In honor of Hair Loss Awareness Month, I got the chance to connect with Stephanie Sey, a London-based trichologist, and Rose Woo, a wife, and mom who is living with alopecia.
Stephanie is a Trichologist with first-hand experience of hair loss. Her primary goal is to make sure that people are easily able to access help for their hair and scalp issues. She runs a clinic in Central London, has been featured in large publications, regularly speaks at events and runs workshops.
Rose lives in Charlottesville, VA with her husband and daughter. She is a former art teacher and now works as a process improvement analyst. Both ladies had lots to say about their experience with hair thinning and hair loss. Keep reading for their valuable tips and answers to some popular questions about their hair experiences.
Experiencing Hair Loss and Seeking Help
What is your experience with hair thinning/hair loss?
Rose: I started losing my hair in April of 2018, 6 months after having my beautiful daughter, Maxine. I thought it was just postpartum hair loss, but I was so wrong. I started wearing hats and using hair filler. Then I finally swallowed my embarrassment and went to my stylist. She gave me an awesome short pixie that hid a lot of thinning spots, but she also said that this wasn't normal and I should see a doctor. I lost all my hair a month and a half later and finally saw a dermatologist. We tried Rogaine and other topical treatments and prednisone. The steroids worked a bit, but I also started feeling hip pain so I stopped immediately. Hair is not important enough to experience bone death! That's when I got my brows tattooed and started accepting my bald dome.
Many women are nervous about seeing a medical professional to assess their hair struggles. Who should see a trichologist and what happens during an initial consultation?
Stephanie: You should see a Trichologist if you identify any issues with your hair and/or scalp. This may be hair thinning, patches of hair loss, excessive itching and/or flaking. The list could go on, however, if I were to put it very simply then I would say when anything with your hair or scalp doesn’t feel right. Don’t feel shy about seeking the help you need especially because hair issues can identify other issues and imbalances within the body.
At an initial consultation, the concerns of the patient are discussed, a medical history is taken, I like to think of this part like a chat about what’s been going on with the person’s health and hair care practices. The hair and scalp are then examined and photographs are taken, if any tests are required such as blood tests we arrange for those to be done. A diagnosis is then made and a treatment plan is given.
Misconceptions about Hair Thinning and Hair Loss
What are some common hair thinning/loss misconceptions that you have heard/encountered?
Stephanie: I think that the biggest misconception out there is that there is a cure-all lotion or oil that will cure hair loss and give thicker fuller hair.
Whilst there may be a hair loss treatment waiting to be discovered which can do all those things, how do you know the efficacy of this product without truly identifying the root cause of the hair loss in the first place? Hair thinning and loss is complex and some conditions can spontaneously get better, in these cases was it your body simply healing itself or the special remedy?
What are some misconceptions about alopecia?
Rose: Certainly, the very first thought, is that the person may have cancer or is sick in some kind of way, but really it's just my own body kicking its own butt. It's thought to be an autoimmune disease because the body mistakenly attacks hair follicles. I'm perfectly healthy otherwise. Bodies are really weird.
Good Ideas for Women Experiencing Hair Loss
What are some excellent natural or at-home remedies, treatments, lifestyle changes, or tips that you can suggest for women who struggle with hair thinning and hair loss?
Stephanie: If you are suffering from hair thinning or loss, you should look at your hair care practices as it may be how you are handling your hair that is causing breakage. The second thing I would suggest is looking at the diet. Are you eating a balanced diet of fresh unprocessed food covering all food groups? Protein is especially important for the production of healthy hair. Check whether your iron levels are adequate as well as your vitamin D.
What are your favorite hair accessories/products/treatments and why?
Rose: My absolute favorites are head wraps and turbans, but to be honest I was very intimidated at first. I watched some tutorials and thought they were way too complicated for me. Then I learned my own (lazy) ways of doing things and felt empowered. Again, you gotta take control and make things work for you. Don't think you can rock a headwrap? Then buy a wig! Don't like wigs, then buy some bandanas! Trying new things to find what makes you comfortable is truly freeing.
There are so many products on the market (natural oils, vitamins, supplements) and treatments (acupuncture, scalp massages, hot oil treatments) that are supposed to promote hair growth. Which ones actually work?
Stephanie: The only clinically proven product to grow hair is Minoxidil – known as Regaine in the UK and Rogaine in the US. It is difficult to say without studies which oils, vitamins, and treatments actually work. What I can say is that there is no harm done in trying some products out there. However, use your judgment in reason to really assess see whether a product's claims can possibly be true. If it is too good to be true then it probably is.
Bad Ideas for Women Experiencing Hair Loss
Are there any hairstyles, ingredients, or treatments that tend to be bad for the scalp and can cause hair thinning/loss?
Stephanie: In terms of hairstyles I would say broadly please avoid overly tight braids and weaves. If it hurts and you need to take pain medication – it is too tight. Leave baby hairs alone as they are not strong enough to withstand great amounts of tension and also avoid using excessive amounts of added extension hair.
Are there ways to naturally transform hair from thin to thick and strong? How long should one expect to wait before seeing results?
Stephanie: That really depends on your natural strand thickness and hair density. What I can say is to improve the general quality and health of your hair make sure you are nourishing your body and taking good care of your hair. Think of your hair like your favorite delicate garment, you wash it carefully, handle it carefully and sometimes take it to a specialist to look after it. Do the same for your hair. Any changes you make to your hair routine or diet you should allow at least 3- 6 months to see any results.
Getting Comfortable With Hair Thinning and Hair Loss
How/when did you become comfortable with your hair thinning/ hair loss?
Rose: I'm still not 100% comfortable and I don't know if I ever will be. Even when I had hair, I had moments when I wasn't confident, but now without hair, it's been a completely new challenge. Beauty standards for women are so unattainable and ridiculous and losing my hair has really shifted my paradigm about beauty, self-respect, and confidence. I'm definitely stronger now and I think alopecia has forced me to practice self-love and self-care to survive this crazy world and its expectations. Self-love is so incredibly important, no matter what you're going through. You always have a stay on the feelings about yourself. Take it easy and choose to be kind.
You share lots of beautiful selfies on your Instagram page that reflect confidence in your physical appearance. What do you recommend for other women who are feeling self-conscious about thinning hair/hair loss?
- Do something about it. Even a small step, will create so much progress for your mental state. Bite the bullet and shave your head, buy a wig, invest in some dope head wraps or just go bald. Taking control of an uncontrollable situation is the best advice I can give. You control your strategy to combat it, you control your feelings about it, so BOSS UP and take control!
- Find your tribe. I started a separate Instagram account just for connecting and sharing with fellow baldies and alopecians. I've cried, laughed and shared with them. It's truly what saved me from going down a dark hole.
- Embrace it. OWN IT. On my Instagram, I share mostly bald selfies. At first, it was to get myself used to my new identity. I needed to see myself as others see me. Then, it evolved to sharing selfies to make others comfortable with it. People have messaged me to thank me for representing the bald women and men that usually hide. This made me really sad and fueled my fire even more. My support has inspired me to support others, which has been a huge part of my journey.
Are you experiencing hair loss? Share your story with us below!