Hair, and one month and one week

It’s been five and one half weeks, also known as one month + one week past the surgery. The healing incisions on the breast augmentation are sometimes irritated if I wear an underwire bra – it’s kind of a conflict since that’s much of what I own and they do a good job supporting the “girls”.

I see the surgeon Friday for a follow up. My impression is that the healing is doing well, swelling is going down and there’s only a couple of things that cause discomfort. Unfortunately one of those is dilation, at least with the largest size, but it’s not really a problem. I’m sure there are still some internal areas with granulation tissue, it will be months before all of that is full healed with new skin.

Hair

Since I was about thirty I started losing hair. It was a gradual process; at some point I looked in the mirror and saw this bald man looking back. I was never remotely concerned as I found it age appropriate and frankly I have never understood the need for guys to try and cover up or fix being bald. Society really doesn’t cause you much trouble as a bald man.

As the venue changed back a few years ago I started to care. Especially since society does not give a pass to bald women. You’re expected to do something about it for God’s sake. The result is that if you don’t have a head of hair you just can’t pass at all. End of story. I’ve seen a few cisgender balding females out there and they attract some attention for being so rare. No trans woman is going to pass that kind of scrutiny – if nothing else it would  combine, on average, with height and voice and other factors to make it tough.

The question is then what to do? Well early on the answer was a wig.

Wigs

There are two basic varieties of wigs. The best wigs are made of human hair. A good human hair wig that is properly cared for can last two or three years and is a good choice if there’s almost no natural hair, or the natural hair is somehow unacceptable.

Human hair wigs can be styled any way that a person’s natural hair can be style and with the same tools. Unlike natural hair you want a very experienced stylist so your $600 or  more (up to thousands) wig is not ruined.

The second choice is synthetic. There are many gradations of synthetic fiber and some can be styled with hot tools. Most will simply melt. Synthetic wigs have the advantage that they are inexpensive and one can easily own many of them. However to live a daily life as a woman you probably don’t want to have each morning be a choice between being a blonde, redhead, brunette or jet black hair.

My first wig was bought from John Warrener’s store, The Glamour Boutique in Auburn, MA. John, a well known person in the trans community, passed some months ago, and was a very kind man. His store and another store in Wakefield are the two relatively local stores that sell clothing and other accoutrements to MtF transgender people. Both stores cater primarily to cross dressers and aren’t terribly useful to someone who’s actually transitioning since the stock is really not aimed at daily casual clothing. (check out the skirts in the online store, is there one you’d actually wear? or want your wife/girlfriend/sister/daughter to wear?)

My therapist had recommended I go to either the Glamour boutique or to Florence’s (Wakefield) in order to get clothing to wear. At that point it seemed like I might find relief by simply dressing up as a woman (the community just calls this dressing or being en femme).

I arrived at the store on a Summer day, I think it was late July or August of 2012. I entered and was sort of bombarded with the contents. All sorts of what I can only describe as fetish wear – items like “school girl” outfits, shaping garments that bear no resemblance to what you’d find in Macy’s intimate apparel section, TG porn. In short it was safe but a bit seedy.

I got a series of items, some actually useful. He sold me an inexpensive synthetic wig and trimmed it to fit (I still have the wig around, but don’t wear it for lots of reasons). The silliest item I purchased was a set of size 12 high heels. I still to this day don’t understand how the maker made them that uncomfortable. I have real heels (size 11) up to 3″ and simply have nothing like the problems those cheap patent leather ones could inflict in just seconds.

Alas, I was never really a cross dresser. I did find comfort in being dressed, but it was like putting a bandaid on a cut. You need to heal the cut, the band aid is just, well, a band aid.

Later, in the Fall of 2013 on my way to going full time I knew I needed a human hair wig. I went to a wig store in Saugus and the proprietor convinced me to buy a really light blond wig for a good price. A little bit of a hard sell, but the wig wasn’t bad.

A couple of months later the wig had been trimmed down to just shoulder length and months after that dyed a more reasonable shade of blonde. Everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief at both my job and my religious community – everyone thought it inappropriate but nobody wanted to be the one who told me.

The good and bad thing about wigs is that they generally cover your entire head. Not a bad thing in Winter but it can get really quite uncomfortable in Summer if, for example, you’re playing golf in 90 degree weather.

Regrowth

In many or perhaps most cases men lose their hair via the action of free testosterone. The hormone testosterone essentially has two forms, the hormone itself and the activated hormone dihydrotestosterone. It is the second form (as I understand this, not being a doctor or biologist) that binds to hormone receptors and causes the body to respond by growing muscle, body hair, thickening vocal chords and other male secondary sexual characteristics.

It is also the action of DHT that causes male pattern baldness. Drugs such as Proscar and Avodart work by interrupting the enzymes that convert testosterone into DHT. DHT explanation on Wikipedia

Hormone replacement therapy for a transsexual generally consists of estrogen (estradiol is the usual variation) and a testosterone blocker such as spironolactone that blocks the action of DHT.

Estrogen by itself lowers one’s testosterone level as well as producing feminizing effects. The blocker makes the remaining testosterone largely unavailable to the body, which can’t use the unconverted testosterone directly (or at least very poorly).

For many MtF transsexuals this results in some hair regrowth if they have baldness. I’ve heard different descriptions, usually about 1 1/2 inches around the bald area, or three years of loss. Some men (and transwomen) also add dutasteride (avodart) or finasteride (propecia) to try and either reverse or at least stop hair loss. The side effects for men can be disturbing, e.g. gynecomastia, but obviously breast grown in a transwoman is rather a nice thing.

I’ve had reasonably good luck with HRT. The bald area on my head that used to cover the entire top of my head is now about 3″ x 7″, and is clearly trying to fill in across the middle. I’m hoping that someday I can get a hair transplant and dispense with wigs and hairpieces.

Hairpieces and Hair Club for Men and Women

I was pretty uncomfortable in a wig, plus there was always the problem of my own hair being exposed. Once I went full time I started getting my hair colored to match, but before that a strong breeze could make it clear I was wearing a wig by uncovering salt and pepper hair.

There are a couple of places in the Boston area that do hair “restoration”. One is Hair Club, and I went for an appointment. I can only relate my own very subjective experience.

I arrived at Hair Club and was left waiting for a while, but then the saleswoman (they had some other fancified title for her of course) brought me in. They did various pseudoscience things, I was astonished to hear they had “invented” a handheld USB microscope, not notably different from the ones you can find trivially on Amazon.

She took some closeups of my scalp and made various assertions that I no longer remember. What I do remember was the amount they wanted, around $4,000 per year for around three hairpieces, bonding and styling. I’m not saying I spend nothing, but $4K seemed a little extreme.

I turned my back on Hair Club and went to the internet. There are a number of places that will create “hair systems” to order. You send them a “mold” of your head with the shape of the system needed sketched out and your choice of hair, color, base design and weeks later you get a system made in China. I’ve been using Hair Direct and have been happy with their systems, not free at around $500-$600 a pop but nothing like $4K a year. I see the colorist every 6-8 weeks and a new system every six months give or take. Total yearly cost for both is probably around $2K and my colorist told me that the quality of what I’m getting is far superior.

The system stays in place for  a few days at a time. I’ll then remove it at bedtime and wash my hair in the morning and reapply the system. The hairpiece gets washed every week or two. It is possible to get longer bonding with other tapes or glue, but frankly I prefer to wash my hair and the hairpiece separately.

It’s worth noting that Hair Direct clearly does much of their selling to men who need a hairpiece. It shows in the marketing literature and website. But they do a perfectly decent job making hair pieces for women and for me.

Perhaps a good finishing note is that I’ve yet to meet someone who knows I’m wearing a hairpiece, and there’s nothing better than waking up and seeing a woman in the mirror. Without the hairpiece it’s a much harder road in the morning – this meant a great deal to me.

 

 

 

 

 

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