Accidental Hair Trauma

Throughout one’s life, there is always the possibility of a terrible haircut or chemical process gone awry. I was one of many little girls, subjected to Toni Home Perms, almost always with disastrous results. Chemical processing is responsible for a great degree of hair trauma. Another personal experience was when I was a professional actress 30 years ago.  I agreed to have a ‘light body wave’ on my long straight hair the week before I was opening in a play I’d be starring in for 4 months.

This was not to curl my straight hair, but to give it body and make it more manageable. The very experienced hairdresser I hired, made a mistake, leaving the solution on too long, burning my hair to a crisp. There was no alternative but to cut it all off, leaving three inches of unmanageable frizz in place of my long luxurious hair. The director did not insist I wear a wig for the role, but the incident brought up all kinds of questions, like who am I without my long, beautiful hair. Am I still considered attractive or feminine? Can I feel that way inside when I look like this externally? Hair accidents that happen before a big event have a much greater impact on our self-confidence. Hair destroyed before a wedding, graduation, performance, or award ceremony deeply impacts our self-esteem. These tend to be the more traumatic hair events we remember years later. Sometimes, overcoming them builds character in ways we would never have chosen.

Perm damage is common, but damage to the hair from straightening is even more pervasive. Anyone with curly or frizzy hair has lived through some years where straight hair was the more desirable look. The chemical processing using lye and other formulas can be responsible for whole chunks of hair burning off at the root. The hot metal straightening tools often burn the hair as well, leaving embarrassing holes in the hairdo. There are newer methods today, providing less damaging results. The point is not that less harmful ways exist to alter the look of our hair, but that humans feel the need to alter their hair to feel acceptable or desirable.

Hair is constantly being manipulated in our efforts to achieve self-acceptance and hopefully the acceptance of our peers and loved ones. Our hair is a major way we express who we are to the world around us. Women especially feel diminished by thinning hair. In most cultures hair is intimately tied to sexuality. The lack of hair may communicate a lack of sexual appeal, and is generally considered to be less attractive than a full head of hair. These are some of the reasons why dealing with hair loss can be so difficult.