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Wig stylist Sandy Cridge helps the hairless. 

click to enlarge HEATHER MULL

Sandy Cridge is marking 10 years of Cloud 9 Hair Design and Wig Salon. Her boutique, on a Mount Lebanon side street, serves men and women with hair loss, including chemotherapy patients. Cridge lives in Brentwood.

Your shop.

This is the wig room, where I take care of the people. This is all of my wigs -- I have about 400 in stock. I have the higher-quality wigs. The ones that look like your scalp underneath, and they're hand-tied, so when the wind blows -- [lifts a lock with her hand].

Wigs need styling?

These are all stock. I get them as close as they can to [a client's] old style. A lot of them are too thick -- they need to be thick for a woman that lost her hair that had thick hair. It's not just putting the wig on and going, "You look gorgeous," because they look like hell sometimes when you put 'em on. Especially comin' out of the box!

You make the hair pieces yourself?

I'm making this one now, for a woman. I'll sew pieces in, and then I'm gonna make it frosted. These [tufts] are called weftings. I'll sew it together, to make it thick, and then I cut it. It's a long process.

How will it work?

It just gives her lift [to her hair], and that's all she wants. She can wear it to bed. Nobody knows it. I'm going to make weftings across, and then there'll be holes. It's an integration piece: Some people have a big ball of hair here, and nothing here. You make it according to the growth pattern.

Why is hair so important?

It's very depressing when you don't have hair. People don't go out of the house because they don't have hair. When women look in the mirror and see either no hair, or thin thin hair, they don't feel good.

Not all your clients are ill.

A few come in for fashion: bad-hair-day wigs. Honestly. They'll just buy a wig because their hair looks like hell after they get it done at the beauty shop. And they'll say -- well, their hair is bad from the get-go. It's really soft and fine. And they get it done one day, and the next day it looks -- they shouldn't have gone. So they buy a wig, and that gets them out of the house.

Anyone else?

I have had women who come in, they lost their husbands. "He had a streak here -- can you sew white hair in?" So I would take some white hair, and sew it into this top. To make him look more like himself in the coffin.

How did you start in wigs?

I've been a hairdresser 37 years. I started doing hair when I was 15 -- in the basement, obviously! My aunt got me into this because she wore wigs. I fixed them and I styled them. She had hair loss, bad hair loss, at a very young age. My aunt, seven to 10 wigs a week. She wore them like crazy; she couldn't even comb them.

Why specialize?

The wigs were more challenging. I get one shot at cutting the wig. It doesn't grow back. So you better be good with the razor.

What do wigs cost?

A good one, $350 and up.

Are wigmakers collegial?

Nobody knows anybody. I guess we keep our secrets to ourselves. I sure do. People call up and say, "Where do you get your wigs?" "It's none of your business, really." It took me years to find the best companies.

Why this location?

It's quiet here, it's private. It's not in a mall. Haircuts you need to be out there and exposed. With this, people are gonna cower to [visit] a place that's in any kind of mall.

You are part therapist?

Oh my gosh in heaven, yes. You really have to have some compassion for these people. When you're here talking to them, they tell you everything. They need to talk to somebody, and they need somebody to listen. You need to put them in a comfort zone.

I have empathy because I've gone through the lumpectomy, and I've had cancer. I know the pain and the angst and the stress and all that jazz. That was two years ago. And I'm here!

What besides chemo causes hair loss?

A lot of people with alopecia, holy smokes, they are born without hair! And they need something good. Sometimes it happens later on in life, too. Aging, medication. Stress. I lost all my hair through stress. I was building my salon. That's what did it.

All your hair?

Oh my goodness, but it grew back! People think this is a wig, and it's not! This is me! "Is that a wig?" "No" [laughs]. "Does it look like a wig?" No, it's me. It's au naturel.

How did you cope with hair loss?

I put a baseball cap on and a fake ponytail. I didn't care! Everyone else is coming in here without hair -- I figured, why not join the club!

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