Managing Hair Loss During Cancer or Chemotherapy Treatments: An Interview with Danielle Yates

Our founder, Danielle Yates, was recently interviewed for a national magazine. The reporter's questions were so great, we are including a few excerpts below:

 

Q: When selecting a hat, cap or scarf, what should a woman keep in mind in terms of comfort, coverage and style?

A: Many women who are experiencing hair loss for the first time have never worn a hat before. With this in mind, shopping for a hat during hair loss can initially feel overwhelming. The good news is that most often, this initial apprehension is quickly replaced with a feeling of excitement and anticipation once she discovers the wide range of available options and begins to see the experience as a whole new way of expressing herself. When shopping for headwear, full head coverage is the first thing to consider. The objective is to cover the areas of the scalp where hair normally grows. Headwear that extends all the way to the nape of the neck, and around the entire hair line in the front will be the best in terms of providing the desired amount of coverage. Full coverage headwear not only disguises the hair loss, it also provides an emotional sense of security and the feeling of replacing that which has been lost. Natural fibers are desirable because they allow the head to breathe. Most will adapt to a wide variety of climates, meaning that they will feel cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Soft, smooth fabrics will feel the best on a bald scalp, but many women love to experiment with softly textured items that add a unique style element. Look for head coverings that have minimal seams with a comfortable lining as the scalp can be more sensitive without the protection of hair. Designs that offer some degree of volume to the crown or back of the head are going to give the illusion of hair underneath, which is so often desired by women with hair loss. In terms of style, every woman is different. There are so many countless options that it's truly a matter of discovering what you like and what works best for you.

 

Q: What is your advice to a woman who decides to purchase a wig online? What should she look for in a wig?

A: My first advice would be to plan ahead. Being prepared for hair loss can give you back a feeling of control and makes the process less traumatic. As soon as your doctor tells you that you may experience hair loss with your treatments, you should begin planning. You will want to cut a hair swatch that includes a representative sample of your hair color for safe keeping. This will make matching your hair color much easier later. Begin shopping and purchase your wig as soon as you possibly can. Your first step in selecting a wig is to determine your head size. Most women will wear an average cap, but there are also petite or large cap options. You will want to measure your head. We have many videos and tutorials available on our website to help you though this process. Another rule of thumb is that if you find that most hats are too big or too small when you put them on, this is another hint that you may fall outside of the average range.

Next, you will want to select the type of hair fiber you desire. The most popular choices are synthetic hair or real human hair. Each type of hair has it's own set of pros and cons. Many cancer patients come to us insisting that they want a human hair wig because they want the most natural look possible. We then show them a human hair wig and a synthetic wig and ask them to tell us which one is which. It's very difficult for them to tell the difference. A high quality synthetic wig is incredibly natural looking. It's amazing how far they've come. The key is to select a high quality product. We encourage our cancer patients to select a synthetic wig because they are so easy to care for. They maintain their shape and require minimal styling or skill. You can virtually just shake it, put it on and go. Many women in treatments find that the last thing they want to concern themselves with is spending hours maintaining a human hair wig, especially when they aren't feeling well. Another benefit to synthetic wigs is that they are much more affordable.

Women will want to educate themselves on the types of wig caps that are available in order to make an informed decision. Traditional caps are made by machine and feature wefted rows of hair that are sewn together and teased at the root to disguise the cap underneath. A quality machine made cap can look very natural. Monofilament and hand tied caps feature hair that is individually hand tied to a soft mesh base. This is the more expensive option, but it is also the most natural looking and provides the most styling options. Once a woman has determined the size, hair type and cap type, choosing a style is an important next step. For women who had long hair before hair loss, it is often best to go a bit shorter with the wig length, as it will be easier to manage. From layers, to shags, to bobs, there are so many choices!

When shopping online, women should be sure to look for the measurements given for the lengths of the strands of each wig. These measurements will give the wearer a good idea of where the strands will fall on their particular frame. Each wig comes in a multitude of colors. Selecting a color is the final step and is often the most difficult. However, we have been assisting cancer patients online for over 20 years and we have many tricks up our sleeve to determine the best color. Sending in a hair swatch is the best way to get an accurate match. We encourage our customers to take advantage of our expert wig consultation services so that we can assist them through this process. Here is a link to our wig buying guide for even more detailed information about selecting a wig online: http://www.headcovers.com/buy-wigs/

 

Q: Should she buy more than one wig? If so, why?

A: Many wig shops will tell you that you need one wig to wash and another to wear. This is a great selling tool for them, but we actually discourage our customers from buying more than one wig upfront. It's important to see how your wig works for you before you purchase another one. Once you decide that you like it, it is up to your discretion if you choose to purchase another to rotate. Another reason to wait is that some women find that they don't wear their wig at all. Still others only wear them for special occasions. Some of our customers end up abandoning their wig and choose to exclusively wear hats and turbans instead. Everyone is different, so it's important to figure out what works best for you before you spend money needlessly. We recommend having one wig on hand before hair loss begins and then giving yourself time to decide what works best for you before deciding to purchase another. Women who decide that they enjoy wearing wigs will often find that it can be fun to have multiple style and color selections. Having fun with hair styles can be a bright spot in a sad situation when faced with hair loss. This of course is a matter of personal preference.

  

Q: What should women who've never worn wigs know about them with respect to features and accessories to keep them in place, styling, trimming, etc.?

A: Synthetic wigs come pre-styled, but can always be cut or trimmed by a professional stylist who is experienced in cutting wigs. One of the most important things to know is that synthetic wigs should not be exposed to sources of heat, such as your oven or barbecue, heated styling tools (such as a curling iron or hair dryer) or any other source of heat. Heat will singe the hair fibers causing irreversible damage to your wig. Synthetic wigs should be cared for with products designed specifically for synthetic wigs. Using your regular hair care products on your synthetic wig will cause build up on the wig, making it appear dull and shortening its life span. Another point to remember is that you should not brush or comb your wig while it is wet. This will stretch the hair fibers and damage the hairpiece. Only use a brush or comb that is specifically designed for wigs as regular hair brushes can be harsh or damaging. Washing a wig is recommended every 6-8 wearings for maximum life span.Most wigs can be styled simply with your fingers and a spray bottle of water. However, using wig combs or specially made wig styling mousse can come in handy when trying to achieve a certain look. When you are not wearing you wig, keep your wig stored on a wig stand or other "makeshift" item (such as a can of hairspray covered in a towel). This will help it hold its style and shape.

Women should keep in mind that wearing a wig can be a fun way to gain confidence when experiencing hair loss. There are many wigs available in many colors and styles, giving every woman the opportunity to find just the right one. Wigs come pre-styled, but can always be cut or trimmed by a professional stylist who is experienced in cutting wigs. Most wigs can be styled simply with your fingers and a spray bottle of water. However, using wig combs or specially made wig styling mousse can come in handy when trying to achieve a certain look. When not wearing you wig, keep your wig stored on a wig stand or other "makeshift" item (such as a can of hairspray). This will help it hold its style and shape. We offer an array of accessories to help provide comfort and ease of wearing. While none are necessary, many women find that items such as wig caps, gel cushion headbands, or wig adhesive, help them feel more comfortable and confident when wearing a wig. Wig caps are made to protect the scalp from the underside of the wig cap can can provide a soothing barrier between a bald head and the wig. They can also absorb sweat. Gel cushion headbands can be worn underneath wigs to relieve pressure and add padding, making a wig more comfortable. Most of all, women should keep in mind that wearing a wig can be a fun way to gain confidence when experiencing hair loss. There are many wigs available in many colors and styles, giving every woman the opportunity to find just the right one.


 Q: When a woman buys a wig, will she need a wig liner? If so, will she need more than one? What is the purpose of a wig liner?

There are many different types of wig liners, caps, and grips available. Which one to choose all depends on personal preference and the fit of the wig. Some women even find that no liner is necessary. However, if a particular wig seems uncomfortable, or the fit is not right, there is often a solution to be found in the way of a wig accessory. Mesh wig caps are probably the most basic type of wig cap. They offer a barrier between the scalp and the wig, but are very thin. These are often used by women who still have some hair that simply want to keep it out of the way when wearing a wig. A cotton wig cap is a very popular option for women who need more protection between their scalp and the inside of their wig. They're soft and comfortable and can also help absorb sweat and moisture under your wig. They are easily washed when needed. A wig gripper is a band of velour fabric that helps to keep a wig in place. It prevents slipping and gives a bit of padding to secure looser wigs. It also provides a comfortable barrier between the scalp and the interior of the wig. Cushion Gel headbands are a great way to help relieve pressure that a wig may place on the scalp. They keep the wig secure and provide comfort. They're lightweight and durable and clean easily with disinfectant. They're non-allergenic and designed to help prevent pressure sores.


Q: As an alternative to hats and wigs, what should I look for in a scarf? Why might a woman want to have a scarf or two on hand, even if it's just to wear at home?

A: I love scarves for their versatility. Scarves are often a great way to extend your creative energy and express yourself, just as you would with your hairdo. There are many types of scarves including flat squares, rectangles (or oblong scarves), triangle shaped scarves and pre-tied scarves. Square scarves are usually the most popular and the easiest to work with. They can be tied to provide total head coverage, and if large enough will offer some length to hang down the back of the neck or on the side, much like a ponytail. Yet, they can also be tied to look like a turban, an elegant bun, a flapper look with rosette, and many other ways. Tying a square scarf is not as complicated as it looks. Women should not feel intimidated.

Oblong scarves offer more fabric, allowing you to tie them to create the look of an intricate head wrap or turban. Multiple scarves can even be used at the same time, creating truly unique and one of a kind head wraps. They are great for using with accessories, such as broaches. However, rectangular scarves usually take more time to tie and have more of a learning curve than square scarves. One of the greatest benefits to a square or rectangular scarf is that you can tie it to fit your head perfectly. For women with a very large or very small head, scarves are often the best option. The right scarf truly is "one size fits all" and completely adjustable. Another benefit is that square and rectangular scarves are easily used for other purposes once treatments are finished and your hair grows back.

Triangle scarves are the easiest to tie, although they don't offer as much versatility in the types of finishing knots and bows you can make.Triangle shaped scarves in the right size will not be found in regular stores. This is an option we actually developed a few years back to make scarf tying easier for our customers.

Pre-tied scarves have become a desirable option in recent years. They are quick and easy to put on because they include a pre-formed cap with a tie or elastic in back. When they're on, they give the look of an intricately tied scarf, but without the work. Some pre-tied scarves require no tying at all, while others simply require tying a simple knot or bow in the back. They're a great choice for women on the go, those suffering from motor difficulties, or women who simply aren't good at tying flat scarves.

We generally recommend scarves made from natural fibers such as cotton, silk and bamboo. These will allow your head to breathe. Natural fabrics also adapt to the weather, keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Having a scarf on hand is often desirable because they offer a great deal of versatility. They can be worn dressed up or dressed down, in various types of weather, and can be adjusted to create a custom fit.


Q: What headwear options are available for sleep, offering warmth and comfort? What do you recommend?

Aside from a wig, the first thing we recommend is a soft sleep cap. They will be needed for hospital stays, treatments, and of course for every night sleeping. One unexpected result of hair loss is that much of your body heat is lost through the head. Without the additional insulation of hair, it can get cold at night. A comfortable sleep cap can help keep warmth in during the night, resulting in a more restful sleep. It's an absolute essential for anyone experiencing hair loss. Fabric choices such as cotton, silk, satin, or bamboo are going to offer a soft feel that will also soothe the head and be lightweight. Fleece is another great option for providing warmth and softness. Try looking for a sleep cap that is seamless or has minimal seams, so that the scalp is not irritated when moving around at night. Avoid abrasive textures that could become irritating. Finding a sleep cap that is also fashionable is something else to keep in mind. Sleep caps can often double as daytime headwear, allowing you to stretch your dollar further. Having a sleep cap that you like the look of is also a way to help keep you feeling good about yourself, even at night.