So many of us experience hair loss, including me, although you may not think it from this current picture! It's not often talked about and it can be difficult to explain the impact that it has, or the fears and anxiety it can drive inside us.
I hope that by sharing my past experiences and tips with you, you will know you are not alone, and have some practical advice to implement to help your recovery.
In my mid-thirties, my hair started dropping out, it was so gradual at first that I didn't think much of it. However, it progressively got worse until I was seeing handfuls in the shower or on my hairbrush. Nothing had changed in my daily life, and there seemed to be no obvious cause.
I was scared it would never stop, that it could be universal alopecia, and I had no idea why it was happening or what to do. It caused me so much distress that I began to dread washing my hair and seeing all the strands that had fallen out that day.
The experience REALLY affected my confidence and eventually my well-being.
A Maori friend once described to me me that our hair is our 'crowning glory'. No, it's not the most important thing in life, but yes, it is very much tied into our sense of identity and who we are. A change to this, whether through illness, environment, stress or hormones can have a lasting impact and cause holes in our confidence until we either heal, or learn to adjust to the new reality.
I knew I needed to take action, but really didn't know where to start! So, despite worrying that I would be told I was being 'superficial or silly' somehow, I booked an appointment with a GP.
Truth be told, that experience was not a good one, and I couldn't have felt much more like I was making a 'fuss over nothing'. They didn't even consider it being a possible sign of something like a Thyroid issue (which REALLY should have been checked) and proceeded to suggest I had naturally thin hair or maybe it was 'just a bit of stress'.
I got back to my car and cried... I felt silly, pathetic and hopeless!
Once I had recovered I spoke with close friends, who were pretty shocked at the experience I had with the GP. They really encouraged me to go back again, and book to see someone else. Eventually I did.
This time was the complete opposite, in all the best ways. They couldn't have been more helpful - and I was even able to talk about how the previous GP had made me feel. They confirmed the cause of hair loss can be very difficult to trace as there are so many possibilities.
However, they did say that we could at least eliminate some of them! The relief was amazing. I had blood tests done to ensure there was nothing medical underlying, and to check for any possible nutrient, vitamin or mineral deficiencies. When they came back clear, I was referred to a consultant trichologist.
It was a long wait, but I was so relieved that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. The vitamin and mineral blood test has triggered something in my mind, and needing to take some action while I waited, I started researching like crazy for natural alternatives.
I started off with basic hair, skin, and nails supplements from the supermarket and making sure I was eating a well balanced and healthy diet. I also looked at ways to make sure I was managing stress better.
And whilst I think that all these good things contributed to my recovery, something finally made a big difference...
In my research, I stumbled on some early strong science about Marine Collagen - this was the game-changer!
It took a while, but after a few months, I noticed a significant reduction in the hair loss, and that my nails were also starting to get stronger (a great added bonus!). I got brave enough to visit a hairdresser again, and they also recommended trying a Collagen serum on the ends of my hair externally. The cut and the serum helped improve things even further!
I was gradually finding ways to rebuild my confidence in myself and my appearance and it felt really good after so long of watching my crowning glory disappearing down the plughole on a daily basis.
By the time I saw the consultant, she confirmed that she wouldn't need to see me again as I had regrowth starting all across my scalp. I was so relieved that I burst into tears right there in her room (yes I did a LOT of crying through this period of time!).
Despite knowing I was quite profoundly affected by losing my hair, I don't think I had allowed the full impact it to be felt until that moment.
I never did find out why my hair fell out, and will now never know. I didn't get all my hair back, but I did get enough of it. I am now fully embracing the curls that used to frustrate me, and I love them. I even like my crazy, unruly greys!
During that time, I learned lots of ways to help minimise the loss of my hair, and I would love to share them with you, so that they might help someone else along a scary journey a little bit...
1. Switch to a natural or organic shampoo & conditioner - it doesn't have to cost the earth, but the more natural the better.
2. Use a soft bristled hair brush & avoid hairstyles which pull on your hair - the soft bristles are much kinder to a struggling scalp and may even help stimulate hair follicles. Tight or pulling hair styles can literally pull out weakened hair.
3. Reduce the amount of heat appliances & chemicals used on your hair - lots of heat or chemicals over time can damage hair that might already be weak and can make things worse. So try and keep to special occasions or a minimum.
4. Try a collagen hair treatment - these were a bit limited when I was going through this, but there are plenty out there now. Ideally a 'leave in' option to help maximise effects, and the more natural, the better.
5. Regular haircuts can help with tangled hair & split ends - when I was going through this, I was too embarrassed to go and have my hair cut. However, it was actually super helpful! The cut helped to keep what hair I did have healthy, and shaped it to make the most of it. And... I discovered I could try a collagen treatment!
6. Use Marine Collagen & Vitamin B Complex (B7 Biotin) which will nourish & strengthen from within
I created our very first supplement product, Marine Collagen, based on my own experiences. I simply LOVE what it can do to support hair (and skin & nails!!) and want to share that with as many people as possible.
The importance of the B Vitamins when it comes to healthy hair, is probably less well known. However, the impact is made at a cellular levels, and they work synergistically together (so a B complex is a great idea). You might have heard of Vitamin B7 as Biotin, and it is super important for healthy hair!
If you are struggling with hair loss and finding it tough, please remember you are not alone. I hope that some of what I have shared here will help you along your journey, and please don't hesitate to drop us a line at Birch & Wilde HQ if you have any questions.
Love and best as always, Tara xx