Dealing with Thinning Hair
So you found a bald patch
I remember the moment I realized I had lost some hair. As in a LOT of hair. I was looking at a picture someone had taken of the back of my head in broad daylight, and I realized I could see a patch of pink skin right at the crown of my head. The rest of my hair hung almost to my waist, and had been thick and plentiful for years. In addition to being devastated that I'd been walking around with a bald patch, I was also terrified that something was very wrong with me. Hundreds of dollars and several doctor visits later, I learned that this is a common problem, and that many of its causes are not reason to panic.
What causes hair thinning.
The quality of your hair can change throughout your life and will be affected by many factors. Even if the cause of your thinning hair is not reversible, you have some options. First, you need to find the reason for your hair loss.
- Natural hormonal changes. Women who have just given birth will often discover that their hair, which has gotten much fuller during pregnancy, is now shedding so much that they have less than when they started.
- Medically caused hormonal changes. Steroids, birth control pills, some blood pressure medications, all of these can cause your hair to grow in more thickly or to shed. For example, prednisone and/or minoxidil will cause your hair to grow like crazy. Not just the hair on your head, mind you, but the hair all over your body. If you stop taking these medicines or wean down to a lower amount, much of that hair will fall out.
- Thyroid problems. This also results in a loss of eyebrows and eyelashes.
- Alopecia. Just as with a thyroid problem, this will cause loss of all hair, not just the hair on your head.
- Vitamin overdose or deficiency. Vitamin A overdoses will cause loss of hair, as will a biotene deficiency.
- Eczema or folliculitis on your scalp.
- Stress, which can exacerbate eczema.
- Good old fashioned aging
Narrow down the cause
If your bald spot isn't the result of having your hair snatched during a bar fight, or some other readily identifiable cause, you'll need to go to your doctor. Yes, you will feel silly seeing your doctor for thinning hair, but you need to get blood work to make sure you don't have a thyroid problem or some sort of toxicity or deficiency. Your GP is the person to see initially. You will discuss changes in diet and medication, and get blood work.
If the cause isn't immediate from your GP visit and preliminary blood work, congratulations, you do not have thyroid disease. You'll want to go to a dermatologist next. They will examine your scalp and help you determine if you have eczema or folliculitis and may be able to prescribe a shampoo to help clear it up.
You need to discuss your lifestyle with both doctors. Thinking of stress as a disease creator sounds silly, and I initially rolled my eyes at the suggestion, but stress can exacerbate an existing condition. For example, the eczema on my scalp stopped flaring up when I physically moved my desk at work away from someone who was constantly looking over my shoulder and creating more work for me at my job.
Make sure you go to your doctor's office armed with a family history of conditions and hair and scalp health, if possible. If I'd stopped being embarrassed and discussed my situation with my father, I'd have known that eczema runs in the family and flares up in stressful times, and I wouldn't have spent so much on over the counter remedies.
Products to try
Before trying any of these, discuss them with your doctor.
- Biotin. This is a supplement that affects hair, skin, and metabolic health.
- Rogaine. This is an over the counter solution that you apply to your scalp a few times a day. I had a good experience with this. It is not an overnight fix, but after six months of use, I was able grow some hair over my thin patch.
- Prescription shampoo or Nioxin. These products help clear up scalp issues and promote hair growth. Again, these are not quick fixes, but they do seem to make your hair appear fuller in the meantime, and will help slowly grow some hair over those thin patches
Things you can do immediately
Cut your hair! Hairdressers will tell you that cutting your hair won't make it stop falling out, and that's partially true. The hair that's going to fall out is still going to fall out. However, if you start with elbow length hair, as I did, your hair is also being pulled out all day long from brushing and catching it on things. Cutting your hair will ensure that you're ONLY losing that hair that's already falling due to your condition, and it will help the rest of your hair look fuller. Spend some money on a quality haircut, and explain your problem with your hairdresser. They will help you find a cut and style to minimize the look of thinning and make the hair you still have look fuller and healthier.
Women are lucky because we can style our hair to cover the patches. Headbands and scarves are your friend, as are bobby pins to hold hair over your thinning patches.
For extreme thinning, or impending total loss, an alternative to buying a wig is a beautiful hair wrap. It's a fashion statement in itself. A wig almost always looks like a wig, but a wrap can just be taken as a fashion statement. Wrapunzel (http://wrapunzel.com/shop/) has some beautiful, affordable items for wrapping your hair or covering your scalp. I wish I'd known about this at my thinnest.
You are still beautiful
In the long run, I was the person who noticed and cared most about my hair. Ultimately, when I see other people with thinning or no hair, even women, I don't find myself giving it a second thought or look, and I believe most people are the same way. A handsome man or a beautiful women is still the same, with or without hair. After the initial emotional shock and surprise is over, working on your confidence is the best thing you can do to start looking and feeling better immediately. If Patrick Stewart and V for Vendetta Natalie Portman can be confident and sexy, so can you.