Hair Loss

Worst Mistakes All Women’s Hair Loss Sufferers Make

When my hair started falling out in the fall of 2018, hoo boy, I went through all the emotions. Denial, anger, fear and if we’re being real here, something akin to obsession.

Not an opportunity would pass for me to look at myself in the mirror (the mirror at my gym was particularly horrifying, with its bright halogen light right above the sink that made my scalp shine as bright as one of Rihanna’s diamonds, minus the fabulousness).

Each time, I would silently bemoan the state of my rapidly thinning hair and a bald spot getting wider by what seemed like the moment. If you’ve been here, if you are here, you know.

I was massively bummed about it. Toronto’s cold fall air would hit my head in a way it never had before, and even inside, I could feel the wind of a nearby closing door on my now-exposed scalp.

I would take endless hair selfies, some of which I document on my YouTube channel, and in general, I really let my hair loss get me down. That’s just one mistake of many that I made, and that I believe all women who suffer from hair loss make.

Luckily, I grew back my hair and the regrowth is soft and healthy. Is my hair as full as it used to be? Not quite, but I’m happy with it. I still have spots that are thinner than I would like and my ponytail is a quarter of what it once was but hey, I’ll take it.

Anyway, along this journey I recognized the terrible emotional toll hair loss took on me but also the women around me. Hair loss sucks.

If you feel like this too, the hair obsession, the sadness and fear, well, you’re not alone. I don’t mean that in a figurative sense. I really mean you’re not alone.

So many women suffer from hair loss that the figures really shocked me when I decided to use my journalism background to do some digging and research into women’s hair loss.

These are some of the surprising hair loss statistics for women. I found in this study in the Clinical Interventions of Aging journal (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684510/):

-Fewer than 45% of women go through life with a full head of hair. Hey I’m bad at math too but that’s a minority. Yes. The minority of women go through life with all their hair

-Twelve percent of women first develop clinically detectable Female Pattern Hair Loss aka androgenetic alopecia by age 29

-25% by age 49 years,

-41% by 69 years,

-over 50% have some element of androgenetic alopecia/female pattern hair loss by 79 years

So there you have it. You would think by this level of advancement in our society, with space exploration and cars that self-drive, and I don’t know, robot vacuums, that we would have some simple remedy for women’s hair loss.

But nah. Not even close.

Unfortunately, it’s a truth that most women will deal with hair loss at some point in our lives. We really are in this together.

However, sometimes we are our own worst enemies, as the saying goes, and we are also only human so we make mistakes too (isn’t that a line from a song from Human League’s “Only Human”? Where my 80s girls at?)

These are the hair loss mistakes that I think all women make at the start (and some of us continue to make). I’ll give you the full list, but keep on reading as I unpick and unpack them. Do these apply to you? I know that they definitely applied to me.

Worst mistakes all women’s hair loss sufferers make

-not getting a diagnosis

-not seeking out support

-being stubborn about helper hair

-putting off treatment

-listening to crazy advice

-worrying about “chemicals” and buying bad products instead

-spending money they don’t have

-believing what they see YouTubers do

-worrying about what their partners/spouses/dates will think

-thinking they are their hair

-worrying about the stigma of medicine

-feeling hopeless about hair loss

-forgetting to take pictures to track progress and loss

-frequent hair-checking

-getting lost in obsessive thoughts about hair

-being envious of other women’s hair

-feeling like an “old lady” or less than sexy

-waiting until the (almost) last minute before a big event

-feeling ashamed to go out

Let’s unpack these

Not getting a diagnosis

Ladies (and gents. I know guys read hair loss stuff obsessively too), don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or healthcare provider about your hair loss concerns. Don’t wait.

Hardly anyone I’ve connected with was pleased with themselves that they waited, they usually wish they went and got diagnosed way earlier than they actually did.

Once you see your doctor about it, you’ll have a clearer head and a clearer path as to what you should do (which may even mean seeing a different doctor), whether that may entail medications (Rogaine is just one of them), or treatment by a specialist, or whatever the case may be.

Remember, YouTube is a great place to learn (and there are some actual doctors and dermatologists there giving out good advice, such as Dr. Dray) but it doesn’t take the place of actual health care. You know I’m right about this one.

Not seeking out support

The sense of shame I certainly had about my hair loss and what I perceived to be a stigma about it really was silly. I didn’t have to suffer in silence when it first started, but I was shocked and stunned and didn’t know who to reach out to when those first handfuls of hair started to fall out.

None of my friends, most of whom are in their 30s and 40s, suffered from anything approaching what my hair loss looked like.

However a turning point was when I found this group on Facebook called Female Thin Hair & Hairloss Solutions, which is a support group where I have found nothing but kindness and acceptance and empathy https://www.facebook.com/groups/308741489529787/.

I think too many women suffer for too long without seeking a support group. YouTube is good for watching but hard to really engage and feel lifted up by others.

Being stubborn about helper hair

First of all, we’re over calling it fake hair. And a lot of women don’t want to go near it. It’s not fake hair, it’s helper hair. Get your mind around this new term and you’ll already feel better about it.

And if you’re on the fence: Just do it, just do it, just do it! I say this all the time but if it’s good enough for Ariana Grande (extensions) and Mindy Kaling (toppers), and the queen we don’t deserve, Dolly Parton (wigs since what, the 80s?), it’s good enough for you too, my friend.

On a lark for a video I made my own clip in extensions. I think I paid maybe $50 for all the materials? They looked pretty good! In fact, I think I’ll take them out of storage and start wearing them again (they are rather long, but that’s half the fun).

Putting off treatment

Over on Instagram, I get hit up for advice a lot. More than you might think. I never give out medical advice, but if someone wants to ask me about my experience, I’m happy to share it.

One thing I hear over and over again is this:

“My doctor told me to use Rogaine a year ago and I didn’t do it. I wish I did because it might have stalled some of this hair loss.”

That’s it. That’s pretty much the point.

If you have the ok for a certain medication (sometimes women are prescribed Finasteride or Spironolactone), or over-the-counter Rogaine, or whatever, do you want to be the woman contacting me on the ‘gram in a year from now, or do you want to listen to your treating practitioner’s advice now?

It’s up to you, I’m just telling you that I hear this more often that I want to, and it always makes me feel sad.

Listening to crazy advice

If you decided to send up a prayer for your hair loss or asked a saint to intercede, I feel you, my sister. Listen, I’m not going to begrudge a girl her beliefs. I’m superstitious as all get-out.

When I was pregnant with my son, I was told not to look at monkeys. This is a cultural superstition from my mom’s side of the family. NOT EVEN MONKEYS ON TV.

Do you think I looked at a single monkey during those months? No, I did not.

(Also, it’s surprisingly hard to never look at a monkey. They show up on TV when you’re least expecting them. You can be chilling on the couch and watching Grey’s Anatomy with your feet up and your popcorn and ice cream resting on your belly and then boom, a commercial featuring a gorilla holding glue will pop up.)

Anyway: prayers, yes. Superstitions, ok fine. But when you hear truly kooky advice, don’t tell me you don’t know it when you hear it. You know it.

I hesitate to even give voice to these bad and weird pieces of advice that will waft your way, but many of the miracle cures involve either vegetables or basically, some version of water.

And then of course, there’s always some aunt’s friend’s daughter who swears such-and-such really worked. No matter where you live in the world, I’m talking Chinese families, Black families, desi families, THERE IS ALWAYS AN AUNT’S FRIEND’S DAUGHTER.

Who is this woman? Is she just a made-up person meant to shame us about our life decisions? Who knows.

Back to the potions. I won’t specify the concoctions, but you know it’s crazy when you hear it. My advice: steer clear and also, don’t look at monkeys when you’re pregnant.

Worrying about “chemicals” and buying bad products instead

So listen, what do I know about biochemistry? I’m a writer, an editor and a YouTuber with a Bachelor of Arts in European Studies. I don’t know much about chemistry, and if you don’t either, perhaps we need to educate ourselves before we listen to scaremongering about chemicals and toxins.

Am I saying there aren’t bad chemicals and actual toxins in hair-loss products? Of course not! But remember a lot of companies and hair-loss products will throw words like “natural” and “chemical-free” and even “non-toxic” around. But hey, even water is toxic if you drink too much of it.

I’m not trying to talk you out of researching “chemicals” (BTW, anything made of atoms can be called a chemical. I studied liberal arts so I had to look that up), but I AM trying to talk you out of buying bad or silly or even harmful things based on junk science or no science.

Do your research, talk to your health care practitioner. Take a moment to think about it before you plonk things in your online shopping cart that might not even work.

Spending money you don’t have

In my two years of being in contact with women who suffer from hair loss, I’ve never heard anything that turned my head in regard to expensive laser hair growth caps.

I’m not saying they don’t work, I’m just saying I haven’t yet heard anything that would justify my purchasing one. They’re expensive. So if you’re not flush with cash, maybe hold off?

It’s your money and you can spend it how you like, but if I’m going to be very real with you and really dig down to the basics of how you should spend your money, I would narrow it down to these two things.

1. Seek medical advice

2. Get helper hair

Those two things alone will probably make you feel a whole lot better about your hair loss situation.

Believing what you see on YouTube

As you may or may not know, I’m on YouTube! Maybe that’s how you found me here. My name is Helen, and my channel name is Shrimpy McGee.

Some people have asked why this odd name, and really, I just chose it for the fun factor and because I wanted to distinguish my YouTube channel from my professional life as a writer and editor with 20+ years of experience.

Now as more people start to know and search for me, I’m finding that Google is starting to collide the two, and I’m ok with that. I’m happy to be the face (or really, one of the many faces) that help to end the stigma of women’s hair loss.

But back to YouTubers. We YouTubers are all thirsty people, and we want to make videos that people will vibe with, that they’ll click on and that will trigger an emotion.

That often results in unrealistic videos that bait you to click on them, aka “clickbait.” Miracle products, hair regrowth in 30 days. You’ve seen these, yes?

Who’s gonna check these YouTubers’ claims? Well, no one, really.

Literally no one is stopping anyone from making any claim they want. It can get flagged, but I can tell you as a creator, you can make or say anything you want in regard to hair loss (I would never do this, it goes without saying) unless it is egregiously harmful.

I know you are searching hard for truths and for help on this path than can feel as dark as the night sky, but don’t believe everything you see.

Worrying about what your partner/spouse or date will think of your hair loss

Ladies, if you have a husband, you know this. Husbands are quite simple creatures, really. I say this with love.

I mean, we’re talking about a person who can look very earnestly at a bottle of mustard clearly on the side of the fridge door, where his lovely, gorgeous and patient wife has stored it for oh, I don’t know 20 years, and he will still call you downstairs because he can’t find it. No? Just my house?

All this to say, your spouse is not as stressed about it as you are, and probably doesn’t even notice.

As for dating and new boyfriends or girlfriends? They’re really not thinking about it as hard as you are. Seriously, they are not, so don’t let it worry you.

I mean, do you think these queens would have any trouble getting lucky because of their hair loss or helper hair sitch? Jada Pinkett Smith, Naomi Cambell, Tyra Banks, Keira Knightley, who have all openly suffered from hair loss? Or my aforementioned queen, Dolly Parton, the sexy icon and legend who wears wigs?

Nope, not a chance. These ladies could lure alien life forms with their sexiness and appeal.

Thinking you are your hair

You are way more than the strands of hair on your head. You are not your hair! You are you. What’s inside.

Now before you roll your eyes, listen to this perspective. I was often praised for my huge head of hair before I lost it all (to chemotherapy for breast cancer). It had all the quantities you’d want if you had thin hair.

Each strand was thick and strong, it had good body and movement, and there was a ton of it. My ponytail regularly snapped hair elastics with its desire to burst free.

I lost it all (chemo) and found myself a lovely Raquel Welch wig at Princess Margaret Hospital’s wig shop (if you’re in Toronto, you don’t have to be a patient to shop there, just so you know. Anyone can make an appointment).

That wig! I got so much praise from complete strangers for that wig. I mean, from ladies walking by chirping “I love your hairstyle” to me. They didn’t know I was actually bald, it was just a sexy-ass wig.

Toronto is kind of a buttoned up town, and I’ve never gotten compliments from strangers in shops in the many years prior to that on my biological hair.

So in fact, my purchased hair was more pleasing to the outside world than my actual hair. Once again, I am not my hair. So I’ll say it loud for all of you in the back: You are not your hair, either.

Worrying about the stigma of medications like Rogaine

When I went to purchase Rogaine at Walmart the first time I bought it, I was convinced everyone was looking at me. Guess what, they don’t care.

They just want you to hurry up so they can buy their cough syrup. I was also convinced that people would laugh and say, “isn’t that stuff for balding guys?” No one has ever said that either.

I wasted precious mental energy worrying about how others would perceive my use of Rogaine and minoxidil. In reality everyone is too busy with their own problems.

Lots of women use Rogaine and minoxidil or other hair loss medications. Just because they don’t talk about them openly doesn’t mean you’re alone.

Feeling hopeless about hair loss

These hopeless and sad feelings about hair loss are really common, and I can say that with extreme confidence from my experience being on forums for years now and engaging with other women going through it.

It ain’t a happy day for anyone when she discovers her hair is falling out. Especially at the beginning, when you don’t know when your hair will stop shedding, or what’s causing it, everything about it is super stressful.

All I can say is, if you take action and look after it as part of your health, you will find a solution and you will come to terms with it, no matter what happens. It gets better.

If you are in distress, please know there is help. This number: 1-800-273-8255 is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org in the US. In Canada www.crisisservicescanada.ca/en  it’s 1-833-456-4566. You can also reach out via text (check the websites above).

Forgetting take pictures to track progress and loss

Ok that was heavy, but I owe it all to you to always be real. On a lighter note, let’s discuss how women suffering from hair loss for the first time forget to take pictures to track their progress and/or their hair loss.

My advice here is simple: Take a picture on the same day each month. The first of each month is a good place to start, or maybe on a day where something else is already happening each month, like the day you pay a certain bill or switch out your monthly contact lenses each month. Peg it to that so you don’t forget.

Stand in the same spot in the same lighting conditions and take a few photos from the same angles. These photos will come in handy if you visit a doctor, or for telehealth appointments that are becoming more mainstream as we battle the Covid-19 pandemic, as of this writing.

Frequent hair-checking

I have been so guilty of this, it’s not even funny. I would check my hair in all sorts of different light conditions, again and again. I’d snap selfies of my bald spot. I’d be at Marshalls and check my hair when I was passing mirrors while pushing a cart full of sundresses and makeup sponges. Bad idea.

There is nothing to gain by doing this, really nothing, except to feel crappy about yourself. Eventually I learned how to stop doing this but I still sometimes find myself hair-checking!

It’s a work in progress. Discipline yourself to check only a fixed amount. Once in the morning, perhaps. Not all through the day. Which leads me to my next mistake…

Getting lost in obsessive thoughts about hair

You’ll just be sitting there watching Netflix and you’ll notice someone’s shiny hair that will remind you of your old hair and then the next thing you know you’ve lost the train of the plot and you’ve gone down the rabbit hole of thinking about your own locks.

The next thing you know you’re reaching in your own hair and pulling out some strands. Then that sinking feeling gets you again.

Again, I know it’s hard, but you have to flip the switch whenever these hair loss obsessive thoughts come at you, at least that’s how I handle it.

Soon as it starts to creep in I’m like, “Nope. Not today, Satan!”

Being envious of other women’s hair

You will make the mistake of looking at someone’s lustrous thick hair and you will envy it. That’s entirely normal, but it’s an error. Unless it’s a close friend or family member, do you even know what you’re looking at?

Recently, I read a comment on Reddit where someone was drooling over Kylie Jenner’s latest thick black blunt bob.

“OMG! What do I do to get my hair exactly like this?” the Redditor wrote.

“Um, sweetie. You know that’s a wig, right?” the other Redditor wrote. “Just buy it,” she added.

I’ve “fooled” people with my helper hair aka a wig, and even extensions. You don’t know who’s really doing what, so don’t bother envying them. We can all be Becky With The Good Hair (trademark: Queen Bey).

Feeling like an “old lady” or less than sexy

Just no. This is a common hair loss mistake, and I’m not having it. Your face and your attitude are what determine how people will respond to you.

I’m telling you, no extreme frumpster with a dowdy attitude to match is going to be mistaken for a sex symbol just because she has huge glossy hair. It just doesn’t work that way. (No offense to frumpsters with dowdy attitudes. You do you, honey!)

Lots of young women suffer from hair loss. I hear from them on Instagram where they DM me, and I’ve heard from gals starting at age 15.

So please, this is not an old lady’s condition. Does that mean you have to accept it and just be an old lady? Of course not.

Fight it all the way and find a solution that works for you and your lifestyle and makes you happy. YOLO, as Drake says.

Waiting until the (almost) last minute before a big event

Another person I hear from often in my Instagram DMs is the woman (or man) who has buried her or his head about hair loss, and now that their wedding, graduation, high school reunion is coming up within weeks or even a couple months, wants to use medications like Rogaine to grow that hair int. Stat!

Well no. It doesn’t work that way.  If you don’t believe me please mosey on over to Rogaine’s site and check how long it takes to work.

My suggestion? Figure out hair fibers (Toppik and Caboki are the market leaders), or spray (L’Oreal Root Cover Up is my fave, but others love Batiste’s dry shampoo spray that’s tinted to match hair colours), or better yet, get yo’self some helper hair! All brides wear extensions and toppers these days, even if they don’t talk about it.

Feeling ashamed to go out

Please do not ever let your hair keep you inside. This is a mistake and your life is too precious to waste even a moment of it. Trust me when I tell you that. I went through chemo, I had no hair (but a great wig), and like, five eyebrow hairs total, and I didn’t let that stop me from going out.

Don’t let hair loss keep you from living your life, and getting outside.

Use hair fibres. Use spray. Wear a cute bandanna over your head. Wear beanies, or hats with hair attached to them so they look like a full head of hair.

Buy a topper or extensions. Hell, even shave your head bald and wear a buzzcut. Don’t spend time moping or feeling ashamed when you can spend it learning how to work with what you’ve got.

Do not ever let hair loss keep you inside. Ever.

Reject the shame.

Embrace life.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this, please consider subscribing to my channel: youtube.com/shrimpymcgee.

 

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