tr?id=1952870431624579&ev=PageView&noscript=1 Hairpiece made with 3-D printer helps Hanover Park saleswoman rebuild confidence - Mane Image Hair Replacement Center

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Hanover Park resident Rebecca Fiske started losing her hair several years ago because of a hypothyroid problem, and it really shook the saleswoman's confidence. But with a hairpiece made in part with a 3-D printer, Fiske says she now feels more positive about her self-image.

Fiske says when she woke up one morning and started losing clumps of hair, she knew something was wrong.

"I was on the phone with my mom, and a handful of hair just came out," she said. "It just did not stop, and I was losing weight. I knew something was wrong; I knew it had to be something related to my thyroid."

Fiske saw four endocrinologists, three of whom told her nothing was wrong.

"But I was like, I'm 98 pounds, that's a problem," Fiske said. "I didn't even want to go to sleep at night. I was afraid that I would wake up with my whole head of hair on my pillow."

Ultimately, Fiske was diagnosed with hypothyroidism that presented hyperthyroid symptoms, including hair and weight loss. Eventually, Fiske lost about 80 percent of her hair.

Because her work in sales requires her to see clients daily, Fiske said losing her hair was devastating.

"I was thinking, 'How am I going to go to work?'" Fiske recalls. "When you're the face of your company and you're in front of a customer, you really do have to put your best foot forward, and if you don't have confidence because of what's going on in your personal life, you can forget selling anything."

Margaret Haefner, the director of Womens and Gender Studies at North Park University, says hair can relate to the value placed on a woman's image.

"Our culture values women's beauty first and foremost before anything else. Certainly hair has always been more important for women than men," Haefner says. "It's great that she has access to things that make her more confident. But I think we have to understand that underneath that, we're still saying that it's not acceptable to not have hair."

The hairpiece Fiske uses now was custom made to fit her head and the texture and length of hair she wanted.

Hairpieces she used in the past just didn't look natural enough, and you could see a separation between the hair and her forehead, she said.

The system she has now feels like a real scalp, and can be worn in the shower, while working out and while swimming.

"It's crazy to think that I was so concerned about my hair, because now I love my hairpiece. It looks natural, there are no tangles and it actually looks like my own hair," Fiske said.

Fiske went to Mane Image Hair Restoration Center in Merrillville, Indiana, one of the closest places she could find that offers the CNC hair system, manufactured by Italy's Cesare Ragazzi Laboratories.

The scalp portion of the hairpiece is considered a prosthetic made from polymer resin that is constructed using a 3-D printer. Measurements and molds taken by Mane Image owner Leslie Robinson are used to determine the size and contour of the prosthetic piece. "They make an actual representation of that client's scalp," Robinson said.

Once the prosthetic is complete, each piece of untreated human hair that's gone through quality control is injected into the polymer resin.

After the hair system was shipped back to Robinson, she says it took between one and two hours to install the piece and style it for Fiske. The prosthetic was put on top of the hair Fiske still had using a medical grade adhesive.

"It works just as a prosthetic limb would to add to what you already have," Robinson said.

The CNC hair systems can cost between $800 to fill in a small section of hair, and $8,000 for a full head of hair.

Fiske says most of her family and friends know about her hairpiece.

"They were with me when I was losing tons of hair, so of course they know," she said.

Robinson said helping men and women like Fiske assures her she's making a difference in other people's lives.

"Feeling different stinks," Robinson said. "When you have hair loss, it feels the same way. You carry some pain with you."

Article written by the Daily Herald.

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