My New Hair – the charity launched by Trevor Sorbie to offer support, advice and a wig customisation service to clients with medical hair loss – has come a long way since its launch four years ago.
Not only does it have the support of L’Oréal Professionnel and the endorsement of celebrities such as Gok Wan, but it has trained around 280 hairdressers how to customise wigs and communicate sensitively with clients who have hair loss.
Boosted by a grant from the Department of Health, the aim is to have salons offering the My New Hair service nationwide – and eventually to make the service international. The charity has become Trevor’s full-time job – which he does free of charge.
Here is his advice for working with clients with medical hair loss and for customising their wigs.
- Make time to show the client you care from the very first phone call she makes to you. She may want to pour her heart out for 20 minutes, so make sure you have the time to spend with her. Call her back after hours if necessary.
- Privacy is very important. When she comes to your salon, take her into a private room – or somewhere she can’t see other clients. Alternatively, arrange to see her before or after hours.
- If she is a cancer patient, and her hair has started to fall out, then encourage her to get her hair cut much shorter. Losing hair in large chunks is distressing so shorter hair can help soften the blow.
- Ask her to bring in a recent photo of her hair, and hopefully the wig will be close to what her hair was like.
- The wig has to fit as close to the scalp as possible. Wrap hair up before getting the wig fitted, and use a wig cap to put a layer between the wig and the scalp, which may be tender from the chemotherapy. Secure where necessary around the hairline. If a wig feels secure, it is.
- Manage the client’s expectations. I can only do what the wig allows me to do. I can only make a bad wig slightly better, but I can make a good wig fantastic.
- Always give options. Never make a decision for someone. What’s right for one person may not be right for another.
- Use a razor to cut a wig, or you risk leaving scissor marks in the hair. Use thinning scissors if it looks too heavy. You don’t need to cut a lot of hair off to make a big difference. Remove bulk rather than length.
- The giveaway on a wig is the base, so have some kind of soft effect (such as a fringe) to disguise it.
- Synthetic wigs are easier to wash, dry and style than real-hair wigs. Don’t use heat on a synthetic wig. However, you can use steam to style it (before it is fitted on the client).
- As it’s a one-off haircut, I think you should charge the price of a standard cut and blow-dry.
- The parting words I say to every client are: “Do me a favour: get well!”
The fee for the My New Hair seminar is £300, which goes to support the charity. Trevor also runs advanced skills courses free of charge – and he also offers hairdressers the chance to shadow him for a day working in one of his salons customising wigs. Find out more at www.mynewhair.org.