Enjoying a Salon Visit Despite Your BFRB
How cosmetologists can help clients with hair pulling or skin picking disorders.
Posted September 24, 2018
by Bianca Lyder
As a cosmetologist, my first encounter with trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder) was approximately 25 years ago. I started my career doing braids with hair extensions on mostly African American women. This evolved into hair weaving, which entails creating different hairstyles with added hair for fullness and length. At that time hair extensions were a luxury; now they’ve become much more common.
A young lady came in for a consultation, and when she removed her hat I saw that she had no hair. I asked her what happened; she said she picked her hair out. I was stunned since I had not experienced anything like that before. We are taught as cosmetologists to refrain from working on clients that may have contagious medical issues. She could not explain what she meant by picking her hair (the terminology she used at the time) and my lack of knowledge did not help the situation. My first instinct was that she had an underlying medical issue she was not sharing with me. I could not help this young lady.
Over time I saw more clients who experienced hair loss, for various reasons, and I became passionate about helping them feel confident. About a decade ago I learned about trichotillomania, or hair pulling disorder, and realized that is what the young lady was dealing with back then. I’ve come to understand that hair pulling disorder is a health condition known as a body-focused repetitive behavior or BFRB.
Today I work with The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors to bring awareness about BFRBs to salons and cosmetology schools – so that hair stylists and skin care professionals know how to handle a client with hair pulling or skin picking issues. I wouldn’t want another young woman to feel uncomfortable at a salon because of lack of understanding on the part of the person to whom she’s turned to help her feel and look good.
For your next salon visit, if the provider doesn’t know about your BFRB, take these three steps:
1) Check The TLC Foundation for BFRBs nationwide directory of cosmetologists who are familiar with hair pulling and skin picking: your salon may already be in-the-know.
2) When you arrive, ask the cosmetologist if you can speak privately for a moment, perhaps in a back room or just outside. Quickly explain that he or she will notice some bald spots on your head, missing eyebrows, scabs, etc., and that it is due to your BFRB, not a disease.
3) As you discuss your desired process, indicate your goals: Do you want a hairstyle that simply covers a bald spot, or one, like braids, that may actually help you pull less? Are you okay wearing a hat if things get bad, or would you consider investing in a wig?
Remember: your cosmetologist wants you to feel great when you walk out of the salon. The more you share with him or her about your challenges and goals, the more rewarding the session will be for both of you.
Bianca Lyder is the owner New Horizons Hair by Bianca in New York City. She has more than 30 years of experience in hair extensions, hair replacement, weaving, interlocking, braiding, and hair design. Bianca’s clients over the years included Diana Ross, Iman, Lauryn Hill, Janet Jackson, and Donatella Versace.