For 20 years, Emily Kight pulled her hair out compulsively. It got to a point where she wouldn’t go out in public without a hat, because her bald spots were too noticeable. Now, Kight has better control over her impulses thanks to a product she invented.
“It’s a big relief, I can walk around without a hat and feel like I have overcome the urge now. I struggled for 20 years with this thing I couldn’t stop, and now I finally made myself a cure,” Kight said.
Kight started pulling her hair when she was seven years old.
When Kight was a little girl she started pulling out her eyelashes, because she heard it would grant her a wish, and it didn’t take long for things to escalate.
“I started off pulling out eyelashes to wish for world peace, then my cat and things for my family. It was my seven-year-old version of fixing things and became a way of coping,” she told Caters News.
She described her parents reaction as “disappointed” when they found out what their daughter was doing to herself, but she couldn’t stop. She couldn’t even control her urges despite classmates calling her cruel names, which would leave her running to the bathroom in tears.
Kight found herself making up stories to tell people when they asked why she didn’t have eyelashes or why she had a bald spot. The constant lying coupled with anxiety and depression fueled her urges to pull her hair even more.
She eventually sought help for trichotillomania.
Trichotillomania is such a manic thing. Everything with my life was out of my control, I struggled with anxiety and depression, I didn’t manage any of it so pulled at my hair. It was worsened when people would make comments about me balding. It made me feel like a weirdo. Those who I did explain it to didn’t understand and often broke my confidence. I had this feeling of inadequacy and a longing to be normal. People would say ‘at least I don’t pull my hair out like a freak,’ that kind of thing, which just cut me down.
Nothing seemed to help her.
Trichotillomania is an impulse disorder, characterized by hair pulling. It is difficult to pinpoint how many people suffer from the disorder, but it is estimated that anywhere from one to four percent of the population lives with it.
Even though Kight tried various medications, therapists, and devices to distract herself, she still found herself pulling out her hair. That is, until she was assigned a special project at school. The assignment was to create a solution to a medical problem, and Kight knew exactly what she wanted to do. She wanted to invent something to help those who suffer from trichotillomania.
She started thinking about how she could cure her disorder.
“When you get stung by a bee or have itchy skin from a bug bite there is a cream, so I thought why not work on a remedy to address this urge,” she said.
Kight used the same concept that we already use to relieve itchy skin from a bug bite and incorporated it into a hair-friendly product to help combat the impulses associated with trichotillomania.
She entered her idea in Temple University’s Fox School of Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute Idea competition and won second place.
The product, Prohibere, which she plans to release in September, is a leave-in conditioner that gives the consumer a cooling and numbing sensation on the skin. Kight said the sensation makes many people, including herself, less likely to want to pull their hair out. The product also has hair nourishing ingredients to help regrow the hair.
After three months of using her own product Kight noticed that she reduced her hair-pulling behavior by 75 percent, and she also noticed something else—her hair started growing back.
“Soon I felt the bald patches growing back. Now I have a full head of hair for the first time since I was eight years old, and can finally go to the hairdressers without having to explain anything,” she told Caters News.
After she saw success with her product, she wanted to make it available to others.
Kight is currently fundraising for Prohibere and hopes to get it out to potential customers before the end of the year.
She recognizes that this sort of treatment might not work for everyone, just like some other distraction devices didn’t work for her, but she hopes that down the road she’ll be able to create an entire line of products that offer various treatment options for those suffering from trichotillomania.