ears. But I generally have blended all of my wigs for the whole time. I only have a couple lace front wigs. But I think that styling is crucial to don’t give up on the piece. If you put it on and it’s like, what the hell, this is not what I envisioned it to be, it needs to be worked with. For sure.

Amy:

Well, and I wanted to just let listeners know that you have a great YouTube channel and you do a lot of videos. And definitely check out Y’s YouTube channel. We’ll post it in the show notes so you can kind of see how she wears the wigs, how she washes them.

Y:

Yeah, and Instagram. I’ve done more on Instagram.

Amy:

Okay.

Y:

Yeah, so people want to see, I’ve done a lot of videos that are just on IGTV, too. So, they should definitely check out my Instagram for sure, too.

Amy:

And I was also just going to mention that the way that I found somebody locally near me to cut my wig was through a company that helps women, breast cancer survivors, and they offer a lot of clothing and such, but they also offer wigs. Now, the wigs were not as nice as the wigs that I’ve found other places. But they had a great stylist that took the wigs that I had.

And I was actually just before we got on the call, I was kind of looking at your website and watching one of your latest videos where you’re talking about a wig that you had from, I know in 2015, that you permed and recolored.

Y:

Yeah.

Amy:

So, I’ve done some of that this year. As my hair color changes over the years, I’ve had to color some of my wigs or toppers so that I could still wear them. So, that’s something else they can sort of be in transition.

Y:

They do. They do transition because the hair color and the amount of hair that I had in 2012 is very different than now. So, the whole time one of the things that I’ve had Sophie do on my pieces, the whole way through is always usually the front piece. The exception to the rule would be this piece because I had her, it’s not yet even finished. But the one, the strips in the front were lightened because that helped blend it with my hair, which was ash gray crap brown, if that’s descriptive, but it helped a little bit blonde. And so, it helped blend it with the majority of the pieces.

But it’s getting challenging now because my fringes went gray, it’s just gray. And I haven’t colored my hair since I was 18 years old, maybe was the last time I colored my hair. I just haven’t colored it. I always felt weird about the potential of I don’t know that it would and plenty of women do that it would actually cause hair loss if I colored it. And maybe I will at some point, but I haven’t done that.

So, it gets more challenging for me, but it also gets more challenging for her because she’s having to keep up with that coloring. So, she’s constantly modifying my pieces moving with me as I move in my journey. And so, finding somebody like her to have in your life to help you with purchasing the pieces or wherever I get my pieces through her as well. But helping to personalize them and adapt with you, that is your greatest ally in wig wearing. And you were talking about the christening and you wore the topper for the christening, right?

Amy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Y:

And women are scared to take the leap of what people will think and do that. But you felt better in doing that about you. Right? It’s something that-

Amy:

Oh, absolutely. I mean, I didn’t want … I remember that day trying to style my own hair and it looked like garbage. It just looked awful. And I started crying and my husband said, “Why don’t you wear that? You’ve spent all this time and money. Why don’t you put it on?” And without his encouragement, I probably wouldn’t have done it and I put it on and honest to god, at the time my boys were little and they were like four and eight, and they had no idea whether I … But I felt better. And my husband said I looked beautiful and I felt beautiful that day and it changed the way I experienced that really special day for our family.

Y:

It changed the way that you were able … You just nailed it.

Amy:

Yeah.

Y:

The way you were able to experience that day changed and that is so important for people to hear. Maybe hair wearing isn’t something that … I know for a fact it’s not for everybody, but it’s something that you need for situations or you need for feeling better for certain time periods and important events. It’s something worth exploring and just letting in the idea that it could help you a little bit.

Because my life improved dramatically once I was able to not be so ashamed of what was going on on my head. And I don’t know that we should be ashamed and maybe that’s the bad word, but that’s how I felt. I felt ashamed. I felt embarrassed in overhead lighting. I felt all you could see was scalp. I had to select my seat at the restaurant based on where the lights were. You sit there, I’ll sit over here in the dark, sir.

It empowers you to get a piece, get a starter piece. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Play around with it. Try it at home. Try it going to the supermarket. Try going for a walk. Letting in the idea that even if you’re not a full time wig wearer could make scenarios more special for you, you were able to embrace that moment better than you would have if you spent the whole event worrying about your hair, worrying about other people looking at your hair, worrying about the lighting.

Hair loss takes so much of us and I kind of say, hair loss takes what you give. Okay. It’s going to take a lot from you if you allow it to. And although, I know it doesn’t always feel like a choice, we do have choices to make. We don’t always like the choices, but we do have choices to make that can empower us to live our lives with fulfillment, with happiness.

For people that feel like I’ll never smile again, you will. There are people that feel like you won’t laugh again, you will. I mean, and it’s in good fun about my hair. It’s like my hair is on top of a bag of candy. It’s just like I snap it … It’s just a joke I send it to a friend, day done. It’s a part of my world and it’s not mocking the thing. It’s just no different than I would make a light of anything else. And when it becomes that kind of it’s part of your life, it feels okay. It feels okay, you feel okay.

Amy:

Well, I think that that’s where we’re going to end it because that’s a beautiful period to this really lovely podcast. I would love for you to just tell our listeners where they can find out more about your work.

Y:

Yes. So, I’m on my website which is womenshairlossproject.com. I am on YouTube. It comes up both ways, Women’s Hair Loss Project and WHLP Network. On Facebook, Women’s Hair Loss Project and on Instagram @whlpnetwork and on Twitter @whlpnetwork. And yeah, I do post quite frequently more last year in the pandemic. I started doing Instagram more so people can check that out and I have a podcast, too. But I haven’t you know been watering that plant, but it is on Spotify and iTunes, same name.

Amy:

That’s great. Thank you for putting yourself out there and being so brave and courageous for all of these years.

Y:

I think thank you and like I said, I was so genuinely excited when I saw your message on. I texted Sophie actually. I was like, “Oh my god.” I snapshotted it and I sent it to her. I’m like, “This is amazing,” because you know why, because I feel connected to you from a past and that time period was very special for me. Even though it wasn’t yet a place of acceptance, that period of community and what was around that time period was so special. In my mind and in my heart, you’re a part of that. And so, I thank you profusely for inviting me to be on here. It’s a real privilege.

Amy:

Well it’s really been a joy and you’re going to make me cry, so I’m going to have to end this before I fall apart. But thank you, Y, for being on. And thank you everyone for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, please go leave a review at wherever you listen to your podcasts. I would greatly appreciate it. And I look forward to being with you again with another episode very soon. Thank you. Take care.

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