If you’ve not yet seen the most recent pictures of Naomi Campbell’s bald head, I suggest you click here and look. It’s amazing to see how grotesque a two-inch by two-inch unblemished patch of skin can be. It’s not hideous because it’s bald, mind you—Alek Wek is bald and gorgeous—but because the damage was so entirely avoidable. Had Campbell, who is one of the most beautiful woman in the world, according to her employers, simply not yanked out her natural hair with extensions for the past couple decades, her baldness would be nonexistent, and she wouldn’t need that very obvious wig.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, hair loss affects some 30 million women annually for a variety of medical reasons, including everything from androgenic alopecia to traumatic events. For many black women, however, baldness also begins in the beauty salon. For proof, see the retreating hairlines of celebrities like Vivica Fox and Tyra Banks, women whose idea of primping has for years been weighing down their natural hair with synthetic strands or outright poisoning their ‘dos into submission. A person can only systematically destroy their hair for so long before they’ve got no more hair to destroy, and Vivica and Tyra and Naomi can now tell you that without ever saying a word.
Tomorrow begins the federal tax on tanning, the 10-percent toll Obama’s health care bill thrust upon people who wanted to continue risking their health for perceived beauty. Is it time to similarly tax weaves?
If your answer is no, because female baldness doesn’t impact health insurance costs the way skin cancer does, consider that there is now a cadre of women lobbying—at least on the Internet—for health insurance providers to pay for wigs for balding women. Some insurance already pays for wigs for cancer patients enduring chemotherapy, but these women want free wigs for all women suffering hair loss, as well as money for therapy to treat the “devastating effect hair loss has on a woman’s self image.” And while it’s not suggested that women take anti-balding medications like Avodart, some are, and some Avodart users claim their insurance is covering the pills.
Indeed, assuming that wigs and therapy for 30 million will cost more than $10 per patient, we can guess that female baldness might actually cost more than treating skin cancer—$291 million in 2004.
Knowing this, let’s tax weaves. Besides helping to offset the costs associated with female baldness, in this economy, the tariff might also cause some women to question the decision to ruin their scalps in the first place. Perhaps some of the money saved could even go toward things like social welfare programs designed to help young black girls stop fetishizing straight blonde hair in the first place. It’s going to be hard to combat Beyonce’s influence, but we can try.
-Cord Jefferson is a staff writer at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.