Week of requests: dealing with the bummer that is hair loss

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“Would love a post about remedies for thinning hair,” writes Francine, who adds that she has lost tons this past year, “and I’m heartbroken, as I’ve always been the one with good hair!” Well, I have never been the one with good hair, Francine, but I do have a decent amount of experience with hair loss; when I was in my late 30s, a whole ton of it fell out, and it really, really threw me: we don’t realize how central to our identity hair is until we start shedding it. As far as attacking the issue goes, the first thing you might want to do is go to the doctor and make sure you don’t have any hormonal issues or vitamin deficiencies. This could also could be triggered by a medication you’re taking. Have you gone through a period of extreme stress? That can cause it too. And, of course, menopause, that great multi-tasker, can be responsible for hair loss as well.  As far as solutions go, nothing is 100% effective, but I was able to stop the hair from falling out by taking Biotin supplements. A lot of people have success with Minoxidil, which has been proven to be effective for women as well as men, but I can’t speak to that first-hand, as I’ve never tried it. It’s worth knowing, though, that this treatment can also sometimes have the unsavory side-effect of causing hair growth in undesirable spots like the cheeks and forehead. Avoiding sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine can help, as can staying away from too-harsh chemical hair treatments (in fact, I’m pretty certain an ill-advised relaxing procedure is what did me in). Saw palmetto extract and ginkgo biloba are said to help in some cases as well. My solution has been to throw up my hands and get extensions, but I hear good things about the supplement Nutrafol, and I’m quite intrigued by (and skeptical of) this Back to the Future-ish contraption, which some people swear totally works.

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33 Thoughts on Week of requests: dealing with the bummer that is hair loss
    Barb Kenner
    8 Mar 2019
    10:08am

    OMGGGGG – how timely is this issue on your blog…
    I’ve lost about 1/2 my hair – doctor suggested I order Nutrafol – $88.00 a bottle – you must take 4 pills a day with food.
    I’ve struggled with a lot of things in my life, but hair loss is just a killer. And it’s not that I’m a hair flipper girl, but gosh to see your hair texture change and just watch it fall out…no words.

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    Becky
    17 Mar 2019
    4:23pm

    I’m late to the party on this thread, but I am one of the weirdos who uses the iRestore helmet! My family makes fun of me when I’m using it, but it truly works on me. Besides generating new hair growth (my part had been getting bigger and bigger), my eyebrows have also benefitted. I never over-plucked in the 90’s, but my eyebrows had gotten sparser with age.

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    HickfromStyx
    9 Mar 2019
    11:12am

    Can we talk about the parathyroid glands, please? These four tiny glands (not the thyroid) can sometimes go rogue, especially in postmenopausal women, causing a condition called hyperparathyroidism. Get your serum calcium and parathyroid hormone levels checked, both at the same blood draw. This condition can cause hair loss, and it is underdiagnosed. Surgery is the cure.

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      Tessa
      10 Mar 2019
      12:56pm

      100% And too many women are told hair loss is simply a symptom of aging. Not necessarily! I went to a female physician who specialized in integrative medicine, and found out I had an issue with my thyroid and adrenals. Once I got that treated my hair stopped falling out and returned to the glorious fullness of my thirties.

      Don’t let people tell you it’s all part of getting older. Medical misogyny and ageism is the cause of real health issues going undiagnosed. Rather than wasting money on shampoos and supplements that don’t work, be your own medical advocate and see a doctor who will listen to you and run blood tests.

      Sorry, end of rant.

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    Bethany Ball
    8 Mar 2019
    12:29pm

    I like the coconut soap shampoo better than the black soap, personally especially in winter. There didn’t seem to be a ton of difference in the rinses and I’ve used all of them. I was spending ridiculous amounts of money on fancy shampoos and conditioners and I like to be all natural but I would have poured formaldehyde on my hair if I thought it would give it some texture and body. Her products ARE all natural (and in glass bottles) and work better than anything I’ve ever tried. Close second is my homemade version.

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    Monique
    8 Mar 2019
    8:39am

    A few years ago I lost a bunch of hair and my dermatologist checked the ferritin level in my blood. It was low, although my iron was ok. So I took iron supplements, brought up the ferritin and it stopped. It’s worth a look!

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      c.w.
      9 Mar 2019
      7:56am

      This is really helpful info., Monique. I’ve been wondering if my iron levels were low because of frequent headaches so now I’m more curious since I’ve also been experiencing hair loss!

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      Pam
      12 Mar 2019
      11:42am

      Iron supplementation worked for me too!

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    c.w.
    8 Mar 2019
    8:40am

    Thinning hair during and after menopause is debilitating. I am agog at how much hair loss I’ve gone through in the past ten years. I haven’t tried any of the products/medications you’ve written about, Kim, but when I go in for my next gyno pap appt. I will ask so thank you for this post. Life sure throws women some sucky things to deal with as they age!

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    Beana
    8 Mar 2019
    8:57am

    What was your experience with those hair extensions like?

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      Kim France
      8 Mar 2019
      9:36am

      I love them—the company I linked to uses very high-quality hair, and the process of putting them in doesn’t take too long—but they are not cheap.

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        Julia
        10 Mar 2019
        6:04pm

        Hi,

        I’m late to the party on responding to what posts we’d like to see — but anything about help for hot flashes caused by tamoxifen (in other words HRT is out)

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    Liz
    8 Mar 2019
    10:02am

    The unfortunate thing that I’ve found about some hair growth supplements is that they also make your facial hair grow. As an Italian American prone to dark facial hair already, this sucks.

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      mlinky
      8 Mar 2019
      1:13pm

      Amen. Also, can we talk about the 2 inch long chin hair that suddenly appears from nowhere?

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        Liz
        8 Mar 2019
        7:49pm

        And the eyebrow hairs! I now have a couple of super long, super thick light gray eyebrow hairs, one on each brow, that just seem to show up out of nowhere sticking straight up on top of all the dark ones. Sometimes I wonder how long I’ve been walking like that around without noticing them. They hurt like hell to pluck.

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          mlinky
          9 Mar 2019
          11:23am

          Truth!

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        Barb
        10 Mar 2019
        5:40pm

        No we cant talk about it…lol

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      lorna
      8 Mar 2019
      10:52am

      Ughhh. yea the my eyebrows seem to have moved to my chin….

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    Gablesgirl
    8 Mar 2019
    7:44pm

    Thanks to a rather horrible year at work my hair fell out in a large patch. Was stress related and took me months to grow out. I went to a derma who specializes in hair loss and minoxidil plus a prescription helped. Have always had thin hair.

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    Lorea
    8 Mar 2019
    1:46pm

    Glycolic acid shampoo to unblock scalp pores/ follicles, and black seed (Nigella sativa) oil. Enerex and Viridian are good brands. The Ordinary now has one too but I haven’t tried it. You massage the oil into your scalp as a scalp treatment. It has a strong herbal smell but I like it…. It’s been used as a hair beauty/ anti-hair loss treatment across the Middle East for centuries and it does seem to work!

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    Jackie
    8 Mar 2019
    3:00pm

    I was plagued throughout most of my 30s with hair thinning, especially at the crown and along the hairline. It was so depressing. Blood and thyroid tests revealed nothing. But minoxidil does work. I’ve been using it (women’s 5%) for the last three months and I’ve noticed a huge decrease in shedding, like back to my normal amount (which is still not nothing!), plus the hair is definitely thickening up on top and there’s visible new growth. I am so grateful to have found something that works. And I say this as someone who was very skeptical that I ever would. But at least for now, it is helping!

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    Francine
    8 Mar 2019
    4:17pm

    It’s comforting to know I’m not alone! A lot of good info here, so thank you everyone.

    Kim, the iRestore…oh, how tempting! If it’s on the level and offers a guarantee, it seems like 6 months is worth trying.

    I did take Viviscal for nearly 2 years (no results) and have been taking Nutrafol since July (still no results). Just started Rogaine last month.

    Getting old isn’t for wimps.

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    Mae
    8 Mar 2019
    5:37pm

    I went through a hair loss phase in my mid-forties, and I was told it was because of low thyroid, then told later that thyroid medication initially causes hair loss. (Gee, thanks.) I still take thyroid medication (I’m now 59) and the hair loss did stop. As a general note, I’ve figured out that any prescriptions, supplements, dietary changes, etc., take 3 months for me to notice any difference. I’ve therefore adopted a “one thing at a time” approach. I tend to think all shampoos and conditioners are the same. They’re only on your head for a few moments in the shower. Same with facial cleansers. Just sayin’.

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    Ramona Quimby
    9 Mar 2019
    2:16am

    It’s not cheap but if you don’t have an underlying deficiency or thyroid etc PRP works for regrowth for women. You have to do it annually after initial treatments but that’s one thing that for sure works.

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    Rachel
    8 Mar 2019
    10:40am

    I’ve always had terrible hair, and now combined with health issues, I’ve become an expert in losing hair. :c(
    1. Obviously, check with your doctor.
    2. Eat enough protein and make sure your body is breaking it down properly (use digestive enzymes, if necessary).
    3. Micinazole is a miracle. It blocks the hormone that tells your hair to fall out. I dilute anti-fungal cream with water and apply to my roots after every shower. It works. It’s cheap.
    4. Increase blood flow and collagen with a 20 minute head massage every day. Make sure it’s really vigorous. I use a “facial blaster” to cut down on the time. Results start at about 8 weeks.
    5. Usually thinning hair also decreases in diameter, too. I use a two-step protein treatment by aphogee to bond more keratin to the hair cuticle so it’s not as fine. It’s not a huge difference, but it helps.
    These take time, but I’ve found them to be worth it. Good luck!

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    Alysa Wishingrad
    8 Mar 2019
    11:37am

    Co-sign on checking ferritin levels, I’d also look into your zinc levels. I personally never found biotin to be that helpful, but I have been adding collagen hydrostat to my morning oatmeal for well over a year now, and my hair is extremely happy. Also check your thyroid levels, of course. Even sub-clinical thyroid issues can contribute to hair loss. Good luck!

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    Alysa
    8 Mar 2019
    11:38am

    Co-sign on checking ferritin levels, I’d also look into your zinc levels. I personally never found biotin to be that helpful, but I have been adding collagen hydrostat to my morning oatmeal for well over a year now, and my hair is extremely happy. Also check your thyroid levels, of course. Even sub-clinical thyroid issues can contribute to hair loss. Good luck!

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    Bethany
    8 Mar 2019
    11:46am

    I have always had terrible hair. Fine, thin, lank, limp and very little of it. My hair completely changed when I started using this shampoo and rinse. It’s a real soap-based shampoo rather than detergent. So your hair looks terrible for a few days but if you can stick it out, it’s worth it. After the shampoo I use a rinse that smells a bit like salad dressing. I can’t even explain the difference. I buy mine here: https://www.candicerobins.com/. It’s not cheap but I have had some success replicating on my own with Dr. Bronners bar soap and a homemade apple vinegar rinse. Not the same but almost. Worth a try if you’re desperate. The problem with a lot of (expensive) shampoos that promised fullness is they would coat my hair and then weigh it down, making it look even thinner and sparser.

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      Rachel
      8 Mar 2019
      12:14pm

      I’m so intrigued by this shampoo/rinse situation. Like you, I have fine, thin hair which has always bummed me out. Just to confirm, do you use the black soap shampoo and the lavender rinse? (those are the two that seem to be tied to fuller hair). Thanks for the hair intel!

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    Pauline
    9 Mar 2019
    3:45pm

    My hair was falling out a couple of years ago. It would coat my pillow in the morning. Tests showed no deficiencies. I started to use coconut oil on my head before washing, leaving it on as long as I could (sometime hours) and it stopped my hair loss and restored the condition of my hair. I rarely get any hair loss now and I only wash my hair once a week. Don’t brush or comb your hair all the time. I comb the conditioner through and that’s it. I just run my hands through my hair and go. I bleach my hair but it’s never been healthier. Hope this helps.

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    Kristyn
    9 Mar 2019
    7:08pm

    I decided to stop coloring my hair and embrace the gray. My hair has stopped falling out and I have a little regrowth around my hairline. I colored my hair for twenty years so maybe my scalp was over it.

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    sunny
    10 Mar 2019
    4:17pm

    If your hormone, iron and other medical tests are normal, I think it’s worth checking out Fo-ti (also known as he shou wu) which you can get on Amazon. It’s known to reduce greys in general and help hair growth in Chinese medicine.

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    Tara
    11 Mar 2019
    2:56pm

    I was diagnosed with a form of alopecia called frontal fibrosing alopecia. I started losing my eyebrows first, from the outside-in. Then hair along my hairline above my left ear. Then right at the top of my widow’s peak. I saw several doctors. First dermatologist said, “Nope, nothing.” Then did a full work-up with an endocrinologist–I was pre-menopausal, she recommended iron supplements, vitamin D and biotin but cautioned they might not do anything and nothing was wrong with my thyroid. I finally saw another dermatologist and she immediately said “frontal fibrosing alopecia.” There’s really not a lot they can do–it’s more that it’s a best case scenario to diagnose early and protect what you have. I didn’t get to do that–I have a steroid solution I apply daily but I am not down for hair plugs and I am sort of resigned to make the best of it while it’s not so bad and then maybe just shave my head and work on my inner badass–easier said than done, but I had really good hair for a long time and it’s not going to kill me so in both cases I am lucky!

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Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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