People rarely talk about women’s hair loss; we hear about men’s hair loss more often. There’s nothing wrong about talking men’s hair loss because it’s understandable that more men than women go bald. But we also have to know that women can have hair loss problems too and discussing it can help increase the sense of transparency and openness surrounding the issue. Today, people associate long healthy hair with a heightened sense of femininity, but what happens when a woman goes bald? Because of the stigma attached to the issue, many women loose their sense of self-confidence and sense of self-worth. In this article, we’ll focus on women’s hair loss, how to fight it, and what women who experienced it are saying about it.
Birth Control Pills
Did you know that abruptly stopping taking your birth control pill can cause hair loss? An excellent example is the case of a woman who stopped taking birth control pills that had a high androgen index in 2009. Months later, her hair started falling out in the shower and even on her pillow when she woke up. Of course, it’s normal to have some hair fall out, but when there are over 100 strands of hair falling out daily, there is an issue afoot. In this 21st century era, the first option she considered was Google. She tried to find out whether her hair loss meant that her iron levels were too low, or whether she was pregnant. She also thought that it might be because her estrogen levels were below average. The hair loss was getting more serious so the woman went for a check-up. What the doctor told her made her sadder. The doctor said she had female-patterned baldness or “Androgenic Alopecia”. The doctor’s advice was that she should take Propecia and Minoxidil, and she did, but neither helped her. This confused her; she didn’t know what to do. Finally she decided to visit a dermatologist. The dermatologist suggested taking a pill which had a low androgen index, such as Orthriyclen. Hopeful, she tried it and was so happy to find out that she had less hair falling out as days went by. She continued taking the pill for three years and couldn’t stop due to her fear of hair loss. It looked as though she’d have to take the pill for the rest of her life.
Bear in mind that birth control pills can cause hair loss, specifically Telogen Effluvium, which is known to cause hair shedding. Take low androgen index birth control pills to lessen the chance of hair loss. Examples of this are Micronor, Orthocyclen, Desogen, and Ortho Tri-cyclen.
A woman used to love her curly hair but she also used to whine to her friends about how she wished her hair wasn’t so thick. But now, she wishes more than anything to have that mop of hair she once had. A while ago her hair started to fall out and so she now spends most of her time cleaning her shower plug, bed, clothes, sink, and carpet, ridding them of all the fallen hair strands. When her hair started falling out she thought she had a thyroid problem, unbalanced hormones, or a deadly disease. After asking for a doctor’s advice, she found out that she had Androgenic Alopecia, genetic hair loss that is often inescapable. It was hard for the woman to accept this truth. Her hair was part of what defined her. Without her hair, she wondered, who is she now?
Her self-worth started declining. Everyday she chose to stay in-doors as she felt ugly and thought she would be publically humiliated. Before she slept, she worried about her hair; when she woke up everyday, she remembered her hair and felt depressed about it. Envious of other women with long hair, she didn’t want to go out. She didn’t want to be stared at and she didn’t want to feel that burning sense of jealousy. Why did she have to suffer from hair loss? One day she decided that talking to people who were in a similar situation to her may help get over her fear. She joined the Women’s Hair Loss Project (an online forum) where people support each other, give advices and tips about their experience, how they feel about hair extensions and hair pieces etc. As soon as she joined she began to feel much better as there were people who could sympathize with her and listen to her story.
Although she secretly still checks out her old photos in which her hair was still healthy and thick, she feels that she is improving everyday with coming to grips with her situation. Going for a layered short haircut helped increase her confidence, building an illusion that her hair was thicker than it was. Enlightened, she also learnt that she shouldn’t dedicate her life to whining about the hair she once had. One day she decided that she can either keep on moaning about it or face the facts and continue moving forward with her life. She chose the latter. She now goes out with her friends again and is honest about what she’s going through. Focusing on other things and not on her hair loss also helped her cope. She now uses her time to make her family happy and she does activities she loves – helping others.
If you find yourself in the same shoes as her, don’t hesitate looking for a qualified physician who can help you identify the real reason for your hair loss and support groups who can then help you through the process.
Let’s call the woman in this story Eris. For Eris, her hair is very important; it makes her pretty. It makes her confident. She even used to be a hair model. That is, until she found out she had cancer and she had to undergo chemotherapy. As everyone knows, chemotherapy drugs can make you go bald. Knowing that a small percent of chemotherapy patients don’t lose hair, Eris didn’t shave her hair because she was hopeful that she would be part of that small percentage who wouldn’t lose their hair. But days after her first chemotherapy session, her hair started falling out. She was no exception after all. She felt devastated. She considered using a cold-cap, that device placed on a patient’s head before the chemotherapy, to reduce the chance of hair loss but she found it too painful and she couldn’t bear it. This made her more depressed. Without her hair, apparently, she couldn’t model for hair dressers anymore. She also felt ugly without her hair. It’s a big change that she had to cope with. Not wanting to be seen by the public, she just ordered stuff from home. With the internet, staying at home for the rest of my life is possible she thought. Wearing a wig, she sometimes went outside, but she didn’t feel comfortable with it; she felt it was more like a straw.
Days passed and she decided she couldn’t continue like this anymore. She had to accept the fact that she couldn’t bring back her hair and that this was her new look that was here to stay. If she wanted others to accept her, she thought, she should start by accepting herself.
Eating healthy food was first on her agenda. She made sure that the food she consumed would make her look healthy even without her hair, foods that were rich in iron, calcium, vitamin B and other essential nutrients. Then she started spending more and more time with her family and friends, who were all happy that Eris was no longer sulking. She realized that her (lack of) hair might not be as pretty anymore, but there were surely other pretty things in this world that were worth her attention, including books, movies, paintings, photos, and most importantly, friendship. These things she thought are permanent, even when your hair is no longer there.
After a while she started finding the fun in having wigs, which were different in length, texture and colour. Imagine the choices she could make! She loved that she now had a stronger self- identity. Despite the enjoyment of wigs, six months later, she decided that it was time to stick to one hair length and colour. She got full permanent hair extensions and felt she felt ‘normal’ once again.
Why does a person undergoing chemotherapy go bald? This is because during chemotherapy, they use drugs that attack fast growing cancer cells. Unfortunately, these drugs can’t differentiate cancer cells from hair cells, hence the hair roots die too in the process, resulting in hair loss. Hair loss happens about one to three weeks after the initial treatment. It can either be gradual or quick. There is still the possibility of hair growth after chemotherapy sessions, but when it does grow, its colour and texture have a high probability of changing.
For anonymity’s sake, we’ll call the woman in this story “Hayley”. Hayley’s hair loss was due to Bulimia, an eating disorder she had since she was young. This disorder made her vomit after she ate. Whether it was an effect of family or societal pressure or some inner sense of insecurity, we would never know. After a year of suffering from this disorder, she noticed that her hair was getting thinner. Gone were the days when her hair was thick, long, and healthy. It became just a messy collection of straw-like strands on her head that easily fell of when touched. She never thought Bulimia would effect on her hair. Little did she know.
Worried, Hayley’s mother sought help from a professional trichologist for her daughter. She described to the expert what was happening to her daughter and hoped that there was something that could be done. The trichologist explained that bulimia can lead to hair loss. She explained to the mother that Gastric abnormalities can affect the hair growth cycle thus causing hair to fall out.
Made of keratin, hair needs certain vitamins and protein. When you’re starving yourself, your body doesn’t get much vitamins and protein and when it is deprived of these essential nutrients, it prioritizes other body parts, leaving nothing for your hair.
There are about 84,000 to 145,000 hair follicles on a person’s scalp, but someone who suffers from Bulimia has a higher hair loss rate than replenishment rate due to poor circulation and high acidity, which means it’s more difficult for hair to grow back. Bulimia also reduces the blood flow to the scalp, subsequently starving it of essential hair nutrients.
However, eating food isn’t enough. You have to digest it too and let your body consume the nutrients. This is why eating and then vomiting isn’t healthy. Hayley was surprised to know this. She never thought her eating habits could determine whether she would have healthy hair. She used to think hair loss only happened to old people, not young ones. She wanted to kick herself for being so ignorant but then the damage had been done and all she could do now was to try and solve the problem. The trichologist told her she needed to eat healthy foods so that her hair could recover from being vitamin-deprived. She would need patience as Telogen Efflevium isn’t easy. Aside from this, the doctor instructed her to take some medications and to seek counseling in order to ensure that progress would be made.
The stories above are just some of the hair loss situations some women have to go through. If you are experiencing hair loss, you’re not alone. Out of 100 women, 13 go bald before reaching menopause. Hair loss not only happens to old people but also young ones due to genetics, stress, hormones, nutrition, and medication. From the stories shared above, many drugs can cause hair loss as they disturb the hair growth cycle.
Androgenetic Alopecia affects 40% of women and despite the supplements, it’s still a hard battle to win. A healthy lifestyle is indeed the best weapon against Telogen Effluvium.
And don’t forget that hormones can be a reason for hair loss, especially during menopause when a woman’s estrogen levels begin dropping. Unbalanced Testosterone and Estrogen can result in rapid hair loss and even growth of unwanted hair on the face and other parts of the body.
When you feel alone in a world full of women with shiny, silky, healthy hair, don’t despair. You are not alone. There are even support groups that can morally and spiritually help you go through this phase of your life. And remember, there are many options out there now so luscious locks could be yours once more.