Dianne Austin: Changing the Lives of Cancer Survivors with Textured Hair

Dianne Austin lost her hair after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Things worsened when she couldn’t find a medical wig for hair loss that matched her hair type. She was determined to retell the story for future women who could one day find themselves in her shoes.

She told WCVB “I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, and I learned through my oncologist that I would lose all of my hair. So it was really shocking for me. It took me for a loop.”

Austin underwent surgery, followed by chemotherapy. She remembered how her daughter was about to graduate from high school when she was undergoing therapy. Austin went on to say that she wanted to seem as much like herself as possible so that her daughter’s education would be unaffected by her illness.

Despite her doctor’s recommendation and prescription for a medical hair loss wig that was covered by insurance, she didn’t think it looked like her hair. “It just felt like it made me feel almost invisible when I walked into like three different spaces and didn’t see anything that reflected my hair preferences,” she added.

Austin searched hospitals around the country for a medical hair loss wig that would make her feel entire, but she was unsuccessful despite knowing that other patients had made similar demands.

The entrepreneur eventually reproduced a wig she purchased at a beauty supply store, but she was unable to use her health insurance and was forced to forsake the seclusion that a hospital could provide.

“I remember just being so frustrated and angry, and I was like, ‘Well, Diane, stop being angry. Do something about it.’ And that’s how the business was born.”

In 2019, she and her sister, Pamela Shaddock, established Coils to Locs. Before founding the company, she said she spent nearly four years researching and understanding the market. They then found a manufacturer, and the wigs had to pass a wig fitter exam.

“She took the wig and started stretching it and turning it inside out, and she said, This is really good quality. I remember having a sigh of relief,” Austin recounted to CBS News.

Her online store sells a range of black textured wigs, from coily curls to ringlets, that can be purchased with health insurance through prescriptions at cancer clinics across the country, including Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Coils to Locs is now accessible at 16 hospitals and is growing popularity across the country. The sisters appeared on “The Jennifer Hudson Show.”

“I think what people don’t recognize is that hair loss and wanting a wig because of hair loss is not, you know, someone who’s being vain and wants a product for, you know, vanity purposes. It’s it’s a lifeline. It allows you sort of a sense of control; a sense of self helps you to maintain your dignity during what is a very difficult time,” Austin remarked.

Many people applauded her inventive thinking in solving this difficulty, she said. Her and her sister’s hairstyles have recently evolved to include braids and, soon, locs.

Austin and her sister Shaddock plan to expand their business to include medical hair loss wigs for men and children.

Austin told CBS News, “Considering how successful her company has been,” “Sometimes we are pinching ourselves. We look at each other and think, We actually did this. We created this business from scratch.”


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