“Why Me?” – A young man’s hair loss story
The first thing that came to my mind when I looked in the mirror was Donald Trump. For some strange reason, his infamous, combed-over, million-dollar face flashed in front of my eyes. It was the first time my hair loss was significantly noticeable, with a receding hairline that couldn’t be disguised as simply a high forehead, and the area around the top of my crown had thinned out. However my proudest moment in my hair loss journey was that I never once tried out the comb over. We all have boundaries.
I started noticing some of my hair falling out during my late twenties. As a guy with not much inclination for grooming products, my morning routine usually just consists of jumping in the shower with some shampoo and soap and getting dressed and out of the door as quickly as possible. I substitute combing my hair with just running my fingers through it, and the hair loss became evident when there were quite a few strands in my hand afterwards. My hair is, or I suppose I should say ‘was’ now, pretty dark so the strands were obvious. I thought nothing of it at first, figuring that maybe my head wasn’t agreeing with my girlfriend’s swanky shampoo. Next time we were at the supermarket I grabbed a cheaper brand and chucked that into our basket so I could try it out instead.
Even so, the hair loss continued to be noticeable after showering and I could see strands standing out on my pale blue towel after I had dried off. I hadn’t really mentioned the increase in hair loss to my girlfriend yet, thinking it wasn’t that big of a deal and maybe I was just stressed out from something at work and that was causing a bit of extra hair loss. Then one weekend, we had been doing some general cleaning and she had just pulled the sheets off the bed to stick in the washing machine with our other laundry. Without looking directly at me she mentioned that there seemed to be a fair few strands of my hair on the pillow cases and sheets. Now, losing a few strands while you sleep is pretty common, but this was enough for her to bring it up. She said it was probably no big deal and not to worry too much about it. Even with her saying that, I think this was the point where I started to feel self conscious about the hair loss, and decided that maybe I needed to do some research into what could be going on.
The internet is a vast and wonderful source of information, but in the wrong, overly imaginative hands, it can be dangerous. For anyone who has ever plugged their symptoms or ailments into a Google search, you usually come out completely in fear of three different cancers you’re convinced you have, as well as a brain tumour and some kind of rare, chronic illness. There were thousands of hits to look through, but I tried to stick to those that looked more authoritative and legitimate to avoid the risk of freaking out unnecessarily or becoming a massive hypochondriac.
When I first started researching hair loss, I realised that it was much more common than I had initially thought – both in men and women. I suppose, because no one who suffers from hair loss really likes to talk about it, you don’t hear about these kinds of facts until you start researching online. Maybe it’s because of the commonality of hair loss that one doesn’t really pay attention to who has or doesn’t have thinning hair/ patches of baldness. However, as soon as I started losing my hair and ‘hair’ was always on my mind, I began to notice others in the same situation as me. I had to remind myself that hey, I never knew he was balding till now, so it must mean that people don’t take much notice of it!
My internet research told me that the most probable cause for my hair loss was that I’d inherited it from either my mother or father’s side of the family. This meant it had always been inevitable, and there was nothing I could have done differently to prevent or slow the process down – a weirdly comforting fact even if it wasn’t going to make my hair grow back.
The other options were a sudden change in diet, medication or hormones but this was mainly for women going through hormonal changes from pregnancy or menopause. Stress was another factor that had to be considered. I had been fairly stressed out at work recently as I had a big report due at the end of the month and had a few late nights at the office trying to stay on top of things but it didn’t seem like a big enough type of event to result in my hair loss or cause my body to go into any sort of shut down where it would stop producing hair. As male-patterned baldness accounts for 95% of hair loss cases I came to the conclusion that I must have inherited my hair loss condition.
A quick chat with my parents confirmed this. While my mother’s side didn’t have much of a history of hair loss, my father’s side was passing it down faster than the speed of light. The frustrating thing about this discovery was that even though the hair loss came from my father’s side, he still had a full head of healthy hair. My brother, who was almost five years older than me, went for regular hair cuts to control his thick locks. Why was it that I – the middle child and probably the healthiest of the bunch – was the one who ended up with this hair loss condition?
What surprised me the most as I went through my hair loss journey, was how much it affected my self-esteem and self-confidence. While I have never considered myself an overly confident person, I was definitely always an extrovert and enjoyed being the centre of attention when my girlfriend and I were out in social situations. However, as soon as my hair loss became an issue, I started to shy away from social situations and tried to keep myself from drawing too much attention to myself. I felt very isolated, and often wondered why it had to be me going through this condition. I felt like it was unfair for this whole hair loss ordeal to have happened to me.
I talked it out with my dad for a while, as he could tell even over the phone that I was pretty bummed out about the whole thing. He told me that one of his best mates from college had begun losing his hair in his early twenties. Like me, he had felt like it was unfair he had drawn the short straw and had wanted to try and reverse his hair loss condition as quickly as possible. His friend had tried a couple of different topical cream treatments, which only left him feeling irritated at the lack of results. After a couple of consultations with a doctor, my father’s friend had opted for a hair transplant. It is one of the more extreme forms of hair loss treatment, undergoing surgery in order to take healthy hair follicles from one part of the head and place them where the hair has stopped growing. After the procedure, his friend had felt pretty hopeful about the results. Although the results of the now outdated transplant technique was somewhat successful, my dad told me that his friend is today jealous of all the other options available to us – hair replacement systems, laser therapy and the whole host of supportive products. In his day, the choice wasn’t as extensive – hair “plugs” or obvious toupees.
This story resonated with me because I was really feeling troubled by my hair loss. Each time I went out in public I got the sense that people might look at me differently, unfairly judging me on my appearance. The funny thing is, what my friends noticed more than the actual hair loss, was the way I became quieter and more reserved when we were all out together. A lot of them, when I became more comfortable talking openly about my hair loss, said they barely noticed I was slowly getting balder as they were more distracted by the fact my personality seemed so different. What I regret most is acting passively for so long, not wanting to face the facts that hey, I had a condition to face. In time I began to accept my situation and with that sense of acceptance I soon began to proactively search for options to improve my situation.
It would have been about a year or so after it all started, that I finally stopped wondering why it had to be me that hair loss snuck up on. I underwent a program to treat my hair loss and had amazing results. I don’t know why I delayed doing something about it for so long. I no longer had to wear beanies and caps everywhere – I was confident to brave the world with my head held high. Now I felt like ‘me’ again. And I was over the moon.