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.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: 1945