Shedding Light on Shedding: How I Navigated Female Hair Loss

Hair loss affects approximately 40% of women by age 50—so why is it not talked about more?

9/25/2021 7:24:00 AM

Hair loss affects approximately 40% of women by age 50—so why is it not talked about more?

Hair loss affects approximately 40% of women by age 50—so why is it not talked about more?

, long beautiful hair was so highly prized in art, literature and popular culture that it was believed to hold a woman’s magical powers and contain her vitality. So it’s no surprise that when a woman starts shedding more hair than usual, she may feel like they are losing part of their identity. As board certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman tells me, “I have had more women break down in tears in my office when talking about hair loss than when discussing a cancer diagnosis.”

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I spoke withDr. Gillian O’Shea Brown LCSW, Psychotherapist and Adjunct Professor of Trauma at New York University to dive deeper into the symbolism of female hair and the traumatic effect that losing it can have on the psyche. “I have seen firsthand the link between stress and hair loss,” she explains. “Anything that negatively affects our mind, emotions, or body can affect our hair. I have treated clients who in the past have undergone a really stressful time in their life and then months later start to notice thinning of the hair or the development of hair loss. Trauma not only impacts mental health, but also deeply impacts physiological well-being and overall health.” When hair thinning is brought on by a stressful event, a person must deal with the initial trauma of the event but also the trauma that occurs when losing their hair.

Although I can’t pinpoint the exact moment my increased shedding started, I do remember when I noticed it. I was dealing with the grief of losing loved ones, feeling scared and unsure about the state of the world, and experiencing complete culture shock after moving away from my beloved New York City. I had to make new friends in the middle of a pandemic, and I felt so insecure about the way I looked because of my hair. I didn’t know who this person was; my self-confidence plummeted. Staying home was not a problem because I didn’t want to be seen in the world. I wanted to hide away.

For patients experiencing this type of distress, O’Shea Brown gravitates towards “grounding techniques to empower [a patient] to manage their stress symptoms outside of the therapy room,” she says. “Though we as therapists cannot take the pain away, we can take that walk with you.”

But before seeking treatments, it is important to find out what type of hair loss you are dealing with.What are the different types of female hair loss?Engelman explains how the hair cycle is a four phase process: Anagen (growth), Catagen (end of growth cycle), Telogen (dormancy), and Exogen (shedding). Each hair follicle goes through this process at different times, otherwise we would lose all of our hair at the same time before it started to grow again. There is no exact “normal” number of hairs shed per day—it depends on the individual. But if your normal seems to have changed, and you’re finding extra hairs on your pillows, clothing, and even falling into your food, it could mean your hair growth cycle has been disrupted.

Read more: Vogue Magazine »

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