More than 200 people from 40 different states have filed a class action lawsuit against Wen Hair Care and its parent company, Guthy-Renker, claiming Wen caused them to go bald.
More than 200 people from 40 different states have filed a class action lawsuit against Wen Hair Care and its parent company, Guthy-Renker, claiming Wen caused them to go bald.

TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – When Bobbi Russell talks about her life’s passion, there’s no doubt her love runs deep. She has boundless, contagious energy, fueled by her laser focus. She’s serious but warm – approachable, but no-nonsense. She knows what she wants and doesn’t hesitate to go after it. But, make no mistake, the goals she sets each day are not with her in mind. She says she is working for a higher purpose, a loftier achievement that isn’t about her personal best.

As she begins to describe her work, the fire in her eyes lights up with a spark that shows this is something she feels in her gut. She admits she is a thinker and a dreamer. Bobbi has one mission in mind, she explains, and it has nothing to do with her. For this Tampa woman, there is one clear cut path she seeks – help women look and feel their best. And, it starts on the top of their head. Her work is all about hair. In fact, she uses one word to describe what lovely locks mean to ladies.

“Everything,” she said, with a smile. “That’s who we are. Hair can transform you. It makes us feel feminine and pretty. That’s why, when you begin to lose hair as a woman, it can be devastating.”

For Bobbi, the mission to help women with hair loss began more than 27 years ago. The emotions tied into hair loss are palpable, she maintains, and when it happens, the effect is crushing. “Women who start losing their hair stop looking you in the eyes because they don’t want to notice you looking at their head,” she tells WFLA. “It ruins their self-esteem.”

Women seem to identify with their hair, she says, more than anything else. She has a theory on why the deeply personal plight of hair loss is so heartbreaking.

“I believe that it’s the one thing we wear every day. We put on our makeup, we put on our clothes. Hair is like a permanent accessory,” she says.

Bobbi is a voracious reader when it comes to her craft. There are two desks at her place of business, both of them chock-full of literature and continuing education. She spends time at each one, pouring over the materials, always prepping for the next appointment and procedure. Bobbi is a certified clinical trichologist, working with disorders of the scalp and hair. And, what makes her heart especially tender is that she sees women at their most vulnerable times. “We go through about 10 boxes of tissues regularly. It’s very emotional, it’s very heartbreaking,” she admitted.

Bobbi tells us that thousands of women she’s worked with on the dramatic experience of hair loss often isolate themselves, experiencing intense depression. Many don’t want to leave the house. But, she convinces them to, and tells us it is one of the most “rewarding” experiences to help bring them back to life. The effects of going bald are not just emotions in a book for Bobbi, not something she learned in one of the many courses, classes, and seminars across the country.

For her, it’s personal. She knows firsthand just how bad a bad hair day can be. She’s lost her hair three times in her life. “I remember being on the bathroom floor with hands full of hair screaming,” she explained. She had just gone a severe bout of pneumonia and a serious, life-threatening surgery prior to that. “My body was a mess. My hair fell out in chunks. I looked up and I knew that God wanted me to experience the things that these women were feeling. It was like he wanted me to know so that I could understand them.”

Her career is multi-faceted and multipurpose. She is part teacher, part stylist, and on many occasions, part counselor. They are all roles she cherishes. As a stylist years ago, she began seeing the effects of hair loss and the crippling emotions associated with it. She knew something had to be done. So, she decided to create a sanctuary of sorts, creating an all female treatment center in Tampa called Hair Therapy for Women. She describes the location as nurturing and safe for women who are going through painful embarrassment. “I wanted this to be a place where women did not feel judged. It is a place they can be themselves,” she says. The location is so protective of its patients and clientele that a sign is posted on the door leading into the treatment area. No men are allowed beyond this point. “We take this very seriously. We want people to feel comfortable,” she said.

Bobbi works with all kinds of clientele, including women who have thinning hair and need the proper cut to camouflage tiny strands. She also works with extensions, providing fullness in hairstyles that need an extra boost. In fact, she counts national pageant contestants, including a former Miss America, as clients and friends.

Then, she handles the more severe, heart-wrenching cases – women suffering from various forms of alopecia and patients experiencing sudden drastic hair loss from chemotherapy.

“I want to make their lives better. I’ve seen women transformed. I want to help make their dreams come true. When the desert to feel their best, and when they do, it’s incredible,” she says. “I’m so happy to be a part of that. Hair, or the lack of it, can literally change your life.”

Bobbi explained to us that women can experience hair loss for a number of reasons, the biggest ones being stress and diet.