That Time When Most of My Hair Fell Out

I’ve never had a thick head of hair, but it was more like average thickness.  After each of my babies were born, I noticed some hair loss, but that was to be expected.  Hair typically gets thicker during pregnancy and afterward all that lovely extra hair seems to turn loose at about the same time; in reality, it starts at about two months after the birth of a baby and continues for about two months.  After that, hair should recover its original fullness.

Normally, a person loses about 50 to 100 hairs per day.  Different factors can cause hair to fall out or shed at a much higher rate, such as:

  • Serious illness, especially if there was a high fever;

  • Recovery from surgery;

  • Loss of 20 pounds or more;

  • Discontinued use of birth control pills;

  • High amount of stress, which could include one or more of these: taking care of an ill or injured loved one, divorce, loss of job, and many other things;

  • Taking certain medications or discontinuing thyroid medication.

Hair loss refers to hair that has stopped growing, which is different from shedding and has different causes.  Hair loss can result from these factors:

  • Overreaction of the immune system;

  • Strong hair treatments such as extreme bleaching, perms, and straighteners;

  • Hair styles that pull on the hair;

  • Some medications and medical treatments such as chemotherapy;

  • Hereditary hair loss.

Even long after the birth of my last child, my hair never really recovered completely.  By the time I was in my 40’s, my hair was thinner than average, but I kept it at a medium length and a style that helped to camouflage my thin-ish locks.  A few years after that, I was prescribed medication for hypothyroidism – one of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid is thinning hair.

Now, flash forward another 10 years, to earlier this year.  In a period of about two weeks, more than half my hair decided to turn loose and leave my scalp.  Every time I washed my hair, a handful of hair filled my comb; every time I combed or brushed my hair, strands of hair would come out.  It was like watching a Lifetime TV show where the woman who has cancer starts chemo, and there's always that scene where she brushes her hair and big clumps came out – while the camera zoomed in to show her horrified facial expression, and sometimes tears.  I can so relate to that woman, because seeing so much hair fall out every single day, day in and day out, made me feel like crying and even throwing up – but I fought those urges, and dove into researching what to do about it.  I have to admit, I was feeling pretty worried, even panicked, and wondered if it would it all fall out.  And when would it stop?  Did I need to start shopping for a wig?  (Oh, I bet those are so hot - and not hot in the good way, but hot in temperature, as in sweat running down my neck.  Ugh.)

I told a friend about it – a friend who lives in a city across the country from me, who couldn’t see firsthand what was happening – and she called me back the very next day. She had found more than one online reference that said some pharmacies were substituting a different kind of thyroid medication for the one prescribed, and the people taking this other medication were having all their symptoms coming back.  I went to check my prescription bottle, and guess what?  It wasn’t Armour, what I was prescribed – it was a generic version.

Not only that, but just a few weeks prior to my massive hair shedding I had been very sick.  I had thought I had the flu, but after a week I was still spiking fevers almost every day (another one of those causes of hair shedding.)  It took three rounds of antibiotics plus a course of steroids to get me well again, and I was in bed for a month, total.  And a few months before getting sick I was dealing with the painful divorce of my daughter, and my husband’s sudden hospitalization and being unable to drive for three months.  So I had quite a few check marks next to that list of causes for hair shedding.

Getting my thyroid prescription refilled with the right medication was the first thing that I changed.  I also switched my shampoo to a soap-based shampoo bar.  Commercial shampoos and conditioners are almost always made with silicones, which coat the hair to make it silky and shiny.  Unfortunately, it also coats the scalp, clogging hair follicles, which can lead to hair loss and shedding.  I’ve used soap to wash my hair before, but this particular formula has been circulating around soapmaker circles and raved about, so of course I had to give it a try.  I’ve also done a warm oil treatment several times, massaging the oil into my scalp, using a combination of castor oil, coconut oil, and olive oil, to increase circulation in my scalp and clear out any clogged hair follicles.

I’m happy to say that it only took a couple of months before I started seeing a difference.  New hairs are sprouting everywhere, and most of the areas where my scalp was clearly visible are now filled in with hair – not a lot of hair, but it’s getting there!  Now that I’ve had an opportunity to try a new shampoo bar, I’m excited about making a version of these to sell on my website.  I can honestly say this formula has not been tested on animals…just humans.