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An agonizing secret: One woman's story of loss
The author before her hair loss began.
July 11th, 2011
07:29 AM ET

An agonizing secret: One woman's story of loss

Editor's note: Lisa O’Neill Hill is the co-owner of a writing, editing and consulting business in Southern California.

My long, thick red hair - the thing I liked most about my looks - began to fall out 5 years ago, when I was 37. I’d perpetually pick hair off my arms, my back, my car seat, my bathroom counter. My shower drain clogged easily. Running the vacuum meant enduring the smell of burning hair.

At first I thought the shedding was temporary and must be connected to a medical problem. I consulted eight doctors, endured dozens of blood tests and spent thousands of dollars. I secretly hoped I had a thyroid problem, a hormone imbalance, some kind of vitamin deficiency, even lupus. I needed an explanation. But all the tests came back negative.

A few years ago, I flew from California to New York to see an endocrinologist who specializes in female hair loss. He diagnosed me with genetic hair loss and prescribed a daily regimen of several medications, including Propecia, a hair loss drug that is only FDA-approved for men.

That doctor gave me hope, but that hope has long since faded. Although his regimen has worked for many, it didn’t for me. I suspect nothing will.

After exhausting my options, I’ve had to face the truth: nothing is going to stop my hair from falling. My father and brother have varying degrees of hair loss and my mother always had fine hair. My maternal aunt had very little hair on the top of her head, classic female pattern baldness.

I’ve never been thrilled with my appearance, but my hair was the one thing I was frequently complimented on. It was an integral part of my identity. When my hair began to shed, my already fragile self-esteem broke apart. I felt ugly, ashamed.

Watching my hair abandon me put me in a dark place. I went to therapy for a year and began taking antidepressants. I was in crisis. Those around me, even though they were there for me, didn’t quite understand why this was affecting me so brutally. I’d sob in my husband’s arms and talk about my hair constantly and obsessively.

My hair was the last thing I’d think about before I went to sleep. And it was the first thing on my mind when I woke up.

For a long time, my sanity was held together by a group of strangers, women across the country and around the world who, like me, are struggling to conceal their hair loss and handle the deep emotional toll it takes.

We met on the Women’s Hair Loss Project, an online support network where we traded information about treatment options, coping mechanisms, hair pieces, the numbers of hairs that fall out (yes, some of us count) and where we lauded considerate doctors and condemned dismissive ones.

Our stories had commonalities: Losing our hair made us feel unattractive, unworthy, less womanly. It robbed us of joy. We withdrew. “I want to die,” one woman wrote. In public, we studied other women, envious of the hair that they take for granted.

I had that hair once. I marvel at old photos. At the time, I didn’t realize or appreciate how much hair I actually had.

I do what I can to hide what is happening. I had my hair cut shorter to make it appear thicker. I part it a certain way. My hairdresser styles my hair frequently, blowing it out with a big brush. I am beyond grateful to her.

Still, I worry about others noticing my hair loss, about what my head will look like tomorrow, next week, next year. When I commit to a social engagement months away, one of the first things I think about is what my hair will look like by then.

For a long time, I’ve kept my secret close to me. But it’s been exhausting. I may not be at the point of my hair loss being that noticeable, but I know one day it will be. What then? I am afraid it will send me back into that dark place.

For women with genetic hair loss, the options are limited. We can use Rogaine (which works on some people but only for as long as it is applied), take medications that will suppress our levels of testosterone and increase our levels of estrogen, or look for something cosmetic like a hair piece. We are desperate for a solution.

I’ve lost faith in the medical establishment. I’ve been dismissed by cavalier doctors who undoubtedly looked at my head of hair and thought I was crazy. Everyone loses hair, they said. That’s true. But for most people, that hair grows back. I knew all along that my situation was different; my follicles were dead. I just wish I hadn’t been right.

I’m grateful I don’t have cancer or some other life-threatening illness. Yet this has cut me to the core. My 7-year-old daughter knows not to touch Mommy’s “delicate” hair and asks why I frequently wear baseball caps.

At the grocery store, at church, at the mall, I notice other women with genetic hair loss. We are a sorority of suffering sisters.

My hair is still falling out. In fact, lately it seems to have increased. It still makes me sad, but I know I have done everything in my power to remedy it. It’s time to stop fighting and to accept the cards I have been dealt.

I know I’m making progress. I have transitioned from hysteria to detachment. I no longer cry about my hair loss. I am loath to give this any more power. This is part of who I am. I shouldn’t be ashamed, but somehow what is happening makes me feel less than the person I used to be.

I am more than my hair. At least that’s what I constantly try to tell myself.


soundoff (269 Responses)
  1. Dana

    Find a hairdresser who uses HairDreams extensions for Caucasian hair. They last for about 3-4 months. Use concealer on top...

    July 11, 2011 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Linda Rieschel

      Please note that hair extensions are not the answer for women with hereditary thinning. The hair extensions can cause what is called 'traction alopecia' which can mean permanent hair loss in the areas where the extensions have been attached. Keep my motto in mind: every hair is precious!

      July 11, 2011 at 21:45 | Report abuse |
    • Robert Johnson

      Frank, you are a heartless vulture, preying on the misfortunes of your victims. "biogravity" is yet another quack site, designed only to relieve peoples' wallets of their hard-earned money, while feeding them a bunch of feel-good cosmic nonsense.

      July 11, 2011 at 22:10 | Report abuse |
    • Crystal

      The author wrote: "I felt ugly, ashamed." But what I noticed in her photo wasn't her beautiful hair. I noticed her eyes. The warmth and beauty of her eyes are arresting. Lisa, you will never be ugly, and there is nothing for you to feel shame over. You're a lovely, vibrant woman.

      July 11, 2011 at 23:13 | Report abuse |
  2. Melan Patterson

    I completely understand this. its a horrible.. thing to have happen to a woman. even for a woman who isnt vain, the thoughts of losing hair is scary. i noticed my receeding loss when i was 21. foolishly got on birth control and bingo – i see a "tan" line on my head where i wasnt tanning. its continued and here i am 10 years later trying to negotiate. short hair – done that. i'm at the point now where i'm considering shaving it all off. sad thing is... societal pressure. women are "supposed" to have hair and the associated stigma with being hairless is just emotionally taxing. wigs, right - but its still a process you have to go through. i'm glad she wrote this. really glad. secretly i was hoping there was a miracle "cure" (btw prayer? really? 10 years and i'm still waiting), but every time i look at famous men (i.e. Quentin tarantino, nick cage) i KNOW there is no cure. eventually i hope/think those suffering will be in a place and find solace. hopefully. i praise this woman for giving a voice for so many voiceless women. it doesnt compare to terminal illnesses, but like i said... society gives you a lot of bull when you're not subscribing to one of their roles.

    July 11, 2011 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Chris

    I am in the same boat. Now 62, my hair has been falling out since my late 40's and in the past three years, it is just getting worse and worse. After much depression, I bought a wig. My always short brown hair (because of it's being thin and fine) – was now a dark blond, chin length Barbra Streisand look and everyone loved it – they told me I looked younger. Now I have a dark brown (my natural color) wig with a shorter style (but not real short) which is more me. Since I have been wearing the wigs, I'm amazed at how many people do – even just for fun on nights out. The best part is when you are in a hurry or get up on a Saturday morning and need to go out quickly for one reason or another, just put on the wig – hide the bed-head and go! It sure does come in handy. I get so many compliments on my "hair" – buy a good one and people can't tell the difference. I bought a can of brown hair spray which, If i wear my own hair (can't wear a wig all the time), I cover the thinning, balding areas with the hair spray and it does the trick. Joan Rivers also has some kind of powder out to brush on
    the same areas. But the wigs are a great alternative.

    July 11, 2011 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bonnie

      Linda,
      I totally agree. My mother had very thin hair...and mine was getting thiner. I'm 58 years old. A year and a half ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer ...after surgery had chemo and (of course) lost all my hair. I went to a wonderful wig store where she was also a hairdresser. I got a entirely different look from my old, thin hair. (Blonde, too). Mine has dark roots (which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND)....because that way, you don't notice it's a wig. Anyway, I now have 6 wigs (4 blonde – 2 red) :-); my hair is slowly growing back. Often I wear one of the scarves with the elastic fitted kind (that you can easily wear if working out), but the wigs work great. My husband loves the new me. And, yes, you don't have to spend any time at all (great for traveling). Hated losing my hair......but in the big scheme of things, it's not that important when it comes to your life.

      July 11, 2011 at 21:41 | Report abuse |
    • Kathy

      My hair was very thin by the time I was 40 I used the colored powder to try to cover it up. I then went to a wig but was scared to death that it would fall over or someone would pull it off. If you have very thin hair after wearing a wig for a day makes it look even worse when you take it off. I found White Cliffs they had what they called hair replacement which is a full lace wig you can get custom made to fit your head and I tape it on with walker no shine tape. White Cliffs no longer in business but you can find full lace wigs on ebay or you can search factories in China that make full lace wigs. I love it you can swim, shower, curl, do anything that you do your hair. You can watch you tube or do search how to attach and remove. It would have been much easier if God would have gave me hair but he didn't so I buy it.

      July 11, 2011 at 23:00 | Report abuse |
    • bellatrix

      Bonnie and Kathy...you need to take an iodine supplement. Low level cause thyroid problems and thyroid problems effect your hair and can cause alopecia. Read up on iodine for thyroid and read up on symptoms of thyroid problems and all that your thyroid does for your body. I know...

      July 12, 2011 at 01:02 | Report abuse |
  4. Rebecca

    The most beautiful woman I ever met was completely bald.

    If you can't stand to see it slowly go away, shave it off and be proud! Stop letting society tell you how you should look like!

    July 11, 2011 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. callitday79

    I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrom (PCOS) at age 29. Now, at age 32, my dark, straight brown hair is still very thin. I take Biotin supplements every day. I also have tried Spironolactone to suppress androgens, it didn't work. I just hope, I don't go bald by menopause. I think about it everytime I brush my hair.

    July 11, 2011 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • keliana1

      I have PCOS too. And everyday I see my hair fall out and know that's its not growing back. I think about shaving it off but I'm a bit vain and can't quite do it. Haven't gotten to the point where I want to wear a wig, but consider it often. I try to focus on the haves in life to combat the emotional response to the problem. Most days, I'm ok. But some days, as with many woman, I feel fat, nothing fits, I'm ugly, I have no hair and so many other negative things run through my head. Thank goodness for amazing friends and family. It's nice to know I'm not alone, but kind of wish I wasn't in such good company either...

      July 11, 2011 at 18:24 | Report abuse |
  6. Duffey

    I can understand the anguish. I am a fella with issues around my own looks; not in a narrcissistic way but of low self-esteeme. When the genetics caught up with me @ 35 or so I was horrifed. By 40,I still ahd hair but all in the wrong places. Fortunatly I finally did find a person who could see me as I was, not just a bald dude. OKay with how it is now. Just need good support and love to see you through.

    July 11, 2011 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Karen

    I wish I could give you a hug right now. My mother has struggled al her life with her baldness since she was a teenager.

    A great thing happened to me when I started taking a strong multi-vitamin, esp vitamin C – My hair started growing back. Look into Vitacor. Good luck.

    July 11, 2011 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Victor

    Get over yourself lady.. I am a man who had a very full head of hair into let's see...my early 20s and then it all started failling out and I had shaved it off by 28 and its been that way for the last 14 years. Did anybody show any pity at all...not one. Men and women routinely joke about bald guys as a sign of non-verility, ugliness etc., and, you know what, men just suck it up. Well lady, as a man who has been there, suck it up and stop whinning. I'm completely comfortable with my hair loss, it's just something which happens. Get over it.

    July 11, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • manny

      She is getting over it. Her article explained the process she is going through. Should she get over it in a day? It seems as if she is doing very well with a difficult situation. I can't imagine how difficult it is.

      July 11, 2011 at 16:33 | Report abuse |
    • Rhonda

      Victor...I guess you haven't noticed just how many MEN is society are bald now in days. And they look absolutely fine. Been a very long time since male baldness was associated with any loss of male vitality. Now it is just a style choice. Yet, I have still not seen a bunch of ladies sporting the smooth head look. And tell me, would you be attracted to a bald woman?
      Yes, long as you are healthy hair loss seems unimportant. But society has certain standards that we all conform to, whether we admit to it or not.

      July 11, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
    • Victor

      Rhonda and Manny – Very well put and,truth be told, I have been very fortunate to have a very nice head and it has forced me to keep the rest of my look together because I could not rely on my hair to get me by. I think the same is true of a woman. If a woman keeps her body tight and has a great smile and pleasent demeanor, I would find that extremely hot. I do know, however, that there are still a lot of ignorant people who like to throw around baldness like it is per se ugly. Like any difference from the norm, anybody who is bald has to be strong and proud! Best of luck to all who are...women and men.

      July 11, 2011 at 17:26 | Report abuse |
    • Justme

      Real sensitive guy, aren't you Victor? I divorced a guy like you...

      July 11, 2011 at 19:55 | Report abuse |
    • Barada

      They joked about bald men around you because they were too polite to call you a dick to your face.

      July 12, 2011 at 00:10 | Report abuse |
  9. sardukar

    Lemme telly you what is exhausting and agonizing... chemotherapy.. billions of dollars go for wars, baldness and erections..but who cares for cancer.

    July 11, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Rhonda

    When I was young I had thick, course, frizzy and curly hair. I used to curse it for being such a pain. I literally could not comb it, as a regular comb would tangle in it. Ah...to go back to those days. In my early twenties it started to thin. I too was diagnosed with PCOS in my mid twenties. I continued to have thinning for the next ten + years. I lightened the color ( to decrease the contrast with my scalp) and kept it short. Then I got pregnant at age 38. I had a bit over nine months of reprieve. Not only did my hair stop thinning, it got thicker! I suddenly had the head full of hair of my youth...But a few months after giving birth, when hormones got back to normal, it all fell out again. In fact, it was thinner than ever. Now I am on Coumadin for a blood clot ( surgery related) earlier this year. One of it's side effects is hair loss. Needless to say, my hair is thinner now than ever. I am almost bald on top. I have been using Topix for a few months now and it helps me be less embarrassed. But one day it won't work for me and I will have to resort to a wig or scarf or something else...

    July 11, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Liz

    My hair started thinning in my twenties for no reason. In my 30s I managed with the comb-over, hair spray, lightening the color to make less of a contrast between dark hair/white scalp. Started buying hair-pieces in my 40s, which was the worst – constantly checking and adjusting to be sure they didn't come loose, staying out of direct sun in case the color of the top and bottom didn't match, terrified of the wind. Finally gave up and started buying wigs in my 50s. There are only a couple in the catalogs that don't look horrible. The thing some of you idiots don't understand is that I can look fine all day, but no man is going to want to knowingly date a woman who looks like Ed Asner in the bedroom. It was okay when my husband was alive, as he met me before this happened and it was part of the "for better or worse" deal. My grief now is for my daughter, as I am afraid she will inherit this non-life-threatening but still devastating and incurable condition. By the way, I prayed, but the Lord allows many afflictions for His own mysterious reasons. Don't think He doesn't exist just because He doesn't give us the answers we want.

    July 11, 2011 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. cmh

    I am so sorry for all the pain you have/had regarding your hairloss (and the commentors too). I'm sorry that society puts so much pressure on people (women & men) to look a certain way. In my teens I had to go thru many months of chemo and had no hair (anywhere) – the pain of not having hair 'felt' worse than the leg they had to amputate. I know it's not the same because if I managed to survive I was pretty sure my hair would grow back. However if I ever lose my hair again (hopefully not because I'm sick) I am going to go straight to bald. Because bald is beautiful! Just try to love yourself – others will follow.

    July 11, 2011 at 16:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Randy

    Try minoxidil 5%. Apply it once in the morning, and once in the evening, every day. Use a Q-Tips brand cotton swab as an applicator (they have more cotton in the head and so absorb more minoxidil). Fill a round toothbrush storage tube with Q-Tips and shake vigorously so the heads of the Q-Tips fluff (and hold more minoxidil). After applying Minoxidil to all areas of the scalp where you are losing hair, wait about 1-2 minutes for it to start to absorb. Then go lie face down on your bed with your head hanging down over the edge. With moderate vigor, massage your scalp in all the areas where Minoxidil was applied. Be careful not to cut your scalp with your fingernails. Increases blood flow – increases absorption.

    July 11, 2011 at 16:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. James Harris

    Stay strong. Self-worth is measured by what is within. There are millions of people in America fighting one battle or another. The key is to just make sure that you are engaged in the worthy battles. I trust that you will.

    July 11, 2011 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Randy

    This method may cause you to lose a little more hair in the beginning, because your follicles and scalp are not used to the added stress, but it is hair that would be lost in the long run anyway. After about 4-6 months you will likely stop losing your hair, and may even regain some. Results will vary of course, based on factors that no one currently understands well enough. But it works well for me.

    July 11, 2011 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Jenrose

    When I look at pictures of myself, the thin hair is harder to look at than the fact that I'm fat, both tied to hypothyroid disease and lousy genetics. I was grateful for my diagnosis because I assumed things would get better with treatment. Unfortunately after five years of treatment, I'm still not stable on the meds and my hair is still thin. The only thing stopping it from getting thinner right now is pregnancy, but I'm dreading postpartum hair loss. I've thought many, many times about wigs in the past. Mine started falling out when I was about 28.

    July 11, 2011 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Afflicted

      Jenrose, my thyroid symptoms were ones the doctors dismissed, because my labs were "fine". Most doctors also only check TSH. Have them look at T3 and T4, too, and check into a combo natural drug, like Armour Thyroid. Recent study found that up to 60% of people on thyroid replacement benefited from T3/T4 combos. Doctors are pretty sold on Synthroid, so it may be a fight, but my symptoms are gone and my energy so much better. But. Hair is still thin. But I have other factors, so it's worth a shot.

      July 11, 2011 at 20:26 | Report abuse |
  17. Rita Carter

    I am in the same situation as the writer. I'll be 38 in a couple of weeks. Since about a month ago, I've noticed an increasing amount of hair coming out on my comb, in the shower when I shampoo/condition. I'm constantly finding hairs on my clothes, on my arms, in the car and on the bed. They are all over the bathroom floor. I recently had a blood test done because I thought is was hormones since I had a partial hysterectomy 5 years ago. The blood tests came back normal. I guess my next step will be a hair/scalp specialist.

    July 11, 2011 at 17:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. elle

    I always "hated" my hair, which was very curly at a time when the Carnaby Street straight hair was fashionable. I ironed it (the iron set on "cotton" eek), permed it with powerful striaghteners, anything to change it. Finally, when the African-American women where I worked started wearing Afros, I embraced my curly hair and made peace. Here's the kicker: my beautiful daughter had a magnificent head of thick, dark blonde hair that simply knocked people.out. It was just wavy enough; her hairline was distinct. You may have guessed - she has PCOS ad is losing it.

    I don't want to panic her; she's 32 and there's still plenty left. But I have to keep picking up hair so she doesn't really see how much is falling. I tell myself that she has so much more than the average person, so if she can retain a reasonable amount, it won't be traumatic ot her. Fortunately she is not a vain person and never really had her head turned by all the attention to her gorgeous mane. I am happy every day that she is not battling a terrible diseae, nor am I; we have to look on the bright side, and I will certainly utilize all the resources like extensions etc I rememebr one of the nicest men I ever knew told me that when he started losing his hair in his twenties he considered suicide. It hurts me to think that somebody like him valued himself only in terms of his hair.

    I think our society pays too much attention to hair overall. I hope that we can get out act together and embrace baldness for both women and men as a fashionable alternative, and develop creative ways to decorate the head that don't include hair.

    July 11, 2011 at 17:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Cathy

    Thank you for this article. I will admit by most standards, people find me generally attractive but as I've started losing my hair (I'm a 38 year old woman), my self esteem is terrible. I hate taking pictures. I hate it. Thank you. I'm not alone.

    July 11, 2011 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. don't get it

    I'm 40 and thought I had more than the usual hair loss since my teens. Now the last 6 years I have lost 1/3 of my hair every year from June to Dec, six months every year. Than it grows back. I don't know what is going on with my body because I have also developed eczema.
    Anyone know why it would do this every year for six years?

    July 11, 2011 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Daniela

    i've had trichotillomania for 35 years (I am 41)...hair loss (in women especially) is very painful. I can't even get into the ridicule and abuse I endured in my life over this...can't wait for the day when my body doesn't matter anymore and I will be free from the pain.

    July 11, 2011 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Juli

    You have a husband, a child, and a job; that's a lot to be grateful for.

    July 11, 2011 at 18:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. K;aren

    I went through an extremely stressful period in my life about 20 years ago and during ten of those years, I lost a lot of my hair. Try to calm down because once I did, my hair grew back. Thankfully, because none of the treatments worked for me.
    I got a different diagnosis every time I tried a new doctor. I went to famous people and expected them to have the answers but they didn't. Men were ok....women, however, were quite cruel. And, family, as you say, just didn't understand why I as so upset. I said to my mother: YES...I still have hair...but, what if your nose was half its size and getting smaller every day? How would you feel? I hope this turns around for you. And, it may very well do so. Mine is long and thick again. My Best to You.

    July 11, 2011 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AOC

      Yes, my hair falls out during very stressful times, including extreme dieting. Stress reducing techniques, yoga, Biotin all help, but sometimes it is not enough. Just another symptom of our high stress American lives!

      July 11, 2011 at 20:06 | Report abuse |
  24. SilentBoy741

    Well, OK, if losing your hair is so "frustrating" and "agonizing", name some other part of your body that you'd RATHER have turn gray and fall off... I thought so.

    July 11, 2011 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Barada

      Well, I wouldn't mind if my warts turned gray and fell off!

      July 12, 2011 at 00:13 | Report abuse |
  25. SDCyclist

    Anyone who starts mysteriously losing hair needs to get tested for syphilis (and all STDs), and then get tested again in 4 to 6 months even if it comes back negative. It can take up to 3 months for a syphilis diagnosis to come back positive after exposure. I work in the industry and you'd be surprised how many people with mysterious hair loss actually have syphilis or other STDs. But Dr.'s don't routinely test for them unless you mention it. The good news is if you have a bacterial STD and you are treated your hair will start growing back immediately. Unfortunately thousands of people suffer with hair loss due to STDs for years because they never get tested for the proper diseases.

    July 11, 2011 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. franky

    I put peanut butter on my head and cover with foil! It seems 2 help me out. Just make sure you shower in the morning.

    July 11, 2011 at 18:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. annie

    My cousin has Alopecia and lost her hair 2 or 3 times before it finally disappeared forever. She cried ( yes, it is different for women) and picked herself up and owns the most wonderful collection of dangling earings. People assume she is going thru chemo and offer, for the most part kind words,and she gracefully explains the real reason for her hair loss. She has accepted her condition as she kows it could be much worse. Every time I see her and her lovely earings, I think she is a beautiful woman, and I don't see anything else.

    July 11, 2011 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. mjh

    HAIR WILL GROW BACK! WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT YOU BRING ABOUT! HAIR

    July 11, 2011 at 19:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • joey

      wish it was as simple as that

      July 11, 2011 at 23:48 | Report abuse |
  29. Andrea

    I had thick curly hair until my mid 20s, when it started to thin and fall out. It didnt really hit me until I ran into a friend I went to high school with and they asked what happened to my hair. Unfortunately, I have been told that it is an auto immue issue that runs in the family. It effects my mother and one sister as well. My other sister has Crohns and is on Remicade (an immunosuppresant) so her hair is growing in thick and dark. I have tried shorter haircuts, eating more vegetables, using natural cleaning products in my home, organic shampoos and conditioners, aloe vera juice, biotin, fish oil, and vitamin B supplements, as well as apple cider vinegar rinses, and even tried rubbing lemon wedges into my scalp. I have noticed that if I stop taking the biotin for a period of a few weeks or more, my hair falls out more. The combination of the above things seems to have slowed it down, but hasn't changed the thickness of my hair. I am currently looking into clay powder as a detox method. I have tried powdered clay rinses in my hair and it seems to help the thickness for a few days. Elimiating stress and making time for exercise are important as well, but between working full time, going to grad school, my internship, and commitments to family and friends, a spare half hour is hard to come by. Mostly, I try to be thankful for what I do have – a loving hubby, a house, a car, a job. Best of luck to all of you silently suffering with this.

    July 11, 2011 at 20:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Angie

    I had the same problem finally I seen a dermatologist, he did a ferritin serum blood test & found I had very low iron levels that's why I was loosing my hair , started on iron pills one a day & ducolox because you get a bit constipated when taking iron pills ,hair stopped falling out after 3 years of hair loss, So grateful to God for finally finding a Doctor who discovered the problem. My hair is growing back!! Thank you Lordy!

    July 11, 2011 at 20:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Rick

    I am a guy who started losing his hair at the age of 19. I had been attractive my whole life, but I simply did not look handsome without hair. My youth ended prematurely. I had three transplant surgeries by a bad doctor who gave me an artificial hairline and a donor strip scar. I could not shave my hair or clip it short, because that would expose my plugs and scar. I have been forced to cover my surgery with a fake "hair system" for the past 8 years. It's had a profoundly negative effect on my social life. It has cost me thousands of hours and thousands of dollars. The only thing that could affect my life more would be a real health issue, so I'm grateful for good health.

    For the first time in a long time, I have hope again for a cure to baldness. It is called "Auto-cloning". Please google search it! The breakthrough uses legitimate regenerative medicine. Hair transplant doctors are already regenerating new follicles using implanted "plucked" hairs. There is enough genetic material at the base of a plucked hair for your body to generate a new follicle around it using a powder called Matristem by Acell. Doctors are reporting a 75% success creating new hair on the head from plucked hairs. This means an unlimited supply of donor hair, because plucked hairs grow back!

    If the doctors can show that plucked transplanted hairs cycle normally and are DHT resistant, then this is the cure for balding. The genetic material in the new follcle comes from the plucked hair, so it should have the DHT resistance of the location it was plucked from (back donor area). Please see these these interviews and presentations...

    http://www.thebaldtruth.com/news/spencer-kobren-interviews-jerry-cooley-acell-matristrem/
    http://www.thebaldtruth.com/news/spencer-kobren-interviews-dr-gary-hitzig-the-pioneer-in-using-acell-matristem-for-hair-restoration/

    July 11, 2011 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Perri

    Has anyone tried those laser combs I have seen advertised for stopping hair loss? I also wonder about hair extensions that most of the female celebrities use. Are they a viable option?

    July 11, 2011 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Chelsea

    You should listen to India Arie's song called "I am not my hair"

    July 11, 2011 at 21:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Sahari

    My hair is falling out too. I see myself with a full head of hair, but what is taking place is another story. I am intrigued with the prospect of knowing myself without my trademark mane. If one really believes there is no inner life, than it truly is hell to lose one's hair, one's leg, one's anything! But I am on a journey of inner discovery, and though losing my hair isn't something I would consciously pick for myself, I do accept that unconsciously I HAVE chosen it, and will spend all my energy on making sure it is well utilized, and being vigilant about keeping myself OPEN to the new inner terrain I encounter on this journey. I don't believe the lie of this world. For instance, I may experience feelings of vanity but I do my best to not accept them as a basis for ANY choice I make. I do believe that everything is Love and it is our option, and our opportunity to discover how we are blocking our own selves from living in full realization of this Truth.

    July 11, 2011 at 21:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nomad

      That is beautiful Sahari. Thank you. You do have hair if hair is what you choose! This is all a dream.

      July 11, 2011 at 21:28 | Report abuse |
  35. Linda Rieschel

    Hi Lisa, I totally identify with you. My hereditary hair loss started at age 16. I remember the early days when I started to shed. You do feel like hiding, and find that you no longer want to hug people. You hate wind, rain, bright overhead lights, elevators, and even tall people who can look down at your scantily populated scalp. After working with cancer patients for several years, I found a way at be grateful for the type of hair loss I have. Now, I try to keep it all in perspective. In fact, I've written a couple of blogs about women's hair loss. If you are interested: headwrapguru.blogspot.com. Hang in there...it does get better, I promise. Writing about your situation is tremendously cathartic. Hopefully in the not too distant future, you'll take a deep breath and realize that you do feel better about your hair. I'll be thinking about you! Congratulations on a very beautifully written essay. Linda

    July 11, 2011 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Natalie

    You need to put things in perspective, people! It's hair that is missing - not an arm or a leg or other body-parts, but hair! Stop the whining, please. If you lose your hair, you lose your hair. Getting into a poor-me pity party only makes you feel even worse about yourself - it doesn't bring your hair back. It depends on the type of hair loss, but sometimes it does grow back (not if you stress yourself out over it, though, as severe stress is known to be a contributing factor to hair loss). My advice is to start thinking about something else - stop thinking about the fact that you are losing your hair. It's much better to think about something that you have instead of obsessing about hat you don't have. If you need to isolate yourself for the time being because people stare, then isolate yourself, read, study, develop your talents,if you have any, but please, stop the whining. Those people who stare are not perfect, and sometimes it helps to openly acknowledge other people's flaws. For instance, if a very fat person is staring at your thinning or non-existing hair, fight back right away by staring right at the person's midsection, shake your head, and laugh or smile sarcastically. It helps. When people are reminded about their own very visible imperfections, they tend to be a little less inclined to stare at others. Very rarely do I feel people are staring at me now - occasionally people make comments about cancer and feel sorry for me. That makes me much angrier than if they just stare. I fight back right away (usually it is very easy to point out a person's physical flaws, and I tell them to their face that I find them fat and ugly and that they have plenty to worry about about themselves - that they don't have the luxury to be curious why I don't have any hair. This is the second time I lost all of my hair. I had waste-long thick blond hair, and many of my friends said they were jealous of my hair. However, I knew that my hair was not a definition of me, only a part of me. I started losing it the first time four years ago due to severe stress due to situations beyond my control (severe dental infections were also contributing to the hair loss). I became completely bald, but was put on Prednisone and my hair grew back. It grew extremely fast, became very thick and people thought I had just cut my hair. I was actually able to trick people by the type of bandana I was wearing (don't wear regular scarves that cancer patients do, unless you are a cancer patient. Regular scarves are going to make you look like a cancer patient - wear the type of bandana that makes it look you have hair stuffed underneath - I buy mine Online). Just as fast as my hair grew back, it started to fall out again right away, and this time it does not seem to respond to Prednisone. I'm plain bald and I am a woman, but I don't care. It's not important, because I refuse to let people define me - I immediately focus on the other person's imperfection(s) and it works like a charm. Sometimes I even scare people with my hair loss - I tell them it's contagious, and they get it from staring (some people are stupid enough to believe it). Remember, it's a cruel world out there. People think they have a right to stare at someone because they don't have hair - don't let them. Fight back. I don't wear a wig, because it makes me feel physically ill. However, I am as much out and about as anyone else. Of course, my life would have been easier if I had my hair back, but at the same time, my life could have been a lot worse. That applies to all of you who are whining and complaining about having lost your hair. What if you lost your leg, or arm, or ended up in a coma from a head trauma. Put in perspective, hair loss means nothing (remember, I am completely bald for the second time, so I know what I am talking about) compared to other things that can happen in life. Think about the Jaycee Dugard story, for instance. She lost 18 years of her life. In my opinion, that's a lot worse than hair loss. Think about women in abusive relationships - what they are going through is also worse than hair loss. I am not saying that you have to accept your hair loss - just stop obsessing and whining about it. I don't accept that I have lost all of my hair and my eye lashes and eye brows, I just don't think of myself of any less than I was before the hair loss. My face is the same and my body is the same (I have always done sports so I am thin). In addition, I have various talents - that is what I focus on - what I do have. Not what is gone. I am an artist, and my work is as good whether I have hair or not, and creating art is maybe more important now. In order to avoid getting into a hell hole of depression that the author of the article is talking about, I am giving you the secret - stop making the hair loss important to yourself - focus on your strengths and your blessings - and also, fight back if people stare or make comments - make them feel bad about themselves - staring and commenting about your hair loss becomes less fun then. Of course I want my hair back, but I do not obsess about it. I do not view my hair loss as permanent (it is called alopecia areata and apparently many kids, teens and young adults get it because of severe stress, genetics or unknown reasons - the doctors say that the hair grows back 91% of the time). Sometimes I think that my hair loss could even be a blessing - I am able to focus on creating art and studying - more than I would have if I still had had what some people referred to the "perfect look." Just put your life in perspective and stop the childish whining. Unless you are a hair model, you can do anything you want and accomplish anything you set your mind to without hair on your head. All the stories of self pity about hair loss really makes me angry. Be a little grateful for the blessings life has given you. Please...

    July 11, 2011 at 22:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Jane

    I too have had this problem starting about 10 years ago. I always had such think hair that it took forever to dry. But 2 different doctors told me they didn't see a problem. But it it so much thinner then it was before this started and I just keep thinking about what it will look like in 5 years. But then about 2 years ago a dermotologist found a low serum Ferritin level even though my Iron and TIBC levels were acceptable. Taking Iron through suppliments did not seem to help. But then about 6 months later my Gyno found that I have a very low Vit D level. and after taking both Iron and Vit D for about 6 months the loss seemed to level out. Now I am waiting for new test results cause I stopped taking both suppliments for about 2 months to have my blood tested again since it isn't wise to take them indefinately. But it seems that the loss started up again. So I have to get the blood test results and starting taking them again. But I have hope.

    July 11, 2011 at 22:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Leonard Stillman

    I am Leonard Stillman, Director of Professional Services at Lexington International, LLC manufacturers of the HairMax LaserComb. This posting is not for commercial purposes but to alert viewers that the HairMax LaserComb has been proven to work in treating hereditary hair loss in both males and females. Below is a link to the peer reviewed article abstract with the results of a clinical trial proving the efficacy of the HairMax in males with pattern baldness as printed is http://www.pubmed.gov:

    "Clin Drug Investig. 2009;29(5):283-92. doi: 10.2165/00044011-200929050-00001.
    HairMax LaserComb laser phototherapy device in the treatment of male androgenetic alopecia: A randomized, double-blind, sham device-controlled, multicentre trial.
    Leavitt M, Charles G, Heyman E, Michaels D.
    Source
    Private Dermatology Practice, Maitland, Florida, USA.
    Abstract
    BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE:
    The use of low levels of visible or near infrared light for reducing pain, inflammation and oedema, promoting healing of wounds, deeper tissue and nerves, and preventing tissue damage has been known for almost 40 years since the invention of lasers. The HairMax LaserComb is a hand-held Class 3R lower level laser therapy device that contains a single laser module that emulates 9 beams at a wavelength of 655 nm (+/-5%). The device uses a technique of parting the user's hair by combs that are attached to the device. This improves delivery of distributed laser light to the scalp. The combs are designed so that each of the teeth on the combs aligns with a laser beam. By aligning the teeth with the laser beams, the hair can be parted and the laser energy delivered to the scalp of the user without obstruction by the individual hairs on the scalp. The primary aim of the study was to assess the safety and effectiveness of the HairMax LaserComb laser phototherapy device in the promotion of hair growth and in the cessation of hair loss in males diagnosed with androgenetic alopecia (AGA).

    METHODS:
    This double-blind, sham device-controlled, multicentre, 26-week trial randomized male patients with Norwood-Hamilton classes IIa-V AGA to treatment with the HairMax LaserComb or the sham device (2 : 1). The sham device used in the study was identical to the active device except that the laser light was replaced by a non-active incandescent light source.

    RESULTS:
    Of the 110 patients who completed the study, subjects in the HairMax LaserComb treatment group exhibited a significantly greater increase in mean terminal hair density than subjects in the sham device group (p < 0.0001). Consistent with this evidence for primary effectiveness, significant improvements in overall hair regrowth were demonstrated in terms of patients' subjective assessment (p < 0.015) at 26 weeks over baseline. The HairMax LaserComb was well tolerated with no serious adverse events reported and no statistical difference in adverse effects between the study groups.

    CONCLUSIONS:
    The results of this study suggest that the HairMax LaserComb is an effective, well tolerated and safe laser phototherapy device for the treatment of AGA in males.

    PMID: 19366270 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]"

    The HairMax Laser Comb recently received FDA Clearance for marketing for treating female pattern hair loss so that now all men and women have hope for an effective and safe, non-drug alternative for the treatment of hereditary hair loss.The HairMax is the only home use device of its kind to have FDA Clearance.

    We invite readers to view the HairMax web site, http://www.hairmax.com for complete information and to see if the HairMax is right for them.

    We hope that you will post this so that readers learn of this treatment option.

    July 11, 2011 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Angel M

    I'm a man. who has experience male pattern baldness in my early 20s, although it is emotionally taxing for us guys too, we at lease have the fall back position of shaving our heads without any social stigma. In a world where fashionable looks seem to meet with such high approval as to enhance the chances of one landing a job, finding a mate or even starting a business. I'm glad that experience and talent still count for something. Despite it all some of us less fortunate still manage to find jobs and companions..... that are more open and sensitive...... in life one should be strong and brave..... never confuse having less with being less.....

    July 11, 2011 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. ann

    i like toppik, but i did not care for the joan rivers one or the tinted spray. i found out that since i was born with one kidney, i also have only one adrenal gland. my endocrinologist tested my cortisol level twice and had me take a cortrosyn stimulation test. subsequently, i've been on hydrocortisone pills and i'm beginning to see some improvement.

    dermatologists can prescribe clobetasol propionate which can be applied directly to the scalp. my mother received some from her doctor and her hair grew back to a luxuriant thickness that she had not enjoyed in decades. it took several months for it to kick in but she only needed to use it twice a day for two weeks. i just received some a few weeks ago, so i'll have to wait to see if it makes a difference.

    it's a good idea to have your cortisol tested at 8 a.m. after you've had a stressful couple of days. it's also important to have your cortrosyn stimulation test at 8 a.m. after fasting for 12 hours and having abstained from prednisone or other steroids.

    July 11, 2011 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Cyndie K

    You were beautiful then, beautiful now, and will continue to be beautiful even with less hair. You've got it goin' on girl!
    PS. Nicely written, too!

    July 11, 2011 at 23:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Bob from SC

    Keep a positive outlook. I know that hair loss s more socially "acceptable" for men, but mine started thinning back in high school. By the end of my twenties I had only a few strands "up top". So it was an adjustment for someone so young. The one thing I could say was "I kept it longer than dad"...he was a "chrome dome" by this early twenties. Turn it around as a positive....think of the money you can save on hair stylists! I only have to go 1-2x/year for a little trimming on the back of the neck these days. At $20/pop I figure I've saved enough for a nice cruise over the past 30 yrs.

    July 11, 2011 at 23:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. carolsuecain

    For support, go to AlopeciaWorld.net or AlopeciaWorld.com

    July 12, 2011 at 00:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Tracy

    I was losing quite a bit of hair once. I could pull on it and a handful would come out. It was frightening. My ponytail holder that I used to twist twice was now requiring four twists and was still loose. Anyway, in my case, I was fortunate. A friend suggested that the Vitamin A contained in my supplements might be a contributor and it turned out to be the cause. As soon as I stopped taking supplements that contained Vitamin A, my hair grew back. Eating carrots didn't do it, it was something in the supplement. Go figure. I was lucky.

    July 12, 2011 at 00:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. risalsa

    Hi there, where exactly are you from? I'm a guy with some hair loss problem, but I completely empathize with you. Ok, here's the thing. My mom from Nepal sends me bottles of "homepathic" medicine every year when one of my friends/relatives come to the US, just for me. What she sends me is completely ayurvedic home-made medicines, all natural, no side-effects. I don't know if you live nearby. I'm from MN. If you are from MN, you're welcome to drive over and take one bottle. Try it, it should work ! if you're somewhere from a different state, I'm sorry but i don;t wanna take the hassle of shipping it. I don't know if i'll ever get back to this post to check the replies. if you do reply, write me at pragyaacharya@rocketmail.com

    July 12, 2011 at 00:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. JunkPileQueen

    Be very thankful indeed that cancer is not the source of your hair loss. You may be losing your hair, but you still have your health and are not spending the rest of what you hope and pray will be a very long life living in fear that 'it' will come back. Radiation for a brain tumor took my hair months ago, and my head currently looks like a patchwork quilt. I understand how devasting being both bald and female can be, as that has been the way for me for some time now. My hair is coming back slowly, inching its way across my scalp. I am constantly checking for new hair in the mirror. However, I am learning to get used to my non-hairdo. As much as I desperately want my hair to hurry up and grow back, at the end of the day if it came down to having a full head of hair or being tumor-free with a lifetime of good health, well I'd rather be bald as an egg and live to blow out candles on my 100th birthday...

    July 12, 2011 at 00:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. ellen

    I have a scarring alopecia called Lichen Planopilaris. Which means my hair falls out and scars over so it doesn't grow back. I've been diagnosed for 4 years. There is no cure....at least that's what western medicine says. I've been trying a number of alternative medicine treatments and am currently under the care of an hirudotherapist who is using medicinal leeches to treat this problem. I've lost about a third of my hair thus far. So far, I can still hide the problem, which has been a blessing. The leeches have actually helped more than anything I've ever tried. Lichen Planopilaris (LPP) has the added problem of being supremely uncomfortable, causing horrible itching and burning. Since starting the medicinal leech treatment I have had a complete remission of the discomfort. It has stopped the hair loss and I have, in fact, gotten some hair back. I'm a 2/3 through my treatment, on a scheduled one month break between treatment sets. One more treatment set and I'm supposed to be done. I'm very pleased with the results so far and I'm hoping that the benefits continue after the treatments are completely finished. I also tried using the 7 star needle acupuncture treatment which was somewhat beneficial but didn't cure the problem. The leeches seem to be much more effective. I wish all you who are currently suffering with hair loss the best of luck in finding help. I know what you're going through. I've just decided to keep trying til I find a cure. Hopefully I've found a lasting cure this time. If not, I'll keep looking. But that's just me. If you want to give up and get a wig...more power to you. If the LPP hadn't been so uncomfortable that I couldn't wear a wig, maybe I would have done that eventually. I'm glad I kept looking, though. I hope this is the answer.

    July 12, 2011 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. butterfly rose

    I feel for this poor author. I am 31, and my hair started falling out 10 months ago when my husband left me. My mom (now passed on) was dying of cancer and the stress of it all made my normal hair loss speed up. My hair was literally coming out in clumps when I would shampoo my hair. I would cry in the shower. My doctor said it was just PTSD and the hair would stop falling out and grow back. The loss has slowed down but it's not really growing back at all. I now wear my hair very short and do my best to keep my balding spots covered. It hurts to see but I am grateful it is not cancer or something of the like. I just make sure to have lots of cute hats around for bad hair days. I wish her, and all the commenters with this affliction the best of luck!

    July 12, 2011 at 01:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Natalie

    Dear Lisa,

    I am a compounding pharmacist and work with many women who experience hair loss. You mention having many tests, so this may be redundant information, but I would rather mention it with the hope of helping you than assume you've already done complete panels. First, the type of thyroid testing is of great importance. Many people only have TSH and free T4 tested and are assumed to be euthyroid. However, you also need to have TPO (assay testing for thyroid antibodies), thyroid antigen, free T3 and reverse T3 run. Any of these values can indicate thyroid disease that may have been missed. I assume you have also ruled out deficiencies, such as biotin, iodine, tyrosine or selenium. These all impact thyroid functioning.

    Secondly, I would encourage you to do a complete hormone panel, especially a salivary or blood spot test panel. These tests are more sensitive than venous blood draws. A great resource is ZRT Laboratories, and I highly recommend you call them as they look at thousands of laboratory profiles matched with symptoms (including hair loss). You mention depression and anxiety as a result of your hair loss. I would like to point out that all three are symptoms of estrogen dominance, or in other words, low progesterone levels in comparison to estradiol levels. Other symptoms can include irregular menses, weight gain, insomnia and mood swings. You are at an age that I see many women entering perimenopause, especially after having children. The first hormone that decreases in women is progesterone, which could be evident in you through the hair loss. It is often discounted by many doctors as traditionally estrogens have taken the focus, and since you are too young for menopause, may not be considered. High estrogen levels can also feed into androgenic symptoms (too much testosterone), such as hair loss. The answer may simply be progesterone supplementation, along with adrenal support and herbs like chaste tree to regulate your hormonal cycles better.

    While the answer may be genetic and there is nothing you can do, I know if I were in your position, I would want all the information I could get. This information may not help you, but I can only hope it does.

    Best of luck,
    Natalie

    July 12, 2011 at 01:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ann

      Natalie:

      I'm wondering what your suggestion would be for testing, etc. if someone has no thyroid and is in menopause? That is the case with me. I had my thyroid removed in 2005 and went into early menopause in 2008. I take Synthroid, Prometrium, Vivelle Dot (estrogen) every day. My hair loss started 11 months ago and continues to fall with very little regrowth (despite being on Minoxdil for 5 months so far). I was on these drugs at the same doses for a couple of years but when I suddenly stopped taking my HRT drugs for a couple of months last summer, it triggered my hair loss. I started back on the drugs after the two month break but it hasn't seemed to make a difference with the hair situation. I'm at a loss on what to do! I've seen several doctors. I did have my Synthroid dose lowered in April as I was discovered to be way over-medicated. I am now in the low-end of normal with my TSH and free T4. Thanks for any words of advice you feel comfortable offering.

      July 12, 2011 at 11:05 | Report abuse |
    • Natalie

      Dear Ann,

      Similar to my earlier suggestions, you first need a complete thyroid panel, including TPO, TgAb, and free T3. Your TSH should be ideally between 1-2. In addition, when there is significant hair loss I always look at the ratio between progesterone and estradiol, and some of Vivelle Dot doses can be aggressive. I would recommend having a hormone panel, including estradiol, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone. You could be converting into testosterone, which also can cause hair loss. Another aspect to consider are your adrenals, because high stress levels contribute to estrogen dominance and thyroid disorders. A salivary cortisol panel, especially with four times throughout the day, can give a good picture of adrenal health. I'm not sure where you live and what medical resources you have available, but I would recommend finding a naturopathic doctor who specializes in hormone therapy. As I mentioned previously, ZRT labs may be a good resource for you, since they get tests from all over the country, they can likely point you in the direction of a good doctor.

      Hope that helps!
      Natalie

      July 14, 2011 at 00:41 | Report abuse |
  50. Dizzyd

    I sympathize with all of you who suffer from hair loss since my hair is also thinning. I deal with it best I can, but it's still painful. We live in a society that demands we all look a certain way (tall, thin, perfect hair and skin, white teeth) and heaven help those who don't measure up. We just have to learn to love ourselves and stop letting society tell us how to be and look. I can appreciate your response, Natalie, to insensitive clods – but don't become one yourself. Belittling someone for their flaws or weaknesses is the cheap and cruel way out. And God wouldn't afflict you with hair loss to 'punish' you – it's a part of living in an imperfect world.

    July 12, 2011 at 01:40 | Report abuse | Reply
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