Alopecia remains an under-discussed autoimmune skin disease, although it is a common one.
“About 700,000 people in the U.S. currently have some form of alopecia areata,” according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
Alopecia areata produces patches of hair loss; alopecia totalis leaves hair loss across a person’s entire scalp; and a third main type, alopecia universalis, results in hair loss on a person’s entire body, including eyebrows and eyelashes.
Amanda Hunt, an Anne Arundel County resident, turned to Grace Dennis, owner of Grace and Elegance Beauty Salon, Incorporated, when she needed assistance because she was experiencing hair and skin challenges.
“I met Grace through a colleague of hers that worked in a salon. I was a customer of her colleague, and unfortunately, at that time, the young lady did not really know how to treat issues that I was having with my hair,” Hunt said. “Grace just volunteered to take me on as a customer, because not only do I have alopecia now, but then, I still do have eczema.”
Hunt explained that a friendship developed with Dennis. She regards her stylist as a “blessing.” Their journey spans at least 35 years.
“She literally brought me back from baldness, during the bad time that I was having. I had lost all my hair and everything. She literally, between the treatments, and the caring, and the love and support that she was giving me, she actually got the hair to grow again,” Hunt said, noting that her hair bounced back in areas other than where she has alopecia.
Dennis, whose business is located at 228 Obrecht Road in Millersville, Maryland, is a senior cosmetologist and non-surgical hair restoration specialist who has been a licensed stylist for 44 years.
She is capable of providing a host of services ranging from a variety of haircuts and relaxer services to weaves, wraps, interlocking, special conditioning treatments and hair loss services.
Dennis explained that she has noticed that an increased amount of people are coming to her about alopecia.
“I’ve noticed a lot of people wearing lots of wigs and weaves and they’re not taking care of the hair underneath all the covering up. So, later on, they realize they’re losing their hairline. They’re losing hair,” Dennis said.
She mentioned that wigs can rub around the forehead and affect hairlines. Glued in weaves and lace front wigs, not washing and taking care of wigs that contain germs, or wearing these styles too long can also negatively impact a person’s natural hair. Dennis said that adorning hair is possible, but she recommends getting hair treatments.
She further noted that it is natural for hair to shed, then it starts to actively grow again within the stages.
“For instance, [losing] 90 strands a day is normal for hair loss,” Dennis said.
In other cases, Dennis may analyze hair and send customers to a doctor to determine if hair loss is permanent. Dermatologists send clients to her, too. Sometimes hair grows back if alopecia is the cause. Other times, it does not, or it grows in patches.
“It’s different types of alopecia, so you have to know what type of alopecia you have,” Dennis said.
The special treatments that Dennis provides may include hair stimulating, massaging of the scalp or steam deep treatments. She customizes treatments depending on the needs of the customer.
“Alopecia is unpredictable,” Dennis reminded. “It makes you feel [pretty much] like you’re not pretty enough or good enough to wear your hair out. I just advise my clients and do… whatever we can do to build their confidence.”
When customers experience hair loss because of a medical cause such as chemotherapy, their insurance may cover a prosthetic. Dennis can skillfully customize a hairpiece using various colors, density and textures.
Dennis, who is known to be understanding and patient, said that she has suffered from alopecia since she was about seven or eight years old. She wore wigs from her early 20s until she decided to openly share her truth.
“So, when I came out three years ago, it was for me, but not only for me. It was to help other people,” Dennis remarked.” I said, ‘Lord, if I can just help somebody, and let them know that I understand what they are going through, it is worth me doing this.’”
The National Alopecia Awareness Foundation, the Bald Boss Community, American Cancer Society, Look Good Feel Better Society and Alopeciasupportgroup.org are other alopecia resources Dennis mentioned. Find out more about her business and professional services via https://www.graceandeleganceinc.com.