Welcome to Season one of my self-care series: Physical Self Care. This week is all about hair, and we're going to take a different approach to hair care. I have had some bad experiences with my hair a couple years ago, and it was quite scary. I'm going to keep this article simple and talk about 5 things in my life that accumulated to hair loss, and 4 things that helped me grow my hair back. I will also share 5 ways to cope during the difficult time of waiting for the hair to grow back.
Self-Care and Hair Care: Dealing With Hair Loss
Losing Hair in Large Amounts is Terrifying.
Growing up, I've always had hair on the thinner side, but never would I call it bad quality. I could grow it out pretty long, past shoulder length, and I never thought much about my hair. It's always when things are going good when we take them for granted.
Things took a turn when I was 21 and moved to Taiwan to study Chinese. Even though I loved it there, I think I experienced culture shock without knowing it. There was a moment in my life when I was getting ready and realized that I could see my scalp in generous amounts. Not just where my hair parted... but throughout the top of my head.
I started freaking out and noticing in the shower the hair in my hands after shampooing and conditioning was about 5 times more than my average amount. I felt ugly, panicked, and had no idea what to do.
If this situation sounds familiar, have no fear, there is a way to grow your hair back. Of course every case is different, but I'm going to share my story with you. I feel like everything that was happening to me was the perfect storm for hair loss. Now that I have it figured out, I find it quite fascinating.
I am still working towards healthy hair now, but it is so much better than before, and I think if this article is able to help one person, I am happy. So first, here are the factors that added up to my excessive hair loss, going from least important to most important.
Dry Shampoo Dry shampoo seems to be the savior of all problems right? We love dry shampoo! However, too much dry shampoo can actually do more harm than good. Lets just think about this for a second. Why do we use dry shampoo? It's to make our hair look less greasy right? And everyone says we shouldn't wash our hair everyday.
So I was going through this fad of trying to see how long I could go without washing my hair. Many people have "trained their scalp" so that they only have to wash it once a month. I thought this was a healthy way to treat my hair so I went for that goal as well.
My problem is, my scalp is pretty oily, so I had to use a lot of dry shampoo in order to look normal and not like someone who slept in a greasy pizza box the night before. Adding on all that powdery product actually can just accumulate on your scalp and mix with the oils, creating a film over your scalp. The hair follicles on our head are just like the pores on our face. They can get clogged. So in my case, the dry shampoo I was using lead to clogged hair follicles, not allowing the hair to come through.
Shampooing Because I was losing most of my hair in the shower, I was super careful when I was shampooing my hair. I didn't want to scrub too much because I thought the more gentle I was, the less hair was going to fall out. I also brushed my scalp as little as possible.
Nutrition Honestly, I wasn't eating correctly. I wasn't eating normal meals at normal meal times, I was eating foods very low in fat, and higher in sugar. Actually I think my hair loss happened in two stages when it comes to my diet.
My first stage was for a few months, I was stress eating a lot, and I loved sugary foods. Foods high in sugar give our blood sugar that instant boost which can be so addicting. Just like a drug. I had no idea that a diet high in sugar may contribute to hair loss, but basically if we have a diet high in sugar, our pancreas has to produce excess insulin, which then influences our hormone levels. If our hormones are out of whack, it can trigger hair loss.
The other stage in my life was months later, when I completely cut out sugar. I thought that this would immediately give me new hair coming up, but the hair was still falling out rapidly. This I think was due to quick weight loss, as I was exercising and doing a lot of gymnastics at that time. Rapid weight loss also leads to hair loss because if your calorie intake is at a deficit, your body gives the most vital organs the calories as fuel, and our hair strands and scalp are at the bottom of the list.
Speaking of Hormones... My hormones were out of whack. I don't know if it was genetics or what, but my testosterone levels were too high. I had gone to the gynecologist for some birth control, (TMI) when I told him that I've been experiencing hair loss and also was growing thicker hair on the bottom of my chin that I had to tweeze daily.
Those chin hairs were the most annoying and embarrassing thing of all. Why couldn't that thicker hair on my chin just move up to the top of my head?! The testosterone test showed that I had a level of 72 ng/dL. According to Mayo Clinic Laboratories, normal testosterone levels range from 8 to 60 ng/dL. So I was a tad bit higher than I should be.
Stress This is by far the most important factor of my hair loss, and it can be a vicious cycle. The more I was stressing, the more hair would fall out, and then the more I would stress.
Stress and anxiety can make the hair follicles go into a resting phase, stopping the production of new hair growth. The old hair then easily falls out from washing or brushing. This kind of hair loss usually happens 3 months after any traumatic event, because it takes a while for the root to disconnect from the scalp.
I honestly don't think my circumstance was that "traumatic", but I think a combination of culture shock, pressure from school, economic pressure of working and providing for myself, and also setting aside 70 hours of volunteer work a month added up to be something quite "traumatic" for me.
The climate of Taiwan vs the climate of Minnesota is also extremely different and I don't think my body handles the heat very well. Taipei is also quite noisy, with hundreds of motorcycles and scooters whizzing by nonstop. This is a huge contrast to living in the quiet suburbs that I was use to.
Lastly, something that got me nervous a lot was being a foreigner in Taiwan means that every single day you go outside, people are going to look at you, sometimes stare, sometimes making remarks like "oh look, there's an American". I didn't mind at first, but after a while, it got to be so draining. I felt that there was always someone watching me, and I never felt natural nor relaxed. I became more of a quiet person when outside, trying to be as invisible as possible, which also contributed to my stress levels.
How I helped grow my hair back.
This was such an emotional and depressing time for me, I had no idea where to start or what to do. I went to Minnesota to visit my family and I asked my mom for help. She has a friend who is a hairdresser, and had experience in this field. Here are six ways of how I helped my hair grow back, in order from most important to least important.
I focused on reducing my stress. I went to doctors, took medication, and followed their orders to go to bed earlier (be in bed by 11:00) and exercised regularly. I lightened up my schedule, decreasing my work cases and also lowering the amount of volunteer work per month.
This was an extremely hard thing for me to do, but it required humility to be able to accept the fact that my body was crying out for help and that I wasn't strong enough to do it all. Knowing my limits has helped me tremendously. I also constantly remind myself that I shouldn't feel guilty to take time for myself every once in a while and relax. This is where our brand motto "hit pause" comes in.
I got my hormones in check. Remember when I said that I went to the gynecologist? Well he gave me birth control that lowered my testosterone levels and raised my estrogen levels. Not only did this help me improve my mood, (I was easily irritated) but it also aided in my thicker chin hairs and allowing the hair to grow on the top of my head. Plus, it has, like.... other benefits. Win - win.
I worked towards eating a hair friendly diet. This meant I lowered my sugar intake, and also added a lot more healthy fats such as walnuts, avocado, and olive oil. I also made sure to get plenty of protein from eggs and meats, and enough vitamins and minerals from fruits and veggies, especially leafy greens. As far as supplements go, I do take them for my hair. I take iron supplements right before, during, and right after my period, because iron deficiency can lead to hair loss. I also take fish oil and biotin with keratin. I have noticed a huge difference in my hair quality and I can also see differences in my nails as well.
Hair care in the shower: My mom's friend who is a hairdresser recommended I use Nioxin shampoo, conditioner, and scalp treatment. Nioxin works to unclog any hair follicles that might be clogged from excess sebum, oils, dead skin cells and other particles. It also contains menthol and peppermint oil to stimulate blood flow to the scalp, resulting in hair growth.
For me, this shampoo and conditioner worked wonders. My friend told me to put the conditioner right on the scalp and leave it on for a few minutes, which is contrary to how we apply other conditioners. After just a couple weeks, I could see tons of little baby hairs poking straight up from my scalp. I was so happy I wanted to cry. I started to get a glimpse of hope. I was so proud of those stubby little hairs.
It has taken around two years for them to grow out, but as of now my hair quality has increased tremendously and I owe a lot of it to Nioxin. I am now able to use other shampoos and conditioners, but when I do shampoo, I make sure to really massage the scalp, getting the scalp nice and clean.
I have recently started washing my hair more infrequently again, but now making sure on wash days to thoroughly cleanse the scalp getting rid of any product buildup, grease, and dirt.
Ways to Cope While the Hair Is Growing Back
So that's all great, but what about the time when your starting to take care of all this, you've been to the doctor, and now your just waiting for your hair to grow back? It's a super awkward time, because all you want to do is cover your hair up. Here are some tricks that I used to make my hair appear thicker.
Eyeshadow Here's a great little trick for you. Find a non-shimmery eyeshadow that's the color of your roots and with a fluffy eyeshadow brush, dab onto your scalp. This is a great way of hiding the fact that your scalp is showing, and it makes the hair at the top of your head appear thicker, and your part look smaller.
Use Nioxin I know I already mentioned this, but seriously after a couple of weeks using this shampoo, if you're like me, you will already start seeing baby hairs popping up, which just makes you worry so much less.
Stop Obsessing The more you worry about your hair loss, the more anxiety you will get, which will just worsen the problem. Remember to get exercise, eat right, and do things that are enjoyable to you. Decrease your stressors and take care of yourself, maybe wearing a ball cap or a beanie if you have to.
Back Comb Take this one with a grain of salt. I'm not saying backcomb the roots of your hair so much that they break off even more. This is for when you are going out, and want to give the top of your head some more volume. Back combing with a finer comb can hid you scalp in certain areas, for me it was the at the crown of my head.
Get a Hair Cut Yes, we all strive for long luscious hair, but when we have thinning hair, it looks better when it's shorter. So get a hair cut and enjoy the nice fresh healthier feeling.
As emotional of a time that was for me, I am glad that it happened. Our bodies try to talk to us in many ways, and when we don't listen to it, our bodies go to more drastic measures. This is why I love what our brand Mora stands for; To take time to hit pause. Whether that is for some self-reflection, relaxation, or recreation, if we don't hit pause, we can't stop and listen to our body.
We are all beautiful in our own way, and all we can do is embrace what we have inherited and take care of ourselves from the inside out. I hope this article helped you.
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I love you all and have a great day!
Written by Alix Tieben