A hair of reassurance
By Brianna Bailey
Newport Beach salon owner Nazy Curtis had one consolation when she was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago.
“At least I don’t have to worry about losing my hair,” she said. Curtis has had alopecia for the past 10 years. The disease causes patches of her hair to fall out. Scientists believe the condition is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack its own hair follicles.
Today Curtis sports a short, spiky bob, a photograph of an exotic bird with an exuberant crest of white feathers that hangs on one wall of her Newport Center salon was the inspiration for the cut, she said. Although she sees as many as 15 to 18 clients a day, most of them have no idea Curtis has alopecia, or that she is a cancer survivor. Curtis uses what she calls a “hair enhancement” to hide her hair loss. Now Curtis says she wants to help other men and women dealing with hair loss due to cancer and alopecia. She’s started a support group for people dealing with hair loss. Curtis also fits, cuts and dyes wigs for men and women with hair loss due to alopecia, chemotherapy treatments or other diseases.
“These women still want to look beautiful,” Curtis said. “It’s one less thing for them to worry about. When you look good, you feel better.”
Every few months, Curtis gives away a wig, which costs anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000, to someone who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford one.
“I don’t just give them away to anybody, you have to have a story, a good reason why you are deserving or can’t afford something like this,” Curtis said.
Her customers say Curtis’ experience with hair loss has helped them cope with the problem.
“I think she has her foot in the door, she understands what we’re going through because she’s been through it,” said Llana Barron, a 24-year-old cancer patient who Curtis recently fitted for a wig.
“She’s a mentor in a way. I can ask her questions about her treatment,” Barron said. Curtis found a wig that matched Barron’s natural dark-blond hair and added highlights and styled it for her. “It’s basically like going into a salon and getting your hair done, Barron said. “She works on it as if it was my real hair.”
Cancer free for the past year after undergoing a mastectomy and chemotherapy, Curtis still copes daily with her alopecia, but the experience has made her appreciate life more, she said.
“I kiss my children and call my friends to tell them I love them for no reason,” Curtis said.