My Hair Loss Story, And How We Turned It Around

pippa stood outdoors with back to camera, displaying long brunette hair

I wrote the beginning of this post a while back and saved it as a draft, unsure of whether I felt comfortable sharing it. However, since the team at CareCo kindly sent me a really fitting product for review, I thought I’d take it as a sign and include that review in this very piece. Keep scrolling for my thoughts on their Infrared Massage Hairbrush, but first, here’s that post I thought I’d never be sharing… 

Lately on social media, I’ve had some really lovely comments about my hair and how much it’s grown. Now, anybody going out of their way to compliment me and make me feel like a precious lil princess is welcome any time of the day, but the recent comments about my hair have been particularly appreciated: namely because for the longest time, I was struggling to hold onto it.

I want to make clear from the off that I never lost all of my hair, and I don’t think my hair loss was ever immediately visible unless you knew where to look. But this is the story of how I lost 50% of my hair mass in a matter of weeks, and how and why we’re at a point where… and I still can’t believe I’m saying this… it’s started growing back, years later.

screengrab of friends chandler bing reading 'thanks i grow it myself', referring to his hair

Back when I was 15 years old, three key events in my chronic illness journey took place: I suffered a severe anaphylactic shock thanks to some pesky peanuts at a party, I had glandular fever without realising or ever being diagnosed, and my initial symptoms of M.E first began to appear. I couldn’t definitively say what triggered my hair loss, but on reflection, it must’ve been related to my poor scuppered immune system having some sort of crisis. As with most medical things at that age, I’m pretty sure my hair loss was originally attributed to teenage hormones, or stress from exams, or whatever other wishy-washy excuse my old GP could offer to get my backside out of their office. Such good times.

It was a gradual development but eventually, we’d reached a point where I’d lightly run a hand over my head and it’d come out full of hair. It was then that my mum and I took matters into our own hands, as we’ve so often had to do with my healthcare, and arranged to see a specialist. They confirmed that I was indeed losing hair, and found that I’d lost fifty percent of my hair mass at that time. Thankfully, recommended supplements helped to slow down the loss from then onwards, I took special care and precautions with my hair care, and I learned to suck it up and deal with it: I accepted the fact that my hair fell out and this was likely something I’d always have to contend with.

All I can say about that point in time was how grateful I was to have had such thick, heavy hair beforehand. Although I was left with small visible bald patches, to an outsider, I don’t think you ever would’ve been able to tell what was happening unless you knew where to look. However, when has any growing fifteen-year-old girl ever listened to reason when it comes to their appearance? I was fearful, embarrassed, and most of all self-conscious: I didn’t realise I was becoming seriously ill at that time, and not being able to hold on to my hair felt like some kind of failure on my part.

However, now comes the plot twist.

Fast forward eight years to May 2018. I’m sat in my bedroom in my flat putting my hair up as usual and, for the first time, I notice a ton of pesky flyaway baby hair, all over my head. I head off out to meet my mum for lunch and a theatre trip, and it was her who made the connection more quickly than I did: it wasn’t just flyaway strands. It was brand new hair, growing back from where I’d lost it all those years ago. Gobsmacked was an absolute understatement. I even have a photo from that day where you can actually see it for yourself. I mean, ideally the new hair would grow downwards rather than horizontally like a mad scientist’s but alas, the world is not a wish-granting factory.

pippa sat at table with cup of tea, hair in a ponytail with lots of flyaway short hair escaping

I can’t sit here and definitively tell you what made my hair start growing back, but I CAN tell you what I’ve been doing to look after it as best as I can throughout these past few years. You’ll see that I’m making use of some affiliate links below, but the following are all things that I’ve either been prescribed or bought of my own accord throughout my experience, and found to help:

Silicea Tablets*

These supplements are hands down the thing that’s made the biggest difference for me: slowing the hair loss and ultimately helping it to grow back again. They’re to be taken once a day and contain Silicon and Zinc, as well as trace elements that facilitate healthy hair, skin and bones. I recommend Silicea to everybody I know, but please speak to a medical professional before you give them a go, to double-check they’re suitable for you for you.

Ferrous Fumarate Supplements*

I’ve been an anaemic, iron-deficient shell of a human being for most of my teen and adult life. A lack of red blood cells can have all kinds of effects on your body, hair loss due to reduced oxygen supply being one of them. Therefore, being prescribed Ferrous Fumarate (iron supplements) long-term rather than in short bursts until my levels dropped again can only have been a good thing. Again, do consult a professional before doing this yourself. If you’re not under prescription, I’ve linked some from Amazon above, but you can also get them for much cheaper in your local supermarket. God bless the big Tesco.

Avoiding harsh heat damage

As somebody who closely resembles Hagrid if they haven’t straightened their hair, I’m not one to preach about avoiding heat. That said, I’ve definitely reduced the amount of heat I apply and how much styling I do, and I never, ever use heat on the new hair that’s growing back. It does mean that I always have a crazed look of Einstein about me but… it’s a look. We can make that work, right?

Paraben-free hair products

Now, I’m really not an expert on this and could be completely factually incorrect, so please don’t take this at face value, but lately I’ve switched a lot of products I use to those that are paraben-free. I have very sensitive skin and switching from face wash and shower gels to Aqueous Cream has done wonders for my skin (and saved me a fortune!), so I’m now applying that same logic to my scalp. At the moment I’m getting on well with Matrix Biolage Smoothproof shampoo and conditioner*, especially as it somewhat calms down the incredible gravity-defying frizz too, but you can find a list of other paraben-free products here.

And because I’m all about these smooth transitions, I think this leads us nicely onto a cheeky product review. The gang at CareCo sent me their Infrared Massage Hairbrush to try, and since I already had the beginning of this post saved in my drafts, the timing couldn’t have been better. So, let me tell you about how I found it.

pippa pulling silly face and holding up infrared massage hairbrush from careco

I was keen to give this massaging brush ago because some research shows a correlation between follicle stimulation and hair-growth. Whilst I can’t yet comment on any long-term effects of using the brush, on first try it did feel like a faff-free way of looking after my bonce.

The brush does use heat, but this comes from light rays and the massage function, feeling less harsh than that of styling products such as curlers and straighteners. However, I was  a little disappointed to find the bright red light of the heat function on the front of the brush uncomfortable on my light-sensitive eyes. As well as this, the vibrating function was too uncomfortable on my head and arm muscles for me to justify using it on a daily basis, and it felt a bit too much for my sensitive head/ achy brain too.

I’d also err caution to anybody who has trouble using their hands: the brush requires 2x AAA batteries, and they’re a bit fiddly to get in and out of the product: to be truthful, I was a little surprised that the brush wasn’t as accessible as I thought it would be, coming from a reputable mobility specialist.

That said, the brush is neat-looking and light, making it easy to carry around, and the bristles are flexible. It seems relatively comfortable to grip, too. Whilst this product isn’t best-suited for me, I recognise that it could be ideal for others: the brush is an affordable price, so if you think it’s something that could work for you and your circumstances, I wouldn’t dissuade you from giving it a go. You can find out more about the brush and purchase your own on the CareCo website. I hope that if this post illustrates one thing it’s that if I’m not sure about something, there’s no way it’s going anywhere near my precious hair, so know that I’m sharing the positives in this review with integrity.

So there we have it: my hair loss story, and the completely unexpected turnaround that I never thought I’d be writing about. I imagine it would be easy to read this post and think my experiences incomparable to those who completely lose all their hair at a young age, and I completely agree. However, what I do hope you’ll take from this is the knowledge that everybody has insecurities, even if they’re not always particularly vocal about them. Before publishing this very post, the only people who ever properly knew about my hair loss were my mum and my best friend, because I felt so uncomfortable and ashamed about it at the time. But if this helps even one person feel a little more comfortable with a physical change in their appearance due to medical trauma, I’ll be so glad of it.

And in the meantime, you’ll find me embracing the stuck-my-finger-in-a-plug-socket hair look with all I have.

Have you experienced hair loss? How did you learn to manage it? Tell me your story in the comments below!

Links marked with * are affiliate links. I receive a small percentage in commission for any sales made through these links, at no extra cost to you. Many thanks to CareCo for gifting me their product!

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