Derry salon owner Sandra Atoge on helping women with hair loss: ‘I started researching because I had to find an answer for them. I couldn’t rest until I did’
After Sandra Atoge opened her personal salon specialising in hair extensions, she had girls from all backgrounds interesting to her for assist — and their tales broke her coronary heart.
andra (46) found there have been many ladies residing with hair loss brought on by medical situations. They weren’t appropriate for bizarre extensions, so she took it upon herself to do one thing about it.
“After initially making wigs for her shoppers, she educated in non-surgical hair substitute techniques so she might supply a greater answer.
Now she is famend for a way “pure” her types look and has even travelled to the US to coach different hairdressers in her methods.
She explains: “Ladies had been telling me their tales and it was completely heartbreaking that I couldn’t assist them. Typical hair extensions sit beneath the consumer’s personal hair.
“When their hair was too skinny for these extensions, I needed to say no and I hated turning folks away. It was particularly onerous understanding that they had constructed up the braveness to return to me for assist, take their hats off and present me their hair loss.
“I went away and began researching as a result of I needed to discover a solution for them. I couldn’t relaxation till I did.”
It was this dedication that introduced her to Northern Eire from Ghana over 20 years in the past to review for a level in regulation on the College of Ulster.
She laughs: “It took a very long time to finish as a result of I saved having youngsters. I used to be all the time pregnant on campus.”
After graduating, she started working for the Civil Service whereas elevating her household. She and husband Moses have 4 youngsters: Montel (19), Cayden (17), Leonelle (13) and Ancel (10).
It was her personal wrestle to discover a hairdresser in Derry that led to Sandra first contemplating opening a salon of her personal.
She says: “I’ve an aunt again in Ghana who has an enormous salon, so I grew up round hairdressing and by chance I knew tips on how to do my very own. In Derry at the moment there was no salon that would do my hair — I’ve essentially the most Afro hair you would ever see.”
Sandra did a coaching course on hair extensions after which opened her first small salon in 2017, calling it iHobbs, which stands for ‘worldwide Home of Braids and Magnificence’.
At first it was a labour of affection, however after phrase obtained round through social media, her telephone began ringing.
“I couldn’t get a mortgage, not one of the banks would contact me, so I used all my financial savings and located the tiniest salon, however I cherished it as a result of it was mine,” she smiles. “I went to Ikea and acquired the most cost effective mirrors I might discover.
“I opened, and for the primary six weeks, not one single buyer stepped via the door. Then one other native enterprise proprietor supported me and put some images of my salon on her Instagram.
“At the moment, there wasn’t many different folks doing hair extensions in Derry, so quickly I had a great deal of shoppers.”
That’s when girls began interesting to Sandra for assist and he or she realised how many individuals are affected by medical hair loss.
“It was a shock to be sincere,” she says. “Rising up in Ghana, I all the time had this impression that Caucasian folks had nice heads of hair.
“I began studying about medical situations like alopecia, feminine sample baldness, psoriasis and even being pregnant hormones that may trigger hair loss.
“Conventional extensions wouldn’t work for ladies with these situations and that was so tough for me. After saying no to them, I might go into the lavatory to cry.”
In a bid to assist her shoppers, Sandra began making wigs, however quickly discovered that they had been too heat for menopausal girls to put on.
She provides: “I did a lot analysis and that’s once I got here throughout non-surgical hair substitute techniques. It’s a distinct manner of doing extensions.
“Most extensions go behind the pinnacle and are hidden beneath the consumer’s pure hair.
“Non-surgical hair loss extensions sit on the high of the pinnacle and are absolutely seen, so they should look very pure.
“They use a particular sort of mesh to create a platform to connect the extensions to.”
Sandra travelled to London to coach with a non-surgical hair substitute specialist earlier than beginning to supply the methods in her personal salon.
“It modified my life as a result of it modified the lives of my shoppers,” she says. “It’s about providing the best providers for the best hair varieties and I can work with all hair varieties.”
iHobbs now operates out of a bigger premises on Hawkins Avenue, and Sandra employs three different stylists who’re consultants in hair extensions and — she says — “empathy”.
In the meantime, Sandra has gained a qualification to have the ability to practice different stylists within the non-surgical hair substitute system.
Earlier this yr she travelled to California to supply her experience, and later this summer time she is going to give coaching on her methods in New York.
“Folks inform me I’ve helped them, however actually they assist me too,” she says.
“I’m very fortunate to have the ability to do a job the place I’m going dwelling on the finish of the day feeling so fulfilled.”
Elizabeth Devine (64) from Co Londonderry, has been a consumer of Sandra’s for the previous 4 years.
She started scuffling with hair loss on account of a mix of genes, the menopause and stress, and spent years making an attempt to cowl it up. “A lady’s hair is her crown,” she says.
“After I began dropping my hair I attempted all the things — shampoos, drugs, nothing labored. I used to be too embarrassed to speak about it or ask for assist.”
After being pointed within the course of iHobbs, Elizabeth began getting Sandra’s hair substitute system.
“She was so welcoming and understanding, she made me really feel protected,” Elizabeth provides.
“Sandra is a miracle employee — she’s modified my life and change into one in every of my closest buddies.
“I really feel unbelievable now, a lot extra assured and other people say it has taken 20 years off me.
“iHobbs is now my second dwelling. I’m going in each Friday for a wash and blow dry and all the ladies there are fantastic. I might suggest them to anybody.”
Go to ihobbshair.com