MY STORY WITH FEMALE ANDROGENETIC ALOPECIA, THINNING HAIR & HAIR LOSS
Way too many women did it, myself included: Feeling ashamed and suffering in silence. As if it were our fault anyway. It’s time to stop this. But I have to be 100% honest here: For the first time in my life, writing an article on my website is not easy, not at all. Share “graphic” photos of my thinning hair, even less.
Many know what is scientifically called “Androgenetic Alopecia” which is synonymous with “baldness”, “thinning” or “hair loss” but not many know, if not directly affected, that many women also suffer from this medical condition.
And I’m obviously among these lucky ones.
I honestly can’t tell whether people who see me in person don’t say anything about my thinning so as not to hurt my sensitivity or if they don’t pay much attention to it, but hardly anyone has mentioned my hair loss in all these years.
Except for one rather humiliating time, when in front of all my relatives, my aunt pointed out to me that “Clelia … you have holes where I can see your head!”
Here’s more or less what we’re talking about, at the time it was perhaps more noticeable because I also had thicker hair and the contrast with my scalp was more evident.
Now on top of losing hair, they are also getting thinner and lightweight, always due to the effect of Androgenetic Alopecia.
I wanted to dig a hole in the ground and hide there, I immediately pulled my hair down, and using two mirrors, I checked the sides and the back of the head, trying to fix the situation and cover the damn thinning.
Having said that, I want to clarify that I am writing this article to talk about hair loss and thinning hair due to Alopecia but not in a victimization way.
I simply want to tell my story, the psychological repercussions that this illness can create, the many tricks I use to live with it, and much more. As you can well imagine, hair loss in women is not a topic women talk about gladly and willingly. For me, this is the first time I’ve done it publicly.
Not because I’m ashamed of it, it’s certainly not my fault. But I’m not going around saying “Hey, you know I’m losing my hair?” Without at least being asked for. However, I believe that sharing my story could help other women who are going through it (probably in silence).
Not only that, but It will also give me the “right” to say that, after more than 20 years of living with it, I am quite the expert on hair loss, especially in women.
This means that I will publish more specific articles where I will talk about the problem of female hair loss in depth at a medical but also psychological level (a factor, especially for a woman, that plays a big role when dealing with hair loss and thinning hair).
HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU SUFFER FROM FEMALE ANDROGENETIC ALOPECIA?
Unfortunately, there is not a clear and unique signal for everyone. I started losing my hair and noticing the thinning at the age of 22-23 but for a long time, I had no idea what was happening to me.
Other women discovered it abruptly, and many years later compared to me (with different severity stages).
International studies about hair loss and thinning in women have indicated a staggering number of female patients suffering from alopecia. Often after menopause, but sadly the cases of young women affected by hair loss are not as rare as they may seem.
Usually, we start to get suspicious when seeing a copious hair loss, which by the way does not indicate at all that you suffer from the genetic disease and it’s a completely reversible situation.
In many cases, you are “only” suffering from what is medically known as “Telogen Effluvium“, and what we call “The chestnuts period” in Italy. At any rate, this is mostly a totally reversible episode due to stress, food deficiencies, scares, and more!
Hair loss in women due to Female androgenetic alopecia is a totally different beast: Unfortunately, it is not reversible, but it progresses over the years and is mainly due to hormonal factors.
It is much more similar to male baldness, with the difference that the majority of women with hair loss /thinning have a different hair loss pattern and the problem is somehow less obvious, with some exceptions of course.
That being said, obvious or not, hair loss it is definitely no less psychologically damaging.
So how did I notice? Female Androgenic Alopecia can be very subtle and if you have a lot of hair (just like me as a teenager), it can take years before you notice your hair is thinner and getting less and less.
One day you’ll be looking in the mirror and finally noticing that you had twice the hair you have now just a few years ago 🙂 I thought I was hallucinating, or at least this was more or less my initial reaction.
So my advice is this: making a diagnosis by yourself is impossible. If you notice even the slightest change in your hair density, go to a doctor specialized in trichology (hair problems).
He/she will give you a diagnosis based on a visual test and some specific blood tests measuring hormonal and minerals levels.
After such an in-depth visit you will know with almost absolute certainty whether you suffer from Androgenetic Alopecia or if your hair loss is due to different causes and whether it is reversible/treatable or not.
The sooner you find out the reason for your hair loss, the better.
Even if you are affected by female Androgenetic Alopecia, there are still treatments you can try, albeit subjective and not definitive in most cases, but they allow you to tackle the problem “at the root” before it degenerates, slowing down the process a lot.
Something you should not underestimate, given that even after more than 20 years, although I do not have a lioness’s hair, I am not bald either, I lead a very normal life (actually quite adventurous compared to the average) but with the help of some “tricks”.
EXAMPLES OF FEMALE ANDROGENETIC ALOPECIA AND HOW IT IS “MEASURED”
There is a clinically recognized “Objective” severity scale for women: The “Ludwig Scale” which shows hair thinning or “female pattern” (different from that of men)
There it is:
This scale only takes into account the thinning of the parting line in the middle, while in many cases including mine, the thinning also extends to the upper area and to the sides, although the problem may be partially hidden if you have long hair that covers the holes.
They can be easily seen if you pull your hair up without paying attention 🙂 Here is what I am talking about with the photos below:
The other day, talking to a friend, she insisted that she had never noticed my problem, hence it wasn’t a real problem.
Her intentions were obviously benevolent, she wanted to cheer me up (although I now live with this condition with more acceptance). So, to prove to her that I was not imagining things, I sent a few unforgiving photos, and she finally got it.
In 20 years I’ve simply learned to style my hair in a way that doesn’t draw attention to the hair loss, but I can’t even think about casually running my hands through my hair, or these would be the results.
Or much worse, given that these photos were taken during a time of remission and my hair regained some sort of “thickness” to them.
In my case, as you can see from the first photo above, the one with the wad of hair in my hand, the central thinning is not dramatic.
I have had much worse moments, and I always comb my hair with a slightly lateral parting (on the left side I have a lot less hair) and so I can disguise the thinning.
But all it takes is a gust of wind, or a swim in the sea (best wishes with bathing in the sea!: D) and I must immediately put on a headband or adjust my hair using a mirror.
When wet, the hair affected by Androgenetic Alopecia looks twice as thin and reveals all the hidden holes.
I could say the same thing with sweating, that’s why I never get out of the house without my headbands and my Toppik to make up for it, especially in a social context.
I will create a separate article and possibly a video as well on how to correctly use Toppik (keratine fibers) because if I live a normal life it is largely due to this product.
It’s obviously not a cure, but it makes you wander around the street without worrying too much about wind, rain, and prying eyes.
It’s not super cheap but worth it if your situation is not overly dramatic and for everyday life.
If you have more severe hair loss and thinning, you might consider other options such as front/full lace wigs or hair clips. I did experiment with them and I have a few lac and more cheap wigs I want to show you quite soon so stay tuned 🙂
As for the Toppik, I have sworn eternal love to this product, and now that I’m used to apply it, my hair looks decent in a few minutes, so I don’t waste too much time.
HOW TO FIGHT FEMALE HAIR LOSS ON A PSYCHOLOGICAL (AND MEDICAL) LEVEL
Without digging too much into this topic ( I could write a book about it) I can say that it’s not about vanity.
Suffering from alopecia, hair loss, and having visible thinning hair for a woman, is a hard blow to digest on a psychological level. Female Androgenetic Alopecia is a non-reversible medical issue but can only be curbed.
If developed at a young age it can deeply undermine your self-esteem and, depending on its severity, can also limit your everyday life and social interactions.
For a woman, her hair is not just hair: it frames the face, enhances it, and is a symbol of femininity. A woman’s hair is an integral part of her being. It is no coincidence that when women want “a change” in their life, they start by getting a new haircut or changing color.
In my case, those times are now a thing of the past. One of the things I miss the most is not being able to pull off the bangs or at least two side bangs worthy of that name. Right now I have such thin hair that I have to cut them myself, and I can’t style them in any possible way.
Before I was twenty I had thicker hair than the girl on this photo, and looking at my pictures now, the difference, alas, is staggering. However, the most important thing here is not allowing hair loss to take on our lives completely but to fight back!
And above all, avoid insensitive hairdressers at all costs.
Those who forgot we have mirrors at home and not only we know way too well about our thinning hair, but we hate to be reminded of it in front of the next customer, usually sporting a leonine head. Not nice.
This is why I haven’t seen a hairdresser in over 15 years!
I don’t want to dwell on what I do to fight my hair loss. I prefer to list the things I have done to live as serenely as possible with this issue:
1) DEDICATED FORUMS FOR HAIR LOSS: There are several forums for women with hair loss, I joined many of them, and I felt less alone and connected with other women, some of which have also become friends in real life.
2) I COVER THE PROBLEM: Both with dedicated products (I will write a separate article on the best ones I have tested and highly recommend with pros and cons, and with simple tricks for everyday life (another post in the making with the ones I always use! )
3) PHARMACOLOGICAL TREATMENTS (IF POSSIBLE): I have used both topical and systemic drugs for hair loss. Another important topic for which I want to write a comprehensive post, so you won’t have to get discouraged or buy whatever miracle product there is, wasting your money.
The treatments for thinning hair and hair loss do exist, and some of them work really well. Too bad that, in my case, I’ve suffered from some heavy and permanent side effects.
4) DON’T GET TOO DISCOURAGED DURING THE “ANNUAL FALL”: The “annual fall” is the worst period for me. I only have a few thin hairs on my head, and I have to endure the view of locks of hair everywhere each time I even slightly touch them.
It can be traumatic, to say the least, and looking at the sides of my head, being afraid of the wind, or going for a swim is not nice. But it will pass, and some hair will grow back, so I don’t get depressed.
5) NEW TREATMENTS: I periodically inquire about any new treatments and as far as possible, especially if they are drugs, I try them under strict medical supervision.
6) I USE A MANTRA: I repeat to myself, ( trying to believe in it), that there are much more serious problems and that, because of my issue I have all the right to try on some fantastic lace wigs and the like. After all, even the stars use them for special occasions, why shouldn’t I do it, given that I also have hair loss? 😉
7) I USE “HAIR PIECES” & WIGS FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS: I will explain better what they are (not extensions, where do I attach them if I have two hairs?: D)
I do have a ponytail that clips on mine, a couple of laces (I will dedicate an explanatory article/video for these), and bangs that look super cute, but I use the latest very rarely.
I also try to like myself and my thinning hair as it is. When you get used to seeing yourself with beautiful hair all the time when you take the wig off, you are going to see the hair loss even more and might feel a bit down.
So the key is to try to accept ourselves as we are and have fun with the rest, we deserve it after all!
8) I SEE THE GLASS HALF FULL: There are women with a much more pronounced thinning than mine (I am sorry for them), and I am thankful for being able to still be able to have long hair, even if they are sometimes terrible to see and at other times a little more healthy.
9) POSITIVITY IS THE KEY: I rejoice in the “positive” periods where I haven’t much hair loss and I can afford not to use camouflage, tricks, or anything else. I feel like an ordinary person and sometimes I forget my problem. Creating a virtuous circle with less stress and less hair loss.
10) I TRY TO FORGET ABOUT IT: I do everything not to obsess too much over my hair (sometimes, especially in the worst periods it can happen to feel obsessive).
I try to be happy for everything else life gave me. It sounds cliché but it helps a lot.
Going back to the positivity I mentioned above, it not only helps psychologically but also to improves the stress levels and slightly helps in reducing hair loss.
These are essentially my ways of dealing with the disease (because this is what it is, whatever its severity might be) both psychologically and practically. When my other articles about hair loss are ready I’ll link them here for reference, so you can look them up!
MY LAST TIP: Be sensitive with those who tell you they have a hair loss problem, even if you don’t see it it doesn’t mean it’s not real. I can assure you, It is no vanity nor paranoia. We already feel pretty bad about it, so if you’re a friend willing to help, listen and be sympathetic. Thank you!
Do you have any experience with hair loss and thinning hair? Leave me a comment below, and remember, don’t feel ashamed, it’s not your fault.
A big hug to all, to those with a head full of hair and to the bald ones, we are beautiful, and we are fighters!