MY EXPERIENCE WITH FEMALE ANDROGENETIC ALOPECIA AND HAIR THINNING
We have done it too many times as if it were our fault: Staying silent and feeling ashamed. I feel it’s time to say enough. But I have to be 100% honest here: For the first time in my life, writing an article was not easy at all, and sharing certain photos, was even less.
Many know the issue scientifically called “Androgenetic Alopecia (female)” (synonymous with “baldness”, “thinning” or “hair loss”) but not many know, if not directly interested, that many women are also affected by it.
And among these “lucky” ones, there is obviously me too!
I honestly can’t tell you if 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 once, a rather humiliating instance, when in front of all my relatives, an aunt shouted in horror “Clelia … you have many holes where I can see your scalp!”
Here’s more or less what I’m talking about, at the time it was perhaps more noticeable because I also had thicker hair and the contrast was more evident. Now the hair has also thinned, again as a result of Androgenetic Alopecia.
I wanted to sink, I pulled my hair down at the speed of light, and with my double mirror, I checked the sides and the back of the head 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 the problem but not in a victimistic way, I simply want to tell my story, the psychological repercussions women with hairloss have, the various gimmicks I use to live with it and much more.
As you can well imagine, hair loss in women is not a topic that women talk about happily if at all. 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.
However, I believe that telling my story first not only can help those women who are going through it (probably in silence) but also gives me the “right” to say that, after more than 20 years of living with it, specialist visits and private researches, I am quite an expert in hair loss.
This means that I will publish other articles where I will talk about the problem of female androgenetic alopecia in depth to combat it at a medical and psychological level (a factor, especially for a woman, of no small importance).
HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU SUFFER FROM FEMALE ANDROGENETIC ALOPECIA AND HAIR THINNING?
Unfortunately, there is no clear and unique signal for every woman. I slowly started losing my hair and seeing a progressive thinning of my locks from 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 maybe when much older (with different levels of initial severity).
International statistical studies have indicated that at least 4 million women in Italy suffer from female alopecia during their lifetime. Often after menopause, but cases of young women are not as rare as it may seem.
Usually, we start to get suspicious when we see copious hair loss, which among other things does not indicate at all that you suffer from the disease. In many cases, it is just what it is called “Telogen Effluvium” which can be totally reversible and caused by stress, vitamins and minerals deficiency, and more.
Female androgenetic alopecia is a different beast. Unfortunately it is not reversible but progressive and is mainly due to hormonal factors, much more similar in its nature (with the due differences) to male pattern baldness even if, in percentage, women usually retain more hair and the problem is less visible than in men (but no less psychologically damaging).
So how did I notice? Female Androgenic Alopecia is subtle so especially if you have a lioness mane as I had as a teenager, it can take years before looking in the mirror and saying “Wait a second, didn’t I have double the hair just a few years ago or am I hallucinating ?! 🙂 This was more or less my initial reaction.
Making a diagnosis by yourself is impossible. My advice is to go to a doctor who specializes in trichology (hair problems) and after a visual test and blood tests to check hormonal values and possible mineral and vitamin deficiencies, he will be able to tell you with almost absolute certainty if you suffer from Androgenetic Alopecia or a different condition and whether it is reversible/treatable or not.
The sooner you find out the reason for your hair loss, the better.
Even if it were female Androgenetic Alopecia, if taken in time, there are some treatments to keep it at bay and slow down the progression of the disease.
Never underestimate this. For me, after more than 20 years with alopecia, although I don’t have lioness hair, I’m not bald either. I lead a very normal life (indeed quite adventurous compared to the average) but use a few tricks of course.
EXAMPLES OF HAIR THINNING IN WOMEN AND HOW IT IS “MEASURED”
There is a clinically recognized “objective” severity scale for women, the “Ludwig Scale” which shows the thinning or “female pattern” (generally different from that of men)
Here she is:
This scale only takes into account the thinning of the central line while in many cases, including mine, the thinning also extends to the crown of the head and the sides, although the problem may be partially hidden by the hair on top.
The problem is evident if you pull up your hair in a ponytail or run your hand through it without paying attention. Here’s what I’m talking about concretely with the photos below:
The other day, talking to a friend, she insisted that she had never noticed my problem so it wasn’t a real problem.
His intentions were obviously good, to cheer me up I guess. So I took the phone and, armed with a mirror, I showed him my real situation by taking some photos:
I just know how to style my hair, but I can’t even dream about casually running my hands through my hair, or these would be the results.
In my case, as you can see from the first photo above, the one with the wad of hair in hand, the central thinning is not dramatic (at the moment).
I have had much worse, and I always part my hair in the middle or slightly on the side (on my left side I have a lot less hair) so I can disguise the thinning.
But a gust of wind or a swim in the sea is enough to make me look like a stray dog, when wet the hair affected by Androgenetic Alopecia looks twice as thin as the normally is so I must immediately put on a large headband.
The same thing happens when you sweat, that’s why I never go without some hairbands and my keratin fibers to cover up, especially if I’m at a social event.
I will make an article about Toppik and how to use it correctly, (and probably a video) because if I live more peacefully with my hair, it is largely due to this product. It’s not a cure, but it makes you wander around the street without worrying about wind, rain, and prying eyes.
I have sworn eternal love to this product, and now that I’m practical, in 2 minutes I settle down, so you don’t even waste too much time. That is if you still have enough hair to make it worth it. I now am getting worse after Covid (I lost 50% of the little hair I had) and I am venturing into trying laces and VERY realistic wigs that fooled even my mother!
HOW TO FIGHT FEMALE ANDROGENETIC ALOPECIA AND HAIR LOSS AT A PSYCHOLOGICAL (AND MEDICAL) LEVEL
Without going too far here, otherwise, I could write a book about it … I can honestly say that vanity aside, suffering from alopecia, and having visible thinning and hair loss for a woman is a hard blow to digest on a psychological level.
Female Androgenetic Alopecia is a non-reversible problem but can only be slowed down, and especially if discovered at a young age (but really at any age) it can undermine your self-esteem and limit your social life, depending on its severity.
For a woman, hair really does a lot, it frames the face, enhances it, it is a symbol of femininity. It is not vanity. Woman’s hair is an integral part of our being. It is no coincidence that when you want to change something in your life, you start by changing your hairstyle or color.
In my case, those times are now a thing of the past. One of the things I miss most due to hair loss is not being able to pull off bangs or at least two side bangs worthy of that name (now I cut my hair by myself, as they are so thin and inconsistent)
Before I was twenty I had thicker hair than this girl. The important thing, however, is not to be beaten down but to fight!
And above all, avoid insensitive hairdressers, those who do not understand that women with thinning hair not only know it very well, but do not like to be reminded of it in front of the other customers next to them. Which is why I haven’t seen a hairdresser in over 15 years! (Except for my marriage, I finally found sensitive people).
I do not like to dwell on what I do to combat the problem. I prefer to put a brief list of things I have done and continue to do to live as serenely as possible with this illness:
1) DEDICATED FORUMS: There are several forums where I often compare myself with other girls, some of whom have also become friends in real life.
2) I COVER THE PROBLEM: Both with dedicated products (I will write a separate article on hair pieces, keratin fibers, and more tricks I have tested that I highly recommend with pros and cons).
3) PHARMACOLOGICAL TREATMENTS (IF POSSIBLE): I have used both topical and systemic drugs. Another important article that I will publish and that I recommend reading before jumping blindly into do-it-yourself solutions or getting discouraged at the start. The treatments are there and some of them work really well. Too bad for the sometimes heavy side effects that are part of the deal.
4) DON’T GET DEPRESSED DURING THE “ANNUAL FALL”! : There are times in the year when we lose more hair than usual and that is normal. But for women with thinning hair and alopecia, this might be the worst period, on a psychological level. When you already have little hair, and every time you touch it or wash it and see how much you are losing, it is indeed traumatic.
But think that the hair you are losing (usually the longest strands) had to fall anyway. And, if you can stand the medications, you can stop the miniaturization process. If not, there are other options. Never allow alopecia to win over you! For me, this is a mission.
5) NEW TREATMENTS: I periodically look for any new treatments and I ask the doctor if I can try them. Now they are introducing derma rollers, even tretinoin to put on the scalp, PRP sessions, and more.
6) UNDETECTABLE CHEAP WIGS: There are fantastic wigs, hair pieces, or full laces on the market that are totally realistic and look like your own hair (I’ll make MANY videos about all the ones I purchased over the years and how to make them look not fake, even the cheaper ones.
I know, you want your own hair. Who doesn’t? But if my hair is getting worse, well, I have no issues with them! If you think about it, even many stars use them (Beyonce, Rhyanna, and many others) for special occasions, why shouldn’t I do it because I have a medical condition ?!
7) I BUY “HAIR PIECES” FOR OCCASIONS: I will explain better what they are (non-extensions, that where I attach them if I have 2 hairs?: D) PS, I have a ponytail that clips on mine, a couple of laces (I will dedicate an explanatory article for these) and some bangs that they are the end of the world, but which I use very rarely.
I also try to like it like this because when you get used to seeing yourself with normal hair and then you take off the extra piece … you get the magone, even if only for a moment 🙂
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 grateful for being able to still wear long hair, even if they are sometimes terrible to see and at other times a little more healthy.
9) POSITIVITY TO THE EXTREME: I rejoice in the “positive” periods where there is no fall and I can afford not to use camouflage, tricks or anything else. I feel like an ordinary person and sometimes I forget that I have the problem. Creating a virtuous circle with less stress and less falling/deterioration.
10) I TRY TO FORGET: I do everything not to obsess too much (sometimes especially in the worst times it happens) and I try to be happy for everything else. It sounds cliché but it helps a lot. See the positivity I am talking about above, it not only helps psychologically but also to improve the state of stress and reduce the problem.
These are essentially my methods of dealing with the disease (because this is what it is, whatever its severity) both psychologically and practically.
I will then write the other more detailed articles and link them here for reference.
THE LAST TIP: BE SENSITIVE TO WHO TELLS YOU YOU HAVE THIS PROBLEM; EVEN IF YOU DON’T SEE IT, IT IS. IT IS NOT VANITY NOR PARANOIA, I ASSURE YOU. SEVERAL DOCTORS HAVE CONFIRMED THIS TO ME, TOGETHER WITH THE FULFUL AUNT IN FRONT OF ALL;)
If any of you have experience in this regard, even in anonymity, leave a comment, just be ashamed, it’s not our fault! A hug to all, long-haired and bald!
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