"I'm living proof that you can wear a beautiful wig and still be comfortable with who you are," says Martell, who volunteers at alopecia support groups and speaks at events sponsored by the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, which supports research to find a cure or treatment.
"It's my hope that the attention I receive will make a difference in the lives of any child or person who loses their hair to alopecia," she says.
Creating non-surgical hair systems for alopecia and other hair loss patients is a complicated affair.
Hair Club for Kids employs an intricate process called Bio-Matrix in developing replacement pieces for clients such as Makenzee. The hair systems are made of real, donated hair and adhered to the scalp using safe adhesives. The hair systems can stay on the scalp for week or months at a time with maintenance akin to going to the salon every six weeks.
The hair pieces are flexible enough to allow clients to choose different styles, lengths and colors. The company targets children with alopecia and other hair disorders by providing hair restoration free of charge to kids between the ages of six and 17.
"We've helped hundreds of children and young adults with alopecia and other conditions," says Lee Zoppa, a vice president at Boca Raton, Fla.,-based Hair Club. "You can almost see the immediate difference in a child's self-esteem and personality when the hair systems are applied."
Hair Club is not alone in offering replacement systems for alopecia sufferers. Other firms are sprouting up with expanded lines of custom-made wigs and hairpieces created specifically for people with medical hair loss.
Peggy Knight's company was born of personal experience. She was diagnosed with alopecia as a teenager and lost all of her hair by age 21. She now operates Peggy Knight Solutions, a California company that develops a line of natural looking wigs for women and children who have lost their hair to alopecia and other diseases.
"Most salons and manufacturers tended to focus on the needs of men," says Knight, who has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show. "I wanted to help women and children because they suffer the most when they lose their hair."
Knight's company develops a range of authentic-looking hair pieces for women and children with total hair loss, including vacuum wigs. These are made with a hypoallergenic silicone base designed from a precise mold of a client's head.
When in place, this base creates an airtight vacuum seal without the need for tape or glue. The wigs are made from real hair intricately implanted into the silicone base, strand by strand. Knight wears one of the pieces herself.
"I've dealt with alopecia for most of my adult life so I know firsthand how important having real hair on your head can make you feel," says Knight.
Of course, even with advances in hair systems, many people with alopecia choose to go without wigs. Some are fed up with the discomfort of hairpieces while others simply reject the notion of hiding their true appearance.
For young children, adding a wig or hair piece can actually make the emotional struggle of hair loss worse, say experts.