Nadia Sawalha’s frank admission last week that she is losing her hair is heartbreakingly familiar for thousands of women across the country.
Nadia said: “My hair really started to change after I had my kids. I lost a lot, like loads of mums do.
“Also, the texture started to change, so my naturally curly hair had started to go a bit frizzy. It wasn’t really bad.
“Then, when I started to go into perimenopause I seemed to lose maybe a third of my hair.
“People do say, ‘Your hair is so thick and amazing’, but it’s not.
“It’s balding. I’m losing it all over.”
But Nadia is certainly not suffering alone. Research carried out by top hair loss expert Philip Kingsley shows around eight million women in the UK endure hair loss, including one in eight under-35s.
Philip believes the figure may be even higher, because many women suffer in silence.
“Sadly, a third of those suffering hair thinning said that they haven’t done anything to address the problem, perhaps as they feel too embarrassed to seek help,” he says.
Philip also says there are other factors – such as stress and crash dieting – that cause the problem.
“ Stress can, through a convoluted route, increase the levels of male androgen hormones circulating in the blood,” he says. “Ferritin is a stored iron that produces hair cell protein. Below certain levels, this can cause excessive hair loss, whereas its level needs to be much lower to have any detrimental effect on essential organs.
“If you are of menstruating age and your hair is falling out, ask your GP for a ferritin test. Ferritin deficiency is the most common cause of hair loss in young women.
“Periods of fasting therefore often cause many more hairs than usual to move from the growing to the resting phase of the hair growth cycle – with hairs being shed en masse six-12 weeks later.”
According to hair loss experts – known as trichologists – other factors can contribute, such as weight, anaemia, thyroid problems or cancer treatments.
Here, we speak to three woman who endured the agony of hair loss – and how they tackled it...
Marketing manager Paula Turner, 41, from Stoke-on-Trent, who is married to Dave, 49, noticed a bald patch at the back of her head – but doesn’t know what caused it.
"It was when I was approaching my 40th birthday that it seemed like my world fell in.
As I was preening myself at home and fluffing my hair, I felt a strange sticky patch
on the crown of my head. I asked Dave to take a look and he told me I had a clear bald patch about the size of a 10p piece.
Instantly I remembered I’d seen increasing amounts of hair on my brush and in the shower plug and panicked.
By chance, Dave knew a guy who worked for the company which makes a nutritional supplement called Nourkrin, which is supposed to provide nutrients to your hair follicles and restore the hair growth cycle.
I met the man from the company, Chris, by chance at my niece’s birthday party a few weeks later, and he told me how many incredible, positive stories there were of men and women seeing increased hair growth – but told me I had to see my GP first to check for any underlying causes.
I hadn’t felt overly stressed recently, I didn’t notice any major changes to my cycle, and checked with my mum who said there was no hair loss in the family – so I had no idea what the cause could be.
My GP took some blood for testing, which came back showing nothing irregular.
I hate putting chemicals and drugs into my body, so I called Chris and said I’d try out the Nourkrin supplements, which are made from fish extract.
My hair got thicker and within nine months of taking it I felt confident enough not to hide my hair in public. I tapered off for a few months, taking one pill a day, and haven’t taken them since.
It’s incredible that nobody could tell me what caused my hair loss, but it was extremely frightening. I’m just glad I found a natural solution that worked."
'My fine hair is now gorgeous and thick'
Mum-of-two Bev Waring, 64, from Solihull, is a receptionist who suffered female pattern baldness from her mid-50s after going through the menopause.
"My hair was always quite fine, but liveable until I was around 56 and had been through the change. It just suddenly became so thin and sparse that if it was at all windy or damp outside it would completely flatten.
I spent hundreds of pounds on all kinds of supplements and potions, but not only did they not work, they made me more self-conscious about my hair. I’m sure anxiety never helps your hair shine.
I’d read a newspaper article about Lucinda Ellery an expert in hair loss management, and read in the local paper that she’d opened a salon near me in Solihull. I said I might need something quite extreme, but she told me my hair really wasn’t that bad and recommended hair extensions.
I went back a week later for a four-hour session to get them fitted. I’ve always highlighted my hair and thought there was no way they could look natural, but they did. My hair now is so thick and lovely, and people just say how good I’m looking without even clocking that it’s my hair.
It cost me £350, including a trim six weeks later, which I think is incredible considering the effect it’s had on my life."
Customer service agent Jacqui Pulling, 59, from Crawley, West Sussex, has two stepsons and a daughter. She noticed her hair starting to thin as she entered the menopause – and reveals the condition affected her relationships.
"It’s difficult to find the words to describe how unfeminine and ugly my hair loss
made me feel.
I’m sure my lack of confidence contributed to the breakdown of my first marriage and, in 1997, I got divorced.
A year later I met my current husband Neil, 61, but still I wouldn’t tell him how horrible I felt inside about my balding.
In 2007, I felt at my wits’ end. Then I watched an episode of 10 Years Younger where a lady had virtually no hair at the front and I was amazed by her transformation thanks to Lucinda Ellery, one of the country’s leading figures in hair loss management.
Neil suggested that I looked into it too. So I booked an appointment and together we went to see Lucinda.
She sat us down and explained all about the mesh-based Intralace system, where a fine mesh is put on your scalp.
Your existing hair is pulled through it and then more hair is attached to the mesh – with incredible results.
It wasn’t cheap and I wanted to try other, less invasive options first, so I tried Fullmore Coloured Hair Thickener.
It’s a bit like spray-on make-up for your scalp to give the appearance of more hair and it worked well for a couple of years, but I couldn’t touch my hair and if the weather was hot the product would drip down my face and neck.
So in 2014, in the run-up to my daughter Katie’s wedding, I went back to Lucinda and said I wanted to try the Intralace system.
The next week I spent the entire day getting it fitted – it was incredible how you couldn’t see the mesh at all and how I was instantly transformed. It cost me £2,300 and every six weeks I go back to have the mesh tightened and my hair cut, which costs £90 a time. But I have never looked back.
I regularly get compliments on my hair from strangers, which you can’t put a price on."
Female hair loss: The facts
- Often considered a male issue, 40% of hair loss sufferers are actually women.
- Female pattern baldness can be inherited and tends to affect post-menopausal women. It often starts with a thinning of the hair on the top of the head.
- Telogen effluvium is general shedding from all over the head and sometimes it gets worse with stress, illness, medication or hormones.
- Androgenetic alopecia causes the hair follicles to produce thinner hair until they stop altogether.
- Alopecia areata – which Gail Porter suffers from – is an autoimmune disease that affects around 2% of the population. It causes round patches of hair loss and can lead to total baldness.
For more information, visit lucindaellery-hairloss.com