‘So this hairdresser to the stars, on both Madison Avenue and at his $5-million spa on Long Island, N.Y., fashioned a wig – what he prefers to call a “hair cranial prosthesis” – out of platinum, Marilyn Monroe-like human hair for his mother. She wore it until her death two years later.That sparked a nonprofit foundation he founded in 2002 that provides such services for women who have lost their hair to cancer. He designs the special prostheses – he said they differ from regular wigs in that they are customized to the size and shape of the head’s silhouette and use natural fibers to allow the head to breathe – and has them specially made in Europe. The pieces adhere through double-sided tape or through a “vacuum system” in which the material creates its own adhesive.For his paying customers, the service is priced at $4,000. But for women who can’t afford it and can provide proof of need, he’ll do it for free through his foundation.Hair loss can be an emotionally devastating experience during cancer treatment, because it’s such a visible sign of the illness.I hated my wig after I lost my long brown hair, first in strands, then in clumps during my chemotherapy regimen.
The wig I purchased was hot, itchy and felt like a fur hat. It took all of five minutes to buy, of course, because I couldn’t stand being in the wig store any longer than I had to. I just didn’t feel like me.There are a number of groups that provide assistance with buying a wig or finding a hair alternative, such as turbans or hats with hair extensions.The American Cancer Society’s “Look Good … Feel Better” program helps women – and men, who are often forgotten – find the right solution. And many people don’t know that a wig’s cost – which can start at hundreds of dollars and, like Valentin’s, range up to the thousands – can be covered by most insurance companies if your doctor prescribes a “cranial prosthesis.”
Also, for cases of financial need, the American Cancer Society or Cancer Care may be able to offer assistance to those who are eligible.When shopping for a wig, experts suggest, take a friend or family member to lessen the trauma of the experience.Real hair is an option, but synthetic hair is widely used because it is easier to maintain and holds its set longer.And for those who want to donate their own hair for hairpieces for children, a nonprofit organization called Locks of Love can direct people to salons in their area that participate in the program. The minimum requirement is 10 inches of hair to donate.For stylists like Valentin, making people with cancer feel more confident is something he said he was meant to do. “I made a promise to my mother, and I have kept that promise,” he said.