ORCUTT, Calif. – An Orcutt hairstylist is helping cancer patients and those with debilitating disorders reclaim their identity thanks to the technology of 3D printing.
Tucked in the heart of Old Town Orcutt is a hair salon utilizing technology you couldn’t even find in Los Angeles. The life-changing gift is helping a Cal Poly student find her voice with a natural head of hair.
“It’s just this beautiful little salon in this beautiful little town in California,” said Berit Ashby, a 19-year-old Cal Poly student from Denver.
A trip to the salon can be a major confidence booster but looking in a mirror would have left Berit in tears seven years ago.
“I felt captive, I had to be in my room. I couldn’t leave my room and now and I wake up in the morning, I don’t even think about having in a hair system,” said Berit.
The 19-year-old says it came out of nowhere when she was in 7th grade.
“I remember the day it started and I was like oh this is weird, what am I doing,” said Berit.
Dealing with anxiety and depression, puberty and her awkward phase, even her parent’s divorce – as he puts it, everything hit all at once.
“Honestly I’m impressed I got through it all. It was just such a low point, everything just felt bad. Everything felt sad, kind of disrupted I couldn’t go to gymnastics or school,” said Berit.
It started with a hair or two. It didn’t register until Berit’s mom noticed her widening part.
“I remember she took me to the doctor for it and they were like this is so weird I don’t know what that is, we’ve never seen anything like that,” said Berit.
It manifested to the point where she had to wear her hair in a ponytail every day for two straight years.
“I always like to compare the urge to like trying to stop a moving train, you just don’t,” said Berit.
The irresistible urge to pull out your own hair is a disorder called Trichotillomania affecting one to two percent of all people.
“I remember sitting in my room crying I’m never going to have friends again, I’m never gonna have a boyfriend. If people know this about me they’re not going to see me for who I am and I felt that way for a good five to six years,” said Berit.
As she struggled with embarrassing trips to wig shops and missed school dances in Denver, On the Central Coast, hairstylist Tami Mayorga’s mother-in-law was battling breast cancer.
“When a woman loses her hair it’s essentially their dignity. I watched her be depressed, not want to go out and socialize,” said Tami, a Santa Barbara County Hair Loss Specialist and Owner of The Talk of the Town Salon.
In 2015, Tami went to a hair loss convention in Florida and came across a studio from Italy where she knew right away something was different.
“They have the best quality of hair, they have the most innovative technology. They have the only, and they still do the only 3D printing technology, which is huge,” said Tami.
Determined to help people deal with aggressive hair loss, Tami traveled all the way to Bologna to learn all about their technology.
“It’s CNC by Cesare Ragazzi and that stands for compelli natural contacto which means natural hair and scalp in Italian,” explains Tami.
Utilizing a cranial prosthesis, 3D printing, and medical-grade glue, it can take up to six heads of hair to make one system.
An artist individually injects one hair strand at a time.
One custom wig system can take months to make.
“This is a cast of a patient’s head, this is for a full system the scanner will actually read the inside of this cast and relay the information to the computers so that’s exactly where the 3D printing comes in,” said Tami.
Berit had come across a different version of the bonding system in high school but it didn’t meet all her needs.
“I remember the day I realized oh my god what am I gonna do about my hair, I can’t go to college, I can’t go to college. I’m not gonna go I can’t leave home,” said Berit.
She did leave and became a student at Cal Poly and it was there a simple internet search lead her to The Talk of the Town Salon in Orcutt where Tami is one of only three people in the state licensed to do this.
Berit calls her a game-changer.
“It’s the reason I can go to school, wake up in the morning and be like all my friends and not have to worry about my hair 24/7. I can shower, I can swim in the ocean, exercise,” said Berit.
“It’s taken some time for Berit to come to terms with her hair care routine, female hair loss isn’t typically something that’s glamorized.
“It’s really hard to see yourself look so different than anything you’ve ever seen before. You don’t see this in magazines. You don’t see this on TV. You don’t see this on social media scrolling through Instagram,” said Berit.
Helping area cancer patients too, it’s gratifying for Tami to see the smile on Berit’s face, the confidence it takes to expose her bald head and own the process.
“If I can help them and give them a full head of natural hair then I felt that was my responsibility, that was my calling,” said Tami.
Tami says a full head of natural hair can give women their identity back but for Berit it’s taken Trichotillomania out of her identity.
“It helps to make it something that’s not the first thing people see about me, it’s something that people learn about me later on and they say oh that’s interesting that’s a piece of you and you’ve learned from this you’ve grown from it,” said Berit.
For that, she feels, “absolutely blessed.”
“I think this has been the one thing that has given me a voice more than anything else in my life,” said Berit.
Berit comes in for maintenance appointments every three to five weeks.
There’s also a Talk of the Town Salon in Santa Barbara. Tami is the only licensed CNC Hair Loss Specialist in Southern California.