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Friday, June 3, 2011

84

What It's Like to Lose All Your Hair

A few weeks after I turned 21 I noticed a small hairless patch near the top of my head. I didn't really freak out — I'd experienced little patches like this before, at 18 and 20, and knew it was just (just!) alopecia, small patches of hair loss caused by your body's immune system attacking the hair follicles for unexplained reasons. I simply called the dermatologist I had on hand near my college just for this purpose, made an appointment to get a certain kind of steroid shot for this purpose in the patch, and figured that was it.

Except unlike the other times, that was not it. Over the next few weeks I noticed my hair thinning all over, something that had never happened before. When I ran my hand through my hair in the shower to rinse out shampoo, I came away with small handfuls of hair. When I straightened it, the floor would be covered in strands when I was done. So I stopped washing and straightening my hair so often, thinking that would cut down the thinning until I could get home and see my regular doctor. I had very thick hair, and lots of it, so I figured I would be fine and unnoticeable. Then Halloween rolled around and my best friend came to visit for the weekend. The first thing she said to me — literally the first, before we even said "hi" or "I missed you" was, "Why didn't you tell me your hair got so thin?"

I brushed it off and had a great weekend with her, but the second she left I bolted to my room and broke down. I called my dermatologist at home in New York, took her first available appointment later that week, and skipped my Thursday classes to make the drive down, right after the guy I was seeing ended things with me via AIM. The first thing both she — and my mother, who met me there — said to me was that I didn't even look like myself. Apparently my alopecia areata (patchy) was turning into alopecia totalis (complete head hair loss), and she took a biopsy and suggested I look into getting a hairpiece before things got really bad.

I did not want one, because my vain, senior-in-college-just-wanting-to-love-life self thought that getting one meant accepting that I really was going to lose all my hair. But after two weeks of wearing increasingly large headbands, it became clear that being Blair Waldorf wasn't going to cut it. I gathered up the courage to ask a few friends their opinions, and they agreed that I should do it. Before I left for the semester, I told just enough additional friends to ensure that most of my sorority house would know by the time we got back, so there would be no surprises and awkward questions. Sure enough, when I got back all my good friends told me I looked great, and all my other friends just thought I had dyed my hair, as the piece had more of a red tint than my natural hair color. Over the next few weeks my remaining hair continued to fall out to no one's knowledge but my own, until one day I got so frustrated that I just cut off everything that remained. My hairpiece fit better after that.

Getting a hairpiece is, thankfully, not like the episode of Sex and the City when Samantha gets a wig. You go for multiple fittings to ensure that it will fit you exactly, you pick out exactly the thickness, length, and color of the hair you want, you pick out where the flesh-colored part will go, and you get it cut and shaped to fit you. Guess how much this costs. Nope, more. Nope, more than that. A good hairpiece — one that is made to fit you, one that will trick even people who know it's fake into thinking it's real — costs $4,000. I'm sure you can get one for less, but as my mom said when we went for my first consultation, "If we're going to do this, we're going to do this right." And keep in mind, $4,000 is just the original cost. Because you're getting real hair, it bleaches out like normal hair and needs coloring, which costs money. Because it's sewn into a base and not growing out of your head, when it falls out it needs replacing, which costs a lot more money. And even the best-quality hairpieces wear out and need replacing every two years or so, depending on how well you take care of it. Insurance won't cover much of the cost, because they don't see the difference between a custom piece and buying one in the store for a few hundred dollars. I'm making an appointment this week for a fitting for my third piece, at which point I will have spent more than $10,000 — TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS — on hair. And by I, I mean my parents, because I'm lucky if I have more than $20 in my bank account at the end of the month. For this, I will be forever grateful. I realize it would be a lot cheaper to just go bald, and I know women who do and they look great, but I just don't have that kind of confidence. Plus, I like to play with my hair when I'm bored.

My alopecia is not a secret, but it is something I tell people on a case-by-case basis. It's just something I don't feel the need to tell everyone, like anyone with any medical condition. A lot of people I know, even people I've known for years, will probably find out for the first time when they read this. But it has made dating awkward. Since graduating college, I've dated or gone-on-a-number-of-dates-but-not-enough-to-be-serioused (you know what I mean) with four dudes, and told three. The first one fizzled before I could say anything. I waited a while to tell the second one, at which point he promptly got weird and stopped calling me. I waited a little less long to tell the third one, but he didn't want a relationship anyway so that didn't matter. I told the fourth one on our second date, because I really, really liked him, and wanted to be honest with him early to avoid getting hurt in case he freaked out, even though I already liked him so much that I'd be hurt anyway. It's been almost a year and a half since that point, and we're still dating. He cares more that I mispronounced Chick-Fil-A on our first date.

Like all my friends, he rarely asks about it. They all know that I'll talk about it when I want to talk about it, and to be honest, I think sometimes they forget. But I never do. More than anything, I would love to be able to pull my hair into a high ponytail or messy bun, but hairpiece design makes that impossible (I can still pull it up for exercise or yoga, but low). I would love to run my fingers through MY hair, not across my smooth, bare scalp. I would even love to have to shave my legs more often. I would love to stop going to the dermatologist every month. My eyebrows are now thinning, so I have to get steroid shots in them every five weeks. I also have to get a general steroid shot in my butt during these visits (these steroids are supposed to help stop the immune system inflammation that blocks the hair from growing). The steroids make me feel really tense and jumpy for two days, but they're the least sickening/annoying of all the treatments I've tried. Oh, and my dermatologist doesn't take insurance, so that's another $200 every month that I have to fight with Aetna to reimburse.

Because alopecia only affects 2 percent of the population and isn't life threatening in any way, there aren't any alopecia-specific treatments out there. Most of the treatments are simply other medications that were found in studies to also stimulate hair growth, like Latisse, which they just started trials on for hair loss. Most hair-loss research is directed at men, so a lot of proven treatments, like Propecia, can't be used by women because they affect fertility. I'd like to have kids at some point down the road (far down, calm down boyfriend), so this isn't an option (in case you were wondering, there's an 8 percent chance of me passing this on). A lot of the treatments out there also have side effects or time constraints that make them not worth it. I've tried various pills that have made me feel sick all the time. I've gotten those steroid shots in my scalp, which are both painful and have mixed results, and if they did work well I'd have to get them every month for the rest of my life, lest I risk hair falling out again. There's a cream for some other condition I could try, but I'd have to leave it on for an hour every single day and my scalp would turn purple. There are ultra-violet light treatments I could try, but they up your chance of skin cancer and I'd really rather not get melanoma.

In some ways, I actually think it would be harder to have alopecia and be a dude, even though the whole hair-loss industry is geared toward them (even the special tape I use to keep my hair on is called "men's grooming tape"). Yes, no one even looks twice at a bald dude, but I can pencil in the missing patches in my eyebrows and trick you into thinking I have eyelashes with my eyeliner and no one is any the wiser, a luxury most guys don't have (or wouldn't attempt). I'm also grateful that I developed this at 21, because I already had a great group of friends mature enough to understand that I didn't have some scary, contagious disease. Developing it later in life also means that I have a greater chance of getting my hair back. There's a 50 percent chance it could just come back on its own, and I just try to think that that means that there's a 50 percent chance that it will come back via some sort of treatment. There's no option for me but to believe that it will come back. A few years ago my nana told me that she knew — knew — that my hair would come back, but that it would be more curly and unmanageable than it used to be. Considering she'll be 90 this fall, I'm pretty sure she knows her shit. And in that case, bring on the humidity. I'd love to write a Hairpin piece on taming crazy Medusa hair.

Alexandra M. works on the Internets and spends most of her time thinking not about hair but about food, which she writes about on her cooking blog. All her Gmail ads are now for hair loss after e-mailing this to The Hairpin.

84 Comments / Post A Comment

My cousin married his wife about 5 years ago, and 2 years later she developed alopecia totalis. One time I pulled him aside and drunkenly asked if he was disappointed or upset, and he laughed and said, "she used to spend hundreds of dollars at the hair salon every 6 weeks, now we can save the money for our baby!" They are still very much in love, she has a beautiful collection of scarves.

SallyH

This is wonderful--brave and amazing, thank you for sharing.
also: how did you pronounce Chick-Fil-A?

elysian fields

@SallyH chick fill ay. I learned this in college.
Chick-Fil-A does not exist on the west coast. I've been on the east coast for several years now and I've never been to one so I don't even know what it's like there.

shenannies

@elysian fields Chick-Fil-A is HEAVEN. Get yourself to one stat.

Thanks for the post, I enjoyed the read. Who would dump someone over alopecia?!? Glad he took you to Chick-Fil-A, he sounds like a good egg.

contrary

@shenannies seriously! what a juicebox.

theharpoon

@SallyH Another important fact about Chick-Fil-A is that they are way Christian and therefore closed on Sundays, so DO NOT forget this a go to the mall on Sunday thinking that you will be able to get waffle fries because that will make you so sad.

itmakesmewonder

@SallyH I hope she pronounced it "Chick Fila" like it was the Fila offshoot for ladies.

Kakapo

@theharpoon Also, they donate to anti-gay groups and have for a million years.

RK Fire

@Kakapo: this is true, and yet I still buy food from there. :( If only there was the progressive answer to delicious fried chicken sandwiches..

scully

@elysian fields It does It does exist on the West Coast. There was one in my local mall in the North Bay.
In other news, awesome piece, Alie. I really enjoyed your frank view of your condition and how positive you are about it. U R cool.

melis

There is also one in Upland (or Rancho Cucamonga, I forget which) at the base of Mt Baldy in SoCal. Also one in Walnut. My last girlfriend and I used to go there all the time, which somehow in my brain made their whole anti-gay thing okay. This does not make sense, but their biscuits are so damn good I do not care.

Tammy Pajamas

@melis There's also one by USC and soon there will be one at Sunset and Highland-ish.

theharpoon

@Kakapo Tell me where to get gay-friendly waffle fries and I will go there!

mpants

@SallyH I can vouch for the sadness... there were many a Sundays during my midwest teenage hood when I eagerly ran out of Contempo Casuals ready for my Chik-Fil-A only to be disappointed and forced to eat yet another overcaloried piece of Sbarro pizza.

theharpoon

@mpants Oh wow, Contempo Casuals!! I totally forgot about Contempo Casuals.

Ophelia

Just out of curiosity...how did you pronounce Chik-Fil-A?

tea tray in the sky.

@Ophelia I love how two people posted this question at the exact same moment in time.

JessicaLovejoy

"Why didn't you tell me your hair got so thin?"

...because that's totally something people lead with, amirite?

He cares more that I mispronounced Chick-Fil-A on our first date.

Ha, please tell me you said "Chick Filla" like I thought it was for a millions years before I moved to an area that actually had them. (Not 100% accurate, NY has one but it's freakin' hidden! I LEARNED TOO LATE.)

I liked this piece. Informative and sharp. Thanks for sharing. Here's to being unmanageable together one day!

Katie Walsh

Great article, but can we talk about the more important matter of SRIRACHA SOUR CREAM ON YOUR FOOD BLOG? I need that now.

Alexandra Martell

@Katie Walsh eeeeasiest thing to make ever. I apologize in advance if you find yourself eating it with a spoon.

elysian fields

@Katie Walsh you know what else is important? The quesadilla has no cumin in it! I mean, it looks delish, but the lack of cumin gives me pause.
PSA: for a truly revelatory quesadilla, ADD CUMIN! (Unless you really hate cumin, in which case you are exempt, although seriously, why don't you like cumin?)

JessicaLovejoy

@Katie Walsh Hmm, interesting concept, especially since I think sour cream flavored chips taste like garbage, until sriracha is added to the mix, in which case I may accidentally bite off my own fingertip consuming it.

Mrs. Brown's Lovely Daughter

@elysian fields I don't know how anyone could not like cumin! It's possibly the best seasoning ever.

Alexandra Martell

To answer everyone's question, I pronounced it "Chickafilla." I DON'T KNOW. I had only ever encountered one in my entire life and apparently in my memory it had an extra "A"

Edith Zimmerman

@aliemartell Chickafilla!!! Ahhh <3

jackietgregory

@aliemartell Just remember it's Fil-A like "fillet" and they're closed on Sundays!!

JessicaLovejoy

@aliemartell Oh wow, I can't believe there's more than one way to mispronounce it!

MollyculeTheory

@aliemartell I pronounced it "Chickfeelá" for longer than I'd like to admit.

Ophelia

@MollyculeTheory Me too! (Hence my earlier curiosity)

Becca

@aliemartell I thought this until about 5 years ago when I met someone who's seen a Chick-Fil-A somewhere. Where are those things, even? There's apparently one come to Chicago and everyone's very excited/indifferent.

Becca

@Becca *who'd *coming *typos *whatever

Clare

@aliemartell My favorite aunt calls it Chick-A-Fil. Also, LOVE the Hyperbole and a Half reference on your food blog!

HopestdaDopest

@aliemartell Girl! me and my collegemates say it like that all the time! I know somebody who works there and we yell that at her in addition to chicken nugget. But you know, out of love...

SouthernSatine

@Becca FYI: Chick-Fil-A is based in Atlanta, and therefore they own the South. Seriously. The first time that I went to the Midwest, and someone informed me that they didn't have Chick-Fil-A I almost died. WHERE DO YOU PEOPLE GET YOUR CHICKEN NUGGETS?!

Okay Yeah

@aliemartell I'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT IT WAS PRONOUNCED LIKE THAT! Huh. I'm glad that I found out here! Thanks for saving me a little bit of embarrassment. Though I'm sure I'll have plenty of other mispronunciation opportunities.

ilikemints

My first boyfriend broke up with me on AIM, too.

I loved this.

jackietgregory

This was such a good article.

I have a coworker with thinning hair who sometimes wears one of those smaller hairpieces you cover your crown with and it really blends in perfectly. Also I was once loosely acquainted with this girl who had alopecia totalis, who worked in a deli. She still had to wear a hairnet?

Mint

Alexandra, this piece was so good! i developed alopecia after a long-term relationship ended (i was 23), and went through so much of the same things. thank you <3!

nerver

I was just diagnosed with alopecia areata a few months after my wedding and the sudden death of a friend in an earthquake (assumed stress triggers). I had seven spots initially, and have had two rounds of scalp and general steroid shots. While my dermatologist feels it's only areata, I have noticed a thinning all over and so I thank you for writing this piece. You are a voice of humor and confidence should things continue to thin out...and well, even if they don't!

femme cassidy

Thank you so much for sharing this! I seriously sometimes think that nothing, NOTHING is so fraught for women as our relationship with our hair. NOT EVEN BOOBS.

HelloTitty

@femme cassidy Ain't that the truth.

Annabella

I had a very good friend who lost the entirety of her body hair to alopecia. She had resigned herself to being bald and learned to live with it, got married, had a great job and lots and lots of friends who loved and admired her. Then she had a child and voila! She got her hair back. Crazy what hormones can do to you. There's hope for your hair. I hope you can find peace with it in the meantime, as my friend did. If you want her contact info, I'd be happy to get that for you.

abigail

Wonderful post!

Lnz
Lnz

A very dear friend of mine also has alopecia and lost all of her hair when she was 21 and studying abroad. I can't imagine losing all of my hair, let alone on a different continent. But eventually it grew back! And I know that yours will, too.

EyelineHer@twitter

@Lnz I absolutely know that you meant this comment in the most supportive way possible, so please do not interpret this reply as a personal criticism. But most people who have this condition find it incredibly unhelpful to be told that because somebody knows someone whose hair 'all grew back', they're confident that 'yours will too'. Mainly, because it's just not true: some people's hair returns, granted, but some will never get theirs back. Having had alopecia for a while, I've learned to just chuckle at this kind of comment (because my gosh you get to hear it a LOT), but someone who's just lost their hair will, I'm afraid, be pretty upset by it.

Again, absolutely no offense intended - I just felt it important to clarify why someone with condition might react badly to this kind of comment. Apologies for any sanctimoniousness that may have come across :)

Ksquared

@EyelineHer@twitter I have had alopecia for about 7 weeks now, and I know what you mean about people saying it will grow back. I wish I could believe them....

crich

Fabulous writing- I really enjoyed reading this. I checked out your food blog and I have one with the exact same design pattern (it feels weird to see this, non?) It's fabulous. Lamb meatballs will be cooked soon. Anyway, if you really do love cake, check my blog out and try the chocolate peanut butter cake. It will make any care in the world go away. All the best- claudiaskitchen.wordpress.com

Ellie

Fantastic article. I'm really sorry that you have lost your hair (so far) but your great attitude is so admirable. Hair is so unbelievably crucial to one's appearance and sense of femininity and people often don't even think about it. I felt like I could relate to your article in some ways because I have had pretty bad trichotillomania in the past. Thank god I look normal now but at times I could not imagine looking and feeling more like a freak. I was miserable and wished I was missing a hand or anything else instead. It really ruined my life and I obsessed constantly (and still do) about the importance of hair in society. Anyway, thank you again for sharing and good luck!

chevyvan

I used to complain about my thick hair all the time. Now I see how thin my mom's hair has gotten just from getting older, and I'm trying to enjoy it while I can. Now I promise to stop complaining about shaving my legs! Great post!

Becca

GREAT post! Your parents sound really awesome. I can relate in a very, very, very small way.

A few years ago, I noticed some weird body changes - hair shedding, weight gain, slight facial hair growth, bad skin. Turns out I had PCOS. My mom and my friends just thought I'd just let myself go, because I honestly just looked like an unkempt version of myself. But it was lady problems.

I've always had really thick curly hair so when people noticed it thinning, they just asked whether I'd gotten a keratin or straightening treatment because my curl pattern seemed less dense. I just went along with it because I didn't feel like explaining that MY OVARIES HAD HOLES IN THEM AND WERE FIGHTING MY BODY.

Again, loved this article. You're a great writer and you handled your alopecia with what seems like an ENORMOUS amount of aplomb and maturity. And you made your experience suuuper relatable and funny. I was as asshole at 21 - you were a class act.

Clare

@Becca How do you treat PCOS? I'm convinced I have it (I've never been tested, but I have all the symptoms) but I don't know anything about how it's treated.

Becca

@Clare I had to get a blood test to check for increased levels of testosterone and some other stuff. Because there's insulin resistance involved with PCOS, I had to literally cut out all processed foods and refined carbohydrates to lose the weight I gained and increase my exercise. There was literally no other way. Hormone therapy can help with the facial hair growth, scalp hair shedding, and skin problems. I decided against hormones because of the side affects, but once I lost the weight - which with PCOS was VERY difficult - the other effects began to diminish over time. It was a process, but there are ways to reverse the negative symptoms without risky medication.

The part that sucks is that it's kind of a chicken or the egg - which came first scenario. PCOS made me gain weight, but it also makes it hard to lose the weight that worsens symptoms. For a lot of women, the weight gain comes before the PCOS, so bad habits + a condition that makes you retain weight can be almost impossible to overcome. Hormone therapy is the best bet for most women with PCOS.

If the weight loss doesn't come with a diet overhaul or exercise, which is the case with some PCOS sufferers, medications similar to those given to diabetes patients can help the body process sugars more normally. And I've seen that work with my aunt. She had PCOS and without changing her diet or increasing her exercise, she began insulin treatments and the weight she gained from PCOS literally FELL OFF.

Or you could get a hysterectomy..... Which is not as extreme as it sounds because PCOS often reduces or eliminates a woman's fertility. So yea... there's always that.

fourdayweekend

@Clare I'm not a medical professional but I'm taking a medication that is usually used to treat PCOS (for my hormonal acne). It's called Spironolactone and it just blocks your body's extra androgens so it stops the symptoms of PCOS.

Heidi

@Clare Talk to your doctor. I was prescribed a low dose of the diabetes drug metformin. They don't totally understand why it works, but it worked. A few months later I was pregnant (though many of my other symptoms, like the hairy chin, remain). Met is a very common treatment, as are fertility drugs / hormone therapy, which I opted against. Bottom line: tell your doctor, start treatment soon as it can all take a while and you'll feel much better when your body works more like everyone else's.

Clare

@Heidi @Becca Thanks for telling me about your experience (although I have noooooooo desire to get pregnant).

I hate how doctors just tell you, "Lose weight!" Right, like that's the easiest thing in the world when you've got a hormone imbalance that makes your body resist all methods of losing weight.

winchesterwolcott

@Clare Thyroid issues and PCOS have similar symptoms, so the docs should look into that as well. My tsh levels kept fluctuating over several years. My gyn told me to see an endocrinologist. He tested my antibodies and prescribed t4. Just something else to look into.

cundela

Great post Allie! I especially liked your comment about your friends being mature enough to be understanding and supportive. I remember there was a boy in my grade school who developed alopecia in 6th grade and the teasing was so bad that he had to change schools. I know you can chalk a lot of that up to kids being confused but it was really quite sad. It's so nice to hear how well you have handled it all and I hope you grow that crazy Medusa hair as well (happened to my aunt after she was done with chemo - it's definitely possible!).

giraffelegs

First of all, you are an amazing woman and I admire your guts. Yep, your innards. Your supposed-to-be mushy-gushy insides that are as tough as steel! It sounds like you've been through a lot, but the tone of this post doesn't suggest it at all. The strength and resilience really shines through, and my hope is that you never lose it. Also, boyfriend sounds like a fish you wouldn't throw back, so props on having him!

Since you touched a little on the medical side of alopecia, I was wondering if you had a general check-up done? I don't know much about alopecia, but I do know that hair loss can happen for a variety of reasons, including gluten intolerance, sugar (aggravates the immune system, causes hormone imbalance), and overactive or underactive thyroid glands. Just throwing it out there. The diet change sucks, but you get used to it. On the plus side, you'd have a total new food genre to experiment with... but I'm getting way ahead of myself here.

@Becca "I was an asshole at 21 - you were a class act". Haha, no shit, right? Total class act, and I wish I had been too.

Alexandra Martell

@giraffelegs My thyroid was actually the first thing we tested, as there's a history of problems with it in my family, but mine was fine. My dermatologist ran what felt like a million tests, but my levels of everything are normal. Though I have thought about seeing someone about it being a food intolerance, I literally don't know if I could live without pasta or cheese.

Ksquared

@Alexandra Martell Thank you so much for this article. I've had alopecia for 7 weeks and am still at the "google all day long looking for miracles" phase.... I remember reading your article this summer and thinking you were so strong and I came here tonight to read it again. I've also had all of the blood tests for hormones and food allergies (all fine) and got scalp biopsies done last week. I get those results on Tuesday and then I find out if I will be entering the world of custom wigs. Of course when you mention wig tape it scares me a bit since I am allergic to bandaids, will I even be able to wear a wig? For now I'm wearing hats and holding on to the hair I have at the ends. Thanks for listening!

SuperMargie

Thank you for writing this. I am going to quit whining about my unfortunate experiment with bangs now. I am twice your age but you have twice the maturity!

T-riffic

Hey, I really liked this post. I lost all my hair once, too, so it was nice (wrong word, but I think you get it) to read about someone else's experience. I'm ashamed to say that I never wore the $200 hair piece I (my parents) bought. I remember it being hot and actually not looking that good at all. I had a cute little chignon head covering that I wore instead. When my hair started falling out I decided that I didn't want to be all patchy, so I went to a super cuts to get it all buzzed off. The lady who did it was more nervous than I was. She kept making sure that I REALLY wanted to do it. They didn't charge me.

EyelineHer@twitter

A wonderful article - a few details aside and it could be my own story. I have to say: it's SO refreshing to read an account of what it's like to lose all your hair that isn't weighed down by all-consuming self-pity. Life really does go on, ladies!

It's also fascinating to read about your experience with a hairpiece, and the positive difference it's made to you. Having lost my hair at 19, I rocked one for six months before deciding I preferred hats and scarves - it's totally what works for you.

Apologies if this seems like self-promotion, but I actually have a blog giving beauty tips and tricks for the similarly follically-challenged, from using cosmetics to recreate eyebrows/eyelashes to tying headscarves: http://eyelineher.blogspot.com/ (with vids on YouTube too: http://www.youtube.com/eyelineherblog). Really hope some of the commenters out there find it useful :)

PS. I laughed so much in recognition at the note about the sudden hair-loss ads in your Gmail - kick us while we're down, Google, why don't you?!

Ksquared

@EyelineHer@twitter I really like your blog. BTW, I tried to subscribe on the bottom and the html was broken.

workerbee

The fact that you can't get some medical/financial assistance for your "cosmetic problem" is insanity!!!
Wish there was Extreme Couponing for hairpieces. :(

mac
mac

I joined just so I could comment on this! I lost all my hair (alllll) in grade 3. It would try to grow in a bit every year, but never successfully made it until grade 8 when it stayed.

I never wore anything except hats when I was in the sun a lot. Always have been terribly low-maintenance. I just went bald on purpose last month, cause I guess it felt nice to choose it (my husband likes it).

Anyhoo, that's all. You may end up with an amazing intolerance for society's love of lady hair, but in the end it is just hair.

rosey87

Hi, I also just joined to comment on this. What an amazing piece. I really admire your courage in going through all of this.

Unfortunately, I'm going through something similar, and I'm here to ask you advice (and the advice of commenters who have also been dealing with hairloss. In the past year and a half I have noticed severe thinning of my hair. No patches, but it's constantly falling out. I've been to several different doctors who said it's probably NOT allopecia, since there isn't really patchniess. Rather they seem to think it's a chronic telogen effluvium -- chronic hairloss for unknown reasons. Some say stress, though I the only stress I have is that my hair is falling out, and there's nothing I can do about it!! Where do you suggest I start at addressing this issue? Continue going to new doctors, or call the quits and wait it out with a hair piece? Just an FYI, I've lost about 50% of the volume of my previously thick and unmanageble curly hair.

Countess Sandwich

@rosey87 Have you been tested for thyroid issues? (I assume so.) The only thing that got me to the doc and diagnosed with my thyroid condition was my hair falling out (hello, vanity). The hair loss is better now that I am being treated -- although my hair will never be what it once was, sadly. I'd ask your GP or gyno to check your hormones if they haven't already?

Alexandra Martell

@rosey87 it does sound like what happened to me--it might just be alopecia totalis, skipping the patchy stage. See if you can get in with a dermatologist who is at least very familiar with alopecia. If you're near NYC, I can give you some names.

Lisa Ring

Don't you think Chick Filla would be a good name for a rapper?

rosey87

Thryoid was checked, as was testosterone and other hormones to rule out 'male pattern hair loss'. Vitamin screening was done too. All came back within normal limits. I've been trying to see a hair specialist, but making an appointment is nearly impossible!

collier

Chick-Fil-A will not ever get any of my money to spend on opposing gay marriage and gay rights. Waffle fries are not worth your conscience.

My mother, who's now bald for the second time (due to a second go at chemo), transposed the last two parts of said restaurant's name. Yes. Chick-a-fill. "CHICK-A-FILL?" "What? Is that not how you say it?" "Try reading that sign one more time. Slowly." She also referred to Antiques Roadshow as "America's Got Treasures" so no, this is not an isolated incident.

Great piece, Alexandra. If and when you get the urge to forgo the hairpiece, I'll tell you there are few things more completely awesome than a woman who Just Does Not Give A Shit about it. Rock onwards.

Lola

@collier ah! america's got treasures makes me so happy!

sox
sox

Alie, I just wanted to tell that I found my hair in its usual messy bun sometime midday on Saturday and not only had a whole new appreciation for it, but also dedicated it all day long to you in an effort for the hair gods to bring back your own messy bun!!!
Pinners unite!

Obvs Rather Debauched

My hair thinned a bit when I was in my late 30s and I could feel the rising panic when I found more and more of it in the drain. I'm not sure why it came back (maybe the loss was due to stress) but sharing your story made me less afraid of losing more hair should it happen again.

God, the expense of hairpieces, though. Whoa.

Callmecat

@alie,thank you for sharing, this is a great post, I am twice your age, and been through the same when I was your age, even younger at the time treating it was not as clear, no doc could really say what was wrong and how to treat it, so I spent 15 years going from one doc to another on three different continents, I was more than happy to try any magic potion as I like to call it, which I did, but with no apparent results, today I have resolved myself to wearing a semi hair piece, it integrates with my own hair, which grows on the sides and misleads people to think that its all very natural, the down side is as you put it well, it, also looses hair, and costs more than a fortune, as I need to travel to another continent to have mine done, (it is not available in my country), I need to colour my hair as some grey is showing on the sides, i am grateful today that i have found a solution, but is is not perfect, as there are some skin reactions, it irritates after a while... I am not sure for how long I am able to do this, as it is costly and the skin does seem to react to it, as it cries for air and sun, may i ask where you had your hair piece from?I am always on the lookout for new technics, It is nice to go hair shopping as i call it, I do mine in Italy, it seems to be very very popular there, 95% of customers are men, I wouldn't have bothered myself if I were a man, but I do enjoy watching how they care for appearance ! After all Why not! :)

255
255

I'm a little confused by the part about developing it at 21 being "later in life." Did I miss something? Isn't that early in life? Wouldn't later in life be like developing it when you're elderly or over 40?

Alexandra Martell

@ScazzaSofija a lot of people who get alopecia develop it as young children.

255
255

@aliemartell Ah, thanks!

beezy

I lost a good 1/3 of my hair this April because of a Depo Provera shot I got last November. (Anyone else?) The extreme fallout went on for over a month. Weeks and weeks of being scared to wash my hair, brush it, or mess with it at all. I was devastated and SO insecure. I got caught up obsessing over it sometimes, but eventually I just started to accept what my body was doing and hoped for the best. Seeing more of my scalp ain't SO terrible. It could be worse. Now it's June and I think (fingers crossed) I'm seeing things starting to return back to normal...

It's funny because I used to be so insecure about my hair before this happened. I used to think I had thin hair back THEN, used to wish for thicker-- but now I realize it was pretty thick to begin with. And, fuck it, I love the hair on my head no matter how shitty it might look. I'll be thankful for ANY amount of hair I get back; until then I'll gladly work with what I got.

TheRelaxerciser

You know what's goooooooooood is Chicken Parmesan using Chick-Fil-A nuggets. Oh yes. Great read by the way but sorry all I can think about is making that dish TOMORROW night! (2 stores within 5 miles of my house holla!)

nicola smetham@twitter

Thanks for writing so candidly about your experiences and how you coped. It sounds crazily expensive in the States to get medical advice and wigs. But much of what you describe i.e a bespoke wig made of real hair, isn't covered by the NHS over here in the UK anyway. There should be more counselling available for women for when they first encounter hair loss, on a whole range of issues. I work with women experiencing hair loss designing headwear, and there is such a lot of information out there that could be passed on. No 'miraculous' cures but lots of practical 'get by' everyday advice. Thanks for talking about it and helping other women to see what is possible.

onlygrace

For women, hair something so precious. I can understand your feeling when your hair thinning. I'll share this to you, maybe can help
what causes hair loss in women

jon
jon

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