My friend R. has struggled most of her adult life with a problem most women don’t even think about on a daily basis. When she has a “bad hair day”, it means something totally different than “my hair is a little limp today,” or “OMG, it’s raining, and I just got a blowout.”
I tiptoe around what R. has confided in us. You see, R. is losing her hair. Slowly, but surely, since high school, my beautiful friend has watched her scalp grow through her hair. I have learned tricks that were not exactly mainstream in our suburban little town-what a weave was, how a tint pencil could cover scalp skin. And I felt…thankful for my beautiful head of long red hair.
As this past August was Hair Loss Awareness Month, started by the American Academy of Dermatology in 2000, I thought it fitting to do some internal and external exploration into what this means for modern women.
When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, the relationship between hair and beauty became even more apparent. My mother’s relationship with her hair was that it made her feel beautiful, feminine, and, yes, healthy. A woman is told her whole life that “men love long hair,” and it is a favorite accessory for so many women – how many of us play with hair color as if it were mere lipstick? For many women in America, 39 million, to be precise, this issue is serious. Female Pattern baldness is not something talked about at the dinner table, or even at the salon, but the emotional toll is steep. Not only is it a taboo in a culture that doesn’t have many left, but women are forced to confront the idea that they are unattractive, unfeminine, or even battling cancer.
So here are some of the hard facts to help all of us better understand this from a more scientific, less, “I’ve lost so much hair in the shower – am I going bald??!” perspective:
– By age 40, most women experience some hair loss.
– Unfortunately, like male pattern baldness, female pattern baldness is primarily genetic – although to debunk yet another myth, from BOTH sides of the family tree.
– More than half (55 percent) of women would go to extreme measures – including giving up their favorite food, giving up five years of their life, not talking for a year, or breaking up with a significant other – to guarantee they’ll always have a full head of hair.
– More than half of younger Americans (57%) say they are not physically attracted to people with thinning hair.
– While over-styling hair with heat and dyes is not healthy, it doesn’t cause baldness.
But there are solutions that can alleviate the stress and worry and even help re-grow hair that has been lost, and still more to make hair look better. To help boost the health of hair that you do have, try Redken’s Time Reset line, an advanced set of tools to help reverse years of damage and combat six signs of aging hair.
Another product is Viviscal, a natural hair supplement brand for the treatment of reversible thinning hair for both women and men. Rogaine is the only FDA approved solution on the market for women for female pattern baldness, but there are other things, in additional to using the right products that you can do cosmetically to make hair look thicker. Thom Priano, celebrity stylist, recommends that women with thinning hair should consider heavy bangs, a zig-zag part, and a tousled finish, which fits in perfectly with today’s hair trends. Hair dye techniques have been recommended to make hair look thicker, and extensions are now available in almost every salon, not just to make hair longer, but thicker.
A more drastic solution is hair transplantation, which has come a long way since the early days. New techniques make it virtually undetectable since “hair plugs” were invented. Another exciting development is low-level light therapy, a laser technique administered in a dermatologist’s office that increases blood flow and is considered painless.
A woman’s worth is not in her hair, but it is a devastating thing to lose. In the future, genetic therapy and cloning will be helpful and available to the average person. I know that I will be passing some of these tips on to R., and maybe I will be a little more careful about my own. But I will certainly lose less sleep knowing there are solutions.