- Ricki Lake has posted photos of herself with a new buzz cut to spotlight the hair loss issues she has dealt with for 30 years.
- About 30 million women in the United States have female-pattern hair loss.
- Experts say the first step in treating hair loss is to get a proper diagnosis.
- They add that women can cope with the issue by developing positive self-esteem.
It’s not a fashion statement.
Lake explained that after struggling with hair loss for nearly 3 decades, she decided it was time to free herself from the “quiet hell” she’d been living in.
No more wigs, weaves, glues, and filler sprays.
She wrote: “It has been debilitating, embarrassing, painful, scary, depressing, lonely, all the things. There have been times where I have even felt suicidal over it.”
Lake suspected her big reveal might strike a chord with women. She was right.
Nearly 60,000 people have responded to her Instagram post. Another 30,000 reacted to her Facebook show and tell.
It’s a problem many women can relate to.
“God bless her for helping to develop awareness about hair loss and I hope it helps other women realize they don’t have to suffer in silence,” Dr. Nicole Rogers, a dermatologist in New Orleans, a hair restoration specialist and a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, told Healthline.
Lake hasn’t said whether the cause of her hair loss had been officially diagnosed.
She believes it’s due to multiple factors that include yo-yo dieting, hormonal changes, pregnancies, radical weight fluctuations, genetics, stress, hair dyes, and hair extensions.
She traced the start of her hair loss to the 1988 movie “Hairspray” when she says her hair was triple-processed and teased.
Lake wrote that over the years she has been to many doctors, received steroid shots to her scalp, and taken supplements.
She said her hair would recover briefly, then shed again.
Experts tell Healthline that whether your hair loss comes from your genes, hormonal changes, stress, chemicals, medications or your hair style, there are medical therapies that can help.
But the first step is getting the right diagnosis and the right doctor.
“Did you have a scalp biopsy? Was it read by a dermatopathologist who has expertise in hair and scalp disorders?” said Ken L. Williams Jr., DO, a surgeon and founder of Orange County Hair Restoration in Irvine, California.
Dr. Williams told Healthline it may also be important for the doctor to do bloodwork.
“You could have thyroid issues, anemia, or an autoimmune disorder that may play a role, ” he said.
Once they know the cause, they can tailor your treatment.
Williams says doctors are using treatments such as platelet rich plasma (PRP), stem cell therapy, low laser light therapy, and medications.
“The challenge for women is that there is only one Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medical therapy, which is topical minoxidil or Rogaine,” Rogers said. “The vast majority of my patients end up with off-label usage of medications because we have so few options.”
Rogers says for some women hair transplantation surgery may be the answer.
“No matter how far along they are with their own hair loss, there’s always room for improvement or stabilization. But it doesn’t happen overnight,” she explained. “I tell all my patients, anything we do is going to take a minimum of 6 to 12 months to start to see a difference.”
“Do what you need to do to feel good about yourself.”
That’s the advice from Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT, a psychotherapist in Santa Monica, California.
“Try different stylists, products, doctors,” she recommends.
But Dr. Mendez says the thing that will help the most is self-acceptance. That means ignoring societal pressures to look a certain way.
“It’s what I call cognitive work, switching your thought process from just focusing on the negative” she told Healthline. “Beauty is not just about the physical. Work toward defining what is beautiful about you in a different way.”
“Find your ‘OK’ space. Nobody can tell you how to do that. You can get ideas” she added. “This is what Ricki Lake did. Maybe somebody else wears a wig. There are many, many options. You have to find the one that works to really free yourself from the fight.”
The women who are fighting this fight say they need your sensitivity.
Vivian King, a communications consultant and former television anchor in Milwaukee, told Healthline she is thrilled that Lake has sparked the conversation about hair loss.
King has waged her own battle for nearly a decade.
“Society can be cruel and petty when it comes to hair loss. Ricki Lake even talks about how she made light of it on her talk show in the past,” King said.
Recently, a comedian’s crude jokes about women’s hair loss was making the rounds on Facebook. King said this to her circle.
“Be kind to us sisters out here because as India Arie reminded us in 2005 with her song, ‘I am not my hair,’” King said. “We are not our hair. We are not our skin. We are the soul that lives within.”