The Correspondents: Vanishing hair

By Cherrie Anne Ongteco, Multi-media Producer, The Correspondents

Posted at Oct 01 2010 09:20 AM | Updated as of Oct 03 2010 12:20 AM

Baldness is not common to most women, but Maricar Bolaños is an exception.

After giving birth to her first child, Maricar decided to have a hair perm. For the next four months, she had on and off fever and her curly mane gradually fell off.

For years, she endured the non-stop ridiculing of her neighbors, the difficulty of finding a job, and her parents disowning her because of her baldness. Until one day, she succumbed to severe depression, to the point of taking away her own life by eating rat poison.

“Dahil ito nga sa buhok ko may problema ako. Doble-doble na nga sa magulang ko, na-blangko isip ko (Problems because of my hair, add my problem with my parents to that. My mind just went blank),” 21-year old Maricar said.

Maricar remembering the time she used to fix her hair in front of the mirror. Photo by The Correspondents

If there’s one thing that Maricar misses, it’s standing in front of the mirror and doing her beauty ritual.

“Ngayon takot ako parang pangit ako sa salamin na wala akong buhok. Kahit anong ayos ko sa mukha ko hindi na talaga mababalik iyong dati kong mukha (Now I dread looking at the mirror and seeing myself without hair. No matter what fixing up I do, it will never bring back my former look),” Maricar said.

To conceal her baldness, she tried to wear a wig worth P800 that she bought from Divisoria. But she regrets ever buying it because of the discomfort she feels when she wears it.

Correspondent Dominic Almelor and The Correspondents team brought Maricar to a hair transplant surgeon and dermatologist to have her hair checked.

According to Dr. Julieta Peralta-Arambulo, Maricar has alopecia areata, a very rare hair fall condition that may be caused by stress, lack of proper nutrition, and child birth. It’s an auto-immune disease where antibodies attack hair follicles. Experts have clarified that the wearing of caps, getting hair treatments like hot oil and hair rebonding do not cause baldness.

“As long as it’s done properly, and you’ll go to a certified parlor. However, the chemicals used may cause scarring, that’s the time it can cause hair loss,” Arambulo said.   

She said it will take months and years for Maricar’s hair to grow back. In the meantime, Dr. Arambulo advised her to be patient and to meditate and think positive as mental exercise to help her hair grow back. 

Looking on the brighter side of hair loss

But not all bald people have grown depressed over their hair condition. Some people, like 38-year old Rhenant Larin take it in stride.

“Okay lang, tipid sa shampoo (It’s okay at least I save on shampoo.) I don’t care if I’m losing hair, at least I’m gaining face,” Rhenant joked.

The youngest in the family, Rhenant is the fifth son of 67-year old Benny. But when people see them together, others can’t help but joke that Benny looks more like the youngest son, and Rhenant looks more like his uncle.

“Noong high school parang Justin Bieber ang dating, ngayon hindi na. Religious icon na (Back then in high school, my hair looked like Justin Bieber’s, now it no longer does. I look more like a religious icon),” he said.

Rhenant with correspondent Dominic Almelor looking at some of his old photo. Photo by The Correspondents

It was in college that his hair started to fall off and so did his confidence. It continued when he started working as an electronics communications engineer.

“I think it was my exposure to our equipment with radiation and the sleepless nights and stress at work that caused my hair loss,” he said.

Since then he has been the butt of all jokes.

“Tinutukso ako na sasampu na lang ang buhok ko. ‘Uy may glare’ dahil nagre-reflect daw sa noo ko (Other people joke and say that I only has ten strands of hair. Or there’s a glare reflecting from my forehead),” he said are just a few of the comments he has been getting from people.

Rhenant in his earlier days

At the age of 38, Rhenant is still single. He admitted that his baldness affects his relationships with women. He recalled a time when he met a lady he befriended over the phone. He initially felt that the girl was not interested in him because of his hair.

Insecure and afraid of being rejected again, Rhenant now thinks twice before courting a girl. Nevertheless, he remains hopeful that someday he will find somebody who will love and accept him.

Like Maricar, Thr Correspondents team brought Rhenant to a hair transplant specialist, Dr. Danilo Arsenio Lumibao.

Dr. Lumibao said Rhenant has androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness, a hair fall condition that is 95 percent genetically inherited. A hair condition Rhenant’s grandfather and a few uncles also had.

Everyday, people naturally lose 50-100 strands of hair. Exceeding this number may lead to baldness. In the case of Rhenant, his baldness is classified as level 3, having lost 2,000-3,000 strands of hair already.

One of the permanent solutions for baldness is hair transplantation that costs around P50,000, depending on the number of hair to be transplanted.

The transplant is natural and long-lasting, because the hair for the transplant will be taken from the back of the head of the donor. The implanted hair is already genetically resistant to Dihydrotestosterone, the hormone that causes hair fall at the front and top part of the head.

Dr. Lumibao checking on Rhenant’s hair. Photo by The Correspondents

Since Rhenant does not have enough money for a hair transplant, he patiently puts scalp lotion on his head. And after a few months of using the lotion, his family, relatives and even his barber noticed that his hair grew and thickened.

But medical practitioner Dr. Rey Salinel made clear that these topical scalp lotions only work on the parts of the head with hair.

“It really does grow by increasing the blood flow of the hair follicle underneath the skin. It only keeps the hair you have,” Salinel said.

Experts suggest that consumers check if the scalp lotions are made from natural ingredients, such as aloe vera, virgin coconut oil, malunggay and lemon grass. Products like these have been there for years and have been known to make the hair healthy.

“Pag okay na, e di mas madali na sigurong manligaw kasi mas marami ka ng maipe-present kaysa now na marami kang kulang, kulang ako sa bangs! (When everything is ok, it might be easier for me to court a girl. I would be able to present more than now that I have less. I lack bangs),” Rhenant said

Hair pieces or wigs are another solution for balding people.

For 6 years, celebrity Arnel Ignacio has been running a hair piece business that aims to give hope and restore the joy in the lives of people who lost hair.

To help Maricar, The Correspondents team brought her to Arnel’s hair piece place. A hair piece normally costs around P30,000.

Knowing that Maricar can not afford one, Arnel surprised Maricar with a free new hair piece. Tears began to roll down Maricar’s cheeks and even Arnel became teary-eyed when he gave her the hair piece.

Celebrity Arnel Ignacio and Maricar receiving the hair piece with tears of joy. Photo by The Correspondents

Maricar’s self-confidence was immediately restored. She hopes that this would be the start of a new beginning in her life and that she will be free from all the ridicule from society for her being bald.

The mere fact that both Maricar and Rhenant chose to share their lives in front of the camera is already proof that they openly accept their baldness, rather than see it as a burden or curse.