I have just got back from holiday, where I miraculously managed to hold on to my extensions but have come back with a mysterious orange colour on the ends of my hair!
I’m not sure whether that’s because the sun stripped the hair back to its original colour or not but I was just so grateful to have my first holiday with a full head of hair in several years that I didn’t spend too much time worrying about it.
While I was away however, I got lots of emails from people who have been reading the blog and wanted to find out more about their options in terms of hair replacement systems.
Hearing about other people’s struggles and knowing all too well how it feels to not know where to turn for help was so moving but also overwhelming in some respects. I felt a big responsibility to give the ‘right’ advice: not easy to do over email, especially as I am definitely not an expert on hair replacement systems.
Hair replacement systems, as I’ve discussed here and here are a big investment, not just financially but emotionally too, so it’s important to feel confident in your choice. Of course, it’s equally important to remember that wigs, extensions and weaves are not your only option: lots of people happily opt for sprays like Fullmore to cover any thinning patches, and wear their natural hair proudly. Scarves or headbands work well for others: the main thing is to find what works best for you and your condition and makes you feel beautiful and confident in yourself.
When I started this blog a few months ago, I wanted to share my experience of hair loss, partly in order to try and deal with the emotional fallout of the last few years and partly to share what I felt was very hard-earned knowledge of the options available in terms of help and solutions. However, receiving people’s emails made me realise how limited my knowledge and experiences actually are. A lot of what I have learned is from advice available on the internet, other blogs and hair loss forums. There is some amazing advice out there but as one email said, there is so much help out there that it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start!
So, I’d like to crowdsource your advice and top tips! From hair replacement systems to wigs, to treatments and advice on staying strong, I’d love you to comment below with any advice you can share. Us hair loss sufferers truly are stronger together!
Whilst I know many people have had a really positive experience at the Lucinda Ellery salon and with the Intralace system, as I mentioned in my last post my experience was much more mixed.
When I went to get the system, my hair was very uneven, with some sections less than an inch in length. However I didn’t have any bald patches and my hair is naturally thick – which caused some problems.
My adjustments would need to be done every five weeks, and my realignment after five months, significantly increasing the cost of having the Intralace. As it turned out, within ten days of each appointment the mesh and my natural hairline were showing at the front, making me very self-conscious, especially on windy days!
Because of the thickness of my hair (ironic given that my hair loss was at this point impossible to disguise), I had a lot of hair panels sewn into the Intralace, with my hair concealed under the mesh. This meant that as my hair grew, the system sat further away from my scalp, making it look less and less natural. It also made my hair almost impossible to dry and difficult to style.
Some of my hair was long enough to allow for extensions to blend in with the Intralace. These were attached with polymer resin bonds which were really weak and softened when I dried my hair, despite the care I took to only use conditioner on the mid-lengths and ends of my hair. The bonds would quickly flatten and widen, becoming more noticeable and frequently coming out, or shedding white flakes in my hair. As the sections used for the extensions were so big, as they came out they left noticeable gaps. The salon charged me to reattach each of these.
Both the hair panels in the Intralace and the extensions shed huge amounts of hair. In the case of the Intralace this would quickly lead to bald patches on the mesh and I needed a new parting every five weeks.
I was worried about the hair loss and felt guilty that I seemed unable to get away from this cycle of shedding, damaged hair – whether it was my own or someone else’s. Every time I went to the salon there was a problem and I was told off and given a lecture on haircare which made me feel terrible. I had the hair examined in the end by an extension specialist who told me that this was a ‘poor quality hair weft’ and likely to be Chinese hair, rather than the Indian temple hair I had paid for.
This was backed up by what the staff at the salon had subsequently told me. I have heard from other salon clients that they have experienced similar problems and it does worry me that the salon weren’t completely transparent about the problems with the hair they use, particularly given the vulnerability of the clients. The prices they charge are at the top end of the market and the hair quality should reflect that.
After five months, I went to my realignment appointment and after a discussion with the team, they decided to increase the number of hair extensions I had and replace the Grade 2 Intralace I had with a smaller Intralace Minima, which would cover the front of my hair and the parting. I was so excited to be able to see some hair growth, although I still had – and have – a long way to go. I was really proud to be able to progress to a smaller system and no longer have the mesh which was so hard for me to disguise.
However, changing the system meant paying another £745, on top of the £2,095 I had paid for the Intralace system, as well as £250 every five weeks for the adjustments.
After two weeks, my hairline was again showing underneath the system and I was feeling very self-conscious. At this point, I decided to go and seek a second opinion. I went to see an extension specialist, who to my total surprise was confident she could help me, despite the varying lengths and quality of my natural hair. She works regularly with film and television studios, often working with male actors with very short hair whose hair she extends to fit the roles they are playing, so the system she has developed allows her to place very fine, unobtrusive extensions right at the top of the scalp.
I was nervous about the cost, given the amount of money I had invested with Lucinda Ellery but I decided at this point I had to cut my losses. The ongoing expenses with the system were so high: not only financially but also emotionally. I found the hair shedding traumatic given my history. I also dreaded each appointment at the salon. Each one uncovered a new problem, which I always felt I was blamed for.
A full head of extensions cost £895 and comprised around 200+ extensions. The hair quality is beautiful – much better than my own hair! – and will last 16 weeks, with no appointments required, or costs incurred, in that time. The extension bonds are very firm, and there is no charge to reattach extensions which do come out. Similarly there is no charge to cut my hair in between appointments, making this system far cheaper than the Intralace.
Best of all I now have one hairline and no mesh!
For me, this feels much more comfortable and natural than the Intralace and I am no longer measuring my life in five week bursts between appointments. But what does this mean for other people considering opting for an Intralace?
For many, I believe it offers a great solution to hair loss, to people with a wide range of conditions. I think it simply wasn’t right for my hair and an initial consultation with one of the salon staff would have confirmed this. (This wasn’t my experience as you can read here). To those thinking about the Intralace, I would still encourage them to consider it as an option.
Styled properly, it is more natural looking and certainly more secure than a wig. The financial outlay is considerable but the costs are transparent, so this is something you can plan for. As for the quality of the hair, for me this is the biggest issue but also something the salon staff should be able to work with you to resolve.
So, are you thinking about a hair replacement system, or do you have one already? Let me know your thoughts below.
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.
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.
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!
Having spent a long time hiding away, scared to show my hair in public, it’s taken me a long time to build up the courage to start this blog.
What eventually motivated me to take the plunge was how annoyed I felt at the amount of money and time that I’d wasted trying to fix my hair loss – with very varying results.
A big part of that was my own reluctance to go and get the proper help (it took me FOUR YEARS to finally make an appointment with a dermatologist!) but I also got a lot of bad advice along the way, and I want to stop others from falling into that trap.
For four years, the extent of my hair loss had varied but in the months leading up to the appointment, it was so bad that I mostly avoided seeing anyone other than family and very close friends. My hair was so brittle it would fall away in my hands and it came out in clumps when I dried it. My hair was very uneven, with most of my hair loss on one side of my head, and some sections less than an inch in length.
The most important – and the most difficult – step for me was definitely making an appointment with my GP and getting a referral to a specialist. While in my particular case that didn’t actually lead directly to a diagnosis, it gave me the confidence to start looking into what I could do to fix the results of my hair loss, which by then was too extensive to disguise using clips or even head scarves.
It was a hard thing to do but ultimately the thought of sitting in the doctor’s surgery with my hair uncovered was much harder than the reality. Doctors are trained to be sensitive and personally, I found that seeing a female doctor meant that she already understood that this wasn’t just vanity but a problem that had gradually taken over my life.
The doctor referred me to a dermatologist who specialised in hair loss. Seeing her was definitely more challenging than seeing the doctor: hearing that she had no idea what the cause of my hair loss was really shocked me and made me feel like I was abnormal.
Ultimately though, and with the encouragement of my family, it gave me the confidence to follow her advice and visit a hairdresser who specialised in hair loss solutions.
That was seven months ago and since then, albeit after a lot of setbacks and complications, my hair is finally starting to grow back and I’m working on rebuilding some of the self-confidence I lost over the last five years.
So, if any of this resonates with anyone reading this, I would say don’t follow the path I took and get help now! Although that help may be imperfect, it is out there, and confronting the problem and seeking solutions is so much more empowering than hiding away like I did.
Alopecia is a hair loss condition affecting more people than appreciated. I'm uploading my experience in the hope that it shows others they aren't suffering alone. I want to offer my advice, opinions, support and story. I want to be bald & bold.