Most women love the feeling of sporting a new look every day. For some that’s a new pair of shoes or trendy lipstick color. For 29-year-old Ginger Dean, that means donning one of her favorite wigs.
“I really like to be brunette one day and blonde the next. A long brunette feels natural on me,” she says. “I also like [to] rock a short blonde on a day I’m feeling feisty and a firetruck red when I want to let my ‘inner goth’ out.”
Two years ago, the schoolteacher from Beaumont, Texas made the life-changing decision to shave her head. At 19 years old, Dean was diagnosed with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair to fall out in random patches. While treatment helped, the hair continued to fall out without notice. Eventually, Dean says she knew she had to take back control.
“I shaved just before my 27th birthday… I didn’t fully realize how bad my alopecia had gotten until mom made a comment that I should ‘find a hair piece,’” she remembers. “It was devastating when I couldn’t hide it anymore, and I wanted to believe it would go away since it always had before.”
“I was in denial for a long time and believed my problem was just temporary. It was very hard to accept that this was my new life,” she says. “I received plenty of support from my coworkers, friends, and family, which was helpful. I would tell everyone it was just hair and that I was fine. I tried to put on a confident veneer, but I agonized in moments of solitude.”
“People would tell me how ‘strong’ I was, but I didn’t feel strong when there were days when I would cry my eyes out on my 30-minute drive home from work,” she says. “I mourned the loss of my hair like an old friend.”
The journey of paving a new path, a new life, and a new craft
Difficult as it was to lose her natural hair, Dean’s decision paved a new path to self-love and acceptance. A random invitation to an acroyoga class introduced her to a practice that would change her life, and today it’s a central part of her daily life.
“Yoga saved my life — in more than one way. As far as dealing with alopecia, I used to go to class completely bald. I never felt weird or out of place doing my practice. As I would go through my flow, I liked to pretend that I was this super-yogi monk who had devoted herself to her art and a pure aesthetic life of minimalism.”
She adds, “There are so many things in life that we don’t get to control. One of the things we do get to control [is] how well we treat our bodies. Eating well, exercising, and finding stress-relieving activities are the greatest kindnesses we gift to our future selves.”
Dean soon discovered the joy of wearing wigs as a way to reinvent herself but found that affordable, quality pieces were rare to find, most often starting at $2,000. So, she created a solution for herself and those just like her.
“I began to sell wigs when I couldn’t find the quality wigs I wanted. After wearing synthetics that would lose their luster after a month, I needed something more sustainable for everyday use. I started Hairy Hippy to help me and people like me.”
Today, Dean’s self-confidence comes from knowing that she’s not her hair. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have fun with it. Whether it’s her Brazilian loose waves or her blonde pixie, it’s her self-acceptance that shines through. Having embraced wigs as a positive outcome from a negative experience, Dean hopes to transform beauty ideals for not only those without hair, but also anyone who doesn’t fit the mold.
“There is a huge negative connotation with wigs and baldness, especially for women. Our society is obsessed with being perfect, but sadly the reality is that no one can be perfect. Most of us are struggling with some kind of body issue. I hope the world can one day learn that ‘different’ is not a synonym for ‘bad.’ I hope one day we can learn to embrace the unique beauty that is inside everyone.”
You are enough
And for those going through something difficult in life, Dean stresses self-care and cites some of her favorite advice from hypnotherapist Marisa Peer.
“I read over and over again how some people go to such great lengths to hide their condition. To me, this seems like putting in so much effort would be so isolating. People should never have to feel ashamed of something they don’t get to control. When you look in the mirror, practice saying, ‘I am enough.’ Say it even if you don’t believe it,” Dean recommends.
“Say it over and over until you do believe it.”
Foram Mehta is a lifestyle editor at Healthline. She comes to San Francisco by way of New York City and Texas. Foram has had her work published in Marie Claire, India.com, and Hinduism Today, among other publications. Most recently, Foram worked as a ghostwriter and assistant editor on a patient's guidebook to epilepsy surgery with a top New York epileptologist, a first of its kind in patient-focused literature. As a passionate vegan, environmentalist, and animal rights advocate, Foram hopes to use the power of the written word to promote health education and help everyday people live better, fuller lives on a healthier planet. Say hi to her on Twitter!