A Halifax business owner is providing a much-needed service for those who have suffered hair loss due to chemotherapy or alopecia, free of charge.
Sara Boudreau has been in the aesthetics industry for the 15 years and was finally able to open her own business — Lash Perfect — three years ago.
The 36-year-old has been able to hone her passion for eyebrows and lashes, developing a love for microblading — tattooing fine, hair-like strokes on the brows.
“I love the really fine detail work that’s involved and it’s really an art,” said Boudreau.
The process can take a couple of hours, with Boudreau making sure her client is happy with the shape of the brow before the treatment is applied.
For many, microblading is a timesaver. But for others, the process can mean much more.
‘It was just overwhelming’
Heather Messervey admits that she’s not good at drawing in her own eyebrows but that’s what she’d had to do after she lost them in 2010 while undergoing chemotherapy.
At 44 years old, Messervey was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It was her second bout with the disease. She had surgery, then 28 days of radiation and six months of chemotherapy.
“You’re tired all the time, you’re vomiting, you’re not feeling well… and it’s just really hard,” Messervey told Global News.
So she began looking for a solution and found Boudreau.
Little did Messervey know that that the cost of her micro-blading — valued at around $500 — would be completely covered through Boudreau’s Pay With a Smile program.
“It was just overwhelming that it was offered and at no cost,” Messervey said.
Her passion for the program became even more personal in 2019 after she learned that her mother-in-law had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I just remember her saying to me, ‘I just don’t feel like myself anymore.’ And so she lost a lot of her confidence with that,” Boudreau said.
“That’s when it really hit home for me. I realized that if I could give someone even just a piece of their old self back again what a difference that really made in their lives.”
‘Hair is very important to our identity’
For Dr. Simon Sherry, a professor at Dalhousie University and a clinical psychologist who studies the link between self and mental health, the benefits of a microblading treatment are no surprise.
“Our hair is very important to our identity. Our hair help defines who we are. And our hair is also caught up in our femininity, our masculinity, our sexuality and our attractiveness,” said Sherry.
That’s why hair loss can have devastating consequences.
“Hair loss has links to depression to anxiety, social isolation and social anxiety are also problems that accompany hair loss, we also see in the context of hair loss that people have less self-confidence and lower self-esteem,” added Sherry.
The therapeutic aspects of microblading are a motivating factor for Boudreau, who so far has helped a handful of clients have an emotional and cathartic experience.
“Especially at the end when I get to show them the mirror and they get to see their new brows for the first time, it’s always really emotional for both of us,” the business owner told Global News.
“It’s a little bit of a tear jerker a little bit at the end, but yeah, it’s nice to be able to share that experience with someone.”
Boudreau now wants to get the word out so others know that the service is available.
She hopes more people reach out and share their stories with her so she can help them like she did with Messervey.
All Boudreau needs is a doctor’s note saying that the patient’s chemotherapy treatments were completed at least six months ago. That ensures that the patient is healthy enough to heal from a tattoo.
Messervey said it’s a process that has made a world of difference.
“I wanted it to feel like me again. Like before the chemotherapy. Before I lost the brows, before I lost my hair,” she said.
“I didn’t need it done — but it did. It brought back my confidence, it brought back more laughter because you just feel — you feel comfortable.”