ELDER MUSIC: Songs About Cities - Memphis
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – Part 3

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – Part 2

You can spend days on the interwebs and find not a single useful word about thinning hair. The only solutions that come close are from professionals who specialize in wigs for chemotherapy patients.

Obviously, that would work as well for people who have little or no hair for reasons other than cancer, but that isn't my problem nor that of most elder women. We still have a good deal of hair, just not enough of it in certain areas of our heads.

Nearly every website repeats the diseases and drugs that can cause hair loss which affects only a tiny minority of elder women. But that's all they know so the rest of their advice is snakeoil.

Nobody knows nothin' except selling expensive creams, lotions, potions, even electronic devices and occasional diets for regrowing hair that are all frauds.

Unwilling to jump directly to bald or wigs and unready to give up on my idea that perhaps somewhere there are hair stylists who have worked successfully with thinning hair, I persevered in other directions.

When I started this project, I expected that with my research skills, I would be able track down such people even if they were well hidden or unsung. I believed this because thinning hair is one of the most common problems of old women – 30 million of us – and it is the American way of business that when there is a need, particularly one that effects a large number of people, there are more than enough entrepreneurs eager to make millionaires of themselves by providing solutions – good, bad or indifferent as they may be.

But no. Here is a brief overview of my search and a few of the results. It is way too tedious to walk you through it all.

Professional Organizations: I contacted via phone and email several professional associations that represent hair stylists and salons. Of the ones I telephoned, all sent me to voice mail. Not one of them – from phone or email contact – ever responded, not even the ones that got both email and a phone call.

Professional Retailers: In a mini-brainstorm, I contacted Tish and Snooky, two sisters I know from New York City who, since 1977, have provided extreme, cutting-edge hair and cosmetic products mostly for young people via their Manic Panic stores and, since the internet came along, online too.

I wasn't looking for a blue or green hair dye (well, who knows - maybe later), but I suspected that they are well plugged in to the professional hair world and I was correct.

We had a nice Skype chat and as it turned out, they were heading for a hair products trade show that weekend and said they would see if anyone there was working on or specializing in thinning hair.

They found nothing except a couple of products that promise to regrow hair. More snakeoil.

Local Stylists: Because this is not an altruistic project - I need a remedy but I'm not willing to travel any farther than I can get to in about 30 minutes - I started calling and emailing hair stylists and salon owners in my immediate geographical area.

First I searched websites, read biographies, lists of services and paid close attention to customer reviews. I looked for stylists with at least 15 years experience and varieties of skills who owned or worked at shops that do not seem to cater to only 20-somethings.

After selecting about a dozen, I began emailing and telephoning. Not a single email was answered. Not one. I did learn that with hair salons – unlike their association representatives - you usually get a real person on the phone rather than a recorded message.

However, it was mostly downhill from there. Everyone said that of course, they could style for thinning hair but when I tried to pin them down, almost all said I should go with a short, layered (pixie) cut.

(Sorry, readers who think this is a wonderful solution. Enjoy it if it pleases you but I despised it in the 1960s (or was it 1950s?) and my opinion hasn't changed. I will go bald before I wear that. It's not who I am.)

As I moved through my list, one of the salon owners seemed to actually hear what I was saying so I made an appointment. Sitting in the chair facing the mirror, I did some show-and-tell with my exposed scalp, asked some questions and – wait for it - got the pixie cut speech.

I left. That cannot possibly be the only solution.

Of all the salon websites I visited, one – just one – had a “consultation” choice in their online appointment scheduler. A plus was no charge for it.

According to the website, the owner met my requirements of long experience with a variety of skills and most of all, I liked what the customers said.

Most online reviews of anything are useless. There is no way to know what “the best I ever had” means and few get beyond that. But in this case, several customers were specific leading me to believe that A: the service was outstanding enough to warrant detail and B: I might have found someone special. Some examples:

”Joseph had done research on styles for me...this was my first appointment with him. He listened to my needs, thoroughly examined my hair and opted to trust my experience with my stubborn mop.”
”He genuinely listens. And he has a great sense of humor.”

From a man:

”Although I don't have alot of hair left to work with (naturally), Joseph always makes me look professional and ready for work...He is a true artist.”

I scheduled a consultation. I'll tell you about it tomorrow with some photos.

I am reporting my odyssey so that if you want to follow my route where you live, you'll have a good idea of what it takes to find what you are looking for.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – Part 1
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow - Part 3

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: 1945


Genius researcher, communicator, cutter-to-the-chase: you. Love your integrity, and boundaries, e.g., no pixie cuts and nix to snake oil purveyors. I love how you sliced the narrative into three parts, adding to the suspense.

nice idea

One set of people who *might* have a clue could be women who cut hair under a barber license, rather than a hair salon license. They will have dealt with male anxieties and I've found they are a smart, resilient type. Long shot though.

That "pixie cut" interpretation varies a lot, too. I had short hair most of my life, and some cuts looked like they had been slashed up with dull kitchen shears at the county poor farm, and some were wonderful.

I am astounded at your perseverance as well as your success. You may not yet realize it, but you are far out in front of most of us.

Generally, after you pass 50, hair stylists stop even asking what you want. They also stop hearing you when you talk (like "leave some length on the bangs" or "no razors") You'll get the pixie du jour, like it or not.

With your specific requests and refusal to "settle" you deserve a great result-and we all hope you get it.

I admire your tenacity. Once you have decided on a course you never give up. I think you will eventually find a stylist who can help you.

I am waiting with baited breath for your solution.

Ah. I too have done the internet search and come up sadly empty. This is a great piece and I'm eager for the next installment...wondering what you find out about transplants. I don't mind sags and wrinkles and fat but I do hate my thinning hair.

This was very timely--my older sister who is visiting me was lamenting her (apparently inherited) thinning hair just yesterday. Your research, while not encouraging, is much appreciated.

I like the suggestion of the barber - we have a great woman barber in our town who cuts women's hair also. There would be some experience with thinning hair.

However, I have to say, having looked at any number of men who think their comb-overs hid the problem, a good cut, short although not necessarily "pixie" might actually be successful - a good cut lifts the hair and gives it body.

Not being especially helpful here, but a shortish do with layering in the back and NO BANGS works best for me. It's kind of a modified mullet.

"It's not who I am." I smiled gently when I read this. There is something deep, meaningful, and spiritual about the human attitudes to hair. It is who we are. Some of us cut it in our grief and mourning. Some of us rejoice and groom it and colour it for happiness. Has someone done a PhD in this?

I agree with Paula's after 50 assessment of what you get at the hairdressers. Short, shaggy or tidy, pixy cut de jour. Or worse yet, to me, an unasked for statement that "older" women should not have long hair at all. Finally found someone who just does what I ask, unless I ask for an opinion. Not surprisingly she's a friend. I keep it just long enough to scoop into a little pony tail located on my head where it collects the thicker hair to lie over the thinner area. Good enough for now. That's my current trick. I also took Ronni's advice and checked with my MD who tells that metformin, which I take for type 2 diabetes causes some hair loss in about 40% of people who take it. Uh oh. Better the veggies harders, and go back to the gym and see if I can get off that med, it also can cause kidney stones which have been a problem since I started it. Makes me tired thinking about it though.

Oops, meant hit the veggies harder, diet. Sorry.

I have fine hair that is thinning at the crown. A chin-length layered bob is a cut that works for me. (If you google "hair styles for women with thinning hair" you'll get some examples.) I also use a styling gel that adds thickness. It took me many bought and discarded products before I found one that works. I can't promote the name of it here, but try googling "short sexy hair gel" and see what comes up.

Another option: do an internet search for "hair pieces for women with thinning hair." These items come in various lengths and the inexpensive ones are synthetic but no one can tell. I did a lot of research before I bought the one I use and would be glad to tell you where I bought it if you email me. (I sent items back to several other online stores before finding one that worked well.)

It's been a lot of costly trial and error for me, and I would be glad to share my product sources if you contact me. (And, no, I don't get paid for any recommendations; I'm just offering to share information about what I use.)

I love stories where rational thinking & diligence result in success. And I'm happy for you (you look great). I don't have any hair problems -- healthy, thick, moderately gray 73-year old hair -- but I've found hair stylists rarely have good answers to my questions. Most of what I've learned has been on my own, lately via internet.

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