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I help women cope with the pain of losing all their hair... because I know exactly how that feels

By Claire McNeilly

It's a massive trauma for a woman... the loss of all your hair.

Jay McKavanagh (47) knows how that feels and is now dedicating her life to helping others in similar circumstances.

A recent study revealed that almost a quarter of women in Northern Ireland have been affected in some way by hair loss, but Lurgan-based Jay, who lost her own hair after hair extensions caused a catastrophic infection, insists that it is possible to lead a normal life afterwards.

She deals with women of all ages who have experienced conditions such as cancer and alopecia (the general medical term for hair loss), and says the challenge is both physical and psychological.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Jay said that she, personally, has noticed a surge in sufferers, adding that there has been "a significant increase" in the number of women seeking her help over the past six years.

"I deal with all age groups, including teenage girls experiencing alopecia, women in their 20s and 30s who have lost hair through pregnancy and women over 40 coping with menopause-related hair loss," she said.

"Other clients suffer hair loss due to medical reasons, such as chemotherapy, thyroid issues or medication and female pattern baldness."

She added: "There has been a noticeable increase in women and girls with Trichotillomania, the hair-pulling disorder, and frontal fibrosing alopecia, which cause the hair to recede."

NHS figures indicate that eight million UK women experience some form of hair loss, while alopecia affects 2% of the population.

From 2005 until 2016, trained wig maker Jay ran her own salon, Angelhair, "offering specialist hair loss solutions", before going freelance last year under the name Angelhair Solutions.

Now, though, she wants to open a studio where she can work closely with clients to find the right products for their specific problems.

"I want to provide a bespoke service and product that looks totally natural and doesn't compromise someone's existing hair or the health of their scalp," she said. "This can range from a full wig for a cancer patient, to three-quarter wig hair pieces, or custom made top pieces."

Last month, the mother-of-two registered with My Hair Loss, a charity that supports a national network of hair salons that provide a wig service for people experiencing both medical and chemotherapy-related hair loss.

It was launched in June 2006 by famous hairdresser Trevor Sorbie MBE after being inspired by his own experience of helping a family member through her cancer treatment.

"I trained with Trevor Sorbie himself at the L'Oreal headquarters in London which means I'm now a member of the network," Jay said. "The charity works alongside the NHS, L'Oreal and Trendco (the leading UK retailer of wigs and hair pieces) by offering education and training for stylists in cutting and styling wigs and how to work compassionately with clients dealing with hair loss conditions."

The local hair loss specialist said she is moving to Craigavon Lakes to set up a dedicated workplace at the end of this month.

"I will offer hair loss solutions and safe methods of extensions, plus a full hairdressing service," Jay said.

"I am also going to continue to provide a mobile service for anyone unable to come to me but I feel the serenity and natural beauty of the lakes will be a calming and private place for people to come."

Jay said she understands hair loss trauma better than most, having gone through Traction Alopecia in her early 20s, adding that she has helped over 800 women find solutions in the past 12 years.

She offers wigs and hair pieces made from both human and synthetic hair, and she says prices vary from £90 to £1,295.

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