From Color Specialist to Hair Replacement

By Debora Routhe, Owner, Full Strands, Laguna Hills, California. 

Let me tell you how I got into the rewarding world of nonsurgical hair restoration. I have always loved everything to do with hairstyling. I got my license when I was 17 years old. When I was 27, I had my first child, and shortly after my hair started to thin. I was tired all the time and my doctor told me it was normal after childbirth.

My symptoms continued to progress and finally, eight months later, in 1988, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroid disease. By this time, I had lost more than half of my hair. It was embarrassing being a hairdresser. It felt like everyone was always staring at me. It took a toll on my confidence and self-esteem. I wore wigs and clip-in toppers until my hair grew in and I felt like I looked normal again. 

Over the years, my hair has shed three times, and as a result of my diagnosis, I’ve worn all styles of wigs, toppers and extensions. 

This experience sparked my interest in alternative hair. About 10 years ago, I noticed my clientele was coming to me expressing concerns about fine and thinning hair. I made it my mission to find and offer the best solutions available. 

Most of my clients didn’t want to wear wigs. They wanted hair that stayed on all the time. I became educated in different attachment methods including bonding and beading. Finding instruction was difficult. Hair replacement classes are not typically offered to hairdressers. I found bonding education in San Diego with Dawn Harrison. I learned beading with Evolve at a class In Minneapolis. I’ve also attended several trainings in Florida with Hair Visions. It took several years and thousands of dollars to learn what I needed to know. I’ve even created some of my own hybrid techniques that utilize several techniques to give my clients a perfect solution. 

I started offering these services in 2010 and through word of mouth and a little advertising, my schedule began to fill with clients seeking the solutions I offered.

My clients expressed interest in having private space so I moved from a big salon to a studio suite. My business quickly outgrew that space, and I decided to open my own hair restoration salon. I rented a 1,200-square-foot space and built it out to suit my needs. It has two private rooms for my hair-wearing clients and a larger styling room with two stations for regular hair styling and hair replacement services. The large room can also be divided with a screen to offer privacy if my private rooms are full. I have two coworkers who also do hair replacement as well as regular salon services. 

Sometimes my hair-wearing clients want to be in the “big room” together. They find an instant connection with one another and can share their stories so they don’t feel so alone. They love sharing their hair loss journey with other hair-wearing clients, though I strive to give my clients privacy and a true salon experience they desire. 

If you have clients who have fine, thinning hair and want to help them, I encourage you to consider going into nonsurgical hair restoration. Giving people back their dignity and self-esteem is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Last year during the height of the pandemic, I was able to stay open to serve my medical hair loss client. 

If you are interested, I suggest the following steps. 

• Find a mentor and get educated in the different types of attachments and hair options available. 

• Create a private space so your clients can be comfortable during consultation and services. You can use screens for privacy if you are in a large salon. 

• Join the American Hair Loss Council and attend the conference to stay up to date on the latest techniques and products while making new friends in the industry.

This year’s conference was a great experience. It was wonderful seeing my peers and networking with new people who also offer hair replacement. There were classes that gave us new information and taught new techniques which we could take back to the salon and use right away. I was so happy to be back with my fellow hair replacement specialists. I can’t wait until next year!