Although facing serious medical issues at the time, the most visible sign of Deborah Wallace’s state of health was the frightening loss of her hair.
The Trotwood resident now owns 30 fashionable wigs that she considers essential accessories, but Wallace nonetheless feels self-conscious at times. For many women, hair is considered a sign of beauty and its disappearance can be understandably traumatic.
When Wallace, 59, approached her doctor with her hair-loss concerns in 1989, a biopsy was done on her scalp. A week later, she was diagnosed with lupus — a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood and kidneys.
Today, she turns to Shawon Brown-Gullette of Infinitee Salon & Spa in Dayton to design and fit her with hair systems that fill in the bald spots on her scalp and flatter her face.
Brown-Gullette, who is certified through the International Association of Trichologists, will present a seminar on hair loss at noon Saturday at the Dayton Women’s Fair.
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She is quick to point out the days of helmet-like wigs — uncomfortable and unnatural looking — are blessedly over. Gullette can design a hair piece that strategically fills in where there is hair loss on the scalp and match the color and texture of the client’s hair. Just as important, according to Gullette, is a hair system’s ability to restore a woman’s self-confidence.
Hair pieces, as well as hair transplants, are indeed viable options for women with hair loss, according to Dr. Julian Trevino, a dermatologist with Wright State Dermatology and chairman and associate professor of dermatology at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.
Types of hair loss
Brown-Gullette and Trevino say hair loss in women can occur for many reasons. It’s natural for women to lose 100 to 150 hairs a day, but when hair abundantly sheds or comes out in clumps it’s a good time to call in the experts.
They describe the different scalp disorders:
Female pattern baldness occurs when the follicles become sensitive to hormones, or androgens. The androgens send messages to the follicles to produce less hair. Trevino said the growing cycles are shortened while hair becomes thinner and finer.
Telogen effluvium is hair loss as the body responds to stress after a major accident, pregnancy or surgery. Handfuls of hair may come out when combing or washing your hair or it may fall out after gentle tugging. This type of hair loss usually causes overall hair thinning and not bald patches.
Other types of hair loss can be caused by such hair-care practices as chemical straightening or tight braids or ponytails, according to Brown-Gullette and Trevino.
Dermatologists and trichologists can examine the scalp to see why the hair loss is excessive. Brown-Gullette takes urine and saliva samples, which she sends to a medical lab, to find the underlying cause of alopecia — the medical term for hair loss. Trevino orders tests, which might range from a scalp biopsy to blood tests, to isolate the cause of hair loss.
Sometimes, it might be related to diabetes. Or a thyroid problem. Or certain medications. Sometimes stress and diet are major players in alopecia. And hormonal imbalances can trigger hair loss as well.
Brown-Gullette said overstraightening or overprocessing hair — and even using a shampoo that is too harsh–might be the root cause of alopecia.
Regardless, there are treatments for hair loss that can help women restore their sense of normalcy. In some cases the cure might be as simple as changing hair-care products and not braiding the hair.
Through testing, Brown-Gullette says she can recommend and provide herbal and vitamin supplements to help women get back to a healthy head of hair.
Wallace said she felt a huge sense of relief when the cause of her hair loss was diagnosed and she began wearing hair pieces.
Brown-Gullette keeps a box of tissue near her hair-system station in cases like Wallace’s. “They cry when I put it on — they feel happy.”
Contact this reporter at rmcmacken@DaytonDailyNews. com or (937) 225-0671.