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How I Overcame My Behavioral Disorder And Stopped Pulling My Hair Out (Literally)

Health

Growing up, I had anxiety—and as a result I started pulling out my hair. It began around the age of 11. I have learning disabilities so school was always a challenge for me. I went to a very competitive private school in New York and was surrounded by students who had exceptional grades.


With my learning disabilities, I felt like an outcast. My grades never reflected the amount of hard work I put in and all that work would just stress me out. The times I'd pull my hair were the times I was the most anxious about it. I thought I just had a tic, like nail-biting. I didn't know it was a behavioral disorder with a name: trichotillomania. The danger in it is that constant pulling over time can cause permanent hair loss because the follicle becomes smaller and smaller until it no longer grows hair at all.

By the time I was in middle school, I started getting bald spots and patches on the top of my head. I was mortified. I couldn't bring myself to go to a salon because I'd always get questioned about why I was missing so much hair. My hair grew long but the top was thin and patchy. It was humiliating. At school we weren't allowed us to wear hats indoors but any other time I could wear one, I would. Otherwise I'd put a headband on or try to part my hair differently so the patches didn't show. I even tried using root spray to cover up the paleness of the bald spots, so if you were looking at me from a distance it wouldn't be glaringly obvious.

My hair problems deeply affected my self-esteem. I would always sit in the back of the classroom—not because I wanted to be far away from the teacher—because I didn't want people to see the back of my head. It was the same in church; I would make my mother sit in the very back pew with me. Always worrying about this in public settings was draining. And to look in the mirror and see the damage I was doing to myself really tore me up inside.

My senior year of high school, with all the pressure of applying to college, I was having a very, very hard time managing my pulling. But I never sought help or therapy. I was trying to handle it all on my own. But by that point, I knew I had to do something. My mom and I began doing research and we discovered Unique Hair Concepts. I called Flora for a consultation and have been with her team ever since. She has saved me in ways that she'll never know.

The first thing they did was create a small clip-in piece for the top of my head. It was such an emotional moment: I cried, my mom cried and I think even the stylist cried. I felt so much better, immediately. Not only did it hide my bald spot, but it also kept it covered so I couldn't pull. After a few months, the hair in that area started growing back. It made me realize that, wow, I can really turn this around.

While that helped take care of the cosmetic issue, I still had to address the psychological ones. I started seeing a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in body-focused repetitive disorders and who actually had a background in treating trichotillomania. In the beginning, we talked about what my triggers are, the things that make me really want to pull. We did Reiki healing and hypnosis; she also introduced me to the use of essential oils. I would put oil on the hand I used to pull with so that when that I would go to pull, I would smell the oil and feel calmer. She also introduced me to fidget toys to keep my hands occupied, which helped so much that I ended up getting my own set.

These days, I still see the healer from time to time and I wear custom-made CNC-XT hair prosthetics (which stay on for 4-5 weeks even through exercise, showering and styling) over the areas that need them. And I keep fidget toys in my bag all the time. It feels so good to have the support to manage it both cosmetically and therapeutically. I've been so inspired by the help I received that I am now studying to be a therapist myself.

The one thing I would tell other people suffering with trich is this: you are not alone. There's no need to suffer in silence or try to manage it by yourself. There's no need to be embarrassed about it. It's not your fault; it's a medical condition. And more than anything else, help is available. I've found a way to live with it and, believe me, you can too.

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Business

How I Turned my Fine Art Drawings into a Temporary Tattoo Empire

I have always been in love with all things art- I was obsessed with drawing and painting before I was even walking. In high school, I started a career selling art through various gallery art shows and on Etsy. I then went on to study fine arts at the University of Southern California, with an emphasis in painting, but took classes in ceramics, printmaking, cinema and architecture to get a really well-rounded education on all sorts of art.

During my senior year of college, my career path went through a huge transition; I started my own temporary tattoo brand, INKED by Dani, which is a brand of temporary tattoos based on my hand-drawn fine art designs.


The idea for the brand came one night after a themed party at college. My friends, knowing how much I loved drawing, asked me to cover them in hand-drawn doodles using eyeliner. The feedback from that night was overwhelming, everyone my friends saw that night was obsessed with the designs. In that moment, a lightbulb went off in my head... I could do some completely unique here and create chic temporary tattoos with an art-driven aesthetic, unlike anything else on the market. Other temporary tattoo brands were targeted to kids or lacked a sleek and millennial-driven look. It was a perfect pivot; I could utilize my fine arts training and tattoos as a new art medium to create a completely innovative brand.

Using the money I made from selling my artwork throughout high school and college, I funded the launch of INKED by Dani. I had always loved the look of dainty tattoos, but knew I could never commit to the real thing, and I knew my parents would kill me if I got a tattoo (I also knew that so many girls must have that same conflict). Starting INKED by Dani was a no-brainer.

I started off with a collection of about only 10 designs and sold them at sorority houses around USC. Our unique concept for on-trend and fashion-forward tattoos was spreading through word of mouth, and we quickly started growing an Instagram following. I was hustling all day from my room, cold calling retailers, sending blind samples and tons of emails, and trying to open up as many opportunities as I could.

Now, we're sold at over 10,000 retail locations (retailers include Target, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Hot Topic), and we've transformed temporary tattoos into a whole new form of wearable art.

My 4 best tips for starting your own business are:

  1. Just go with your gut! You'll never know what works until you try it. Go day by day and do everything in your power to work toward your goals. Be bold, but be sure to be thoughtful in your actions.
  2. Research your competitors and other successful brands in your category to determine how you can make your product stand out. Figure out where there is a need or hole in the market that your new offering or approach can fill.
  3. Don't spread yourself too thin. Delegate where possible, and stay focused each day on doing the best and most you can. Don't get too caught up in your end goal or the big picture to a point where it overwhelms or freezes you. You're already making a bold move to start something new, so try to prioritize what's important! I started off in the beginning hand packing every single tattoo pack that we sold and shipped. If I wanted to scale to align with the level of demand we were receiving, I needed to make the pivot to mass produce and relinquish the control of doing every step myself. I am a total perfectionist, so that was definitely hard! From that point on, overseeing production has been a huge part of my daily schedule, but by doing so I've been able to free up more time to focus on design, merchandising, and sales, allowing me to really focus on growing the business.
  4. Prioritize great product packaging and branding. It's so important to invest time in customer experience- how customers view and interact with your product. The packaging is just as important as the actual product inside! When we were starting off, we had high demand, and I definitely jumped the gun a bit on packaging so we could deliver product to the retailers when they wanted it. Since then, we've completely revamped the packaging into something upscale and unique that reflects what the brand is all about. Our product packaging is always called out as being one of our retailers' and customers' favorite part of our product!