Everything you ever wanted to know about female hair loss
At 26, I can’t recall the last time I made it through a hair appointment without whining about my thinning strands. In fact, this dates back to my teens, when suddenly my thick, dark hair became limp. It’s hard not to obsess a little about it, too, when posts from people with Kardashian-like hair take over my Instagram feed. Sure, I know that behind every famous mane in the business is a team of pro stylists, expensive products and pounds of hair extensions, but many of us are lacking—and not in the bobby pin department. What we’re missing is some of our hair. Millennials like myself are the most stressed-out generation, according to the American Psychological Association. “I coined the term the ‘5 Ds of stress’—death, divorce, debt, dismissal (losing one’s job) and diagnosis (changing health),” says Dr. Jeff Donovan, a Canadian dermatologist and hair loss specialist at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. “These are among the more significant stresses that have the potential to cause hair loss. This is usually in the form of increased daily shedding…and it happens one to two months after a stressful event.”
Though I’ve come to “accept” my thinner hair (and dependence on volumizer), I haven’t reached the point where I want to add extensions. Instead of complaining yet again to my hairstylist, I head to Ireland to learn more about hair loss at one of Viviscal’s labs, since the brand has been studying the issue for two decades. After a night’s stay in a castle (really), I take a bus to the town of Shannon, which maintains the constant rain and rolling hills I’ve quickly grown accustomed to. I meet former Miss Ireland and mother of six Emir Holohan, 36, who became a Viviscal ambassador after significant hair loss postpartum. “At first I wasn’t too concerned, but after my sixth child I was truly shocked when I noticed that my hair was blocking up the drain when I showered,” says Holohan. That’s because during pregnancy the body produces more estrogen, which extends the growth phase of hair and slows down the shedding phase. But because all good things must come to an end, hair begins to fall out after baby arrives. “Women are much more susceptible to the emotional impact of thinning hair,” says Holohan, who has a thick, dark bob. “[It] got so bad that I would cover up with hats when I was out of the house.”
Whether you are dealing with postpartum shedding or are just looking to boost your mane, supplements could help. Viviscal Extra Strength tablets work by increasing strand diameter and slowing down the shedding process via an oral supplement containing an Amino Mar C marine complex, iron, biotin and vitamin C. Taken twice daily, it results in a 30 per cent increase in dermal papilla cells, from which hair grows and develops. (Think of it like your garden: The longer you can keep your flowers and plants healthy, the more lush it looks.) By ensuring your hair is in prime condition, your existing strands stay attached for as long as possible, resulting in—what else—more hair on your head. “It’s not an instant solution. It’s a six-month program,” says Dr. Helena McMahon, postdoctoral scientist and researcher at Shannon ABC labs, who conducts research on Viviscal.
But before you start taking supplements, identifying the source of the problem is key. “If hair loss is due to genetics, treatments like Minoxidil, hormone-blocking medications, laser and platelet-rich plasma can slow down [the process],” says Donovan. “If hair loss is due to low iron, the only way to halt the loss is to increase your intake of iron.” No matter what’s at the root of your, uh, thinning roots, the first step is to talk to your doctor.
You can also take solace in online communities. Sure, we are living in an age of more, well, everything when it comes to beauty—more lashes, more highlighter and more hair extensions—but we’re also encountering more transparency and honesty (just scroll through Instagram for videos of intricate hair and makeup tricks). Thanks to this openness—as well as sites like Into The Gloss that expose the regimens of celebs and industry insiders—we’re being let in on beauty secrets on the regular.
While I wait for sprouting baby hairs and fiddle around with clogged drains and vacuum heads, I’ll take comfort in the multitude of hair-thickening tricks on YouTube. Until then, you can find me filling in my middle part with matte black eyeshadow—a Jen Atkin recommended, and therefore Kardashian-approved, optical illusion.