New salon in Tucker specializes in nonsurgical hair replacement

West opened her salon on Mountain Industrial Boulevard in September. Photos by Kathy Mitchell

Sharmele “Smiley” West has been a licensed cosmetologist for 23 years, but a few years ago she decided to specialize. “I noticed that I was seeing a lot of hair loss in women. Even my mother had that problem,” she said, noting the hair loss, or alopecia, may occur for several reasons including genetics, a medical condition and inappropriate care.

“I hate to say it, but there are negligent stylists who are only concerned about giving a style that looks good—no matter how they had to achieve it—just to make a quick buck,” she said.

“We as professionals in the hair care industry must keep up with information on the products we are using,” West said. “Clients can have natural or [chemically treated] hair and still have healthy hair, if it is being taken care of properly. Some stylists forget some of the basics once they’re in the salon like strand tests, checking the elasticity, porosity and density of hair prior to using chemicals. As a licensed cosmetologist, I suggest all stylists continually educate themselves on the products they are using and not only style great hair, but keep and maintain healthy hair.”


West opened her salon on Mountain Industrial Boulevard in September. Photos by Kathy Mitchell

Also, with the economy in a slump, she said, many women try such procedures as relaxers or coloring at home without really knowing what they’re doing. Others may have a friend or relative, what West calls “kitchen-ticians,” work on their hair. Improper use of chemical relaxers and extremely tight hair braiding can cause permanent damage to the hair follicle, she said.

West became a certified nonsurgical hair replacement specialist in 2004 and in September opened Smiley’s National Black Hair Institute on Mountain Industrial Boulevard in Tucker. She said severe hair damage has become common in ethnic women because of pulling from braiding, bonding, sewing and other procedures. She said her research indicates that 70 to 80 percent of the people seeking nonsurgical hair replacement are Black women.

While she specializes in Black women’s hair, West said, she can work with women of any ethnicity and one of the technicians at her salon is in the process of becoming certified to restore men’s hair.

“Hair defines many things for a woman–personality, attractiveness, success, health and social status. Losing it can have a dramatic effect on both self-esteem and social life,” West commented, adding that she has had clients in tears as they told stories of how they lost their hair. She added that she understands the sensitive nature of the problem and is equipped to give consultations and treatments in a private area if the client prefers.

West said that because hair loss is so common many products and procedures to address the problem are on the market. Most, she said, are only minimally or temporarily effective. “Thousands of products for female hair loss are advertised on the Internet,” West said. “Almost all are a complete waste of money.”

She said if women come to her when they first start losing their hair, often she can treat the damaged scalp and start hair growing again, but “usually, they wait about three years, then it’s too late.”

For women whose hair won’t grow back she can attach human hair using a special mesh that’s the same type used on burn victims. Once the mesh is attached using a special polymer, the hair can be washed and styled as though it were the person’s naturally growing hair.


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