When we sat down on our sofa on that grim Monday back in March 2020 and watched Boris Johnson announce that the UK was going into a lockdown, one of the last things we imagined was that it would effect our hair. Or, more specifically, that we would begin to lose our hair. And yet that’s exactly what’s happening to thousands of women across the country.
The combined weight of the past 15 months has impacted us all in different ways, and it’s been of little shock to anyone to see that mental illnesses such as depression, stress and anxiety have sky rocketed. And, whilst many of the symptoms for mental health conditions are of course psychological, there’s also some common physical side effects such as hair loss, headaches and digestive issues.
And, it’s not just the stress of the pandemic that’s causing hair loss either, a study in Turkey earlier this year found that there was an increase in people reporting hair loss after they’d suffered from Covid-19. Post-virus hair loss is absolutely a thing.
The New York Times have confirmed that Google searches for hair loss are up 8% on previous years. We know it’s happening, but what if it’s happening to you?
We spoke to Eve Walton, 28, about her experience. This is her story…
“It all started one Sunday afternoon as I was watching a film. I started absent-mindedly playing with my hair and as I rubbed my scalp, it felt as though there was nothing there. I panicked and asked my husband to look, which is when he told me that I had a bald patch.”
“It was devastating. I got so upset about it and I just couldn’t understand it as I had never even noticed any hair coming out when washing it or brushing it. I’d started to really struggle with anxiety and stress around October 2020 and it increased significantly in early November when we went back into lockdown. I was in a really unhappy place with a number of things going on in my life, including being out of work. I was applying for jobs daily with no luck, having no routine, and just generally feeling no purpose. I was self-employed and working in hospitality. Being put on furlough for an extended period really contributed to the negative feelings. I would get terrible anxiety, especially at night, where my mind would overthink and I experienced bad panic attacks. My sleep became completely broken and would find myself awake from around 4am each day. My mood got lower and lower and sometimes I would just stay in bed all day.”
“My sister bought me an anxiety journal which asks you to write down your mood, how you’re feeling, what made you feel good that day etc and this really helped me. It’s surprising how much writing things down helps to clear your mind. I also started taking CBD oil every evening to help calm my anxiety. The CBD oil took a few weeks to work but it definitely helped ease my anxiety before going to sleep.”
“When my hair loss first started, there was just one patch that kept growing bigger and bigger. Soon, I could no longer wear my hair with its usual parting and had to strategically clip it back or wear it up in a pony tail, and that’s when I knew it was time to see the doctor. At my first GP appointment I had various blood tests to see if there was anything underlying that could explain the hair loss. All bloods came back fine, which was reassuring but also meant I really had to push to be seen again to get some answers. I got a second appointment and this time they took measurements and photographs of the bald patch, which would be shared with the dermatology team.”
“Around 3-4 weeks later I received a text message from the clinician with an update which said that it looked and sounded like Alopecia Areata (which is a condition that causes hair to fall out when the immune system attacks the hair follicles). They also said that they thought that the hair would likely spontaneously regrow at some point within a year or so, which meant they would not usually use any treatment. The news made me feel helpless and frustrated.”
“In January 2021, I began to develop further bald patches – up to seven further bald patches across different parts of my head. I went back to the doctors who took more photographs and measurements. I also explained to the GP how unhappy the hair loss was making me feel and how I was finding it really hard to deal with. I was told it could be a nine month wait for a dermatology referral. Everything felt to out of my hands. Finally, seven months later, I have just received a letter with a confirmed dermatology appointment at the end of June. I feel so relieved to finally be getting help and hopefully some answers as to why I have developed Alopecia Areata and how I can move forward.”
“Thankfully, I am starting to see some regrowth and am getting little tufts of hair which is a good sign. Most of the new hair is growing back in bright white, which I was also worried about but apparently is very normal. I’m hoping I can eventually wear a parting in my hair again without having to wear most of the hair clipped back or in a bobble and eventually build up my confidence. My hairdresser has been an amazing support and she recommended I take Biotin and silica supplements which have really helped.”
“Honestly? The hair loss has been really hard to deal with. I have felt so many mixed emotions throughout: anger, worry, stress, sadness and guilt. The guilt is mainly because I know other men and women lose their hair for much more serious reasons and I should appreciate the hair I have. I have good days and bad days, but I’m trying to be positive as I believe the stress can trigger it. I am in such a better place now, I was offered a new job which I started in January which I really love, and recently moved into a new house. I’m looking forward to seeing if dermatology can help treat my Alopecia Areata or at least help me to deal with it if it’s something I’m going to have throughout my life…”
For more information on Alopecia, visit the NHS website here.