When I was in my twenties, it never occurred to me that I would be talking about losing my hair. However, in my sixties, hair loss is my reality.
I am a shower person. There is nothing like standing under the sprinkling of water at the perfect temperature while washing my hair. Sometime last year, during my usual amazing spa shower and hair washing, I noticed too much hair in the drain catcher.
Once I began to dry my hair, I realized that not only was it coming out as I washed it, but it was also coming out in my comb and my hands. Not just a little hair, it was a handful. I could not believe how much of my crown ended in the garbage. By the time I was finished and looked at the hair that was no longer attached to my scalp, I had some concerns. However, I decided not to let them turn into panic.
Before this, I had already noticed hair loss around the frame of my face. Because I wore braids non-stop for several years, it pulled my hair out. As much as I loved my braids, I knew I had to stop styling my hair like this. Once I made that decision, I ran to Walmart to see what they had for regrowing hair.
I found two products. One was the Walmart brand, Equate Hair Regrowth Treatment for Women, and the other was a name brand, ROGAINE Women’s 5% Minoxidil Foam Hair Loss & Regrowth Treatment. The only difference was the price; the Equate brand had 2% of Minoxidil. So, I bought the store brand, which provided a three-month supply.
Because of Minoxidil, I was pleased with much of the regrowth I experienced. I thought I conquered losing my hair. I was able to stop wearing scarves and headbands unless I wanted to. What I could not do was get lazy about using this product. Once you stop putting it in your hair, you will end up at square one.
Within less than two years, I was experiencing another hair loss episode with the rest of my crowning glory. I began monitoring my hair loss each time I washed my hair. By the time I finished conditioning and combing, I was now frantic. A lot of my hair was ending up in the garbage can. It was scary. I had to figure out what to do.
I had been taking a new medication (Hydroxyzine) for anxiety from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. While researching, I read that some women in their sixties developed hair loss. So, I decided to stop taking that medication. However, my hair continued to fall out, and now it came out in clumps.
Desperate for something to change what was happening, I looked online for any solution to help with hair loss. There were plenty of products, and they were all expensive. I was now on Social Security after the workplace assault, and money was tight.
After my hunt for a hair saver began, I found that Keranique appeared to have the most promising reviews. Before investing in a known-to-work product online, I looked around in Ross, Marshalls, Burlington, and TJ Maxx. These stores carry many high-priced beauty items at lower prices; however, there is never a guarantee that you will find what you want to see the day you look.
After several days of searching, I found the Keranique shampoo and conditioner. I started using it that night, and within a few months, the amount of hair falling out decreased to a few strands. Soon my hair was growing and healthy.
One day my sister in Connecticut sent a text message to our sister in Chattanooga and me, asking if either of us had started losing hair. To my surprise, all three of us had been dealing with the same problem.
Knowing that my sisters and I were losing our hair somehow and for some time opened a great dialogue between the three of us. So, I asked them several questions about their struggles with hair loss.
My sister Wintermoon, the middle sister, noticed the problem after our father died in 2014. She said that her hair was coming out in large amounts. “The more I combed or brushed, the more my hair came out.” After noticing a bald spot on her scalp while looking in the mirror, her concern increased immediately.
When I asked Wintermoon if anyone else had noticed, she said no. If they did, no one said anything. Although Wintermoon has not met with a specialist yet, she has decided to stop stressing over many things. She has started using different hair care products to moisten her scalp and hair. Because she began taking blood pressure medication before this became an issue, she doubts if blood pressure medication is the cause.
I wanted to know if hair loss has affected her and, if so, how so? Wintermoon said that she is self-conscience about this problem. “I try to wear my hair in ways that do not show where my hair is coming out.” She is now thinking about cutting her hair off or wearing wigs.
When I followed up with my younger sister Connie, she stated that she noticed hair loss when she was fifty-eight. She saw more and more hair coming out in her comb. She did not expect the problem to get this bad. About a year later, her hair was coming out in clumps when she washed it.
Connie was like me, wearing braids most of the time. Once she realized that braiding synthetic hair into her natural hair may be part of the problem, she stopped and started wearing wigs. No one would notice her problem while wearing a wig. She also started using different shampoos and sleeping with a silk bonnet. She began taking Viviscal, a hair growth supplement for women.
Although Connie has not spoken to a medical provider yet, she said she would if the Viviscal does not work. Her other concern is if her blood pressure medication is a possible issue. When asked how dealing with this issue has affected her, she told me that she feels self-conscience about it and is no longer willing to leave the house without a wig.
It was easy to understand how they felt. Before my hair started growing back, I had stopped braiding my hair. To keep a braided style for several months, it has to be tight, starting from the scalp. I was oblivious to the balding of my scalp for far too long.
Once I became aware of it, I stopped the braiding and started wearing detachable ponytails and bangs. One afternoon I decided not to attach the bang that hid my balding forehead. My boyfriend, taller than me, commented before we went to dinner. “Why don’t you wear the bangs I like to see in your hair?”
What he said made me realize what other people were seeing. At that moment, I was so self-conscience about it that I started wearing headbands to cover my thinning hair. However, it was ironic that my boyfriend made that comment because he is balding. I was unsure if I should be insulted or embarrassed by what he said. From the first day we met, it never occurred to me to say anything about his loss of hair. I just accepted it for what it was.
So instead of responding to his comment, I just went upstairs and added a bang to my hairstyle. Balding for men is more acceptable than for women, making it hard not to feel a loss of self-esteem.
Hair loss is not race-related specific. It can be embarrassing and shameful for any women to deal with this issue. I have never seen any women doing the comb-over as men so often do to adapt. I began to wonder how many women suffer from hair loss, and I discovered that more than 50% of females would probably go through this often mentally debilitating noticeable problem. For most female populations, losing about 100 hairs a day is normal. Most don’t even notice because new hair is continually growing. Remember that the new follicles do not replace the ones that fall out.
After learning how many women were going through the loss of their hair, I wondered what other women were doing to hide their baldness. So, I talked to Mavis Threat, owner of Fros-N-Mane Beauty Supply, my favorite place to buy wigs.
I wanted to know how often senior ladies come into her store buying wigs to cover their balding spots. She told me this is something she sees regularly. We are currently open three days a week; I can expect that one of those days, a woman will come in letting me know what she’s thinking. The number of senior women looking for wigs has been increasing since I opened the store in 2017, and the main issue is hair loss. A lot of them are women who have never worn wigs before.
She stated that as a woman, thinning hair is concerning. Our hair is our crown and glory. We take it for granted until it’s no longer an option for us to style how we want. This epiphany became apparent when Mavis told a young lady that everyone wears wigs.
However, the young lady did not want people to know she lost her hair due to chemo. It’s that moment when I realized how emotionally attached, we are to our hair. So, I began to focus on more products to promote healthy hair and growing back hair for women.
Mavis explained that many of the women had told her their blood pressure medications were the cause of their thinning hair. For women wearing weaves, it was because they were installed and removed improperly, and Covid damaged the hair growth of others.
Women come in feeling almost helpless and leave feeling like a new person. This place has seen many tears of joy. I help them find THEIR wig. Women who had never colored their hair before had left the store with a wig that had color and loved it! It makes them feel like brand-new people and gives them newfound confidence in themselves. I don’t let them leave with just any wig; it needs to fit them. At times that means they must step out of the box. They are already uncomfortable with their appearance. What do they have to lose by trying out something new? They leave looking younger and feeling more confident. Not surprisingly, 95% end up being returning customers.
I see this problem in women frequently. If the hair follicle isn’t damaged, you can usually grow the hair back, so find the products that stimulate hair growth, such as various oils, vitamins, rice water, Nioxin, and many other options. However, each person’s hair responds to different products. While one person may have 4C hair (Type 4 hair known by its tight, dense texture, referred to as kinky or coarse hair) and Rice Water drops work well; the next person with 4C hair may do better with Jamaican Black Castor Oil.
So be patient and find the product that works for you. I’d advise wearing wigs until the hair is strong enough to style as usual. For those who prefer not to wear a wig, I suggest putting as little tension on the hair as possible, avoiding tape or glue, and having extensions installed by a licensed professional. Mavis explains that how women wear their extensions can affect hair growth or loss.
Sew-ins: I notice that women who’ve worn sew-ins for years tend to have a receding hairline. Because tension pulls on the hair during the installation, it stretches the hair. The women without the receding hairline or bald edges are the ones who give their hair a break between installs. They may suffer hair loss due to medication or sickness, but rarely from sew-ins. Improperly installing weave or removing it may cause hair loss, be it tape in, sew in, or micro links.
After talking to my sisters and Ms. Threat, I’m glad I am not alone with this uncomfortable problem. However, each must find the treatment that works for the individual. Throw any vanity or shame aside so that any changes we must make will not become our stumbling blocks to healthy hair and a healthy mind.
For many, our hair defines who we are. Those who cannot find a treatment that will restore self-worth through the hairstyles they wear be willing to find self-worth within the soul.
Before ending my article, I did some checking with the Mayo Clinic (one of my favorite go-to sites) for the medical information so many women may need to know.
For further information, go to https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/symptoms-causes.
Hair loss (alopecia) can be temporary or permanent. It can result from heredity, hormonal changes, medical conditions, or a normal part of aging.
Hereditary hair loss with age is the most common cause of baldness. Some will let the balding run its course untreated and unhidden. At the same time, others may cover it up with hairstyles, makeup, hats, or scarves. Then there is the one who chooses any treatments available to prevent further loss or restore growth.
It is essential to know that before pursuing hair loss treatment, talk with your doctor about the possible cause of your hair loss.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HAIR LOSS
Gradual thinning on top of the head. This most common type of hair loss affects people as they age. Women typically have a broadening of the part in their hair. Some will experience a receding hairline (frontal fibrosing alopecia).
Circular or patchy bald spots. Losing hair in circular or patchy bald spots on the scalp, beard, or eyebrows. It may be preceded by itchy or painful skin before the hair falls out.
Sudden loosening of hair. Trauma, both emotional and physical, can cause hair to loosen. Handfuls of hair may come out when combing or washing your hair. This type of hair loss usually causes overall hair thinning but is temporary.
Full-body hair loss. Some conditions and medical treatments, such as chemotherapy for cancer, can result in hair loss, which usually grows back.
Female-pattern baldness typically starts with scalp hairs becoming progressively less dense. Many women first experience hair thinning and loss when they part their hair and, on the top, -the central portion of the head.
Patchy hair loss (alopecia areata) is air loss that occurs suddenly and usually starts with one or more circular bald patches that may overlap.
Traction alopecia. Wearing ponytails, pigtails, braids, cornrows, or hair rollers too tight.
Family history (heredity). The most common cause is a hereditary condition that happens with aging called androgenic alopecia. It usually occurs gradually in predictable patterns and thinning hair along the crown of the scalp in women.
Hormonal changes and medical conditions. Various conditions, including hormonal changes due to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and thyroid problems, can cause permanent or temporary hair loss. Medical conditions include alopecia areata (al-o-PEE-she-uh ar-e-A-tuh), immune system related, scalp infections such as ringworm, and a hair-pulling disorder called trichotillomania (trik-o-til-o-MAY-nee-uh).
Medications and supplements. Hair loss can be a side effect of certain drugs, such as those used for cancer, arthritis, depression, heart problems, gout, and high blood pressure.
Radiation therapy to the head. The hair may not grow back the same as it was before.
A very stressful event. Many people experience a general thinning of hair several months after a physical or emotional shock. This type of hair loss is temporary.
Hair treatments. Hot-oil hair treatments and permanents also can cause hair to fall out. If scarring occurs, hair loss could be permanent.
For more detailed information, go to https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/symptoms-causes.