After Losing Her Hair at 23, This Beauty Brand Founder Finally Found Acceptance in Wigs

Courtesy of Suran Yoo
Courtesy of Suran Yoo

Suran Yoo started losing her hair due to alopecia at 23 years old. After years of struggling with the condition, which is characterized by circular bald patches on the scalp, wigs helped her regain her confidence. For our column UNTOLD, now she is sharing, in her own words, how her company Silk or Lace aims to end the stigma around hair loss and make it easier for people to shop for wigs. This story was told to Jessica Harrington and edited for length and clarity.

When I went on birth control at 23, I lost half my head of hair. I was on it for a while and, even after getting off of it, while most of my hair grew back it was still very thin. I spent five years trying to find a solution — I tried topical treatments, hair transplants, everything — but none of them really gave me the hair that I had before. There were times where I didn't want to go outside because I just didn't want to struggle with doing my hair.

When I found wigs, I went through this stage of feeling really embarrassed. Hair loss and alopecia tend to be a really embarrassing topic for women; there's a lot of shame there. Fundamentally, a woman's hair is tied to her beauty and I feel like when someone loses their hair, it makes them feel as if they're not feminine. Personally, I felt as if there was something wrong with me and I was really embarrassed to tell other people that I was wearing wigs. Not a lot of people talk about it, and people tend to think that if you wear a wig, there must be something wrong with your hair underneath. I was self-conscious that someone would think of me differently if they found out.

It wasn't until after I started my Instagram account The Strandie, where I anonymously started sharing my journey, that I realized there are tons of women out there who feel the same way. Sharing that helped me start to accept myself, and I got to the point where I started changing up my look for fun. I didn't feel like I had to wear wigs that matched my natural black hair; I could start wearing blond wigs or curly wigs. It gave me confidence and helped me be forthcoming about what I had considered to be my flaws and find beauty in them. Ironically, by wearing wigs, it helped me accept hair loss even more.

Ironically, by wearing wigs, it helped me accept hair loss even more.

At first, finding a high-quality wig was a disaster. It's so hard to find a good piece online because, while it's a growing industry, most of the boutique shops sell primarily through Instagram. In general, compared to every other part of the beauty industry, it was really hard to navigate all of those little boutique shops one at a time. That makes it hard to price-compare and know what to look for, and navigate the crazy terminology, like what a silk top, lace top, or mono top is. There are a lot of really great hair brands out there, that's not the problem — the problem is that wigs are hard to shop for.

That's why I created Silk or Lace in April 2020 as a marketplace for boutique wigs and hair toppers, where you can look at pieces across brands and compare. We brought in these modern shopping tools like custom filters that seem very obvious and basic but aren't commonly used in our industry. Many websites don't even filter by hair color, by hair length, by cap type — basic things again, that we take for granted as shoppers.

Courtesy of Suran Yoo

Shortly after we expanded with Re: Silk or Lace, which is a category for lightly worn wigs and toppers at a discounted price. I call it The RealReal for wigs. There are Instagram pages and Facebook groups and Craigslist-type of platforms where you can buy and sell wigs, but we offer a formal place that provides a bit more trust in terms of certification.

Since launching, I've gotten an outpouring of support from women who've shared their experiences. If we can alleviate this pressure to have the perfect hair and know that it's okay to pop on a wig and go about your day, Silk or Lace will have accomplished its mission in terms of normalizing wearing wigs, not just in instances of hair loss, but in seeing them as a fine beauty accessory and a way to change your look, too.