The Disappearing Act
O, The Oprah Magazine contrasts the approaches of Lucinda Ellery and Sheila Bridges to the diagnosis of alopecia areata.
Read the story below or download a pdf of the article
The Disappearing Act
Our obsession with our hair reaches a whole new level when we start losing it. What we could once bend (or straighten or color) to our will feels suddenly, terrifyingly beyond our control. Or is it? Many of the causes of hair loss - crash dieting, reactions to medications - are temporary; address the underlying issue and your hair will grow back. Unfortunately, the most common culprit, genetic female pattern hair loss, is chronic. But you don't have to operate at a loss.
Two women with the same autoimmune disease - two very different takes on losing it all.
Hair replacement specialist Lucinda Ellery makes a case for keeping it unreal
How she got into the fake hair business
When I was 9, I lost two-thirds of my hair overnight. I learned later that I had alopecia areata: my immune system was attacking my hair follicles. I got my first wig when I was 12 - it was one of the best days of my life. I wore wigs for 23 years. Then in the mid-'80s, I tried extensions, but back then the process was primitive and very damaging. I decided I could do better.
How she does it better
I weave my clients' remaining hair through a light mesh cap of extensions that they can leave on day and night.
Her client base
I see a lot of genetic female pattern hair loss and cancer treatment hair loss.
The hair she presents to the world
Long, thick, blonde.
The hair she really has
A short black ball of frizz with bald patches
Why she'll never shave it all off
That would feel like a terrible punishment to me. I will go to my grave with long, blonde hair. I don't feel myself without it.
Lucinda Ellery owns salons in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Los Angeles
The Big Reveal
Interior designer Sheila Bridges explains why a life without hair doesn't wig her out
The reason she really loved her hair
It represented the untamable me.
And how she lost it
When I was 38, two tiny bald patches on the back of my head led to a diagnosis of alopecia areata.
What prompted her to shave her head
It was a fuck you to the universe. My hair was falling out, and I thought if I shaved my head I would feel as if I were taking back some power.
How that allowed her to move on
I did feel enpowered, but I also felt grief. And when I allowed myself to feel the grief, I just knew that it wouldn't last forever.
Why wigs aren't for her
I was never the kind of person who spent a lot of time on her hair. I play tennis in the heat, I ride a horse, and I will not be tucking a wig under my helmet. I don't knock other people if they want to wear a wig, but for me, it didn't make me comfortable with who I saw in the mirror.
Sexy, feminine, and bald?
Yes, I think so!
Sheila Bridges memoir, The Bald Mermaid (Pointed Leaf), explores issues of identity, femininity, and success.