Hair gets personal

For people living with cancer, a visit to Kingston’s All Hair Alternatives leaves them with a new sense of confidence

Beata Faraklas, hair specialist and owner at All Hair Alternatives, spends time consulting each client on their wig of choice.
Beata Faraklas, hair specialist and owner at All Hair Alternatives, spends time consulting each client on their wig of choice.
Photo: 
Emily Dawson, ArtSci ’13, cut 10 inches of hair for last year’s Queen’s Students for Wishes annual hair-raising event.
Emily Dawson, ArtSci ’13, cut 10 inches of hair for last year’s Queen’s Students for Wishes annual hair-raising event.
Photo: 

There are a lot of emotions in the salon chair, Beata Faraklas tells me as she clears her desk of auburn wigs, and shifts her attention from the plethora of catalogues before her.

For 20 years, Faraklas, hair specialist and owner of All Hair Alternatives, has been guiding people through the process of selecting a wig that’s right for them. Most of her clientele are people living with cancer. The experience of losing one’s hair can be utterly devastating, she said.

“If you’re fighting chemotherapy and living each day with cancer, hair loss is the last thing you want to be thinking about,” Faraklas said. “People laugh, people cry. There are many tears.” Still, she insists that the best part of her job is ensuring those with cancer aren’t visibly defined by their condition.

“It’s about making people feel less scared, when they know they can look like everybody else,” Faraklas said.

With the windowsill of her office lined with countless wig catalogues, Faraklas describes her initial consultation with a client.

She’ll first ask what their natural hair is and immediately veer to the exact opposite of that.

“If your hair is short and blonde, I instantly suggest we try long and dark,” Faraklas said as she laughed.

This inaugurates a feeling of light-heartedness as Faraklas strives to make the appointment as enjoyable as possible.

Sixty per cent of Faraklas’ customers want a wig that’s as closely matched to their natural hair as possible, while the remaining 40 per cent aren’t quite sure of their preference or want to, as Faraklas puts it, “go wild.”

A limited one to two per cent of her clients choose both options, selecting one wig that matches their real hair and one for when they’re feeling particularly bold.

Whether you’re ordering one or 10, it’s certain that the quality of wigs has improved exponentially during Faraklas’ two decades in the wig industry.

“The fibre … was that of a Santa Claus beard,” Faraklas said. “Now, you can’t tell the difference between real and synthetic hair.”

All Hair Solutions offers synthetic, human hair and blended wigs with prices ranging from $600 to well over $1,000 for a single wig. The cost of human hair far exceeds that of synthetic.

The main difference is that human hair wigs are heat-resistant, but they come with more maintenance. Human hair wigs must be styled with every wear and, just like natural hair, fall prey to weather like rain or snow.

Thicker hair tends to be of higher quality. If it’s natural, it often comes from India, a country known for high-quality locks. Wigs of finer hair come with a higher price tag, as these must be handmade, while wigs of thicker hair can be entirely machine-produced.

Still, this wig expert finds a way to satisfy her clients’ needs each time.

“If people want a perfect match and it’s just a matter of colour, I can match it perfectly.” Faraklas said.

Familiar with the infinite range of options that exist, Faraklas advises against purchasing a wig online. “As hair is such a personal thing, it should be dealt with professionally,” Faraklas said.

Faraklas doesn’t prescribe this advice unwittingly. She’s shaved her own hair twice now — most recently, last May.

“You’re sitting in my chair, crying, losing your hair and I say I understand,” she said. “But you can’t understand unless you actually have no hair yourself, and I don’t wish for cancer, so I shave my head.” Faraklas said she recommends investing in the highest quality wig one can afford.

“For more than a year, you won’t be going to a hair salon … you’re investing in your look by buying a good quality wig.” The best wigs remain intact with elasticized and breathable linings, according to Faraklas.

Affording a top-of-the-line wig isn’t always feasible, though. Faraklas often sources financial assistance for her clients to overcome this dilemma. Hair donations go a long way in support of this cause, and annual events like the upcoming Students for Wishes HaiRaiser on Feb. 9, at the Cataraqui Centre, make significant contributions of highly-coveted natural locks.

“We want the hair we collect to go to women, men and children who deserve it and don’t have to worry about the cost, because wigs are very expensive,” Kalla Tonus-Burman, ArtSci ’13, said.

As President of Queen’s Students for Wishes and organizer of this year’s HaiRaiser, Tonus-Burman highlights the incredible impact one can make, with just one of the numerous haircuts one will receive in a lifetime.

“My hair is my security blanket, as it is for a lot of girls, but at the same time, it’s so nice for the women, children and men who are in those circumstances to receive real hair,” Tonus-Burman said. “I know if I was in those circumstances, I would want that too.”

Emily Dawson, ArtSci ’13, shared similar feelings about her own experience cutting ten inches of hair for last year’s Queen’s Students for Wishes annual hair-raising event.

“I knew it was something I wanted to do, so I set a goal for myself,” Dawson, who grew her hair for a year for the event, said. “It’s just so nice to know that you’re helping someone by doing this really simple thing.”

After speaking on the perks of shorter hair, like basking in the glory of shorter showers, Dawson spoke of the fulfillment that accompanies a hair donation.

“It’s a more personal experience when you’re giving part of yourself away,” Dawson said. “I think that’s the best part of the experience — knowing that a part of you is out there, making someone’s life better, making their day better.”

For more information on Students for Wishes’ upcoming HaiRaiser, visit makeawisheo.ca/branch_kingston.php

The world of wigs

While choosing a wig can take a lot of thought and emotion, the process behind wig-making requires skill and a steady hand.

• It takes up to three ponytails of human hair to make a wig.

• In centuries past, wigs were made by sewing hair through a cap made of goatskin.

• Hair is sorted by texture, colour and length before it’s made into a wig.

• Wigs can be permanently dyed by the wig-maker.

• There are two types of wig foundations: wefted and net. Wefted wigs are machine-made, with hair sewn onto strips of material. Net foundations use mesh caps and are put together by hand.

• Monofilaments are used in most human hair wigs. It’s a skin-like material to make the hair parting look more realistic.

• Human hair wigs need to be washed and conditioned regularly, like normal hair.

Janina Enrile

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