Beating the system: covering up hair loss

I’ve been building up since I started writing this blog to writing about my experience with hair replacement systems. My experience was not a positive one on the whole, so I wanted to wait as long as possible after the system was removed, so that I didn’t use the blog post to vent unfairly about it. I know that for lots of people experiencing hair loss, they are a fantastic option and others have had a good experience with the salon I went to.

Nevertheless when I opted to get the system, I didn’t ask all the questions I could have done. I had done some research which uncovered plenty of negative online reviews but I felt they were outweighed by the fact this salon had been recommended by the dermatologist I consulted with about my condition. Having waited so long to confront the problem and decided to at last take action, I wanted to book an appointment quickly.

The salon I went to was Lucinda Ellery in London. Lucinda herself has experienced hair loss for most of her life and worn wigs. This experience led her to create the Intralace system, which is essentially a weave. For the full Intralace system, the affected parts of your scalp are covered with a fine, breathable mesh which your hair is pulled through in small sections. Fibre connections are plaited into this hair, creating a bond. Panels of hair are then sewn onto the mesh: one panel of hair for each row of bonds.

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After getting the Intralace

The system price varies according to the size (or grade) of the mesh. There is also an alternative system for people who are only affected by thinning hair or hair loss on the parting, or the front of their hair, called the Intralace Minima. The system works the same way but hair is only added to the parting. For both systems a fringe is required to cover the mesh.

For people suffering from total hair loss, medical grade tape can be used to attach the system. This is called the Intralace Freewear.

Every six weeks the system must be tightened (or adjusted to use the official term), which involves pulling the hair which has grown more tightly through the mesh, and re-bonding the fibre connections. Once every six months the system is removed, the hair underneath washed and the system is put back on. This process is called a realignment and is necessary to reposition the system to take into account any new hair growth. The system lasts for two years, at which point you need to buy a new Intralace if you want to continue with the system.

The big advantage of this approach in my eyes was that in between appointments I would be able to wash my hair, swim, sleep and generally live as if the hair was my own, allowing me to build up some of the self-confidence I had lost through my hair loss.

The huge disadvantage initially was the price. I was quoted £2,095 for a Grade 2 Intralace and told that I would need more frequent adjustments, every five weeks, at £98 an hour. These appointments took around two and a half hours. The realignment would similarly need to be done at the five month mark at the same hourly cost and would take around five hours.

In this video, you can watch a more positive review of the system: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rigD8hj5zPA.

At the consultation, I did not actually speak to a member of the salon staff but the person I consulted with was very sensitive on the whole and had a nice manner. I felt he was an expert in the system, rather than in hair loss (which was in line with what I had expected), although he did attempt, slightly clumsily, to analyse what the cause was.

He was very efficient but spent plenty of time going through everything and I didn’t feel rushed. I think he picked up very clear signals from me that I was keen to commit to the system that day, which I got the feeling was unusual for their clients and I think that was why he offered me free hair extensions to cover the parts of my scalp where I didn’t need the system. This would allow me to have long hair which he recommended as it would be ‘slimming’!

It was a huge financial commitment for me and represented a big sacrifice but I felt it was something I really needed to do to move forward in my life.

In a separate post, I’m going to describe my experience once I had the system put in but meanwhile, I would love to hear your thoughts on hair replacement systems. Is there anyone who has opted for the Intralace or a similar system? Tell me about your experiences in the comment section!

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Eating your way to great hair

I’ve written in a previous post about supplements which can help promote healthy hair growth but can you eat your way to better hair? Dena Ryness, a nutritionist from Beautiful. Active. Nourished, offers her advice below.

Diet can definitely make a difference to the overall health and quality of your hair but it’s unlikely to be the only factor in poor hair health. If you are suffering from hair loss, you should still seek medical advice. However, the right diet can make a difference – not just to your hair, but to your skin and your health in general.

Before we look at the nutrients you need to boost your hair health, here are two tips to bear in mind:

  1. Following a calorie controlled diet can be detrimental to hair growth. If you are eating too few calories, you aren’t going to be getting all the nutrients you need to nourish your scalp and hair. Taking supplements is an option but it’s never going to be as effective as taking in the nutrients directly from their source: food!
  2. Try to eat as clean and naturally as possible. This means avoiding processed foods, especially ready meals and chemical-ridden junk and snack foods, and focusing on whole foods, such as fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, whole grains, beans.

So, having established these principles, let’s look at some of the nutrients you should be incorporating into your diet to ensure maximum hair growth:

Protein

Hair – as well as fingernails – is made up of protein. Ensuring enough protein in your diet will help to boost hair follicles, which will in turn strengthen the hair strands, resulting in better hair growth.

The best sources of protein are lean meats, such as chicken and turkey, fish, eggs and dairy products. Vegetarians should include beans, pulses and nuts in their diet as good sources of protein

Omega 3

Omega 3s are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (i.e. a type of fat!) which the body can’t make itself, so it is vital to eat foods which are rich in this nutrient. These types of fats are found in the cell membranes which line the scalp, and in the natural oils which keep the hair and scalp hydrated, so ensuring you have enough of them is very important. Omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory, and this helps to open the hair follicles, encouraging growth.

Food sources include oily fish (sardines, salmon, herring, tuna), seeds such as flax seeds (which are ground linseeds – freshly ground is best), hemp, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Wholegrain cereals are another source, as are rapeseed, evening primrose and walnut oils. Look for fresh-pressed versions of these oils, though, as heat will destroy their nutrients.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is needed by the hair’s sebaceous glands to create sebum, which acts as a natural conditioner, keeping your scalp healthy. Without enough sebum, your scalp can become itchy, resulting in dry hair. Look for vegetables rich in beta-carotene, identifiable their orange-yellow colours. Beta-carotene is converted in the body to Vitamin A

Sources include carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato, apricot, cantaloupe melon, and green leafy vegetables

Iron

Iron helps to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Hair follicles and roots are fed by a nutrient-rich blood supply. Without enough iron, the nutrient supply to the hair follicle is disrupted, and this can affect hair growth, leading to shedding.

Iron can be found in red meat, chicken and fish. Vegetarian options include lentils, spinach and other green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C aids the absorption or iron. It also helps to produce collagen, which essential for hair growth, as well as maintaining its strength.

Good sources include berries, broccoli, sweet potatoes and papaya

Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps to protect and nourish the hair.

It can be found in almonds, green leafy vegetables, plant oils (such as wheat germ, sunflower, hemp seed, coconut, olive and cottonseed oil – again, remember to look for cold-pressed versions)

Zinc and Selenium

These 2 minerals help to boost the immune system. Zinc will help with a dry, flaky scalp, as it helps to keep the oil glands at a healthy level. This is useful in preventing hair loss.

Zinc and selenium can be found in whole grains and nuts. Additional sources of selenium can be found in liver, butter and garlic, while kidney beans, oysters, beef and eggs provide additional zinc.

Biotin

Biotin is a trace mineral which improves hair growth, strengthens hair, and helps to reduce hair loss.

Biotin is found in yeast, liver, kidney, egg yolk, soya, nuts and cereals.

So, try incorporating these into your diet and eat your way to better hair!

Extending your options: seeking advice on hair extensions

 

Healthy hair at your fingertips!

I wrote in my last post about tricks I’ve found to treat and cover up my hair loss but despite all the time and money I spent on them, unfortunately in my case they only provided a temporary ‘fix’. While my hair felt smoother and more manageable after a treatment, it also continued to break and fall out in clumps, eating away at my self-confidence and making me embarrassed to go out in public.

As the hair loss was ongoing I didn’t feel hair extensions were an option as I wasn’t sure my hair was strong enough for the bonds to hold in place. Another barrier was the fear I felt at the prospect of going to a hair salon full of women with long, glamorous hair and uncovering my broken, damaged and uneven head of hair in front of them – something I had only done in front of my closest family.

Instead, I eventually opted for a type of hair weave specifically designed for hair loss sufferers, on the recommendation of a dermatologist who thought it was my best option, given that she was at a loss to diagnose the cause of my hair condition. The financial outlay was significant and represented a big sacrifice, however the hair loss was so extreme and long-standing and was having such a negative impact on my life at that point that I felt I had to finally address the cosmetic effects of it. The fact that the hair weave had been recommended by a medical professional also gave me confidence that this was a sound decision, as did the fact that the salon specialised in hair loss.

I had the hair weave removed at the beginning of the year, after a very mixed experience, leaving me with just a few extensions on the longer, healthier part of my hair. My hair was still very short, uneven and broken, so I was left with three options:

  1. Remove the extensions and cut my hair into a pixie cut
  2. Put the weave back on
  3. Seek a second opinion

I was very reluctant to cut my hair short. Having struggled for four years to maintain what hair length I had and invested in an expensive hair weave, I felt that it would be too difficult to cut my hair at this point.

Similarly, the thought of putting the weave back on filled me with dread.

So I plucked up the coverage to seek a second opinion. I spent a long time with the consultant talking through my options and her recommendation. Although my hair is incredibly uneven, it was also starting to get back some length and thickness after six months of wearing a weave and she was confident she didn’t need six inches of hair to blend in extensions.

She is recognised as an expert in extensions around the world and I felt very confident about booking an appointment after the consultation. The hair she showed me was great quality – something that hadn’t been the case with the weave – and she assured me that the hair would be really easy to style and to colour match with my own hair.

She set aside an entire day for the appointment and I was the only person in the salon, which I really appreciated. To apply a full head of extensions took five hours but ironically this is because I have (or rather when healthy used to have) a lot of hair. She was incredibly meticulous about blending the new hair in with my own and making tiny connections that are so invisible that I can wear my hair up or pulled back without anything showing.

I’m really pleased with how easy they are to style and care for, how well blended they are and how natural they feel.

I feel they represent good value compared to the weave I had, as this set of extensions should last 16 weeks. They never tangle, although I do plait my hair at night as a precaution.

I invested in oil free shampoo (Kerastase Resistance Volumifique Bain) and the matching conditioner to prevent the bonds from weakening and was given a fantastic argan oil to keep the ends looking shiny, as well as a Revlon leave-in conditioner. As she promised, the extensions are incredibly easy to style and dry really quickly, unlike the weave. Even when my hair is wet, you can’t tell it isn’t my own hair.

As with the weave, I only use a soft bristle brush to protect the hair and the bonds.

When extensions are first attached, they will feel a little heavy and it’s common to have an itchy scalp the week after as you adjust to the new hair but all in all, they have been very easy to adjust to.

I previously got extensions on part of my hair only at Lucinda Ellery and I found that they shed a lot so any time I ran my fingers through my hair, several strands would come out. The bonds were much bigger and less unobtrusive, especially as when I dried my hair they would ‘melt’ a little, making them flatter and thicker. The hair also tangled very easily.

So far, of a set of more than 200 extensions, none have come loose and the bonds all feel very firm and securely attached, so three weeks in, I’m very happy!