My friend hadn’t had her hair cut in four years. Yes, FOUR years. She had been afraid to go out publicly, other than to work because of a facial disfigurement she acquired which depressed her.

Those years had been a living hell, made all the more difficult because she is middle aged and so uncomfortable with her face. Her friends have largely deserted her, failing to appreciate how difficult it is for her to come to terms with the sudden loss of her looks. They lack the empathy to understand what she is going through, to appreciate her feelings of diminished self worth, sense of loss and her dread of venturing outdoors.

Frightened and overwhelmed, unable to face the world on her terms, she allowed her hair to grow because she was afraid to be seen in public. I know what that fear is like and so do many others in the same situation. It’s very distressing, a combination of helplessness and hopelessness.

My mother is well into her 80s and makes a weekly trip to have her hair done. It helps her feel good about herself, and I’m sure many women feel the same.

So when my friend finally decided she had to do something about her hair she called her former hairdresser, with whom she had been a client for 10 years, and asked to make an appointment. It might seem like a small step, no big deal, but for my friend it was a massive move forward just making that call.

The hairdresser was delighted to hear from her and was ready to make an appointment, until my friend told her why she hadn’t called in four years. Once the words ‘facial disfigurement’ were uttered, the hairdresser refused point blank to take her back as a client. Why?

I don’t know for certain because no explanation was forthcoming, but I’m guessing that the hairdresser didn’t want her other clients to see someone who was less than perfect, because women look on getting their hair done as part of feeling glamorous and beautiful. That may have been her perception. Maybe she couldn’t deal with disfigurement, especially a facial one.

My friend – and I don’t know from where she summoned the courage – wrote to me:  “I immediately telephoned another salon, spoke to a hairdresser, explained my situation and she welcomed me warmly.

“She’s a lovely, lovely lady and makes me feel like a beauty queen. She accommodates me so well. On the two occasions I have been there she gives me her last appointment of the day when the salon is at its quietest and then cuts my hair in a wonderful little corner away from the huge glass window at the front.

“It was so nice to have my hair cut after four years of growth. It was so long, I was sitting on it, it would wrap around my neck in bed and several times I would get it trapped in the car door,” she added.

I’m delighted my friend has now found a welcoming hairdresser, but I wonder about other women with facial disfigurements who cannot face the thought of being inside a hairdressing salon, scared of the possible prying eyes of others, the unwelcome stares,  just feeling uncomfortable.

I wonder how many of these women have their hair done at home because it is easier than going to a salon? And how many would dearly love to be sitting in a salon just like countless other women if only they could feel welcome.