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Restoring hair, self-esteem

Owners of a Newport Beach wig company help their clients, who have often endured a trauma, find a sense of normality.

November 26, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Co-founders Veronica Balch, 25, left, and Gieselle Blair, 28, pose for a portrait at Compassionate Creations in Newport Beach on Thursday. Compassionate Creations is a company selling hand-sewn natural human hair wigs.
Co-founders Veronica Balch, 25, left, and Gieselle Blair,… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

Sandra Everett remembers the first time it happened. She was 13. While seated in a class — although she can't recall which one — she experienced irritation on her scalp.

While attempting to stay attentive, she reached up to massage her head. But one yank and out came a clump of dark hair. And so it began.

Today, 15 years later, Everett suffers from full-blown Trichotillomania, the compulsion to pull on hair, sometimes on places other than the head, until the strands break. The urge didn't decrease even as her tresses began to thin.

"I compare it to any bad habit, like smoking or alcoholism," said the Westminster resident. "I use it as a coping mechanism for whenever something comes up that's difficult for me."

Everett relied on her disorder, like some might resort to biting their nails, while dealing with the stress of moving away from home and attending nursing school. It's also what connected her to Veronica Balch and Gieselle Blair, co-founders of the Newport Beach-based wig company Compassionate Creations.

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Although their business is still in its infancy — it was launched in August — the duo met more than a year ago as colleagues at the now-defunct Wiggin Out Salon on Newport Boulevard. This new partnership enables Blair, a wig artist who handles measurements and alterations, and Balch, a cosmetologist who oversees the hairpieces' cuts, color and styling, to continue helping people.

Their customers include cancer patients who are on the verge of or have already begun chemotherapy and sufferers of Alopecia areata, Trichotillomania and other problems that hamper hair growth.

The duo offer custom-designed, hand-crafted human hair wigs to people regardless of whether their hair loss is genetic or triggered by medical treatment. They have also enlisted the help of experienced and professional wig makers, some of whom work on Broadway and in Hollywood and Las Vegas, to revitalize clients' confidence and self-esteem.

"There are a lot of junky places that don't make sure your wigs fit you or your lifestyle," said Blair, 28, of Long Beach. "For us, it's not just about the hair piece. We check in on our clients and make sure they're doing OK. The hairpiece is one component in a bigger puzzle."

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