Donna Washington

Before and After: Donna Washington (Photo by Cesare Ragazzi Laboratories)

After nearly seven years of struggling with hair loss, Donna Washington can finally look in the mirror and recognize her beauty. According to Washington, she owes it all to a 3-D printing hair loss solution provided by Cesare Ragazzi Laboratories.

Washington began to lose her hair in 2010 after a malignant brain tumor was removed. The radiation destroyed her hair follicles and left her distraught. “I was in a state of depression,” she said. “I had to keep reminding myself I am here but when I looked in the mirror I asked, ‘Why am I still here?’ I didn’t see me anymore. I didn’t recognize that person because all these changes happened so fast.”

The 50-year-old pharmacist had a difficult time feeling confident while interacting with the public at work and soon became a recluse. It wasn’t until she saw the effect her depression had on her son that she sought treatment for her hair loss.

“It would have been easier if everywhere I went people didn’t ask me questions about my hair. I found that I stayed home a lot more. I didn’t even want to be around my family,” she said. “But when I saw how it affected my son, I realized I had to stop feeling sorry for myself.”

To add to her medical challenges, in 2014 Washington was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. Yet, she found the breast cancer battle easier to endure than hair loss. “The breast cancer didn’t affect me as much as my hair, believe it or not. People see you and what they see is your face. You can hide everything else under clothes.”

Washington went on to spend nearly $30,000 on wigs and various other hair loss treatments because as she said, “Black women spend so much on hair because it’s so important to us.” But each option she tried failed to rectify the issue. For instance, she suffered from constant headaches due to wigs since her exposed scalp left nothing for the pieces to grip onto. After coming across a Facebook ad for Cesare Ragazzi, she decided to give the product a chance.

The company uses 3-D printing to create what is called a CNC. The prosthetic hairpiece is a replica of an individual’s scalp and hair that can be worn as a permanent attachment. Measurements and molds are done at over 30 centers in 18 states and sent to Cesare Ragazzi’s lab in Bologna, Italy, where a 3D printer produces the base. Then a team hand injects the base to reproduce the color, texture, and hair pattern of the client’s scalp.

After getting her CNC this past December, Washington feels like herself again. She’s now sharing her story so that other hair loss sufferers know there is another option out there.

“At first, I wasn’t sure if it would work because you have to know how to deal with Black hair. But I did the consultation and now I have two pieces with highlights,” she said. “It’s like it’s my own hair. I wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and I look like me again.”

The column, On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of arts administration company, Souleo Enterprises LLC.