I've learnt a great deal about hair the past year or so. I guess you could say that hair has always been my 'thing' - I've always considered myself to be fairly in the know when it comes to looking after it and styling it and aside from a few dye mishaps in my late teens, I've always taken good care of it. I'm not entirely sure if this post will be of any use to any of you, but it seemed silly not to write about the problems I've encountered and how I've gotten over them if it might help one of you lovely bunch. Often, we focus so much on taking care of our hair on the outside but rarely stop to think what might be effecting it on the inside. Without going into too much detail, I've not had the best of times regarding my health the past year. Around February-time of 2013, I began to notice my hair falling out much more than it should. I've always had long, thick hair and I hardly ever get a lot of fall out when I wash it or when I'm combing through it on a day to day basis - so alarm bells started to ring when I was literally pulling out clumps of it on a daily basis. For the first couple of weeks, I thought it was just a phase. But when it carried on, gradually getting worse and worse I knew there was something wrong. The texture of it also completely changed. Where I used to have hair that was soft, shiny and in good condition, it became straw-like, difficult to manage and it looked completely dull and lifeless. It had also thinned considerably and for the first time in my life I really did begin to hate my hair. I didn't dare to comb it because I could literally feel the strands coming out when I did, and washing it became such a dreaded experience.
This went on for months, and it's only recently that my hair has got back to how it used to be. I even went to see my GP about the hair loss because I was so distressed over it, and I was made to feel as if I'd wasted their time. It's shocking how doctors don't seem to think much of issues like this - but I knew something was wrong with me and I was quite persistent in my mission to get to the bottom of it. Throughout these few months, I've discovered so many things about hair loss and lack of growth that I never really paid attention to before. If you're struggling with hair loss or lack of growth/condition, then hopefully this post might uncover some reasoning behind it all...
The Contraceptive Pill
When I first began to suffer with hair loss, I wrote a post all about how I thought my hair loss was linked to coming off a certain contraceptive pill (you can read that here, if you're interested!) I've since been proven right and it's actually one of the major factors linked to why I lost so much hair (even though the doctor shrugged it off and said it wasn't). The pill I was on was quite a strong one - and I was actually told by a doctor to come off it straight away as I'd been on it for far longer than I should have been. If you've recently stopped taking the pill, or alternatively if you've just started taking a new one, you might notice some hair loss. If you think your pill is contributing to your hair loss, then there are certain brands you can switch to that are said to help - it really is worth discussing with your GP. Don't suffer for the sake of the inconvenience of switching. In my case, it really was severe and the hair loss kicked in about a month after stopping. I've since found out ways to counteract it - but don't underestimate the power of that little pill. I'll never be so complacent about it again.
Another factor which contributed for me was my iron levels. I've never had problems with it before but I noticed I was beginning to feel unusually tired and fatigued all the time (to the point where I'd be awake an hour and feel the need for a full night's sleep again) and I was finding it difficult to concentrate at university. As well as this, I was always out of breath, I began having chest pains and my heart beat was unusually quick. After a few blood tests, it was discovered the my iron levels were extremely low. There was no explanation as to why - but I was prescribed iron pills to take. DON'T take those little buggers without hearing from your GP that you need to first. Trust me, they aren't nice. But if you notice any of the above symptoms with your hair loss then it's worth asking for a blood test and getting some advice. I noticed the hair loss subsided after about 2 months of taking them along with the other symptoms I'd had - it didn't stop the hair loss completely, but it helped no end.
Stress or a traumatic event.
It's amazing what stress can do to you. I've always been a worrier anyway so I didn't really think much of it but a bit of stress can contribute massively towards the condition of your hair and how it's growing. I went through a traumatic event at the end of December 2012, and a couple of months later, the hair loss began. If you've suffered a traumatic event or been through extreme stress, then it's said that hair loss can occur around 2 months after the event (in my case, it fitted in perfectly with the February timing!) The hair goes into 'shock' and more hairs on your head reach the later 'telogen' phase before they should - meaning that they fall out quicker than usual and a lot of them fall out at once (can you tell I've researched this considerably?!). On the other hand, if you've just been feeling a bit edgy, it's worth looking into ways of managing stress and trying to limit it as best you can - it really does make a difference. We can clearly see the effects of stress on our skin, so there's no reason why it's not going to effect your hair (and even your nails) as well.
It's worth taking a multi-vitamin to ensure you're getting all the goodness you need on the inside. I've been to see a specialist and had blood tests regarding certain things not relating to the hair loss, however, when looking through the results, the doctor discovered I had virtually no B12. As a young whippersnapper (haha) I should have amazing stores and levels of the stuff. B12 is a major factor in keeping your hair and nails healthy (amongst lots of other health benefits but we're talking hair here!). It's also linked to depression and anxiety. I've always suffered from panic attacks and extreme bouts of worrying so it makes me wonder whether or not I've always been a bit low on it. Worth taking note of! Also, living in the UK, it's understandable that a lot of us Brits are low on the ol' Vitamin D. We see the sun for all of 2 weeks a year. Again, I was unusually low on it. Both these vitamins can contribute to healthy hair growth, so it's worth looking into getting a multi-vit containing them. Alternatively, it's worth asking for a blood test if you're worried. I take high doses of them daily now (only because I've been advised to by a professional) but it's worth baring in mind that you may be lacking in something as simple as a dose of Vitamin D!
General Care and Products
Of course, taking care of your hair should be part of your daily routine. For a lot of people, lack of growth or bad condition is down to something as simple as the time of year or the products they're using. A little bit of hair loss is normal and can be due to something as simple as the time of the month (oh how fun it is being female, eh?!) My hair has grown so much since I started using hair oils - my favourite has to be the Shu Uemura 'Essence Absolue' (post here - it saved my hair throughout those few months) or Moroccan oil. I apply these every time I wash my hair and split ends and dry, brittle locks have become much less common. Also, make sure you choose a conditioner that's right for your hair at the current moment in time. Through winter, I need a lot of moisture in my hair so I use one by Loreal which is meant for dry hair (works a charm!) and I also use a hair mask once a week (Organic Surge do a good'un!). Switch them up every so often so your hair doesn't become accustomed to a certain brand and don't over-wash. Also, get yourself a Tangle Teezer! It saves you pulling and tugging on the hair when it's been washed and it will save you a few strands when you comb through it - trust me! I couldn't live without mine now...
A year on, and my hair is now virtually back to how it was. The thickness is coming back and I no longer feel reduced to tears at the sight of the clumps of hair in my hands every time I go in the shower! It wasn't a very nice few months to get through, believe me! Doctors really don't understand how hair loss and changes can effect people, and I had to do a lot of research and guess-work myself. There were no clear answers and I still don't have any real explanation as to why it happened aside from it was a combination of everything mentioned above (although the main culprit seems to be the contraceptive pill). Of course, this post isn't meant to advise you on pills or medication to neck! That's not why I decided to share it. Please please pleaaaaase consult your doctor before you feel the need to look into supplements or vitamins and make sure you actually need them (trust me, the side effects of some can be pretty nasty!). But when I was suffering with it all I really struggled to find any real answers from actual people and I felt completely at my wits end. The main bit of advice I have for you is to be patient, remain postitive and take it one step at a time. Be persistent if you do decide to visit a GP - and if you know something isn't normal for you then it's worth having a little think about stress levels and what might be a contributing factor for you personally. Just be in tune with your hair - find out which products work for you and do your research. Just because one thing works for one person, doesn't mean it will work for another.
Have you ever had the same problems as me? What did you find worked best for you?