After being diagnosed with autoimmune hypo thyroiditis last year, my hair thinned until I had very little left on my temples, and my thick long hair from the back had become thin, straggly, and uneven from patches where growth had stopped.
18 months on, I'd tried everything, read every book, taken every supplement, and finally found what worked for me. I have tufts of new hair, my parting is filling out, and I no longer shed like I used to.
This is what I wish I'd known.
Turns out, whilst I was in tears running my hands through my hair and holding more and more hairs each time, I wasn't alone in it. It felt like an extremely lonely experience though.
I wrote an Instagram post about what worked best in growing back my thinning hair, and I received a LOT of messages from women also going through the same. So here it is - how to tackle hair loss as a symptom.
Don't get me wrong - this isn't alopecia universalis. I wasn't losing clumps. This was a thinning over time, where my growth had stunted and the loss was more than average. This was a symptom of something else.
Here's what I'd recommend to anyone facing thinning hair that isn't related to trich, chemotherapy, or a specific hair-loss disease. (However, some of these tips may assist in some way even if so.)
Pregnancy: If you are experiencing hair loss after giving birth, you may know already that this is perfectly normal and it should stop soon. (It should slow down and stop after 6 months.) The practical tips at the end of this are going to be most useful to you, as the cause is already known. Do not make any alterations to diet and supplements if pregnant or breastfeeding unless recommended by a doctor.
Menopause: If you are experiencing perimenopause or menopause, and feel that these symptoms may be hormonally related - then it's worth doing additional research into which tips will be most helpful, and if your GP can assist in treatments such as HRT. We'll be publishing a blog next month about what supplements can assist in menopause symptoms.
1. Find the cause
I was 'lucky' that after 12 years of being borderline 'hypo-thyroid,' something triggered my immune system enough create a sharp and clear blood test result. That meant I could be easily diagnosed with Hashimoto's and treated with thyroxine replacement. I perhaps didn't feel lucky at the time, but I needed medicating a lot longer before this crash in health.
I would recommend, unless the cause is clear, visiting your GP for a full round of blood tests. Find the route cause and make sure it isn't something serious.
Having medication didn't slow my hair loss, but I have no doubt that these following treatments wouldn't have been as effective without. It made a difference. If hair thinning is a symptom of something else, it's always best to treat the cause first - especially if there could be something more serious going on.
2. Functional Medicine Research & AIP
I first learned of functional medicine when I met Dr Sarah Davies, the UK's leading functional medicine Dr. Last year I attended her zoom course on the Auto Immune Protocol - an elimination diet that heals the gut (I was most likely suffering from leaky gut after a lifetime of not eating the right foods for my body) and reduces inflammation. It also helps the body start absorbing nutrients again (deficiencies sound familiar?) and helps you identify which foods are causing your body to react. Spoiler alert: it's probably gluten.
I was amazed that this way of eating alone stopped my hair loss, but in all honesty, I reintroduced foods too quickly and missed the warning signs, and the hair thinning began again. I would recommend really taking your time to work out your triggers. I'm trying again this spring!
One book along these lines I would highly recommend is The Autoimmune Solution by Amy Myers, it's tough work - but by healing the gut and reducing toxins - your body's inflammation reduces, symptoms reduce, and you're once again able to absorb vitamins.
3. Supplements - Biotin - for anyone who wants longer, thicker hair.
The Instagram post I published was about Biotin, the supplement I've taken daily for the last 2 months and not seen even 5% of the hair falling out that used to. The tufts of hair on my temples are growing quickly, and I'd recommend it to anyone.
In its natural form, Biotin is found in foods such as beef liver (the highest %), and also eggs, salmon and seeds. Biotin is not stored in the body, so without eating it you can become deficient. It is vital for healthy hair and nails.
I won't be eating beef liver any time soon, so I started stocking Biotin in store and on our online shop here - and began taking 1-2 capsules per day.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can also lead to hair thinning - so it's worth making sure you have plenty in your diet.
I supplement with Viridian B12 Capsules and have NHS injections as my body doesn't absorb it well (likely due to leaky gut - see above).
If you eat a plant based/vegan diet, it's worth taking an all round vegan supplement that contains the above, plus a range of other vitamins you may be lacking in your diet. Yes, this is possible with food alone - but if you're experiencing hair thinning, it may be worth looking at supplementation if it's related.
I recommend Viridian Vegan Multi to cover all bases, and Omega 3:6:9 to ensure you have enough fatty acids.
5. Topical Treatments for Faster Hair Growth
I see many advertisements for shampoos and conditioners, such as those containing caffeine - which yes, I've tried. They didn't work for me, and there is no clinically viable evidence to say they'll have a significant effect on hair loss.
You could try Rosemary Oil (in store) which, when massaged into the scalp has been said to have a positive effect on hair thinning. You can either mix 5 drops into a teaspoon of carrier oil, such as Sweet Almond Oil (also in store), or mix into your shampoo. If you rinse it off, make sure you've left it on for 5-10 minutes, and be careful not to get it in your eyes.
6. Practical Tips (no matter how thick the hair)
- Allow your hair to be loose and down, rather than tied back. Use satin scrunchies if you do choose to tie up your hair to reduce pulling and friction.
I strongly suspect that some of my hair loss was made worse by my 'hiding' it with a half up pony.
- Use a satin pillowcase or bonnet overnight, to allow hair to slip over pillow fabric without pulling friction
We recommend this one from Ethical Kind : Organic Silk Pillow Case
But a cheaper good quality alternative would work just the same!
- Massage scalp daily with oils, such as coconut - or without.
This bamboo scalp massager looks amazing too: Bamboo Scalp Massager
- Finally, Avoid styling with heat, and pulling with a brush. Due to my parting becoming thin at the back, I would blow dry that area daily - which made that area worse.
Your hair doesn't have to be thinning in order to make the most of these products and tips. All of them will help you grow thicker hair!
But, if your hair is thinning, know that you're not alone in this, and don't start browsing wigs like I did until you've tried all of these tips.
My DMs are always open over at our instagram, and I wish you all the love and luck in the world.