Hair loss treatment: Claire Ory pulled out her hair due to a phobia and was left nearly bald
But now, thanks to a new technique called the Intralace system, Claire Jenna has a full head of hair for the first time in 13 years.
The technique, which costs between £895 – £2295, involves applying a mesh over the scalp, pulling any existing hair through and stitching in real hair extensions.
Now she can perform new circus tricks, as well as going on fairground rides and to the gym without worrying that she could lose her wig.
Within a year, I lost almost all my hair and I was just pulling the remaining strands without even realising it
“I started developing school phobia. I went from one teacher to six or seven teachers and lots of homework and exams.
“I didn’t cope with it well. Within a year, I lost almost all my hair and I was just pulling the remaining strands without even realising it. I had gaps all over my head.”
Two years later, the condition was so severe that Claire’s parents Stephanie and Philippe decided to shave her head, in a bid to control her urge to pull.
Claire as a child before her trichotillomania started
“When my parents said they would have to shave my head, I knew they were doing it for a reason, but I didn’t want them to, obviously. I wanted to be like my friends and I was crying the whole time.”
A year later, when she was 12, Claire started wearing wigs to cover her head, but school bullies made her life increasingly difficult.
“Some kids can be really cruel,” she said. “They would pull off the wig and tease me, because I was bald. They would call me a ghost or an alien.”
Her mum died a year later and a devastated Claire was caught in a spiral of hair pulling and shaving her head, using different wigs to cover it.
Growing up, she trained in circus skills, but was always too scared to perform tricks upside down, in case her wig fell off.
But, at 18, she found a new self confidence when she started modelling and showing off her bald head.
She explained: “It was great, because I finally felt like I looked nice, even though I was bald. I felt beautiful with a shaved head. It was empowering.
“When I started modelling, I saw all those amazing pictures and I felt like it was a look I could do that nobody else could.”
Although she learned to love the way she looked, she continued to pull patches of hair from her head and wore a wig most of the time, which she found it very limiting.
“Just going to the gym or playing football was difficult, because I worried my wig would fall off,” Claire continued.
Last year, she opted for a revolutionary Intralace system, which involved stitching hair into a plastic cap on her scalp.
“I am missing all the hair on the top part of my head,” Claire explained.
“They put a net on the top of any existing hair and they pull your real hair through, they tie it down so the net is fixed to your head and then they sew in some extensions and then they fix a parting. It looks really natural.
“Now I can wash my hair normally and I’ve been able to do lots of things for the first time since I was a child.”
Claire is now a circus performer – she wanted to stitch in the wig so she could perform upside down
“It was the best feeling ever,” Claire added. “Now, I can head-bang and have fun wherever I am. It’s like having hair without having hair.”
Although she does still have the urge to pull, the extensions on Claire’s head make it more difficult and her own hair has started to grow again.
She explained: “I am worried about removing the extensions, because I might go back to it, but I do feel like my pulling is much more under control.
“Anyone suffering from trichotillomania should speak out. I see some people who have been pulling for years, but are keeping it secret.
“You feel it’s not socially acceptable and you hate yourself for doing it. Everyone around me knows and I think that’s really important.”
Claire is working with Lucinda Ellery, founder of Lucinda Ellery studios, who is a renowned industry hair expert, with over 30 years experience pioneering unique solutions for female hair loss and hair thinning.
For more information visit www.lucindaellery-hairloss.co.uk