Confidence Tricks

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Amy Poehler is never wrong

Last week I watched Victoria Derbyshire host a debate on the EU referendum on BBC1. Fielding questions from the audience and refereeing between the panel on live television, it was hard to believe that she had finished treatment for breast cancer barely 24 hours before. Wearing her wig, she projected authority, self-confidence and poise. It was so inspiring to see.

It added a different dimension to something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: how can you project self-confidence and a presence to others when you are struggling to feel comfortable with your appearance?

When I was battling to cover up hair loss, I was painfully self-conscious, convinced that not only was it apparent to everyone how damaged and odd-looking my hair was but that they could also see through to how I was feeling inside. When I got a hair replacement system, I thought this would improve but if anything I felt worse. Anxious about my real hairline showing through and the bumps caused by my hair growing underneath the system, I was convinced everyone would think I was ill. Now that I have hair extensions, I feel the least self-conscious I have in years. But not feeling self-conscious isn’t the same as feeling self-confident.

The truth though is that most people are so focused on their own issues they are unlikely to really be paying attention to my appearance. And as long as my sense of myself is defined by others and what they may or may not be thinking about me, I won’t be able to either project or feel confidence because real self-confidence comes from the inside.

It doesn’t matter whether I have hair loss, bad skin or any other body image issue: all are linked to the same central theme. If I feel broken on the inside I assume it shows on the outside. Fixing how I feel about myself is what really matters – the rest is just window dressing. Conquer that and who knows – I may even make it onto TV…or at least reveal my face on this blog!

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Beating the system: covering up hair loss

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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!