If I were to use one word to describe my hair, ‘pitiful’ would pretty much sum it up.
My not-so-crowning-glory has been shedding at an alarming rate for almost three long and frustrating years now, clogging up shower drains and filling hairbrushes wherever I go. The deterioration became so noticeable that my ponytail had the circumference of a five pence piece. To add insult to injury, the texture of my hair is as lacking as its volume. I call it ‘puff’ as it resembles three-day-old candyfloss, becoming coarser and almost see-through in certain lights. Yes, pitiful puff.
Sadly, but selfishly reassuringly, I’m not alone. According to the experts on all things trichology, Philip Kingsley UK, more than 20 per cent of women under 50 experience hair thinning, a figure that rockets to 65 per cent during and after the menopause when hormones play their part.
“If you have female pattern hair loss, this does not mean that your hair is falling out. Rather, it means that your individual hairs are growing back thinner and shorter over several years, through many progressive hair growth cycles. Hair thinning is a gradual process, and unfortunately you will probably have lost over 15 per cent of your hair volume before you notice it,” the firm says.
“The severity of androgenic thinning, and what age it starts at, depends on how strong your sensitivity to androgens is. In women, thinning most often begins around menopause, but it can also occur in younger women who have high follicle sensitivity.”
All of which is well and good – but at 44 and not yet menopausal, I’m one of the lucky 20 per cent mentioned above and I want answers. Consequently, I’ve spent the last few years trying to work out the cause of my hair loss, in hopes of finding the cure to my pitiful puff. It’s been a very upsetting, frustrating and expensive experience.
I’ve thrown everything at and on my barnet, from specialised treatments to hair supplements to changing my diet. I’ve halved the number of times I dye my roots, though I refuse to eliminate dye altogether – I’m 50 per cent grey and I won’t be greying as well as thinning. I have some pride.
Still, rarely, if ever, do I use heated hair appliances. I avoid styling products, get regular trims and invest in expensive Olaplex restorative shampoos and hair treatments. I also had my iron levels tested, and my thyroid checked, but nothing seemed to change. The hairbrush continued to fill up, and I had to buy drain rods to clear out the lost hair – gopping, I know.
The turning point came when I booked in to see consultant dermatologist Dr Ben Esdaile at his London clinic. Dermatologists are experts at diagnosing the cause of and treating hair loss – the scalp being skin, after all, albeit it thicker and hair-bearing.
Dr Esdaile took my full medical history and checked my scalp under a super sophisticated, mega-zoom (not the technical name for it) microscope. He diagnosed something called androgenetic alopecia – female pattern hair loss. As mine did, it starts with gradual thinning around the parting followed by increased hair loss over time. The causes are varied – stress, medication, medical conditions, or it could be hereditary. It’s hard to pin down what my cause was, so we focused instead on the cure.
Dr Esdaile prescribed daily use of a drug called Minoxidil which is clinically proven to revitalise the hair follicles so they grow thicker, fuller and stronger. The most well-known and accessible brand of Minoxidil is Regaine, which makes a women’s once a day hair loss and regrowth scalp foam treatment. I use the extra-strength five per cent version – there’s also a two per cent but I’m going big or going home. I apply the foam to my dry scalp every night before bedtime as an extended part of my evening skincare routine and, three months on, so far, so OK.
The brand promise is that you’ll see results in 12 weeks but in all honesty, I know it will take closer to six months, so consistency is key. I have, however, noticed that the hairbrush is less hairy these days and I haven’t needed the drain rods for a while. Surely that alone is a reason to be hopeful…
*Did you know that comes from Cockney rhyming slang? Barnet fair = hair
Jo’s barnet boosting kit
Regaine Women’s Once A Day Hair Loss and Regrowth Scalp Foam Treatment with Minoxidil, £34.99, Look Fantastic
Briogeo Vegan Boar Bristle Brush, £24.00, Cult Beauty
Full disclosure: Jo Jones works independently of all brands listed. The Flock has an affiliate partnership with Skimlinks that may be automatically applied, independently of Jo, to some product sales made through our site.