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Bald, Brave, Beautiful – Jannica Olin
By Jannica Olin
I have Alopecia Areata, if we must put a label on it. My little bald patches became known to me in August 2013. It is now February 2014 and I have a bald head. February 9 was the day of my rebirth, as I took control and shaved my hair off on camera, as part of an artistic short film. I wanted to involve my artist self with one of the most difficult things I would ever have to do, and turn it into something bigger than me, something that will inspire others and help redefine the idea we have of beauty.
● Not having to wait for hair to dry or to blow dry it after a shower.
● No need to worry about grey hairs.
● No expensive visits to the hairstylist every 6 weeks to highlight the roots.
● I won’t be going through so much shampoo and conditioner. Saving money AND the environment.
● Not having hair in the way when I wash my face.
● I can choose length, style and hair color depending on what I feel like that day.
● Feeling special and different.
● Not being able to put my hair up in a high ponytail or gather it all in a messy bun on top of my head.
● Feeling different.
To Shave or Not to Shave….
The first few days after I shaved my head, I would get really surprised every time I looked in the mirror or caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window. As if I had already forgotten hair for weaving human hair that this was now the new me. I felt very disconnected from whom I saw in the mirror. Most of us have never known ourselves with no hair. Who expects to ever see their own scalp My journey of choosing to shave the rest of my hair off, consisted of being fed up with the constant shedding and ending up with clumps of hair every time I washed my hair. First step; I cut my long hair to above the shoulders. That way I wouldn’t touch it all the time, and it would appear fuller. Second step, when my hair was so thin, was to wear hats and beanies. By this point, I couldn’t wait for it to come off.
On the day of the shoot AKA my rebirth and shaving event extravaganza, I was feeling happy and cheerful and thought “ Ah well, I guess I’m not going to cry. It would look good on camera but whatever… I’ll just let whatever be, be.”
Yeah, that didn’t happen. As soon as the clippers went through my hair the floodgates opened. I stopped, let myself cry for a moment and then got reminded why I was sitting here with cameras rolling. Don’t indulge. This isn’t for you. This is bigger than you.
So I kept shaving. Tears and pain combined with (slight) moments of a kickass attitude, I was focused on not letting my attention seeking actor indulge and be the victim. No one is going to want to see that.
As I was shaving I couldn’t look myself in the eyes, as I was separating my hair from my scalp. I felt like I was disfiguring myself, slashing a knife across my beautiful face. …. I’m really selling you on shaving your head now, aren’t I…
Afterwards, I was chewing organic gummy bears and crying. That evening I put on a reddish brown long wig (I am/was naturally blonde) and went to the supermarket. Wondering if anyone could see my secret.
Into the World You Go
On my first full day as a newborn Alopecian, I walked my dog, in the dark, bald, with a friend as support. The next day, I walked my dog around the block, bald, in daylight and felt pretty hair for weaving human hair vulnerable. I wore my four different wigs the first week.
When I felt vulnerable I would add a hat on top, just in case anyone would scrutinize my hairline. On my one week anniversary I went for lunch with a friend with wig and no hat. People were looking at me, and I told my friend: “Hey, I think they can tell….. can you tell ”.
He replied: “ Have you thought that they might be looking at you cause you are attractive Maybe you are carrying yourself like someone people should know about”. Hmmm.
To Be or Not to Be….. Yourself
As an actress, I was faced with the worry that if I were to be open about being bald, would that be all that people would see when they saw me on screen Would the character I was playing and the story, be totally dismissed because all everyone would think was: She is wearing a wig. She’s actually bald.
Then a shift happened. I knew that if I were to keep something a secret; something that would be a big part of who I would be, then there would be something off about me. Because I was hiding something. By choosing to share my authentic self with the world, I know that there are other people that will be touched, moved and inspired by me. And all I have to do is to just be me. Very simple really. And yet, we live in a world where we as children learn what counts as beautiful and normal. We then live our lives afraid of sticking out, trying to conform to an idea…… constantly dieting, improving our looks, not liking what we see in the mirror….. A different approach could be: Am I healthy Is this food I’m putting into my body, nourishing me Is this thought serving me right now How can I dress to highlight this body I have
This journey is yours. Even though you have supportive friends and family who all tell you how beautiful you are, you won’t truly believe them until you approve of yourself. And there will be good days and bad days. But when you approve of and accept yourself, you will be unmessable with, and magical. Your secret is out. You have given yourself permission to share of yourself fully and be who you are. By authentically sharing of yourself, you invite people to say yes or no to you, without trying to please or be approved of. By sharing who you are, you connect with people. You invite people to connect with you. To me, that is a wonderful purpose of life.
Someone told me the other day, “ You still have a great smile”. Of course I do. It wasn’t my mouth that got affected. I just lost my hair.