Hair: Losing It & Growing It Back
You might be thinking "this girl has thick hair! Why is she writing about losing it?" Yeah, yeah, yeah - I get it all the time when I share this story with people.
UPDATE JANUARY 2020:
Let's keep it real… I have thick hair! I have always had thick hair, and I have thick hair now. But that wasn't the case two years ago.
Here's a picture from 2 years ago. It might look thick in this photo but it really wasn't. I was great at teasing it to make it look fuller than it really was. But I was not happy with how much hair I was losing.
Before you look at this photo and automatically think I am crazy, realize that there is a huge difference between long hair and thick hair. My hair was long at this time but something was very wrong.
I noticed that in the shower I was shedding a lot. Shedding a little is definitely normal, but what was happening to me was not normal. I knew it, but I honestly thought it was one of the signs of aging. I started to see gray hair when I was just 22 or 23 years old, and so I figured that maybe I was prematurely losing some of it? I don't know.
During this time I was taking Hair, Skin and Nails supplements to try to help. Do you think it was helping?
When I would blow dry my hair, brush my hair, curl it or straighten it (which wasn't more than once a week), I noticed a good amount of hair around me on the counter, the sink or the floor.
Again, I just thought this was aging.
Then a terrible thing happened. My beautiful cat, Bagheera, passed away at 17 years old. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. I got him when I was 10 years old. I grew up an only child, and my cat was like my sibling.. then later became my baby. He traveled with me to college and became Jeff's little buddy, too. It was a total shock when he died. I had anxiety and fell into a depression.
This is one of the last pictures we took together. This was when I was really noticing that my hair was thinning out. Once again, I thought it was age. And I was too depressed to consider it anything else.
One afternoon, Jeff and I went to hang out at my dad's house and I was sitting on the couch freaking out. I knew something was wrong with me. I was practically in tears, shaking, and anxious. I knew that I didn't feel good. I felt weak, tired, dizzy and unsteady. I told Jeff that I needed to go see a doctor. We did some research and found my incredible doctor.
Are you wondering what this has to do with my hair? Yeah, I was wondering that, too.
I met with my doc, told her about my beloved Bagheera who had passed away. I told her that I was basically a basket case, my hair was falling out because I was getting old (HAH!) and that I needed some kind of natural remedy for this awful funk I was in.
I told her about my food history, that I had seen a naturopath in the past who diagnosed me with PCOS and who changed my life 6 years before that. She loved that I was already on track with my eating and loved what I was doing with Krysten's Kitchen trying to help others with food intolerances, food allergies and finding yummy foods to eat that were healthy.
She immediately brought up that I could be anemic and wanted to test me for some other stuff.
My results came back.
Not only was I very anemic - like barely on the charts - my ferritin levels were so low which was causing my hair to fall out. I was so glad it wasn't aging, to be honest, and hearing that it was something we could fix through supplements.
In my case, my low ferritin levels were caused by long-term heavy periods my whole life. It was so bad in October of 2006, that I had to go to the ER because I had lost over 60% of the blood in my body and needed a blood transfusion. That was a fun time! You can read more about that story HERE.
Let me break this ferritin math thing down for ya! Your hair will start falling out once your ferritin level is around 50. My ferritin level was a 7. Yup, a 7. That isn't a typo. Of course my hair was falling out! For my hair to stop falling out I needed to get that number up to 50, and for my hair to start growing back in I needed that number up in the 70-90s range.
Remember those Hair, Skin and Nails supplements I was taking? Yeah, that wasn’t doing anything for my hair because my ferritin was so low. Waste of money!
Hair follicles store ferritin. If your body is low on iron for necessary functions, it will use the ferritin that is stored in places like hair follicles, as that isn’t as necessary as, let’s say, red blood cell production. When your ferritin levels are great, a single hair grows for about 5 years before falling out and being replaced by a new hair. If ferritin levels are low, the life span of that hair is shorter. (Read more about Ferritin & Hair Loss here)
My doc put me on iron supplements as well as Vitamin C. Taking Vitamin C with Iron helps your body absorb the iron much better. After 3 months my iron and ferritin levels were tested again and they went up!
I was tested 3 or 4 months later and I finally was at a 22. That was progress and I was heading in the right direction. I was still in that “my hair is falling out” range, but I was closer to where I wanted to be. Also, it was improvement enough that my doctor knew that the supplements were working.
We checked it again a few months later, and I was at a 65! Whoo hoo!! I finally was finally at a number where my hair had stopped falling out, but I still needed to get up to the 70-90s range so that my hair could grow back.
This took over a year and, I won’t lie, it was a long process. It wasn’t hard, because all I had to do was take iron and Vitamin C, but I had to be patient, and that’s not easy for me.
Fast forward to Spring of 2017. I have noticed that my hair is getting thicker again. I noticed some baby hairs coming in back in the Fall of 2016, but my pony tail hadn’t changed much. But over the last few months I have really noticed a difference. My hair is back! YAY!
One struggle I had during this whole two-year ordeal is when people would say “Yeah, but your hair is thick enough anyway” or “It’s still thick.” The thing is, it used to be thicker than that. Yes that is what I noticed when I brushed my hair, but being so anemic and low on iron affected me in other ways. I was dizzy sometimes. I would get out of my chair and feel pretty weak or light-headed. Also, regardless of how thick my hair was, even after losing 1/2 of my pony tail, that wasn’t normal and it was deeper than that.
I am thankful I have my hair back. More importantly, I am thankful that I know my body well enough to notice something like hair falling out. I think what really put me over the edge was losing my cat. I was feeling physically off, weak and filled with anxiety over losing my babe. I think that it was a combo of everything that finally had me find a new doctor here in the OC.
I am also thankful for my amazing doctor. She is so smart and patient, kind, caring and she has helped me so much!
Here’s what I learned, if you are losing your hair, don’t spend your money on hair, skin and nails supplements, because that might not be the problem. Your ferritin levels could be too low, therefore, those pills are like the points in Whose Line Is It Anyway — they won’t matter!
I don’t know what my ferritin level is right now, it is something that I do need to get checked in the next month or two. We just haven’t done that in awhile… mainly because I HATE needles! I do get Vitamin IVs on occasion willingly — shocking! Once I get it checked, I will update this hair blog on where I am at and what doc says.
I have also been enjoying this new shampoo and conditioner from Biolage. It's from their R.A.W. line, and you can read more about it here.
Lastly, I highly recommend that you read about Collagen Peptides and what it can do for your hair, skin, nails, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and your whole life! Collagen actually holds your whole body together. If your hair is becoming thinner and your nails are weaker than normal, perhaps check out the benefits of taking collagen. As we age, our hair thins out, we get wrinkles and even our bones become weaker. We also don’t produce enough collagen anymore. If much of our body is made up of collage and we don’t produce enough as we age, it can affect so many aspects of our body. So it makes sense to add collagen back into our diets. You can read more about Collagen Peptides HERE.
Thanks for reading about my hair journey. I highly recommend that you speak to your doctor before you start taking hair, skin and nails supplements. You could be wasting your money if there are other issues that you are unaware of. If you feel like you are losing your hair, it's thinning out or something doesn't seem right, call your doctor.
UPDATE: JANUARY 2020