Saturday 16 November 2019

'I don't need a wig to feel pretty'

A third of Irish women suffer from some form of alopecia, writes Deirdre Reynolds

As Mad Men's Betty Draper, she's famous for her blonde bouffant. Now actress January Jones has revealed her fears that years of colouring could leave her bald.

"I have been every colour and now my hair is falling out in clumps," says January (35), who plays a redhead bent on revenge in the upcoming western Sweetwater.

"I have been blonde, red with extensions for this film, then blonde, then black and now blonde again. I'm going to have to shave it off and wear a wig."

But as Nioxin Thinning Hair Awareness Week kicks off, it's clear that mother-of-one January isn't alone.

Around one-in-three women here suffers from some form of alopecia, according to the scalp and hair-care brand.

"Alopecia is a blanket term for hair loss of any kind," says Deborah Whelan, of Trichologist.ie, a hair and scalp health clinic in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

"Stress, hormone imbalance, genetics, nutritional deficiency and drug therapy such as chemotherapy are among the causes.

"Although over-processing can absolutely lead to hair loss, from what January Jones has said, it sounds more like she is suffering from breakage rather than the hair actually falling out at the root.

"If you experience hair loss due to colouring, there's nothing to worry about – just like cutting your nails, it will continue to grow."

About 10pc of the scalp is in a shedding phase at any one time, with most of us losing up to 150 hairs a day through washing, brushing and drying.

For increasing numbers of women under 40, though, shedding is a serious problem.

"I see more women than men at my clinic," says trichologist Deborah Whelan.

"Some women come in with hair in a bag with the roots still attached.

"Stress-related hair loss is increasing. I also see women with hair loss after crash dieting or stopping contraception.

"Most people head straight to the vitamin counter or the hairdressers.

"But it's important to seek professional advice to find out why your hair is falling out and get the right treatment, and not to panic, which can make it worse."

'Losing even a small amount of hair is psychologically traumatic for women because hair is linked to their femininity," says British hair expert Philip Kingsley, whose clients include Jerry Hall.

"We can wear the most fashionable clothes, the most expensive jewellery, our skin can be flawless, but if our hair isn't right, we don't feel attractive."

After losing all her hair to Alopecia Universalis in 2005, however, presenter Gail Porter laughed off being nominated for a bravery award by a women's magazine.

"I'm not being ungrateful, but my hair's fallen out," says Gail (41), whose condition re-occurred just weeks after her hair started to grow back in 2010.

"I've not got cancer, I've not saved anyone's life. I've just gone out without a hat on."

Neve Campbell, Lady Gaga and Tyra Banks are some of the other stars who've opened up about suffering from alopecia.

"Trichology is still a bit of a secret in Ireland," says Ms Whelan.

"Women are often told, 'It's just something you'll have to put up with'.

"Hair loss is very rarely permanent," she adds. "Hair loss medication, natural and chemical treatments that boost scalp circulation and (UV) light therapy can all help.

"In my experience, though, understanding what's happening is 70pc of the battle for women."

Irish Independent

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