Finding Out What Works for Women With Alopecia Areata




“My message to women with Alopecia is, ‘Get in the driver’s seat. YOU decide how you want to feel. YOU decide how you want to look. You decide what makes you comfortable or uncomfortable.’”

So says Thea Chassin, founder of Bald Girls Do Lunch, a non-profit organization created for women suffering from Alopecia areata, an autoimmune skin disease which stops the normal growth of hair on the scalp, brows, lashes and body.

Part of Bald Girls Do Lunch’s mission is to enhance the self-esteem and self-confidence of women with Alopecia, a goal that is essential for all women with hair loss issues. Part of achieving that goal is learning to feel comfortable with the way you look with your hair loss and learning how to use make-up and accessories to create that comfort with your look.

Bald Girls Do Lunch

Chassin, who has had Alopecia areata since 1997, believes that having to really study your look after losing hair can actually present women with a great opportunity. “It can be a chance for women to enhance themselves in a way they may never have thought about before,” she says.
“When your image changes like this, you go through a transitional time of saying, ‘I don’t look like I did’,” she says, urging women to give themselves time, to try different things and to be experimental.

“Looking great and feeling great despite hair loss – that’s the key. No one should be telling you how to look or how to feel. Every woman deserves to have a completely normal, happy life.” — Thea Chassin, Founder, Bald Girls Do Lunch

Women should decide what their best features are and work on emphasizing those while taking a look at the total face and determining the colors, textures, proportions and accessories that should be combined for a total look.

Chassin, whose hair loss includes the eyebrows, says that she now has the eyebrows she always wanted, the arch that she never had, because she has learned how to draw them on herself, in the shape, placement and angle she desires.

Chassin is also a big proponent of what she calls “No Little Bandanas.”

Scarves, head wraps and hats

“I like to see women with Alopecia learn how to tie fashionable scarves and head wraps,” she says. “Because they’re beautiful, they can make a whole outfit.

“My favorite scarves are big squares, about 30 inches by 30 inches. I show people how to make buns out of them, how to wrap them fashionably, how to tie them sideways. There are so many options, colors and textures that they’re a whole other realm to excite women about.”

Without hair, your head is smaller, which can be a problem if you decide to wear a hat without a wig – and on hot days or a day at the beach, going without a wig is often the best option.

“I love hats, because I want to shade my face and not burn my scalp; but hats can be too roomy,” Chassin remarks. “Here’s where that scarf comes in. You can tie up a fashion scarf in a way that’s comfortable, it makes the hat fit better and it absorbs perspiration. You look great, you’re comfortable, and you’re not dealing with a wig.”

The versatility of scarves is also a plus, as one can be worn on the head one day, around the waist as a sash the next, or as a shawl on another day.

Alopecia, style and fashion

Necklines are also important. When bald, a lower neckline, a U neck or V neck, is usually flattering. “It elongates the neck, gives elegance to your whole line that you might not have with hair,” Chassin explains.

What if a woman feels her ears are too accentuated due to hair loss? Chassin suggests perhaps wearing a lightweight beret at an angle that covers one ear, with an interesting earring in the other. “No one is going to notice what’s going on with your ears,” she says. “They’ll see a nice beret, they’ll focus on your whole look.”

Appropriate makeup can also play a role in creating a look, especially given the quantum leaps that have been made in this area. Today’s best foundations no longer leave an orange, streaky look and can be applied over the entire head. Or you may want to consider a bronzer, which Chassin calls “a bald girl’s best friend.”

Wigs, of course, are one of the most popular options for women with hair loss. With wigs, you not only have to take into consideration the same factors you do with “real” hair – cut, color, etc. – but also the added difficulty of perhaps not having access to really talented stylists who know how to work with wigs. To overcome this limitation, Chassin recommends that women really educate themselves, find out what they need to look for in a wig and its design and understand what is best for their faces and shapes.

About.Com’s beauty section can help with this. Chassin says the site shows celebrity faces and hairdos and identifies what works or doesn’t and why or why not. “Find the faces and figures that are most like yours and see what works,” Chassin says.

Finally, don’t be afraid to get professional advice, especially from make-up artists; don’t let embarrassment keep you from getting valuable help.

Bald Girls Do Lunch®?, in collaboration with artists from Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, held a special event on March 1 in New York designed to help women with Alopecia learn about finding the appropriate look for a hair loss lifestyle. Chassin hopes to replicate this event in many locations.

“Looking great and feeling great despite hair loss – that’s the key,” Chassin says. “No one should be telling you how to look or how to feel. Every woman deserves to have a completely normal, happy life.”