By Briana Vannozzi
Getting ready in the morning is not something 24-year-old Malin Mumford has always looked forward to. She was diagnosed with alopecia a few years ago, an autoimmune disorder with no known cause or cure that results in mostly permanent hair loss.
“Losing your hair is pretty much losing like everything you have to show your identity for a while, and it takes a long time to build that back up. I’m still in the process. Like I’m good some days but then sometimes I’m like, God what’s going on, like it’s hard to handle,” she said.
She’s one of many thousands around the country experiencing what can be a devastating physical loss due to medical conditions.
“I think about it all the time. I’m getting better but for a year every day all day I was thinking about my hair,” she said.
“We see people from just regular hair loss, regular hereditary hair loss to chemotherapy, radiation all through to autoimmune and other scalp disorders,” said Danielle Grillo.
Salon owner Grillo turned her business — Transition Hair Solutions in Wall Township — toward helping patients with the medical side effects.
“I felt like I needed to do more and I didn’t know what it was at the time. I truly didn’t know, and as I said I started having a little bit of hair loss myself,” Grillo said.
She works solely with hair loss clients now, fitting them for hair pieces and wigs, and if possible growth treatments.
“We’ll remeasure using this and then we’ll make a plaster cast and that’s what we ship off to them. It has to be very perfect, very precise because it is going to be a duplication of your scalp. So there’s no mistakes when we do this,” said Grillo.
She sees them after cancer treatments, with thyroid conditions, lupus and even anxiety disorders and she says they’re walking through her door more frequently than ever.
“I always say I don’t know what’s going on out there. Whether it’s food, drugs, it’s many many things, environmental,” Grillo said.
Each client gets an exact mold of their scalp and skull. Quality hair pieces can be costly,
“And this hair is put in the actual direction of what her hair growth was. This is her scalp, this is her hair growth. It’s hand injected in that pattern,” Grillo said.
But Grillo says part of her work is making it affordable. She also travels pro bono to fit clients — most recently a 14-year-old in Canada.
“It gives you the freedom to be yourself. You can just be yourself again, be free, forget about it. It’s like this isn’t something that’s going to be crippling to me everyday. Especially when someone’s sick. They’re already sick, they want to look in the mirror and see themselves. They don’t quite feel themselves but now they’re all back together again. They actually feel better,” Grillo said.
“I feel beautiful with my hair on. It’s just how it is. It’s a part of me and this is a part of me,” Mumford said.