‘I picked up a pair of clippers, counted to three, and shaved it off. ‘There’s no going back now.’: Woman with hair loss urges ‘your hair doesn’t define you’

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“I’ve struggled with hair loss for as long as I can remember. I’ve grown up knowing I had thin hair, watched all of my cousins and grandma struggle with thinning hair, and have always accepted it. When I was younger, my parents and I saw specialists to seek out the cause and try and find a solution. My cousins and I had hair samples taken and tested, and could not find a solution or a true cause. Everyone linked it back to poor genetics.

As a child, I had beautiful hair. It was thick and shoulder length, but as I grew up, the thinner it became. I first started to dislike it entering high school, the age where teenage girls start caring about appearance and discovering their self-esteem. I started to experiment with extensions and have my very generous parents to thank for supporting me through an immensely expensive experiment.

Young girl wearing red sitting in front of blue background
Courtesy of Mallory Minor

My mom and I would drive an hour away to the only place I could find to do extensions. This was back in 2008, so they weren’t as popular. I would sit in the back room of a beauty shop while a woman gave me cornrows and would sew the extensions onto them. The first time I had long, luscious hair, it became like an addiction and I never wanted to go without it. Every 6 weeks, my mom and I would make the drive and get the extensions touched up. Over the years, I tried every brand and type of hair under the sun. Thousands of dollars of extensions just to help give me the hair I didn’t have. I tried sew-ins, glue-ins, tape-ins, literally every brand. Some were better than others, but there were times I had issues with them, too. Like the time I went to Italy and it was so hot, the tape literally melted and they slid out of my hair.

Young girl wearing striped shirt in front of blue background smiling
Courtesy of Mallory Minor

Over time, my hair became thinner, partly due to genetics I’m sure, but also because of the damage from extensions. I was very meticulous about planning my appointments so I never had to go without my extensions, but I remember there was even a time I skipped school because I didn’t have my new hair in yet. When I graduated high school and went to college, I started to care less about always having my hair in at all times. I would try different routes, like clip-in ponytails and wearing hats. There was a period of time I didn’t wear my extensions at all in college because of the amount of hair loss I was experiencing. It became more and more work to try and conceal behind bald spots and the upkeep became too much while away from home. As I got older, my parents weren’t as willing to keep fronting the cost of this investment. I wish I kept track of how much I spent over the years exactly, but if I had to guess, I would estimate north of $15,000.

Black and white photo of smiling girl wearing sparkly shirt in
Courtesy of Mallory Minor

To attempt and save money over the years, I would try and find people to do extensions that weren’t pricey salons. I found myself in many situations, including people’s homes I met on Craigslist, mall salons, random back rooms at shops—you name it, I have probably been there. There was even a point where my mom learned how to install the extensions so I could buy them wholesale and have her put them in. I let friends put them in while talking them through the process, and I would let them take out the old ones, which usually ended up with a pair of scissors.

After college, I gave up on extensions for good. My hair was destroyed and I was entering the workforce and figured I didn’t need to wear them anymore. I tried getting cute hairstyles for short hair but hated the way I looked with my hair like that. The older I got, the shorter the hair got and the more pixie style I had to adapt to.

Smiling girl wearing striped dress holding pitcher of beer
Courtesy of Mallory Minor

I did try to go back to extensions once or twice in my adult life and just couldn’t get them to match or blend like they used to. I started to research other options and in 2018, I stumbled upon a Facebook Group for women with hair loss, called Hair Loss Sisters. I joined the group and read so many stories of other women dealing with this, too. There were women with everything, from AGA to alopecia to cancer, but they all were struggling with one thing in common: significant hair loss. At this point, I can best describe my hair as something that looked like a boy-band haircut, and I hated it. I started reading through posts and following the pages and recommendations and a lot of women were talking about toppers. I had no idea what a topper was, so I took to the internet to educate myself and found them. It was basically extensions but with a fake scalp. It wasn’t a full wig because it only clipped onto the top of your head, so I figured it was a good place to start.

Blonde girl smiling standing outside holding brown weiner dog
Courtesy of Mallory Minor

I wasn’t ready to try a full wig yet because my impression of wigs was only people with cancer wore wigs. My bio hair came to just below my ears, so this seemed like a perfect solution. After researching and following the group, I discovered Highline Wigs. I purchased my very first topper. It was truly an investment, but it cost less than a set of extensions did in high school and those only lasted 6 weeks! It matched my hair in the perfect shade of blonde, and when it came in the mail and I put it on, I was SHOCKED. It was perfect. My hair looked like it never looked with extensions before. It was flawless and so much hair I didn’t even know what to do with it. I was so excited to find a solution that worked for me. I thought I loved extensions until I found toppers. The extensions always showed and it was a challenge to constantly cover them. I felt like people were always looking at them. But this topper was undetectable… or so I thought.

Blonde girl smiling wearing hat standing in front of red brick wall
Courtesy of Mallory Minor

At the time, I didn’t even know what gate I was opening to my future and where I am today. The topper was perfect and everything I wanted. For nearly a year, I wore the topper almost daily. I received compliments and no one was the wiser. After a year, I noticed I was losing a lot of hair on my scalp from the comb holding the topper in. I went back to the Facebook Group and asked some questions and ultimately decided it was time for a wig. I purchased my first wig second-hand on eBay and was even more surprised than I was with the topper. I didn’t even know it was possible to love something so much. I sold the topper to pay for the wig, but I did get a good discount since it was from eBay.

Once I bought one wig, it was game over. I wanted every combination under the sun. I stopped by a local shop in Philly and found synthetic wigs for $20 apiece. I now have a collection of 14 wigs with a combination of synthetic and human hair.

Woman standing in purple ball pit wearing pink wig
Courtesy of Mallory Minor

Even my synthetics are not terrible, I get so many compliments and people love them when I wear them out. But sadly, they sit in my closet most of the time because human hair wigs are something out of this world. I discovered the brand Hairalicious after researching online and in my Facebook group. That was the first wig I bought second-hand, but I wanted to save up for a real one. Human hair wigs aren’t cheap, but I tell everyone it is worth the investment. I don’t go to salons and get my hair done, I don’t get my nails done, so for me, spending $1,000 on a wig that will last me several years is worth it. I built a great rapport with the owner of Hairalicious. They are a European-based brand, but the majority of their consumers are American. Over the past 2 years of this journey, I’ve been very open on social media. I post videos, stories, and IGTV Series on all things wigs because people are curious and I am still learning.

Blonde woman wearing wig taking selfie
Courtesy of Mallory Minor

I want to help educate others and make women who suffer from hair loss confident and comfortable enough to be themselves and not let their hair define them. So, over the past two years, I have taken to Instagram to grow my following of other women suffering through this and shed some light. I also like to educate my followers who aren’t suffering from hair loss, because I think everyone can learn a little empathy for others in such a delicate situation. Currently, I own two Hairalicious wigs and one from a new brand I just discovered, WhatWigs. I’d consider myself to be very brand loyal, but since the pandemic started, there is a shortage of human hair, so I branched out to discover WhatWigs and also to support an American-based brand as well. I found WhatWigs on a Google search of ‘who makes wigs for celebrities,’ and let me tell you, I was not disappointed. Both of these brands have truly mastered the art of wig making and they are both so unique and special in their own way.

Smiling woman wearing black standing in front of rose gold tinsel background
Courtesy of Mallory Minor

After I got comfortable wearing my wigs for a while, about 2 months into the pandemic, I decided it was time to let my hair go. Whenever I didn’t have a wig on, I hated the way I looked. I’m in my late twenties, I am single, and it was something that was really hard for me to look back at in the mirror after my hair came off. With the help of my roommates, I picked up a pair of clippers, counted to three, and shaved it off. The first emotion that overcame me was shock and surprise. I couldn’t believe I just did it and there was no going back. I tell women in my support group who are contemplating shaving for the first time that while I love it now, the first week or so was really hard. To make it easier, I put on a full face of makeup to shave it like so many recommended and that really helped. But when the makeup came off, it was tough to overcome and really accept. But after a few weeks, when my scalp adjusted and wasn’t so cold all the time, and I got more comfortable with it, it really grew on me.

Girl covering face with hands sitting in bathroom
Courtesy of Mallory Minor

Buzzcuts aren’t associated with cancer, as I so quickly learned. It’s like when you buy a new car and you start seeing the same car everywhere you go. When I shaved my head, I started seeing girls my age with buzzcuts everywhere I went. It’s so trendy right now, which really helps, even girls with full luscious locks of hair are shaving their heads. And it really does have its benefits, like I don’t have to worry about bedhead, and I don’t have to wash my hair often, so shampoo lasts FOREVER.

I am a huge proponent of shaving heads for women who don’t like the way their hair loss makes them feel. Shave it off. You are in control and your hair doesn’t define you. Exposing myself on social media has really helped my confidence, too. I now create TikToks based on hair loss and the collection of wigs I have built for myself. I post IGTVs of styling tips when I get a chance. And with pure confidence, I can tell you I have never once received a negative comment on any of my platforms.

Woman with buzzcut smiling and sitting outside on patio
Courtesy of Mallory Minor

The positivity and the compliments of my buzzed head really warm my heart and reassure me this is the right thing for me. Sure, it sucks my hair isn’t great or long or beautiful, but what doesn’t suck is the fact I can curl my hair off of my head and have it last for 2 weeks. I can change the color of my hair if the outfit I’m wearing complements brunettes over blondes. My hair is my accessory and it always looks perfect, there is never a bad hair day with a wig. I know not everyone in this situation will be confident or feel proud or happy with themselves. I know this because I get DMs from strangers pouring their hearts out and wishing they could accept this journey. Our society needs to normalize hair loss, and in my opinion, celebrities have really done a great job at helping to normalize wigs. There are people with great hair wearing wigs for fun, so why can’t we?

Woman with buzzcut sitting on bench holding wigs
Courtesy of Mallory Minor

Every time I gain a follower on Instagram who is part of this community, I know the next story, video, or post I share might help them. Sure, I am not an influencer by any means with my 1,300 followers, but when I get a DM from someone saying they are in awe of my confidence or when people comment and ask me styling questions on wig tips, I know if I help even one person feel comfortable in their own skin, then that is my purpose. I want to inspire others. I want every person (hair loss or not) to be confident and comfortable, put yourself out there, and let yourself be vulnerable, educate others, and educate yourself. Accept who you are, and instead of living in sadness, accept how to embrace it. Invest in yourself and invest in a high-quality wig, because you are worth it and when your hair looks good, you too will feel good. I hope my story helps someone else because no one should feel alone in their hair loss journey.”

Woman with buzzcut standing in ocean holding out wig
Courtesy of Mallory Minor

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mallory Minor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You can follow her journey on Instagram and TikTok. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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