WEST GARDINER — Rachel Fortin grew up with cancer.

Many of her relatives, including her mom, were stricken with the disease.

The 19-year-old from West Gardiner attends classes at the Empire Beauty Schools in Waterville. When a friend, a former boss at Access World Wide, lost her hair during chemotherapy, Fortin wanted to help.

Empire participates in a national program called “Look Good, Feel Better,” where wigs are donated to cancer patients, she said.

“I had just started at school and got her to come in and be fitted for a wig,” Fortin said Sunday. “That helped her feel normal and bubbly again like I remembered her.”

“Look Good … Feel Better” is a collaboration between the Personal Care Products Council, a cosmetics-industry trade association, the American Cancer Society and the National Cosmetology Association. The program brings together cancer patients and beauty professionals.


After that experience, Fortin said she searched for wig stores in Maine that specialized in cancer patients but came up empty. She said there were no shops where a cancer patient could go in and sit down with a knowledgeable person to pick out a wig.

She found a wig distribution company online called Jon Renau and placed a $300 order and started Wig-Out.

“The minute I made my first order and started bringing wigs to school I made a sale . . . ” she said. “It gave me an amazing feeling that I made someone happy with something as simple as a wig.”

Her father is thrilled with his daughter’s new endeavor.

“She wants to work with cancer folks,” said her dad, Ernest Atkins. “She really enjoys it.”

Her brother-in-law, Harry Pearson, a graphic designer in New Jersey, is in the process of building her a website, www.Wig-Out.me.


“I currently run Wig-Out from my home,” she said. “I advertise on my car and with my license plate. I also have a sweatshirt design that I am getting ready to mass produce. I can’t wait until the day I have my website.”

She said her business is intended to help cancer patients and people who have lost their hair find a sense of confidence and pride in dealing with their illness. And she is more than willing to travel to a person’s home for fittings.

“There is no other wig shop as dedicated and ready to help people gain a new perspective on cancer and other illnesses such as alopecia, alopecia areta . . . ,” she said. “I am hoping to get the word out that there is a caring individual who can help them feel normal in this time of need.”

Her wigs are called Smart Lace. They are flush on the head so you can’t see the hairline and can be parted on either side to look more natural, she said. They’re synthetic, heat-friendly and can be curled.

They range in price from $90 to $400 depending on what a person wants to spend and the style and length. The wigs can be matched to a person’s natural color, she said.

In her collection are options for younger women. More younger women are diagnosed with breast cancer today, according to the American Cancer Society as well as other cancers, including lymphomas, leukemia, melanoma skin cancer and cervical cancer.


Once her website is up and running, hopefully within the next two months, Fortin said she expects to be busy.

But she still plans to use her beauty school degree. She graduates on Wednesday.

“I want to work under someone right now, but eventually go out on my own,” she said.

Fortin can be reached at 215-9207 or through email, [email protected]

Mechele Cooper — 623-3811, ext. 408

[email protected]


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