The following post was written anonymously by a member of the Food Period family about her experience with androgenetic alopecia, which in her case is thought to be a complication of PCOS.
Androgenetic alopecia, also known as Female Pattern Hair Loss, typically occurs as a result of both genetic and hormonal factors. On the hormonal side, an excess of male sex hormones, known as androgens, shorten the hair growth cycle and shrink hair follicles until they eventually don’t produce hairs at all.
There is no cure for androgenetic alopecia, however, there are certain treatments that have been shown to stop the progression of the hair loss and, in some cases, restore some hair growth. If you notice you are losing more hair than usual, consult with your dermatologist to get down to the root cause.
In the meantime, read on to hear one woman’s journey with androgenetic alopecia.
There I was, five minutes before I had to run out the door, performing my typical pre-date dance. I skirted around the clothes strewn on the floor, applied, then reapplied my lipstick, and tried to ignore the nagging questions swirling around in my head. This particular date, however, was anything but typical.
The usual questions of “What if he has no personality?” and “What if we have nothing to talk about?” were superseded by a new question altogether: “What if he can tell that I’m wearing a wig?!”
If you would have told my younger self that as a 24-year-old I would have to worry about something like this, I would have never believed you.
Yet, here I was, putting in the final bobby pins to secure my wig to my head and feeling far more than your average pre-date jitters. Although this was about to be my first date while wearing a wig, I was no stranger to hair loss.
I first heard the words ‘androgenetic alopecia’ at the age of twelve. Around this time, I noticed that my hair was falling out more than usual, and my parents and I decided to consult with a dermatologist. When the results of my scalp biopsy came back, I did what any self-respecting twelve year old would do... I ignored them and went to a sleepover at my friend’s house.
As the years wore on, however, the results became increasingly difficult to ignore.
During my senior year of college, I had to start wearing tinted hair powder to mask the widening expanse of scalp that began peeking through my hair. Ladies, in case you were wondering, wearing a graduation cap without smudging the powder everywhere is difficult!
Even more difficult was realizing that my hair loss had gotten so severe that I was left with no other option than to pursue some form of hair prosthesis (essentially, a weave or wig). As I prepared for my big move to New York City, I also got outfitted with some new hair, in the form of a weave that was literally glued onto my head. I won’t go into the gory details of this process, but I will say that it was the most painful 1.5 years of my life. The damage that this process caused left me with no other choice than to seek alternative options.
(Disclaimer: although the weave did not work for me, I do know people that have enjoyed the process. Do not discount it because of my story, it’s all about finding what works for you!)
Following this experience, I reluctantly ordered a wig. The day that I went to the salon to pick it up is a day I will never forget. I remember feeling a combination of excitement and nervousness, which ultimately progressed to a feeling of immense nausea. As I sat in the chair waiting for the women at the salon to place my wig on my head, I began to cry. I continued crying throughout the duration of that four-hour hair appointment, and little changed over the next few days.
Can you really blame me? In a world dominated by social media and dating apps, it’s easier than ever to equate self-worth to the amount of likes received on a photo or right-swipes received on an app. All of this comparing left me feeling inadequate over something that was completely beyond my control.
When I first got my wig, I thought that I would never be able to leave the house again, let alone go on a date with an actual boy (man?). Clearly, as the introduction to this post would indicate, I was wrong.
It’s now been nearly a year since I got my wig and I am happy to report that I am still taking steps outside of my comfort zone each day, despite the negative thoughts. My wig has enabled me to speak in front of hundreds of people with confidence, attend important business meetings, and continue going on dates. Although my hair loss journey hasn’t been easy, it’s my journey and I’m owning it.
Even though these days it seems that our personal lives are more exposed than ever, there is still a great deal of shame and loneliness that accompanies hair loss in women. I, for one, think that enough is enough!
To the nearly 21 million women that are affected by hair loss, I’m here to tell you that you are not alone! I’m trying to navigate my hectic, and hairless, life just like you are. And even if hair loss isn’t your personal battle, I hope this post shows you that we all have something we are struggling with, but that it shouldn’t prevent you from living life to the fullest and being the most amazing you that you can be.