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Company aims to help Black women dealing with hair loss amid pandemic and after

hair loss wigs
Posted at 3:10 PM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-29 15:58:47-04

Empty chairs at salons across the country filled up fast once the lockdowns were lifted, leaving hair replacement specialists like Patricia Wrixon busier than they've ever been.

For 30 years, she has helped women dealing with hair loss. She owns The Salon at 10 Newbury in Boston, Massachusetts.

"It gives them normalcy. That’s all women will talk about when they come in," Wrixon explained as she helped a client who had just come in.

In many ways, COVID-19 has made this salon busier than it was prior to the pandemic. Wrixon has seen an increase in the number of women looking to come in and change their hairstyles. She says the pandemic has given her clients the freedom to try something new without the worry of having to walk into work each day.

This year, though, she has noticed more women dealing with hair loss, some of it she says is just from the stress of the pandemic.

"No one knows what to do. They’re terrified they don’t know where it will stop. It’s stressful," she said.

About 30 million women in the United States are deal with some form of hair loss. Many times, hair loss is brought on by chemotherapy treatments needed to treat various types of cancer.

"For a woman, there’s always a second look; it’s not as acceptable," Wrixon explained about the clients she helps who are dealing with hair loss.

Many of the women who Wrixon treats are Black. Until recently, they didn't have a lot of options when it came to wigs that weren't made for white women. But that is where Dianne Austin and her sister, Pamela Shaddock, have come in in recent years.

The sisters are the founders of Coils to Locs. A few years ago, facing a cancer diagnosis herself, Austin realized there was a need for wigs being made specifically for Black women.

"I think it’s an unconscious bias and sort of a lack of understanding that there’s a different market out there," she explained.

Unable to find wigs made specifically for her hairstyle, Austin and her sister started making wigs themselves, ethnically-inspired wigs with curly, natural hair. The wigs are now being sold in hospitals all over the country and most are covered by insurance.

"Want to feel like you have some control over all of these things happening to you," Austin said about the business.

In the last 20 years, despite a universal drop in mortality rates, there's been a rise in the number of African American women diagnosed with cancer at an almost 42 percent higher rate than that of white women, making these wigs even more important.

"There are patients who oftentimes will not take chemotherapy because they’re afraid of losing their hair," Austin explained.

As for stylist Wrixon, she no longer must alter wigs for her Black clients. Instead, they now have dozens of choices to pick from.

"You’re just not hung up and held back by some of the things you were held back on," she said.

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