Guests and Hair Loss: Are You Providing the Services They Need?
When a client sits in your chair and announces she will be losing her hair when she goes through chemotherapy, or that her hair is thinning to the point of baldness due to a medical condition, do you know how to help her? And do you know what her options are?
Two organizations, HairToStay and Back To You, are focusing on educating women going through chemotherapy or suffering other forms of hair loss. As beauty professionals, it’s important to be informed about what they’re doing so you can pass the information on to your clients.
Help Save Their Hair
When a woman diagnosed with cancer hears the word “chemotherapy,” her mind eventually goes to: Will I lose my hair?
Sadly, the answer is often “yes.” But it doesn’t always have to be anymore. New technology, called cold capping (or scalp cooling), is now available in over 400 hospitals across the country. This technology allows patients to wear a cold cap during certain kinds of chemo to cool the scalp, thus preventing hair loss. Chilling down the scalp constricts the blood vessels in the hair follicle, therefore exposing them to less chemo. The cold temperature also slows the rate of cellular metabolism, making the follicle less vulnerable to chemotherapy, which is targeting fast-growing cells.
Unfortunately, cold capping is not covered by most insurance, and it’s expensive. It’s also not widely known, so many patients never ask about it, simply because they don’t know it exists.
That’s where HairToStay plays a role. When the organization launched in 2016, the goal was to build a national subsidy program that could be supported by partnerships with both philanthropic and commercial organizations. To date, they’ve raised more than $2M and awarded subsidies to more than 1,500 patients nationally.
Debra Neill Baker, principal at Neill, knows from personal experience what it’s like to go through treatment, and what a difference cold capping can make.
“When I was fighting breast cancer, I experienced firsthand the emotional ties between a woman’s hair and her sense of self,” she says. “Losing your hair during chemo suddenly means losing control, your privacy, identity and well-being. I was one of the lucky ones, able to afford the new scalp cooling technology that saved my hair. But I kept thinking, what about the women who can’t?”
To help others receive cold capping, Neill has partnered with HairToStay to educate salons and clients.
“We’ve put together a toolkit for salons of everything you need to join the cause,” Neill Baker says.
Raising Funds In Your Salon
HairToStay Salon-a-Thons are open to salons across the U.S. and typically take place during May for Mother’s Day and in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Participating salons can download and print free collateral here.
Salons are also free to hold cut-a-thons or other fundraisers throughout the year on their own. HairToStay recommends the following ideas and works with each salon to tailor a program to suit the business and location.
- Host a cut-a-thon
- Donate the proceeds from a day of service and/or product sales
- Donate tips from the day
- Donate proceeds for a particular product or product line
- Pledge a percentage of service and/or product sales for a period of time
For every $1,000 raised, one patient gets a grant to assist with the cost of scalp cooling. Imagine if 100 salons across the country each raised $2,000. It may seem like a small amount, but it can make a huge difference in the lives of many women fighting cancer.
To learn more, visit hairtostay.org.
Finding Wigs: There IS A Better Way
But what about the guest who has already lost—or is soon losing—her hair?
Harry Wood, stylist and educator for Van Michael Salons in Atlanta, created Back To You a year ago when he realized how underserved clients with hair loss are. Along with founding member Josie Berry, a 25-year veteran in the insurance field, they decided to create a solution.
“I got tired of my clients coming in and saying they had been diagnosed with cancer and are going to lose their hair, and not having an in-salon solution,” he says.
“When I educate for Back To You, I always ask stylists if they have had a client with hair loss, and 95 percent of the room raises their hands,” he says. “When I follow up and ask how many of them can provide a solution on the spot, about 10 percent of the room says they could refer the client to a wig shop. They knew they could cut a wig but didn’t know how to provide a solution.”
Experienced Stylists: The Ideal Wig Consultants
Back To You has created a solution for clients, stylists and owners. Via backtoyou.org, stylists can sign up to be part of the Back To You network. The ideal stylist has five years’ experience and is empathetic and understanding.
Once they’ve signed up, they complete training (private training events are available for booking) and then get listed as a certified stylist in their area.
The stylist can then educate clients on wig/hair piece options and get them set up with their new hair within a day or two.
To educate clients, Back To You pamphlets and literature are distributed in hospitals, oncology centers, fusion clinics, etc. The client can go to the website and find a stylist in her area.
“We help facilitate relationships between the salon and the medical community,” Wood says. “Our goal is to bridge the gap between beauty and medicine.”
From Wig Selection to Fitting
Wood says when researching the wig process, he found getting a wig was a seven to 10-day experience for patients.
“We’ve gotten that process down to less than 24 hours,” he says. “And clients can choose a shipment method based on their urgency.”
Back To You educates stylists on customizing and fitting cranial prosthetics, how to do a consultation with a hair-loss client, and they provide the wigs and marketing.
“Our goal is also to get local doctors and hospitals to refer to stylists,” Wood says. “We have developed relationships with hospitals, so they send patients to us because we’re certified to work with people with medical hair loss.”
When a stylist and patient get connected, the stylist calls to get more details.
“We ask if a doctor has given a prescription for a cranial prosthetic, and if they’ve reached out to their insurance company,” Wood says. “Then we ask the client to send a photo of when she liked her hair best and what her hair looks like currently. If possible, we have the client come in to get measured and match her hair color.”
From there, Back To You works with the stylist to ensure the proper wig is chosen.
“We work with the stylist to put options together for the client in the low, middle and high-end price ranges,” Wood says. “Once we know what kind of coverage they’ll have from insurance, we decide what best suits them.”
When a client buys a wig, they receive a whole package that includes the wig, travel-sized products, a plastic travel stand, a canvas head block and clamp, and a bamboo cotton cap to wear at night.
The client pays Back To You, and submits a request to their insurance company for reimbursement (amount paid varies by insurance company).
Back To You pays a set fee to the salon, and the salon owner pays the stylist whatever her commission is.
“There’s no out-of-pocket expense for the salon,” Wood says. “And after that initial transaction for the wig package, the client belongs to the salon.”
So, when the wig needs shaping or coloring, the client continues to see the stylist. And in some cases, the client’s hair will grow back—and you’ve got yourself a faithful, regularly scheduled client.
A Deeper Connection with Clients
“As a stylist, the most important thing to me is that my client leaves my chair feeling happy and confident,” says Alison Smith, stylist at Paris Parker salon in New Orleans. “Having the opportunity to make them feel this way when they are struggling with any type of hair loss has been truly empowering. To make them feel like themselves again and give them one less thing to stress about is a service I never knew I would have the opportunity to offer,” she adds.
Stylists and owners can register with Back To You at backtoyou.org. Information on education and the evolution of the cause can also be found.
“Back To You provides a service for the guest dealing with cancer that has been overlooked, and training for the hairdressers who have felt helpless in supporting their guests,” Neill Baker says.
Wood sees Back To You as an opportunity to elevate the entire industry by teaching stylists how to be of service through their craft while simultaneously giving them an opportunity to gain new clients.
And he maintains it’s the place of the stylist—not a medical professional or wig shop employee—to take care of a patient’s hair.
“They don’t know hair—and with long-time clients, I’ve had situations where I’ve been cutting and coloring someone’s hair for 20 years,” he says. “Nobody else knows that person’s hair like I do. It’s the place of the stylist to continue taking care of the client—no one else.”
To learn more about Back To You, visit backtoyou.org.