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How Keris is helping women to face the world again after the trauma of hair loss

Lurgan stylist Keris Weir, who has coiffed the tresses of Hollywood stars, is now creating wigs for those who have suffered alopecia or cancer

By Stephanie Bell

One of Northern Ireland's top hairdressers who has dressed the tresses of international A-listers is thrilled to have been appointed the new stylist for patients who are coping with the trauma of hair loss.

Keris Weir - a multi award-winning stylist from Lurgan who is best known for winning the TV series Great British Hairdresser - is now helping women and children with alopecia or who have come through cancer treatment.

It's a completely new challenge for the Lurgan woman who visits the Macmillan Centre in Craigavon Hospital every Tuesday to work with patients who are facing the anguish of hair loss.

Keris, whose speciality is hair extensions at her MG Hair salon in Lurgan, will style hair pieces for the patients and help them through the tough process of coping as their hair starts to grow back.

She says it is an honour to have been chosen for this new role, helping patients going through a tough time.

"I've been cutting wigs and working with hair pieces my whole career for competitions and photo shoots, so I think that is how I was chosen," she says.

"I just got a call out of the blue from the company in England which provides the service in Craigavon Hospital asking if I would be interested and, of course, I was delighted.

"I've been doing it since December and, as well as going to the clinic every week in Craigavon, I've had a lot of patients coming to me in my salon."

Another Lurgan woman, Carol Herbert, who lost her hair after receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer, says Keris gave her back her confidence by creating flattering cuts and styles as her hair grew back.

Carol Herbert says she was traumatised by the loss of her hair during treatment for cancer three years ago.

The advantages of a good hairdresser, who allowed her to not only feel at ease but gave her confidence as her hair started to grow, back meant everything to her during her recovery.

Carol (45), from Lurgan works as an office administrator and is married to Stewart (48), a self-employed painter and decorator, and they have one daughter, Nicole (20).

It was while out jogging in October 2013 that she discovered a small lump in her breast.

She had no other symptoms and when she went to her GP it was believed that the lump was due to hormonal changes in her body, although to be on the safe side, her GP sent her for a mammogram.

She recalls: "I felt well and I went for the mammogram thinking there was nothing wrong.

“When they told me I had breast cancer it was such a shock, it was like I had been hit with a bus. I wasn’t prepared for it at all.”

Carol had a lumpectomy within two weeks and then underwent chemotherapy for six months, which she tolerated well.

This was followed by radiotherapy.

The most difficult part of her cancer journey was losing her hair.

She explains: “It really was traumatic for me and I got really depressed about it. You don’t feel like a woman when you lose your hair.

“I got very down and didn’t want to meet anyone or talk to anybody. I just shut myself away in the house and had a very quiet life for the six months that I had no hair.

“When it started to fall out, I couldn’t face going to my usual hairdresser because I didn’t want people asking me questions, so I decided to go to someone I didn’t know and I went to Keris.”

Carol got her hair cut into a short bob to try and cope with the inevitable loss. She didn’t tell Keris on her first visit that she was ill.

When she lost her hair, though, she didn’t like the wigs offered to her at the Belfast Cancer Centre and instead coped with her baldness by covering up with a halo and a cap.

She says: “When my hair fell out I couldn’t bear to wear a wig as I found it very itchy and uncomfortable and the Belfast Cancer Centre gave me something called a halo which I really liked.

“It was like a hair band with hair attached to it and you could wear it with a cap and you couldn’t tell you were bald.”

As her hair started to grow back, Carol returned to Keris with another friend she had met at the cancer centre and together they confided in Keris about their illness and hair loss.

Carol adds: “Keris was just fantastic. She had a family member who had been through cancer and knew exactly how we felt.

“She is really young and funky and was able to style our hair as it started to grow back into nice fashionable short styles.

“I was very self conscious and I had never had short hair in my life but Keris really boosted my confidence and styled my hair in a way that I loved.

“I think she will be amazing working with cancer patients, especially young girls and it shocked me just how many young people there are in the cancer centre. When you are young you just never think it is going to happen to you.

“It is really awful and it’s only with the help of others you get through it. Thankfully I am very well now and just getting on with my life and still go to Keris to get my hair done.”

Meanwhile, the top stylist is relishing the experience of helping women to face the world again after gruelling cancer treatments.

“I’m really enjoying it,” she says.

“It is a very different challenge from what I am used to. To be giving people their hair back is a very humbling experience.

“The pressure is in trying to get it right the first time.

“The quality of the wigs I am working with is so life-like and initially people are quite nervous and don’t know what to expect.

“I just find myself working that bit harder to achieve the wow factor for them.”

Keris (35), who is a new mum to Sienna (10 months) and lives with her partner David Stewart (29), a Tayto Crisps sales representative in Lurgan, has enjoyed a dream career with opportunities few people in her profession ever get the chance to enjoy.

Since she first qualified as a hairdresser in her early 20s she has been an ardent competitor, taking part in hairdressing contests all over the world and winning numerous titles including Northern Ireland Hairdresser of the Year and All Ireland Hairdresser of the Year three times. She is also a British Hairdressing Champion, British Bridal Champion, British Ladies Cut & Blow-dry Champion and Goldwell Master Colourist.

What really propelled her into the limelight and put her among the elite in the industry was her success in winning E4’s hugely popular reality show Great British Hairdresser in 2011.

She battled alongside nine other high street hairdressers for the chance of a dream job with celebrity crimper James Brown, having her every move filmed for what proved to be a hugely popular TV series.

Based in London for the next three years before returning home to run the family salon in Lurgan she worked as a session stylist.

It was a heady time when she got to style for top television shows such as the X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing while also touring the world to work with supermodels like Kate Moss and celebrities like Nicole Scherzinger.

A day at the office often meant styling models or celebrities for glossy magazine photo shoots for the likes of Vogue, Glamour, Harper Bazaar, Tatler, OK and Heat.

Among the big names she worked with were A-listers Jennifer Lawrence, Teri Seymour, Anne Hathaway, The Saturdays, Alexandra Burke, Meg Matthews and Kimberly Stewart.

Since returning home three years ago, she launched her own workshop road show, touring Ireland to visit salons, training young stylists in modern methods of hair styling and cutting.

She also runs courses for students and salons on how to apply hair extensions and all this while working with a faithful clientele at her Lurgan salon.

While her latest role working with cancer patients and those with alopecia is very different from anything she has done before, she says the rewards and sense of achievement are also like nothing else she has experienced.

“I have relaxed into it and enjoy it now,” says Keris. “It is very different from working with someone who has come into the salon for their usual wash, cut and blow-dry.

“I don’t think we realise how lucky we are to have our hair, even though most of us complain about having to get up and do our hair in the morning before we go to work.

“It is extremely sensitive because most patients are going through a very tough time and are anxious.

“When they see the quality of the wigs and get a feel for the hair piece they usually start to relax.

“I feel very privileged to be doing this and when you see young children who have lost their hair it is very humbling.

“Children, though, seem to be more resilient than adults and they have amazed me by how upbeat and positive they are. They are usually excited about getting their new hair, while it’s the poor parents who are holding the anxiety for them.

“It has opened my eyes about a whole new part of the industry going on under our noses and I am just happy to be part of it and to be able to help people through it. It is so rewarding to see the anxiety lifting off people when you have styled their hair piece and they are happy with it.

“When you get it right you can just see the weight lifting off people.”

Could Keris help you after the trauma of losing your hair?

You can call Keris at MG Hair Boutique, tel 028 3832 5543 to get an appointment at the salon which is located at 153e Union Street, Lurgan. You can see examples of Keris’s stunning work at her Facebook pages; Keris Weir or MG Hair Spa, Beauty and Personal Care

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