Facing hair loss, clients find comfort at Salon Monique

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Monique Souza came across her father shaving his head in the bathroom one day. He had been diagnosed with cancer and the chemotherapy treatment caused his hair to begin to fall out. She took the razor and finished the job for him. “The first head I shaved was my dad’s,” she said.

Salon Monique owner Monique Souza

Salon Monique owner Monique Souza

Souza has shaved more heads since. At Salon Monique Day Spa, Souza offers haircuts, coloring, straightening, and relaxing. But she also works with men, women, and children who are at the other end of the spectrum: those who have lost hair due to alopecia or chemotherapy treatments. Souza’s goal is to educate her clients.

Women who have been diagnosed with cancer and had follow up treatment contacted the salon looking for some help with styling the wig they had purchased. “You see not the best type of wigs when you’re in the hospital,” Souza said.

She decided to put together private styling sessions with those clients. She uses a room on the second floor of the salon, which is located at 776 Washington Street, to meet with clients and friends and family members who accompany them. For clients who have trouble climbing the stairs, she has a room on the first floor that can be used for a consultation.

Souza starts each session in the same way by asking the client to share her story. Clients typically contact her when their hair is falling out. She has learned that by the second round or third week of a patient’s treatment, they may start losing their hair. They may feel tenderness on their scalp, as though their hair had been in a tight ponytail. That is a sign that the hair is about to fall out.

Souza will shave their head for them when they meet, if they desire. “They look much better,” she said. “They look more beautiful. I don’t ever want any family members to shave their head.”

She and her staff are aware of the condition a client’s hair may be in when it starts to grow back in: curly, uneven, or unruly. “We call it chemo hair,” she said. “There’s no elasticity.”

The scalp may break out in adult acne and pores may be affected. Souza recommends an all-natural detox shampoo for clients to use on their scalp.

Souza carries Private Issue wigs by Cyberhair. Cyber wigs are not made of human hair and do not frizz, shed or fade. Salon Monique is a certified Private Issue and Micro Point Solutions studio, the only one in a 40-mile range. Souza underwent training on the use of Cyberhair wigs and educating clients before offering the wigs to her clients, flying to Minnesota in the morning for an intensive 10-hour training program and returning to Boston that evening. Three staff members — Lindsey, Jill and Nicole — have since also taken the training and are certified. Souza has taken additional training.

During the consultation, clients try on wigs to see how they fit and feel. When the wig is delivered, Souza or a staff member will style the wig for the client. They receive complimentary bottles of shampoo and conditioner and a complimentary wig stand. They can take the wig to the salon to have it cut during the life of the wig.

A number of the regular clients at Salon Monique include nurses and oncologists who have referred their patients to the salon. Souza said that she sees anywhere from four clients a month to four clients a week inquiring about wigs, but that number rises during October. She keeps in touch with her clients or their families. In the years since she began working with patients, she has lost several clients.

“It’s definitely rewarding,” she said. “It’s bittersweet. It has its ups and downs. I just want to make the journey a little bit easier for them and their families.”

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Salon Monique will donate 15 percent of the cost of a chair massage to the American Cancer Society during the month of October. For more information, call 781-828-8338.

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