MY FIRST QUESTION ABOUT HAIR SYSTEMS WAS: “WHAT’S THAT HIGHLIGHTER DOING ON MY HEAD?”
As mentioned in Part 1 of this article, I recently spent five weeks wearing a hair system in order to better understand the experience of “wearing hair.” Earlier, I wrote about how the hair system affected my emotions and sense of self. Now I want to get into the physical aspect of wearing hair.
Clearly, every person who wears a hair system is going to have a different experience, depending on how much hair he has, what kind of system he’s wearing, what look he’s after and so forth. But what follows describes my own experience.
Because my balding involves a receding hairline and thinning hair rather than a considerable amount of “pure skin” balding, it was necessary to shave away a portion of my hair: what amounted to roughly a 2.5-inch strip running from my hairline to my crown. (The hair that surrounds it is on the full side, so that when I looked in the mirror after the shaving, it appeared as if I were sporting a reverse Mohawk.)
Prior to shaving, my stylist, Chong of MHN Studio, a upscale Manhattan hair replacement clinic, took a yellow highlighter and, using my hairpiece as a guide, “dotted” out a map on my head so that she would know where to shave. Having never had a wide felt tip marker scramble around my head before, I have to say: Those suckers feel weird on the scalp.
They feel weird, but they’re not as cold as the steel of the electric razor as it goes after those stubborn follicles. Still, I didn’t particularly mind the coldness of the razor because the rest of me was mighty warm. I was wearing a waterproof robe — a leftover from having had my hair washed before I was sent to Chong — and on top of that, a barber’s sheet. My body temperature is naturally high, and the combination of my own internal heat and these additional layers of covering meant that I was sweating up a storm.
I’m used to perspiring, so I didn’t particularly give this much thought, but it caused Chong some trouble. You see, my hair system was being attached using a strong adhesive that would last for several weeks, but in order for the adhesive to work properly, it needed to dry. With my pores sending out little streams, it took a while for the adhesive to create the proper bond. After a couple of applications, however, my scalp cooperated and the system was properly and securely attached. (I did have occasion to worry the next day when my head began sweating and I noticed that my sweat was white and sticky, just like the adhesive. Fortunately, enough bonding had taken place that my system stayed firmly attached.)
I must say I looked pretty sensational when I got out of Chong’s chair. Mind you, I continued to look pretty darn good throughout my five-week experience, but my ability with a blow-dryer and a brush is miniscule compared with that of Chong.
Hair systems: How do they feel?
How did it feel to have a hair system on my head, though? Surprisingly, it felt fine. My worries that I would be scratching all the time or that I would constantly be aware that there was something “not a part of me” on top of my head were completely unfounded. Yes, my scalp did itch occasionally, especially when the hair first started growing in again; but it wasn’t anything to write home about. And the only time that my system actually felt strange was when I was brushing my hair — there’s a noticeable and odd difference in the way that the brush feels when it’s in “personal” hair versus when it’s in “system” hair.
MHN creative director Flora Fuentes recommends that clients come in after two weeks for a checkup. This gives her the opportunity to see if there are any changes that need to be made and to address any issues that may have come up since the application of the hair system. Because of an unforeseen personal conflict, I had to postpone my checkup for a full week. As a result, the day when I finally went in, my system began coming loose from the back. Thus I spent the day spending a little more time making sure I didn’t bend too far over or let the wind sneak up behind me; had I gone in for my checkup as originally scheduled, that wouldn’t have been an issue.
Also, I had learned my lesson: I dispensed with the extra layers of protection on my second visit so that my scalp didn’t sweat quite so much and the bonding could occur more easily the second time around.
Hair systems require small lifestyle adjustments
It was surprising how few physical changes I had to make when wearing hair. I couldn’t go swimming for 24 hours after first getting the system, but after that I swam as often as I wanted and never had to worry about diving into a pool and having my hair float to the surface before I did. After a shower, I needed to “blot” my hair dry rather than roughly tousling it, but that was no problem. And although I was wary of any babies getting their hands on it and pulling hard, my system probably would have stayed on — and might have hurt less than having my real hair pulled with such force.
I didn’t expect to make major lifestyle changes in order to wear hair, but it was a pleasant surprise to learn how small were the accommodations I did need to make. A little scratching or a little extra care with the towel is really nothing to complain about.