Back in January my housemate Sam starts shedding dark brown hair all over her friend’s palatial home. There’s no hiding it either. Everything in this house is unforgivingly white – white linen upholstery, lime washed white floorboards, white marble counters. Turns out, women under 30 are loosing their hair. It’s a thing that happened to Sam twice. An embarrassing thing. But more importantly, the why behind the hair loss is the most concerning thing of all.
She tells me all of this after collapsing onto the couch, batteries zapped from a full day of teaching music and completing coursework for her Master’s Degree. Initially, we both stare into our phones as so many of us do, thumbs tapping, eyes glazed over, unable to engage in any kind of conversation beyond “how was your day” and “yeah, good”. She’s wearing a head-to-toe grey tracksuit, and I, a red sweater with this glittery, yellow Playboy bunny embossed over the chest, laptop open on my legs, entering into my thirteenth hour of work.
Why am I painting this touching scene of two tired, yet determined ~modern women~ in questionable outfits? Because premature hair loss has a lot to do with the stressful, often chaotic lives many of us now lead. But here’s the real clincher: over the course of our conversation, I find out that this issue has a lot to do with the kinds of chemicals we’re putting in our bodies just to get us there.
Sam’s hair started falling out for the second time after going off the oral contraceptive pill at the beginning of the year. This time round though, the doctor tells her that while all of her bloodtests seem to check out, hair loss can be an unfortunate side effect of coming off contraceptive hormones. This is namely due to the rapid and sudden drop in estrogen. But then the doctor goes on to tell her something that had me a little shook, sitting there on the couch in my red Playboy sweater. Get this, right. The doctor says that if Sam wants to prevent further hair loss, she should simply go back on the pill to ‘rebalance’ her hormones. What about when she wants to try for a baby? No problem. They’ll just inject her with MORE SYNTHETIC HORMONES to get her body ready for something it should naturally be able to do in the first place.
At this point that, we start getting heated and if there were a transcript of our conversation it would from here on be in capslock. It’s a story we’ve both heard before. Many times. From her friends and my friends and their friends and their friends friends… You get the idea.
Moving on from her the GP, Tara sought the advice of a Naturopath and a Trichologist. Both told her that they’ve been seeing a growing number of young women suffering from hair loss in recent years. And they’re not the only ones. According to a 2014 survey by L’Oreal Professional, out of the 2000 interviewed, a third had experienced hair loss by the time their 30th birthday had rolled around. Then there was a more recent study that found high rates of hair loss among young college women under immense stress. And finally, we come to the million dollar contraceptive question. When it comes to conclusive research around whether the pill causes hair loss, there’s not a great deal. However, following a quick Google, I found forums full of women experiencing the same issue as Sam.
So maybe we’re not imagining things after all. Maybe this isn’t simply a game of Chinese whispers among women tired of being fed a bewildering riptide of misinformation.
Great. Cool. Now you’re wondering what you can actually do about it, right? Fay Halkitis, a longtime Naturopath and Beauty Therapist at Luna Beauty & Apothecary, had a few practical things you can opt for should you find yourself in the midst of a quarter life hair crisis. B12, Zinc, DHT and iron levels were the big ones to address. If you want to find out how they’re fairing, head straight to a professional to get those tested.
We also called on our favourite stylist, the king of hair, Anthony Nader of Raw, for a few preventative tips along with some solid quick fixes. No, it does not involve wearing a wig.
Iodine for thyroid issues.
FAY: “If your iodine levels are low, try adding dulse flakes or seaweed to your diet as a natural food source. Sustainably caught seafood is also a good source. But first, when it comes to supplements, always seek a professional.”
Turn down the heat.
ANTHONY: “Go easy on the hot tools and turn down the temp. Your strands don’t need the highest heat and if you’re getting the results on say, 100 degrees, why would you need your appliance turned up to full? Trust me your hair will thank you for this little trick.”
Avoid chemical-laden hair products.
FAY: “Most people don’t realise we absorb the most product through our scalp. If hair is lacklustre, try massaging a few drops of natural oil (like argan or jojoba) blended with essential oils such as rosemary, lavender and clary sage to stimulate cells and nourish the roots. Leave over night and shampoo in the morning.”
No to bleach, yes to Olaplex.
ANTHONY: “Steer clear of harsh bleaches and high peroxide strengths. Instead, make sure you ask your hairdresser for Olaplex – this is far from a sales pitch and I swear by this holy grail for keeping each strand feeling strong and healthy from the inside, out.”
FAY: “High stress levels can also impact hair growth as we secrete cortisol in our hair follicles. For this reason, adrenal support is a necessity.” May we also recommend lowering cortisol levels with regular meditation.
Go with the (blood) flow.
FAY: “Good blood flow is important to stimulate hair growth.” Try the Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt to boost microcirculation and remove toxic product build up.