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By Sue Facter

When Beverly Hills hairdresser Laurent D. of Prive Salon meets with clients who are about to undergo a life-altering change, he tries to make his time with them as pleasant as possible. He gives extra indulgence, if that is possible.

"I see them before they have the chemo," the hairdresser says with a French accent. "I first put a wig on them to ease the transition. They have time to get use to what is ahead."

He uses a hands-on approach and personally selects their wigs, made of human hair. Once purchased, he sometimes cuts them to a short, trendy style. "It's the look of today."
Sometimes, customers change wigs to have variety. "I'm amazed; they sometimes spend a fortune on wigs! It's really not necessary."

As hair stylist to the stars, he's use to frequent temper tantrums, high maintenance, heavy demands and changing schedules. Actors trust him. They have to.

In one given day, he may see a few of the following: Gweneth Paltrow, Sharon Stone, Jennifer Aniston, Teri Hatcher, David Duchovny, Tea Leoni, Sophia Loren, Anna Nicole Smith or Josie Bisset. Not that any of these VIP clients show arrogance! "But watch - they'll all want me to be at their homes at 1PM the day of the Golden Globes!"

With an established salon in Beverly Hills, a new salon in Las Vegas' Bellagio Hotel and even a newer establishment in the Soho District of New York, Laurent clocks in lots of frequent flyer miles. "Hair is very important to my customers; especially to actors, it makes or breaks their careers."

He has become a trusted "pal" to the people he works wonders with, including many cancer patients. "Unfortunately, the list is growing in that direction." He recently lost his mother-in-law to cancer. His wife, Fabiennne, manages his shops.

"The good thing regrows after chemotherapy. However, the texture changes. I often see people come in with very curly hair after they've had straight hair."

For that reason, Laurent has designed a hair product line, including vitamins. "My shampoo is like a baby shampoo, it gives you fullness without conditioner. Other products include scalp stimulants, seafoam volumizers, and vitamin formulas to help hair maintain its natural color, grow faster, and improve blood circulation to the scalp. Due on the market in February, the newest is a texturizer for fine hair. Products contain healthy ingredients like wheat and soy plant amino acids.

A client, Yasmine Bleeth, a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society, got Laurent involved with her charity. In addition, he donated all his fees recently on "Denim Day, " a casual day where everyone wore denim.

"Cancer is so huge in America and the age it's affecting is getting younger and younger." Some of the products he sells on QVC; there's discussions of him jetting to Cannes, France (the country is his homeland) to hawk goods on QVC, France. "Cancer has hit everybody. They all can use a boost. If I can help, why not?"

Beverly Hills dermatologist, Dr. Howard Lancer, treats patients for hair loss. "After all, dermatology is about hair, skin, and nails."

Board certified in Dermatology since 1983, Dr. Lancer has been Chief of Dermatology at the Cancer Prevention Society and is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the UCLA School of Medicine.

On hair loss: "It can happen from shock triggered by a psychological, emotional, or physical event and results in the shut down of hair follicle growth (common in young women); when women develop a male-pattern hair loss - hormone related issues, breast cysts, ovarian cysts or another imbalance or mismatch of estrogen and testosterone; infections can cause hair loss as well as elective cosmetic treatments; so can thyroid issues."

But with chemo loss, Lancer feels the only way to deal is with how to treat the problem cosmetically until the problem resolves. "Rarely does the problem not resolve."

"Chemotherapy," points out Dr. Philamina McAndrew, Cedar Sinai Hospital, "is not a magic bullet." Why do people lose hair? "Most chemotherapies are directed against cells that are rapidly growing. Normal cells in the body that are turning over include the hair, nails, skin, lining of the mouth, lining of the stomach and blood cells. That's why the side effects of the toxicity from chemotherapy are what we see with hair loss, nausea, vomiting and dropping the blood count. "

The oncologist, who works with the Israeli Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), addresses hair re-growth. "Hair will grow back when you stop chemotherapy."

McAndrew has seen it all. "There are some people who have used ice caps to decrease the blood flow. That way, when you have chemotherapy, you don't get a big a dose going into the follicles of the hair at that time.

"People have use a variety of hair products, but nothing really keeps you from losing the hair after chemo. There has been some experimental work done on animals; there are people who are trying to develop drugs that will help people not lose their hair during chemo therapy, but none of them are really available."

McAndrew sites the differences from radiation. "If you have radiation to the head, you may lose your hair permanently. Some may not grow back. If you have radiation to other parts of the body, you do not lose hair to your head, If you have radiation to the breast, you may lose hair to that area."

That's why it's down-home folks like the Kim family who are like angels. Jennifer Kim, 26, works with her mom Karen Kim at Wigs Today, located near the Beverly Center and Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.

"Over 50% of our customers are chemo therapy patients," the younger Kim said "Those customers who lose their hair wind up wearing wigs on a daily basis, till their hair (and the hair length they like) returns - 3, 6, 9 months later."

Kim says that wearing a wig is not like wearing a hat. "It fits from the top of your forehead all the way down to the nape of your neck. It's quite tight. Usually women, don't wear any glue. If they feeling secure, there are two-way tapes they can attach to the skin and to the wig. All of the wigs are adjustable."

Unlike Laurent, who works with human hair wigs, she prefers synthetic, even though she sells all types. "Human hair wigs are very heavy. They may last longer but are more difficult to care for. And price wise they're more expensive. (Very good synthetic wigs start at $95. Some go over $300.)

"I think it's a big misconception that you have to get a human hair wig to look natural. We highly recommend synthetic."

Instruction: "Wigs should be washed once every 20 times you wear it." Kim warns, "Don't scrub or wash it when it's wet. Let it soak in the sink with cold water, swish it around, take makeup off the elastic area, don't rub it, rinse it out, shake it in the bathtub and don't put it on the shell, unless you want it stretched. Dry it on a long bottle cap with no heat, no blow dryer, no curling iron. Drying time: overnight or eight hours."

Wigs Today caters to women. "We chase men out of here. Most toupees look silly on men. One way my Mom runs the store is that we want the person to look natural. We do get some guys with long hair who work in a corporate environment and need short styles."

For chemo patients, Kim suggests a visit to the salon before treatments. "We like to match it as close to their own hair as possible."

There are about 1,000 wigs in the shop. Her recommendation for chemo folks: "Buy wigs made of monofilament. They will make you look very natural, as opposed to other customers, who come in for fun."

Until last year, monofilament wigs were not available for women. And now, only two of the four manufactures that Wigs Today uses, make wigs of this nature. "Look at this, not only is there a part, but the scalp looks natural."

"The most important thing is how you connect to a customer. Hair is a very important thing, especially to a woman. Whether they go to this store or elsewhere, hair is basic. We've had some women come here in tears after being treated poorly in other shops."

Kim receives her customers from word of mouth. For every 100 women customers, they have two men and three children.

"It's really tough on the kids."


Some Helpful Tips
A hairpiece can be a tax deduction if it is cancer related. It also may be partially covered by health insurance.
Hair loss will start 2-3 weeks after your first dose of chemo. It won't total until 1-2 months have elapsed. The hair loss is reversible and will be back totally about 3-4 months after your last chemo dose.
Your hair may even grow while you're on chemo. This doesn't mean that the chemo isn't working. Unfortunately, some of the regrowth may fall out. Hair on the head is most commonly affected, but hair loss may also occur on the face, arms, legs, underarms, and pubic area.
If you are aware that you'll be losing your hair, shop for a wig in advance, it's much easier to match.
Hats, scarves or turbans may be more comfortable for indoor use, you can have a variety.
If you have very long hair, think about a haircut to minimize the trauma of hair loss. Shorter hair is also much easier to manage under a wig.
Use mild shampoos and conditioners. Use soft hairbrushes and use low heat when drying your hair when it regrows.
Don't use permanent dye on your hair or get a permanent wave.
Don't use brush rollers to set your hair.
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