Health: Hair loss advice from the experts
- Credit: PA
Hair loss is hard enough to suffer in itself, but it can be particularly difficult to cope with in our appearance-obsessed society.
In reality, more than 25 per cent of women have experienced hair thinning or loss at some point, and it’s estimated that the problem affects eight million women in the UK.
May is Hair Loss Awareness Month and designer and former singer Pearl Lowe, 43, has spoken for the first time about her experience of hair loss.
“It does affect how you feel about yourself and can really get you down,” she says.
Despite a healthy lifestyle, a few years ago Lowe started to feel permanently exhausted. Distressingly, her hair started getting thinner.
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“I felt really down and not myself and totally lacking in energy despite the fact that I eat healthily and swim daily,” she says.
“It was worrying as I couldn’t understand it and the hair loss was particularly upsetting.”
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Lowe, who lives in Somerset and is married to Supergrass drummer Danny Goffey, has four children. Her eldest daughter is model Daisy Lowe, 24.
However, her hair loss problems started after the birth of her third child, Frankie, in 1999.
“I really noticed it on the sides of my head. I had a bald patch about 5cm wide on the left side near my temple. I would try to cover it with my remaining hair but that was pretty thin too,” she says.
“The hair loss didn’t get any better over the years and, when I washed it, I could see handfuls coming out at once.
“If I had something special to attend, I would wear a hairpiece that I would clip on the front – I even wore a hairpiece for my wedding.”
Eventually, Lowe was diagnosed as anaemic, but more significantly she had an underactive thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism is a common complaint affecting at least two in every 100 people in Britain, particularly women, but many people spend years before they are diagnosed.
The thyroid produces the hormone thyroxine, which helps regulate the body’s metabolism. Hair loss can be common because the condition slows down the normal turnover of cells, which can include hair cells.
It’s just one of a number of reasons for hair loss including genetics, hormonal changes, diet and health issues.
Dr Wendy Denning, a GP with a specific interest in women’s health and natural health, says: “Though most people think of hair loss in men, it is surprisingly common in women after the menopause and increasingly in young women.
“Of course, there are many reasons for it, including hormonal changes, poor nutrition, certain medications and over-styling – but one of the most common reasons that is on the rise is stress-related hair loss.”
Treatment is aimed at helping sufferers manage their lives with less stress, and a diet which supports hair growth. Dr Denning also recommends Nourkrin, a natural food supplement to boost hair.
“Many of my patients are living busy lives and finding it difficult to cope with the demands of work, family and life in general,” she says.
“This stress often manifests itself in their diet and their appearance, and in particular their hair.”
Psychologist and therapist Corrine Sweet says the emotional effect of hair loss cannot be over-stated.
“In my 25 years of experience as a therapist I’ve seen many women, and men, who are deeply traumatised by the loss of their hair.
“Appearance is everything in this celebrity-influenced era, and for women the state of their hair forms a major part of their self-image.
“Thinning or dwindling hair hits right at the heart of women’s sexual self-esteem and makes them question their attractiveness.”
Lowe, who is on medication for her thyroid condition, takes a supplement specifically for hair, Viviscal, which contains iron, vitamin C, silica and a marine protein complex.
Early findings of a study on the product, which will be published in full later this year, suggested that the supplement may thicken hair. When 72 women with hair loss were given it or a placebo, those who took the supplement also had an increased hair shaft width in three months.