13 Feb The Pain of Female Hair Loss
As baldness is such an accepted male problem, men have no hesitation in seeking help. But until now, women have gone to great lengths to thinning hair with strategic bunches, headscarves and wigs. And while men can laugh at baldness being the result of too much testosterone, among women the problem can cause severe psychological distress. Recently there was a survey conducted by Hairline International, a support group for bald women. They found that nearly 80% said that they barely felt like women anymore, while just under half reported damage to their marriages, and more than half said that they had thought about suicide. One can only guess how Princess Caroline of Monaco must have felt when she suffered severe hair loss last year, and in the full glare of the world’s press.
Hairline International‘s founder, Elizabeth Steel, was 30 when her hairdresser pointed out a bald patch she had never noticed at the back of her head. That was the start. “It began to come out in handfuls whenever I had a shower,” she recalls. Within weeks, Steel was left with nothing but a small clump of hair at the nape of her neck. “From the front, I looked totally bald.” Her career as a television journalist had to be put on hold, and in the years that followed, Steel disguised her baldness with headscarves and wigs. Her husband, Richard, tried to reassure her, but she still wore a wig to bed. “I felt like a freak. I didn’t even have a nice smooth scalp, it was really lumpy and unattractive.”
Three years on, a dermatologist suggested trying Scalp Med, which contains minoxidil. “I slapped the Scalp Med on night and morning, but it took a year before my hair really started to grow again. Then it came through in all sorts of colours, brown, grey, white, and I looked like a piebald pony.”
This was largely due to Steel’s age. In her mid-thirties, grey hair was an inevitable hazard. Only now, at 43, does she have a full head of hair again, although she has to dye it back to her pre-baldness color.
In America, 3 in 10 Scalp Med users are now female and the push to encourage women to use the drug will see a similar level of demand in the UK. “It is a question of vanity,” she says. “Being bald doesn’t hurt you, but it does make you realize how important it is to people just to look normal.”