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Thinning hair dents self-esteem - this is why

Woman with thinning hair looking at hairs on a brush

Thinning hair wasn’t a feature of my life until I approached the menopause. I first noticed excessive shedding in my late 40s. I couldn’t ignore it - my hair was literally everywhere. It was on my pillow, clothes, carpets, brush… In fact, there were very few places I didn’t find stray hair!

But it was months after the shedding started that I recognised I was rather ‘thin on top’. The penny took a while to drop, so to speak. My fringe was see-through and the centre parting was very pronounced. It was mortifying. A good cut seemed to help for a while, but it wasn’t long before sections of my scalp were on public display again. 

I stopped using harsh treatments, invested in heat protection sprays and followed expert advice to avoid hair breakage. I even found myself drying my hair upside down to try and give it some lift and bounce. Not a pretty sight.

Just as I was toying with the idea of investing in a thickening treatment, a major life event got in the way.

I lost all my hair as a result of chemotherapy for breast cancer. It grew back twice as thick but, three-and-a-half years down the road, I am back to square one. Damn it!

Self-esteem and thinning hair

I envy women whose hair seems to thicken with age. Even wiry hair has its advantages.

For someone like me, who is invested in anti-ageing skincare and makeup, youthful-looking hair is important. To me, thinning hair looks scraggly. It’s hard to style and just, well, makes me feel old and downtrodden. It is a bit like having greasy hair but 100 times worse!

Another issue is keeping it tidy. No matter how neat I look when I leave the house, I always - without fail - appear like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards by the time I arrive at work. And, of course, it’s there that I am always confronted by pretty young things with hair tied back so neatly they look like they have just stepped out of a salon. Demoralising doesn’t convey the surge of feelings I experience.

It makes me doubt myself. What’s the point of flawless makeup? Why bother with skincare treatments? It just seems a complete waste of time when my hair is going to give the game away. 

It has reached the juncture where action is needed. I am part-way through trying different approaches to remedy the situation without having to resort to wigs (which I’ve got plenty of for the reason mentioned above). I am 58 and my hair is just below my shoulder.

Menopausal woman with thin hair that looks untidy

Thin hair? Ways to tackle it

I am not ready for short hair - even though that’s what most professional stylists would recommend. To me, short hair is ageing. It may be a generational thing but, growing up, every pensioner seemed to have short hair. I don’t want to end up like that. 

Yes, I will submit to a regular trim but nothing drastic.

This is honestly true… I subscribe to a YouTube channel all about anti-ageing fashion. The host, on numerous occasions, said she would never have her hair cut short because she considered shorter styles ageing. Guess what? She had her hair cut short and it really aged her! Strange. 

Let’s talk about hair extensions and toppers as a way to thicken hair. Sounds good, doesn’t it? The only problem is, you need a certain amount of hair to attach them to and enough hair to cover the clips. 

While extensions have vastly improved in recent years and are relatively cheap, they are not a silver bullet. To make them ‘work’, you first need to… thicken your hair! It is ironic. However, I have managed to achieve this with thickening shampoos and conditioner, along with a bit of gentle backcombing. There is a problem though - the weight of extensions on naturally thin hair can cause more breakage. It’s a catch 22 situation, so they are currently off limits other than for special occasions.

Thickening shampoos can work. I have had some success with relatively inexpensive brands. Not all of them have worked and, of those that have, some work better than others. I am currently using John Frieda Luxurious Volume Core Restore Protein-Infused Shampoo.

If you want to try a similar product, aim for one that reduces breakage as well as fall-out and coats the hair shaft to bulk it out.

When it comes to growing hair, I know that only a very small number of products work. In fact, just one or two ingredients have been scientifically proven to be effective and they are mostly found in expensive products. Nioxin is an example. Following chemotherapy, I used plain coconut oil and it seemed to work really well. It was cheap too. Actually, I may revisit it.

My current hair care regimen includes:

  • Using a thickening shampoo and conditioner

  • Taking extra care not to drag or snag hair when wet brushing

  • Use of a leave-in bond repair treatment

  • Always using a heat protection spray

  • Blow drying on a cool technology setting

  • Avoiding hair styling tools without tech to protect hair

  • Never using products with harsh chemicals

  • Only sleeping on a satin pillow

  • Using hairspray in the mornings (to keep my hair tidy)

Things I intend to try:

  • Heatless styling products

  • Leave-in thickening treatments

  • Spray on fibres

Hair thickening products with a brush and coconuts

Hair loss causes

Ageing is a major factor in hair loss. In fact, thinning hair is one of the first signs of menopause. It’s a hormonal thing. 

To me, this awful side effect just adds insult to injury. At a time when our bodies are going through major changes, which can make us feel blooming terrible, we have to put up with looking awful too. It’s cruel and it’s often unavoidable.

According to Newson Health, around 40 per cent of women suffer hair loss during ‘the change’. Personally, I think it's actually higher than that. Some experience thinning all over the head but many, like me, just notice hair loss on the top of the scalp - the most visible place. 

Poor nutrition and health conditions can also cause hair loss, along with some prescribed medicines. If you are not sure what is causing your hair loss, please seek medical advice.

While there are plenty of nutritional products on the market that claim to help reverse thinning hair, I am loathed to try them. That’s because I was told to stay away from herbal remedies and supplements (other than vitamin D) during my treatment for cancer. I am not sure if, now that I’m cancer-free, the advice will have changed. It is something I will need to check before exploring further. 

However, our diet can help. Introducing avocado, eggs and iron-rich foods is said to have a positive impact on hair growth. So, my diet is currently undergoing a makeover!

Are you suffering from hair loss?

You are not alone. I hope my story has offered a shred of comfort and highlighted the fact that it is very common in middle age.

Should we accept it? No, absolutely not!

New technologies are making electrical hair appliances less damaging and, as they become more popular, prices will come down. Thickening treatments do work, if you can find the one that’s right for you. Look out for products with ingredients that may include biotin, keratin, rosemary and saw palmetto, among others.

Choosing the right style and length, within your comfort zone, should also help you regain fuller-looking hair.

Here’s to thicker, younger-looking locks!

Please feel free to comment below or reach out to me via the Contact page. Together, we can share tips and support each other.

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