health and happiness with hair extensions
“A woman’s hair is her crowning glory, a symbol of
fertility and health” -- these are the passionate words
of Lucinda Ellery, a hair extension therapist now working for
the state funded National Health Service in the United Kingdom.
Herself a hair loss sufferer, Ellery, 50, runs a hair loss treatment
studio in Hammersmith, West London, that receives funding from
a variety of primary care trusts throughout the UK to provide
free hair extensions to patients suffering the emotional trauma
associated with hair loss.
The number of younger women going bald is on the rise – although
exact causes are unknown, the growing number of cases is thought
to be related to increased levels of stress among modern women
juggling family and professional responsibilities.
Thirty thousand women a year in Europe – an estimated 2,250
of them in Britain (double the number of a decade ago!) – suffer
from alopecia, or premature baldness; the number of those suffering
significant hair loss reaches the millions.
Elizabeth Steel, who heads Hairline International, a society
for alopecia sufferers, cites a variety of likely causes, including
hectic lifestyles, crash dieting, iron deficiencies and the overall
depletion of the body’s resources that is associated with
high levels of stress. Alopecia can also be triggered by certain
birth control pills or by an overactive immune system.
Frequently a source of shame and emotional trauma, stress-related
hair loss is not a new phenomenon but most women have suffered
it in silence, the problem trivialized by ignorant doctors. Princess
Caroline of Monaco famously shaved her head in 1995 after suffering
significant hair loss, possibly from the stress of her husband’s
tragic death in a speedboat accident. Now women in the UK can
receive NHS-supported recognition and treatment as well.
Unlike wigs, Ellery’s hair extensions are woven into a
gauze mesh that is fixed to the scalp and can be brushed and styled
as if they were the patient’s real hair. The extensions
need to be replaced every three months. Ellery, who lost two-thirds
of her hair after her father died when she was 10, said that she
treats approximately one NHS patient a week with extensions that
can cost anywhere from £320 to £500.
“It means that women who might not have the money can at
last be treated properly,” she said. The Lucinda Ellery
studio also treats cancer patients who have lost their hair through
chemotherapy and women who suffer from impulsive hair pulling,
or trichotillomania. Earlier this year the pop singer Victoria
Beckham, believed to be suffering from trichotillomania, had hair
extensions put in.
Patients credit Ellery’s treatment with completely transforming
their lives. Catherine Wallace, a 40-year old therapist from Scarborough,
North Yorkshire who lost much of her hair over 20 years, says “I
now live a normal life. It’s essential that this treatment
exists on the NHS, because there are so many girls out there living
half a life. Your hair is part of your sexuality and your glamour.
Without it you can feel like your whole world has come apart.”
Not everyone agrees, however, with the NHS support of Ellery’s
saving treatment. One doctor, who refused to be named, questions
the legitimacy of links between hair loss and emotional distress. “I
don’t object to women getting treated for a genuine illness,
but I do worry that this will end up with women who simply want
to have nicer hair claiming they’re experiencing emotional
trauma. After all, we already have people getting boob jobs on
the health service.”