Stylist Lui Rodriguez helps cancer patients dealing with hair loss.
Written by Nancy Sokoler Steiner | Photographed by Philicia Endelman
Melanie Friedlander, MD, a surgeon at Torrance Memorial Medical Center,
started having her hair styled by Lui Rodriguez when she moved to the
South Bay in 2000. Three years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I knew I was going to need chemo and my hair would fall out. I didn’t
want to wait around for that,” she says. “When I told Lui,
he said, ‘Come in and I’ll take care of it for free.’”
Dr. Friedlander also saw Rodriguez for scalp treatments throughout her
cancer therapy, at his suggestion. “Each time I would try to pay
him, and each time he would refuse to take a penny,” she says. “He
told me to send any patient undergoing chemotherapy for free services.
He’s the most kindhearted person I know.”
Rodriguez has assisted cancer patients in coping with hair loss and regrowth
for the past 25 years. He has worked closely with the Cancer Support Center
(previously the Wellness Community) and gets additional referrals from
clients and word of mouth.
He started offering this specialized service after a regular client failed
to show up for her hair appointment. Concerned, he called her house and
learned she had passed away from cancer. “I was very unsettled about
it,” Rodriguez recalls. “She was in her 30s with a family,
and it happened fast.”
That same year, another client told Rodriguez she would be starting chemotherapy
and was worried about hair loss. “I told her, ‘Why don’t
you let me cut your hair shorter? It will be a less dramatic change when
your hair is gone, and you won’t have to deal with long pieces falling
out in the meantime."
In addition to cutting hair at the beginning of treatment and when it begins
to regrow, Rodriguez administers products to promote scalp health in the
interim. He might use one with aloe vera to calm the scalp for those experiencing
itching. Or he might use one featuring mint to stimulate blood flow and
“I want to give to people who can benefit from my skills,”
he says. “I like making a difference and seeing them smile and feel
a little better.” A stylist for both women and men, Rodriguez works
at Lui’s Hair Studio at the Phenix Salon Suites in Redondo Beach.
He’s often accompanied by his three-legged dog, Bodhi.
Dr. Friedlander says Rodriguez has wonderful bedside manner. “He
listens to people and understands how to help them sort through their
problems. No matter what challenges he’s had in his own life along
the way, he’s always thinking about how he can help others.”
She adds, “I’ve seen how he contributes from both the patient
and physician side. My patients who’ve gone to Lui to have their
head shaved have told me, ‘I thought it was going to be one of the
worst days of my life, but instead it was really okay.’”