Three weeks ago I shaved my head. I didn’t do it to make a style statement or to make any other statement. I have Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia which causes progressive hair loss of the frontotemporal hairline. In simple terms, I’m losing the front section of my hair. FAA effects postmenopausal women between the ages of 40 and 80 years old (I’m 53). The condition is irreversible, but may stabilize after a few years.
I first noticed my thinning hair last year during a vacation in Italy. My hairline looked different to me one morning. It was slightly sparse in sections, and I could see my scalp. I threw a headband on, enjoyed the rest of my trip and made a doctor’s appointment for when I returned home. Over the next six months, I saw various doctors and took a multitude of tests. Finally, a scalp biopsy revealed that I had FAA.
What to do next?
The recommended treatment for FAA was a mixture of medications. Oral & topical steroids, topical minoxidil, oral finasteride and possibly oral prednisone. Reading the side effects of some of these medications stopped me in my tracks. All of the tests I had undergone determined that my body was healthy. I’d been diagnosed with a hair loss condition, not a major health problem. I couldn’t justify starting medications that might trigger other medical issues. Also, there was no guarantee that my hair would grow back or that any new hair growth wouldn’t eventually fall out. I had to make a choice. Take the medications and hope they work or do nothing.
I chose to do nothing. I didn’t want to take chances with my health. However, I still had figure out how to be out and about in the world and feel comfortable. It was time to consider my options.
Keeping my hair short and wearing hats, scarves and headbands.
Since FAA only affects the front of your hairline, this was my first choice. Hats and scarves are fun, but I quickly grew tired of them. Headbands were bothersome. At times they felt too tight, or just didn’t look right with what I was wearing. And forget about dealing with them in a moment of passion. Need I say more?
Hair powders, fibers, and concealers, oh my!
These products are genius. They instantly filled in the thin areas on my scalp. The combination of hair powders and hairspray worked well unless it was a windy day. The wind wasn’t my friend, and it would quickly turn into a hat day. I also grew tired of waking up with espresso brown streaks on my pillowcases (that was my hair powder color at the time).
I spent most of my dance career wearing wigs. I wore them to protect my hair from damaging heat and hair products. I love a good, well-made wig. It’s exciting to switch things up now and then. I decided to purchase few, which were fun to wear now and then. But honestly, I get too damn hot when I wear them. Sweat dripping down my face isn’t cute. Especially if I’m not at the gym working out when it happens. Wigs are an option when I want to get my inner Rapunzel on, but I can’t wear them every day.
So now what?
These were all good options for me, but not all the time. There were days I felt more stressed out managing the situation than dealing with the hair loss itself. Spending an hour or more a day trying to get my hair together wasn’t working for me. I have better things to do with my time. So I decided to shave my hair off.
It wasn’t a rash decision; I thought about it for some months. As I began to embrace the idea, I googled information about women with alopecia, women shaving their hair and close-cropped hairstyles. In my search, I read inspiring stories, found great hairstyles and discovered strange links for women with shaved heads. I bombarded my dear friend and stylist Royce Mitchell with photographs, and we came up with a plan.
The morning of my hair appointment, I couldn’t get to the Marco Pelusi Salon in West Hollywood fast enough. I was ready to let go of my hair and get on with life. A few days before, I told a group of friends my plan. The reaction was mixed ranging from excitement to being completely perplexed and emotional. Their responses only confirmed my decision to move forward. At this point in my life, I honestly don’t care what other people think. Shaving my hair was about feeling comfortable and happy with myself.
The first swipe of the razor tickled.
My first shampoo with a shaved head was heavenly. It was the ultimate scalp massage.
The entire experience was liberating.
Three weeks later, I’m still thrilled with my choice. I love that it takes very little time to get ready in the morning or to go out at night. I have a renewed love for earrings (maybe I’ll design a new collection, it’s been a while). Best of all, my daughter Nina loves it. She encouraged me to do it six months ago.
The response to my new look has been positive and supportive. It’s freeing and empowering because there’s nothing to hide behind. I have a saying for when life throws you a new situation. “You are where you’re at, start from there.” This is where I’m at. It’s my new normal, and I love it.