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The Many Faces of Hair Loss

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Never tell a woman who is losing her hair, “It will grow back.” I write it all the time. If in fact a woman is losing her hair, she is most certainly living in the here-and-now of it, so telling her it will grow back is just avoiding the emotions she has here and now—NOT helpful.

It DID grow back (past tense, both times). In my case, it wasn’t Alopecia Areata. It wasn’t chemotherapy. I’ve learned a lot about hair loss while working for 4Women, its causes and its impacts, but I’ll likely never know what caused my own hair loss, at least not round two.

Round one was easy to diagnose, fascinating really—those amazing hormones! I was probably just about three months post-partum when my showers became quite messy. While rinsing my hair in the shower, large balls of hair (not strands) would drop one after another. It lasted for about two to three weeks and then stopped as suddenly as it had begun. Most interesting was the fact that my three-month-old seemed to shed most of his baby hair right about the same time. He was breastfeeding, so I chalked it up to the changing nature of my breast milk as my own hormones dropped. I was totally immersed in being a new mama, so the hair loss just barely made it onto my radar screen.

Round two was different. “Post-partum telogen effluvium” (terms I gleaned in my new research position at 4Women) was no longer a plausible explanation. Susan would do the Alopecia Areata pluck tests and tell me it wasn’t an Alopecia-type shed. I had my blood iron and thyroid hormone levels tested—all well. And yet it just kept on falling out, this time for a good year. By the end of that year, I’d easily lost more than 50 percent of my hair. This time it was rather frightening. Not having an explanation such as post-partum hormone changes left me wondering whether the hair loss wasn’t a sign there was something more serious askew within. I may never know ...

What I do know is that it passed. The generic technical term for that is just “telogen effluvium,” minus the “post-partum.” It will probably take another year or two to reach its previous length. Meanwhile, I have poodle curls pointing every which way in all it’s curly gray glory. I may never know why—why it fell out—why it decided to grow back. Peruse the hair loss support sites. You’ll see I was definitely not alone. I learned what so many women know—hair loss is hard to deal with. Not knowing why you’re losing your hair is even harder.

Have you ever experienced hair loss by any cause? Were you able to determine the cause? Any hair loss detective tips you can share with others?  


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