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My Hair Loss Journey – An Update

September 13th, 2012 · 15 Brilliant Opinions · Random Things That Make Me Smile

Six and a half months ago I was diagnosed with androgenetic alopecia (female pattern baldness).  I’ve gone through all the stages involved with coming to terms with hair loss.

  • Denial. That sisterlock on the bathroom floor is not mine.
  • Anger. Who the hell gave me these f$*ked up genes.
  • Bargaining.  I will go to church every Sunday, pray every day, stop cussing if my hair will grow back. Please God.
  • Acceptance – It is what it is. Pass me the Rogaine, scarf, hairpiece and wig.

When  I complain about hair loss to my female friends, some  give me the “side eye”.   Since I’m not completely bald, in their eyes, I don’t have “real” alopecia.  Yes my case is mild and I still have 80% of my hair right now.  But who knows what my head will look like next week, next month or next year.   Androgenetic alopecia is treatable but it can’t be cured.

But I’m not writing this to start another pity party. Did that earlier this year.  I want to give women with hair loss a bit of hope and a few suggestions.

1.  If you’re losing your hair see a doctor.  My hair loss led me to discover that  I was anemic and Vitamin D deficient – two maladies linked to hair loss.

2.  Going to a physician and complaining about losing your hair is like whining about an ingrown toenail. It may hurt like hell but its not fatal or “exciting” medicine so you may  need to be aggressive to get good care.  If your internist doesn’t have a clue, seek out a dermatologist.   I was lucky. Nope I was blessed to find a dermatologist who was sympathetic, smart and aggressive.  If there is any doubt about the cause of hair loss – inquire about a scalp biopsy.

3.  A picture is worth a thousand hair follicles.  My dermatologist told me to take pictures every month of my hair and scalp, preferably under the same conditions and lighting.  So while Big P was trying to reassure me that my hair loss was not so bad – this is what I was seeing.

hair thinning

Bald spot in the back

Crown

I took these photos in January, 2012. Recently I showed them to Big P and he said, “Wow. I don’t remember it being so bad.”   Although my dermatologist was not initially “impressed” by my hair loss, six months later I showed  her these photos and  she promptly did a scalp biopsy.

4.  Get a hair loss partner.  This person doesn’t have to be suffering from hair loss. It should be someone you love and trust and someone who is willing to be honest with you.  (One word of advice – don’t choose your mother.  Inevitability she will either exaggerate the amount of hair loss or tell you its really nothing to worry about.)   I wanted someone to be able to take my hand and tell me it was time to consider a hairpiece or wig or just shaving my head.  I also wanted someone to tell me to stop worrying about it if things began to get better.  For me that person was Big P.  He would arrange my hair in the back so the thin spots would not show so much. He was also the one who told me to  avoid the tell-tale center part when I styled my hair, which revealed a lot of my hair loss.  He also had dated a woman with severe alopecia so I felt he would be sensitive to the issues involved.

5.  Believe in modern medicine.  With my doctor’s consent I started taking Biotin, iron supplements and Vitamin D.  My dermatologist placed me on Rogaine. I had heard horror stories about Rogaine – terrible allergic reactions and hair in unwanted place.   I was using it for about 6 weeks (with no handle bar mustache in sight) before I noticed some increase in hair growth.  After two months my doctor placed me on Aldactone (spironolactone), a diuretic which fights the male hormones accelerating my hair loss.

6. Have a Plan B.  My dermatologist  was so excited to see my great response to Rogaine and Aldactone, she increased my dose of the later.  Well, I was already on blood pressure medicine and by the time I got up to 15o mg of Aldactone a day (most studies cite 200 mg as the most effective dose), I was experiencing dizziness and near fainting spells.  I consulted my doctors and  they advised me to stop my blood pressure medicine and reduce my Aldactone to 100 mg a day.  I was a bit disappointed to not be able to go on full strength Aldactone.  Neither of these medications can be stopped without repeat hair loss and  there is no guarantee that they will keep working for me.  So I drew a line in the sand. I’m not taking anything that makes me feel sick. I know some women have had excellent results with low dose estrogen supplements but I’m going to pass on that one. Hair transplant – nada. I’m not allowed to wear extensions or a weave due to my diagnosis. I would consider rocking a low cut fade or pretty head wraps.  I’ve never worn a wig but I would consider a well made, natural looking one.  My go to plan is a mountain of beautiful head wraps and scarves if my alopecia progresses.

7. Lastly, don’t give up hope.  I think about 80-85% of my hair has grown back since I started my alopecia treatment.  My doctor says its okay for me to continue to wear sisterlocks but has told me to not retighten them down to the scalp (to prevent traction or scarring alopecia).  As of last week, this is what my hair looked like.

Crown

Back

front

 Have you been on a “journey” with your health?   What advice to you have for making the best of a bad situation?

Disclaimer:  Although I’m a doctor, I’m not  YOUR doctor.  Please see your physician before taking any supplements, nutrients, over the counter or prescription medications.   Be Blessed!

 

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15 Comments so far ↓

  • Y

    Hi Ann –

    Thanks so much for sharing your update to your hair loss journey… and it is a journey isn’t it? I’ve been on Aldactone for over a decade (200mg) and I’m weaning myself off currently. After 13 years of hair loss, I’m done fighting with my hair, done swallowing pills that seemingly are no longer effective, not sure if they ever even where. Hard to know where my hair would have been had I never taken anything at all, same? worse? better? who knows. I’ve said my share of prayers, left St. Jude many a prayer paper at the church. Eventually I stopped praying for the impossible, which in my cases was my hair to return “healthy thick and strong,” which was what I would say in my prayer, and instead I asked for something more reasonable, which was just the ability to have the strength to deal with my hair loss.

    Great article… thank you again for sharing this.

    XOXO

    Best,
    Y

  • Ann

    Hi Y – I have to tell you how touched I am by your comment. I found some of the most reliable info (and a great deal of emotional support) on hair loss on your blog. I think its important to fight the good fight when it comes to hair loss (or any other health issue). But its also equally important to deal with it, move on and enjoy the lives we have. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Selfish Mom

    Oh Ann, that sucks. But I’ve never noticed it when I’ve seen you, and I promise not to stare now that I know. 🙂

  • Ann

    Oh I don’t mind if people stare. Now that I know all this stuff about alopecia I’m constantly staring at other people’s scalps. I’m insanely interested in hair replacement systems that are really natural looking. I stop myself from telling strangers to try Rogaine because that would make me a bonafide weirdo. Do you think I could get a gig as an ambassador for Rogaine? 🙂

  • Donna

    I am so glad you are doing better. My son has a history of alopecia areata. He was diagnosed with it at age 3 and is now 25. I was very anxious when I heard his diagnosis and sought to find the perfect doctor. He had a beautiful curl pattern and lost a third of his hair before a found a wonderful doctor at UCSF. She gave us rogaine and a steroid. It took about 6 months for the hair to grow back.

  • Ann

    Donna – I’m so happy for your son. Its hard enough being a kid today … can’t imagine how hard it must have been to deal with alopecia on top of everything else. Life can be a crap shoot and you never know what’s around the corner. You’re a smart mom and chose a great medical center. Kudos to you!

  • nicole

    I had no clue?? However based on the pics, I am happy for your improvements. You’ll always be my Oprah. A phenomenal woman. Strong through it all. May God continue to bless you and yours. Your book/story will be inspiring. You started your excerpts to me about six years ago, with every intro at PTA/meetings/gatherings etc and even now your story lives on. Thanks for sharing your soul. Healing is living.

  • Ann

    Thanks Nicole. One benefit of being tall is folks can’t see the top of my head! But life is a “journey” and we will all have our own ups and downs. As always, thanks for your support.

  • Cynthia

    Hello!
    It has been a month, since my last visit. I’ve only been reading your blog since April or May and I have enjoyed each morsel of writing. I’m glad to see your hair returning. I think you must have shared part one, before I discovered your blog. I also had thinning hair at my crown and the back of my head. After 22 years in education, I decided to call it quits and live a little less stressful. This seemed to help my entire body heal. Less money but better hair and no blood pressure scares. I use castor oil, the stimulant, on my scalp, attend exercise boot camp and drink lots of water. My hairdresser conditions my scalp every 2 weeks and I wear this atrociously ugly black stretchy bonnet on my hair every night. This bonnet material keeps my hair very nice. I don’t remember where I bought it, but I need another one. And, I sleep on a satin pillowcase. All of this for my hair health. Good luck and many blessings in your hair journey. Cynthia

  • Ann

    Cynthia- thanks so much for your comment. I too now use the satin bonnet and pillowcase which decreases breakage and dryness. I’m no where near a career change so my stress level is pretty high 🙁

  • sandy

    hi
    could you tell me the name and contact information of your dermatologist?
    thank you

  • Ann

    Hi Sandy – I go to Dr. A. Osei-Tutu. http://osei22derm.com/

  • sandy

    thanks, i really appreciate the info

  • Ann

    Good luck with everything Sandy and feel free to contact me at ann@waterwinetravel.com if you have any further questions.

  • anaa

    With my doctor’s consent I started taking Biotin, iron supplements and Vitamin D. My dermatologist placed me on Rogaine. I had heard horror stories about Rogaine – terrible allergic reactions and hair in unwanted place.

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