Good hair day: Angelline Smalls (left) and one of her clients, who wears her own tresses on her wig
For cancer patients, it can be difficult enough battling the disease, never mind coping with the added burden of losing all hair from chemotherapy. Though it’s fairly easy to obtain wigs made with donated human hair, it’s not common to have one fashioned out of one’s own tresses. But Angelline Smalls, owner of Dutchess County’s An’Tyrice Salon, does just that. “People tell us they’ve never heard of anything like this, where they get their own hair back,” she says. “And that’s really what they want.”
Smalls, a hairstylist who has made custom hairpieces for fashion shows, felt compelled to give back to cancer patients when the disease struck close to home. “A customer who became like a mother to me lost her life to cancer,” she remembers. “She never requested a wig before, so when she did I knew it was serious. I made it, and she passed within 24 hours of me giving it to her.”
Smalls meets with prospective clients — before they lose their manes — at one of An’Tyrice’s two locations (Poughkeepsie and Wappingers Falls); if the client is too ill to travel, she will make a house call. Together, they decide on an appropriate style. Smalls then takes head measurements and gives the woman a cute pixie cut. Sometimes the client can do some snipping herself. “This way, she feels more in control,” Smalls explains. She then collects the hair and designs the wig. The length of the hair doesn’t matter: The stylist can work with both short and long locks. To help make the headpiece more comfortable on the wearer’s scalp, she uses lightweight, breathable lace as the wig’s base, which comes in myriad shades to match any skin tone. Adjustable straps are inserted in the back, and can be tightened if the headpiece loosens over time.
The wigs usually take about three weeks to manufacture, by which time the patient has probably lost her remaining hair. Smalls says it’s always emotional when the customer receives her custom-made coif. “They cry, I cry,” she says. “Hairs stand up on my body in places I didn’t even know were there.”
Depending on the hair’s weight and density, the wigs range between $500 and $1,000. But for Smalls, it’s not about the money. She says: “I feel like it’s my duty to empower other women to still feel beautiful if they’re sick.”
See below for a video featuring Smalls and some of her clients: