For many women with health problems, the worst part often isn’t a diagnosis itself, but the physical and mental consequences of illness. Making peace with a new identity is necessary to the healing process, even if it takes a great deal of time and patience. Rebuilding life after it has been wrecked by illness is never easy, but living a life of isolation, hiding, and depression was not an option I was willing to accept. Ultimately, my life's calling was revealed and I was able to build a company around my own creative solution for a common issue among women, hair loss.
Seven years ago, after developing an autoimmune disease called Alopecia Universalis, I realized that the headwear products on the market left a lot to be desired. Not wanting to wear a wig, turban, or square scarf, I started developing my own headwear product that would be fashionable, comfortable, and secure for someone like me. I'm very physically active - I've won numerous prestigious awards in golf, I coached women's tennis at Chestnut Hill College, I run and bike in marathons and triathalons. I also love fashion and have always prided myself on being fashionable. I did not want to surrender my sense of fashion or femininity with my hair. So I created the BeauBeau, a fashionable head scarf designed specifically for women with medical hair loss, but worn by women with and without hair alike. I then founded a business, 4women.com. 4Women's mission is to help women and girls copes with the emotional upheaval of hair loss in a dignified manner by offering them a fashionable head wear option.
It is not "just hair." We live in an appearance-driven culture that chains women’s identity to female sexuality and perpetual youth. Hair is one of the most powerful symbols of female sexuality and youth. Even women with full heads of hair will spend a lot of time and money trying to create an image of voluminous hair that never turns gray. We are exposed to images of abundant and perfect hair in every advertising venue. Women without hair lose one of the most visible symbols they have of female sexuality, health, and youth.
Without hair, I felt I had somehow lost much of my personal identity--that I previously communicated by the color, length and style of my hair. Without a frame for my face, I felt exposed. Some women never become comfortable with the unfamiliar face that stares back at them in the mirror. I want to help them.
I want to offer women hope, not just in my product, but with my story. My advice to other women is do not criticize yourself for being ‘vain’ or ‘shallow’ if you feel devastated by your hair loss, even temporary hair loss. Because few people will understand, you may find that the emotions triggered by your hair loss will be ignored or dismissed, be it by friends, family, or the medical professionals that are supposed to help you. Simply dismissing or burying those emotions or thoughts about our appearance that damage our self esteem is not the way to a more permanent sense of self acceptance and inner peace for those of us adjusting to major appearance changes. You cannot accept and love yourself without first allowing yourself to grieve and without first exploring and understanding your deepest emotions.
I am committed to helping girls and women regain their sense of worth and beauty when experiencing medical hair loss. I’ve discovered that medical professionals often dismiss our emotions as secondary to treatment, even when there is no treatment. I want to give women an outlet to express their emotions as well as offer them a way to regain their sense of dignity and style.
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