Hair: it seems to be such a short and simple word. It can symbolize many things such as beauty, youth, confidence, style, and even fertility. This is why for a woman who’s losing her hair it can be quite devastating. Some people may say “It’s only hair”. This is simply not the case for a woman experiencing hair loss or thinning. Even Rosie O’Donnell recently tweeted a picture of her hair loss struggles saying “male pattern baldness...aging is fun”. But seriously, whether it’s permanent, or temporary due to a medical condition, hereditary, or stress-related, it can have a major impact on a woman’s self-esteem. This can lead to a loss of self-confidence and self-worth. How do I know? I’ve seen it first hand for the past 21 years.
Unfortunately, on an anecdotal level, it seems the number of women experiencing hair loss is growing. Personally, I’ve seen more and more women come through my door every year who are experiencing hair loss for various reasons. There’s tons of theories out there as to why. I’ve seen it lead to change in a woman’s lifestyle to the point where she’s no longer participating in things she once enjoyed. Things like outdoor activities, family events, birthdays, and weddings.
51-year-old Sheri Valle of Fanwood, New Jersey is one of them. She’s agreed to let me share her story. Sheri was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2001. After undergoing chemotherapy and radiation Sheri says the hair loss became another burden to bear. “You don’t think you’re going to survive cancer to begin with, and it’s a horrible experience. And then on top of that, after you finally become a survivor, then you have to deal with the hair loss,” she told me. Sheri was used to being active and came to me desperate to find a remedy. “I realized it just wasn’t coming back. I realized I needed something permanent, so I can go back to jogging and going back to working out, swimming and doing everything everybody else does and not have to worry about it,” she said.
I’ve also seen women who suffer with anxiety and depression stemming from their hair loss. Many tell me they have feelings of guilt, because they feel badly about it consuming their thoughts and affecting their everyday life. Physically and emotionally they see themselves changing into people they do not recognize. 44-year-old Louise Damiano of Sewell, New Jersey comes to mind. She’s also agreed to let me share her story. Louise suffers from trichotillomania, which is currently classified as an “Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorder”, according to The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors. The organization happens to have a trichotillomania awareness campaign active in Times Square, NYC now through June 5. Louise can’t resist the urge to pull out her own hair. Like a lot of people living with trichotillomania, Louise experienced depression. Coupled with the hair loss she said it had a profound effect on her. “I had a pretty high profile job where I was really out in the public. It was in the fashion industry and it was all about image and how you look, so it had a huge negative impact on me on many levels,” she said.
I have four key pieces of advice for women in hair loss situations.
1- Know you’re not alone: You should never feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed by your hair loss or how much you think about it. Give yourself the permission to care about it as much as you do. Hair is super personal. It’s a part of our bodies, of course we care about it. There are so many resources available and online communities of women going through the same thing. Make some calls to hair loss professionals in your area, or run a Google search to find a group you can connect with for emotional support from people who will understand.
2 - Do your research: Do the necessary research to find reputable professionals who are knowledgeable, compassionate, and highly experienced with women’s hair loss. Read online reviews, check with the Better Business Bureau, ask friends, family, and colleagues for referrals. Never be afraid to ask for references of past customers.
3 - Women’s hair loss is unique: Women’s hair loss and men’s hair loss are very distinct. This is because in general men and women have different hairlines. Also, maintaining longer lengths while dealing with hair loss and thinning requires particular attention to detail. Not to mention that it’s socially acceptable for a man to be bald, whereas society has different standards for women.
4 - There’s no one size fits all: Just as everyone’s hair loss situation is different so are the solutions. After finding a highly skilled hair loss professional, investigate all options with your professional. Together you can evaluate which solutions may work best depending on the look you’re hoping to achieve, what’s realistic, and how something will work with your lifestyle. There are a lot of options out there whether its medical solutions such as hair transplantation or PRP( Platelet Rich Plasma) treatments. On the non-surgical side, there are custom 3-D scalp and hair prosthetics, trichological treatments, custom hair pieces, wigs, or cosmetic camouflaging to name a few.
At the end of the day, what’s important is finding something that makes you feel secure and will enhance your self-esteem. Both Sheri and Louise found solutions that worked for them. Once a woman overcomes the shame and stigma of reaching out for help, I’ve seen it turn into an empowering, life-changing experience time and time again.
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