Sally-Ann Tarver, 33, is divorced and lives in Evesham, Worcestershire
‘I was 16 when a car pulled out into my motorbike and put me in hospital with a badly broken arm and leg. I took a long time to heal, and suffered from anaemia and drastic weight loss due to the crash. Then my hair started to come out in handfuls.
When people hear ‘hair loss’, they think ‘alopecia’, but I was diagnosed with Telogen Effluvium, which is when the hair on your head falls out – in my case, due to shock. Before the accident I was very into my appearance and would never go out without make-up. Afterwards, I couldn’t even put my contact lenses in because of my arm, let alone do my make-up. I stopped looking in mirrors, stopped going out and just really let myself go.
Even when I started to get better, my hair loss kept recurring – but no one knew why. I decided I wanted to find out more, so I took a three-year distance course at the Institute of Trichologist.
I’d been working at a hairdressers, but I had to give it up as I couldn’t stand up for long periods of time. When customers found out what I was studying, they asked me for advice on everything from thinning hair to eczema. The more I studied, the more I realised there were no suitable clinics outside London. I saw an opportunity to fill a gap, so I took the compensation I’d received from my accident and put it into opening the Cotswold Trichology Centre in July 1998.
It was very scary as I was only 23 at the time – but I just got stuck in and learned as I went along. My biggest problem was that I looked young for my age and it took a while for patients to take me seriously – they’d come in and ask me to fetch the trichologist! Opening the clinic also forced me to take care of my appearance again.
Hair loss is a very distressing condition to deal with and has lots of machinations. Clients were complaining to me that they bought wigs online and what arrived in the post never looked like the images on the website. The companies often shaped them badly, so I started to adjust and trim the wigs myself. I then went on a Trevor Sorbie wig training course so I could further my skills.
Last year the clinic was flooded, but having to refit it gave me the opportunity to expand the business to include a new wig service. I can now provide personalised fittings. Most of my patients are women. When they come to the clinic they’re understandably very emotional and often in shock at losing their hair. I build up very close relationships with them and some of them are now my best friends. As their look improves, they obviously feel better about themselves, and it’s wonderful to be able to help them reach that point. Ten year on the clinic is very successful, and I don’t consider it working at all! My accident and hair loss were terrible thing to have happened, hut I’m now able to support others going through the same situation and help them feel great about themselves again.