Hair

Genetically I was never going to have lovely, thick, luscious locks.  My Dad has naturally wavy, very fine hair (at least he did until he lost most of it in his twenties) and my Mum’s hair is pitifully thin (I feel cheated, as all 6 of her siblings have really thick hair and so do all their offspring.  My Mum is the only one to show any signs of Ehlers-Danlos too – maybe she’s the milkman’s 😉 ).

In my early twenties my hair was shoulder length.  It took a lot of looking after.  I could never, ever just get up, brush it, stick it in a pony tail and walk out the door.  It was so fine I always woke with it plastered to my head and had to either wash or wet it every day, apply mousse and blow-dry it to get it looking respectable enough to leave the house.  When M.E. hit I couldn’t even sit upright, let alone blow-dry my hair, so I had to have it cut über short.  Even this didn’t negate the blow-drying ritual, however, as I still woke with it plastered to my head, but at least it only took 5 minutes to dry with my fingers rather than twenty minutes winding it round a hair brush.  Styling was reserved for very special occasions though as the effort involved in doing my hair made me feel horrendously ill – 99% of the time I went round looking like I’d just got out of bed (which I usually had!).

During my forties I’ve gone from having fine hair to having alopecia (at least I think it would be classed as alopecia – I’ve never bothered to have the situation formally investigated).  All the mousse and blow-drying in the world now doesn’t make much difference and you can see my scalp all over my head.  As I use a mobility scooter I’ve actually had people ask me if I have cancer and am having chemo, which doesn’t do much for my self-confidence.  It had gotten to the stage where I wore hats whenever I left the house: beanies for winter and bandanas for summer.  I felt like Elton John pre hair-transplant.

My solution was to buy a wig and it has revolutionized my life (apologies for blurring my face but you never know who’s going to Google your image and illegally download it for Lord knows what purpose!).  Wigs are so realistic these days you’d be amazed.  I told everyone that I’d had hair extensions (to any of my friends reading this that I’ve lied to, I apologise – please don’t spill the beans!) because extensions are totally normal and acceptable these days, whereas there is still a huge stigma attached to wearing a wig.  I felt more comfortable saying I had extensions, the lie had nothing to do with not trusting my friends.  No-one has rumbled my fib as far as I know, although I did need to look up what’s involved in having hair extensions so that I could answer all the questions from my nearest and dearest on what’s involved 😉 .

Initially I chose a very short wig which was similar to my own hair in terms of style and colour.  I wear it all day, even when alone in the house (just in case the neighbours pop round or someone comes to the door!), taking it off around 7pm at night.  I can slap it on in under 30 seconds (although it takes a few minutes to secure it properly) and, once I’d gotten used to it and gone through the inevitable “have you done something different to your hair?” questions from everyone I met, I felt so much more confident and attractive.

There are downsides.  Some wigs are cheap and nasty and look every inch artificial.  The wigs I use are from the Raquel Welch collection which are mid-range price-wise but well made and look very natural.  I initially found my wigs made my head itch like a son-of-a-bitch but this settled down by wearing a wig cap underneath and by washing the wig every week (you have to buy special synthetic hair shampoo), although the first thing I do when I take my wig off in the evening is have a good old scratch of my noggin, bliss!  No matter how well they fit (they all come with adjustable straps) they can and do move about, so I’ve found using a bit of toupe tape at the front and some hair grips at the back essential.  They don’t last forever (my first one went baggy and too big after 5 months of continual wear) so you do have to replace them regularly (at about £100 per wig it’s no dearer than going for a regular colour and cut at the hairdressers though).

Wearing a wig is like wearing a tight hat all day long and takes some getting used to.  It’s not for the frivolous or faint of heart and I don’t think you would choose to use a wig unless you really had to.

Saying all that, one of the biggest upsides is that I no longer need to colour my own hair, which for someone with chemical sensitivities and mast cell issues is a huge weight off my mind.  I can also go out in all weathers and my hair looks permanently perfect 😉 .  I’ve recently gone from a pixie cut to a longer, bob length wig.  I was all excited about having longer hair after donkeys years of having it short, but to be honest it’s been a pain in the rear!  I’d forgotten long hair gets in your way when you’re eating or cleaning your teeth, needs constant brushing to get rid of tangles and I think the style makes me look older rather than younger!  So, bizarrely, I’m going back to a shorter, funkier, wig as soon as I can afford one.

Wigs come in a range of sizes, though “average” seems to fit most people (I have a child-sized head but get away with the average size in most wigs), and a range of colours from grey through to white blonde.  Prices usually start at around £50 ($80) although my wigs have both cost around £110 ($180).  I sent for 4 different ones online so that I could try various styles – make sure you choose a shop which allows returns and refunds – and you will also need wig shampoo, conditioner, comb or brush and some wig caps (I haven’t bothered with a wig stand, as I have big round bed knobs and just hang my wig on there overnight!).  Some wigs can be heat-treated so that you can vary the style using curling tongs or straighteners, and some of the more expensive wigs have lace fronts so that you can wear your fringe (bangs) off your face and up in a ponytail 🙂  For anyone who finds their hair is thinning through either age or illness, or has problems with chemical colourants, give a wig a bash – you might be surprised by the results.

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12 thoughts on “Hair

  1. POTSNJ

    I had nice, thick (big in the 80’s) hair, but when I became ill in the late 1990’s, my hair started to fall out and thin. I still have hair, but it’s not what it was. I have an ME/CFS diagnosis, POTS and possible EDS. I’ve been amazed to learn how common hair loss is among women with POTS (not sure about the other illnesses). I wonder what does it? Your wigs look really nice. I never would have known these were wigs if you hadn’t told us. 🙂

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    1. bertieandme Post author

      Sorry to hear about your hair loss, it can be really distressing. Hair loss and thinning is also really common amongst the mast cell population and of course occurs in some healthy women as they approach and go through Menopause. I don’t think anyone has looked at what’s going on, so the cause would just be speculation. I’d guess that reduced blood flow to the head in POTS won’t be helping the situation and neither will all the inflammation involved in MCAD. Glad you think the wigs look nice – they can be a bit of a pain to wear but my vanity likes them lol! x

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      1. POTSNJ

        Could be menopause related in some, but I became ill and started losing hair in my mid 20’s and a lot of the ‘hair loss POTS people’ are also young. Your speculative causes make sense to me! I can appreciate vanity and anything that makes us feel prettier, happier, more like our old selves is a good thing. 🙂

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  2. kneillbc

    I must say, your wigs sound like a great idea! While I’ve all of my hair elsewhere, the hair on my head is still there. I can see where having a wig would make getting ready for the day much easier- you can do your hair separate from your shower. I must admit- 99% of the time! the hair just doesn’t get ‘done’. It’s no fun to do anymore anyhow- it’s exhausting, and I haven’t got a single ‘product’ I can use! Heck, I use a pure glycerin soap bar on my hair as shampoo… Your hair looks really great- and it must feel good when heading out the door that you look ‘put together’, as my mom used to say.

    I currently have a working diagnosis of ‘mast cell disease’- which is a huge leap forward from several weeks ago. I’ve been in hospital, as I hit the point where I could not eat a thing without getting either a partial or full anaphylactic reaction. But, I digress. Hair. The hair on my head has gone from straight- the kind of straight that won’t even hold a curling iron- to distinctly wavy, if not curly. It’s so odd! Again, I wonder why. I’ve heard of people with mast cell problems loosing their hair, but do you know if many others have huge changes in the texture of their hair? As I’ve gotten older, my hair has gone from blonde to dark blond to light brown to brown. (Each child and each decade seem to make it a shade darker.) Hair is so tied to our identity- it’s one of the main things we use to describe people. I’m no longer the medium height, overweight woman with straight, blonde hair, I now have wavy brown hair! Most of my friends and colleagues haven’t seen me since I got sick, so when they do, they assume I either used to do something to my hair, or I’ve started to- usually the former! “Oh, you’ve let your highlights grow out, and you’re not straightening it anymore! It must be so frustrating to not be able to go to the salon!” I think it’s pretty funny! I kind of like the wavy, but I might go a touch lighter again one day. Or maybe I’ll just wait until it goes grey! (I hope the grey is wavy :-))

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    1. bertieandme Post author

      Glad you’ve got a working diagnosis and hope you can find some treatments which help 🙂

      I’ve not heard of texture changes in MCAD, but it can cause just about everything else so I don’t see why not! I know menopause can cause texture changes but it doesn’t sound as if you’re old enough for that (I got my first grey hairs at 30 and now at 46 am half grey).

      I must admit, wearing a wig has done nothing for my personal hygiene. The only reason I bathed so regularly was to wash my hair, and now it’s not on show I don’t have to worry about it, so now I’m only having a bath once a week and even then I sometimes have to remind myself to bathe as I must be starting to hum 😉

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    1. bertieandme Post author

      OMG I can’t believe I missed this comment when you wrote it! I’m sooooo sorry for the delay in responding!!!

      What a wonderful thing to do for my little blog – thank you so so much 🙂 I have very little energy to follow and read other people’s blogs and not sure if I have 14 to recommend, but I’ll give it some thought this weekend when hopefully I’ve got more time.

      Huge thanks again for the nomination – it made my day 🙂 🙂

      Jak x

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  3. Julie

    On my bad days my hair is curly, the rarer good day its straighter. This reminds me of how my hair was when I was normal then with influenza, so there is definately some infammatory process at work. Thanks for discussing this because I think about this alot. Great blog. Its full of whys and what ifs and people helping each other and best of all not a troll in sight!

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    1. bertieandme Post author

      So pleased you’re liking the blog Julie and it’s true, I have some *fabulous* followers and readers 🙂 I don’t claim to have any answers and just write about my life really – I’m amazed anyone’s interested in reading my guff half the time lol!

      I had to take a deep breath to discuss my wig wearing online, as hardly anyone in my real life knows I wear a wig, but hair thinning seems to be quite common in the mast cell population and I wanted others to know they weren’t alone.

      Jak x

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  4. tanya lynn owens

    I have ehlers-danlos,scoliosis,snapping hip,degeneration disc disease and alopecia. My current doctors at East Carolina university believe that my scoliosis, snapping hip alopecia and everything is connected. Its hard to believe eds can effect so many things.

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    1. Jak Post author

      Hi Tanya

      Scoliosis (which I also have mildly), snapping hip and disc disease are absolultely part and parcel of Ehlers-Danlos. I put my alopecia down to the inflammation caused by my mast cell disease, as some of my mast cell friends also have thinning hair, but in truth no-one really knows what causes it. Jak x

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