I am collecting strands of hair and placing them in a box. I am obsessing over how
many hairs there are and if the number is reaching over a hundred. I am
counting them again and again…because hair is very hard to count. I am
sitting in the bathroom crying like a maniac (what must the neighbors think??).
Sounds like a horror movie, but no it’s just what was asked of me by one
dermatologist to determine if I was losing hair. And thus, the crazy-making of
hair loss began. If you have ever been there, then you can understand. I am
writing this blog, so hopefully, I can spare you from this type of insanity,
give you a bit of guidance and share with you what I have learned from my
experiences over the years.
Ladies, if you are currently going through this, just know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It will be ok!!
First of all, I am not an MD, but I am speaking from my own personal experience over the last twenty years. The type of hair loss I experienced and am discussing is a diffuse hair loss called, Telogen Effluvium. This is not a hair loss caused by heredity or serious illness. Diffuse Alopecia or hair loss is characterized by hair loss over the entire scalp including the sides and back of the head. The good news about diffuse hair loss is that it is almost always self-limiting and will stop as suddenly as it starts. The timeline is usually three months from whenever the cause occurs until the hair will actually start falling out. It will most likely fall for three months and then stop and start to re-grow. In my experience some of the most common causes of diffuse hair loss are as follows:
- · Hormonal changes in the body, such as starting or stopping a
birth control pill
- · Pregnancy or shortly thereafter: usually three months after
- · Certain medications
- · Severe infections
- · Traumatic Stress (physical or emotional)
- · Car accidents (example of a physical
- · Iron deficiency
- · Thyroid disease
My number one advice is this: as soon as you first start noticing that your hair is falling out at a faster rate than normal, consult a dermatologist that specializes in hair loss. This is very important because, even though you may already be seeing a dermatologist, he/she may not specialize in hair loss. Typically, the first thing the dermatologist will do to determine if you are losing hair is to do what is called a “hair pull” test. The Dr. will grab a clump of your hair at the scalp and pull with fairly firm pressure to see how many hairs can be pulled out. Super fun!! You will be determined to have a positive test if the Dr. can pull out more that five or six hairs on each pull.
Have your dermatologist check your thyroid and Iron levels, in particular Ferritin levels.
Make sure they check the Ferritin!! I can’t stress this enough. I had my Iron
tested by my GP and was told that I was “within normal limits.” When my dermatologist saw my levels, the first thing out of his mouth was, “your levels are so low you’re not even fertile!” Uh…ok, but anyway that’s another issue for another day. I learned that ideally, for hair growth your Ferritin level should be around 70. Iron levels have a very wide range of “normal” and you could be considered at a normal level by your GP for levels below 70.
Discuss any medications you are taking including over the counter meds. There are several types of meds that can cause hair loss. These include anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, BCP’s and high blood pressure meds to name a few. Of course, you will need to weigh the benefits of the meds you are on against the side effect of hair loss. The first dermatologist I saw started me on a BCP that made the hair loss even greater (why you need a Dr. that specializes in hair loss). In my case, the BCP, Sprintec, did not cause hair loss.
Find products specifically tailored toward hair loss. It is all about the products when you are dropping hair! I LOVE, and now can’t live without, the new Redken Intra Force products.
This is an amazing new line for fine and thinning hair that actually promotes new hair growth. They have a shampoo, toner (conditioner), treatment and a scalp stimulator. I have actually tried hundreds of hair products over the years with my obsession to grow back and maintain a thick head of hair; and, I am very
impressed with these products. I am telling you, I have had amazing results since starting with the Redken products! My hair has been filling in and growing at an amazing pace even in areas I don’t usually see hair growth, eg., at the temple region. Hair loss can routinely have some type of scalp sensitivity that will come along with it. I would describe this sensitivity as the feeling that your hair has been up in a ponytail too long. The Redken products will give your scalp a tingly feel that is very soothing and healing. The cost is very reasonable for this type of product…
I also recommend using something to plump up your hair. I recommend the Sebastian Volupt Spray.
The Volupt is a volume-building spray-gel
that is sprayed at the root of the hair after towel drying and it adds amazing
Finally, you want your hair to look its best no matter what stage of the hair loss. The product that I can’t live without at this point, is the Tahitian Hair Oil by Original Sprout. It is the best ever!!! I am telling you ladies that people are going to stop you on the street and ask you how you get your hair so shiny! This is a non-greasy hair oil that you can use in your hair while it is wet or can smooth on dry hair. It’s crazy, because it doesn’t weigh hair down like you would think and instead adds shine, control and body. It also works well for husbands and kids!
I know when your hair is falling, that the tendency (and, yes, I did wear a ton of bun up-do’s during my hair loss episode) is to put your hair in a pony tail or tie it up, but this can end up putting more stress on the hair. DO NOT even consider getting hair extensions to thicken the hair as this will only compound the issue.
Talk to a hair professional
such as, Leslie, to give you tips on how to wear your hair during this time, hair styles/cuts that can add volume to your hair and to find out about other hair services, such as cellophanes that can plump up the hair. I loved the clear cellophane that gave my thinning hair a quick boost.
Find some peace of mind.
A dermatologist that specializes in hair loss can really give you peace of
mind… I was told by my dermatologist that in his thirty years of practice he
has only had one woman with this type of hair loss whose hair failed to stop falling out. His advice to me was, “Just hang on, Mom; just hang on.” This was of course after my childbirth related hair loss. He was actually right every time and I think it was just that simple phrase that gave me the strength to know that it would come to an end
A few things that I have learned along the way… Hair loss caused by a physical or emotional trauma or pregnancy/childbirth is basically just a waiting game. You wait out the three months and start using hair products that will plump up the hair until it starts to re-grow. It will also be very important to deal with any type of
emotional stress that you are dealing with to avoid future hair loss episodes.
If your issue is Iron deficiency or thyroid, the solution can take at least a few
months. In my case, for Iron deficiency anemia, the Dr. prescribed a very high
potency prescription Iron pill that I took every night. It was also recommended
that I increase my Heme Iron intake. Food with Heme Iron includes clams,
oysters, shrimp and beef. You can also increase your Iron with non-Heme sources
of Iron including beans and lentils, enriched breakfast cereals and pastas. One
very interesting fact is that spinach can actually inhibit Iron absorption when
eaten along with other Iron containing foods. Who would have known?? Other Iron
absorption inhibitors are red wine, coffee and tea. Being from Seattle, I would never expect you, or myself, to give up those things (especially my latte!). just don’t take them with your Iron pills.
Another thing that can help, is taking Vitamin B12 supplements or injections to
help boost the Iron absorption. If you start experiencing acne breakouts, be
aware that it could be the Vitamin B12. If you find out your thyroid level is
off, this too can be controlled with a medication. As soon as your level evens
out, the hair loss will stop. It is actually surprising how many of us have
thyroid issues and it can be VERY common after childbirth. This type of thyroid
disorder is called, pregnancy thyroiditis.
I have so much information that I have obtained from personal experience over
the last several years of, Oh, so fun, hair loss episodes. I can’t possibly share it all in one blog. I am really trying to add humor to this subject of diffuse hair loss, but to tell you truth, when you are going through it, there really is not a lot funny about it. Please feel free to email me with any question or for any further information. In the words of one very wise dermatologist, “just hold on!!!”
You are going to get through this and you will be back to normal before you know it. You will be OK… Oh, and, if a dermatologist ever asks you to collect hair in a box…run!!
Jennifer Clark is a new addition to the Wetherholt Salon and Spa blog. We look forward to many more postings from Jennifer just like this one!
Feel free to ask any questions or make suggestions on new subjects.