What’s inside: After 4 years of excessive hair loss and losing 75% of the hair on my head, I’ve been on the upswing for 2+ years now. I’m dying to share more with you about why I was losing my hair, my Hashimoto’s disease diagnosis, the thyroid tests I took, why I take collagen peptides, and my experience using Nutrafol. I also have updates including what I’ve learned from Postpartum hair loss.
Hair Loss and Hashimoto’s: My Journey
When I first started losing my hair, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information surrounding this topic online! There are SO many products and websites that claim to combat hair loss in women (and men!) and it can become a very hard space to navigate on your own. After struggling with hair loss for over four years, I finally found what works best for me and I’m sharing all of the things that I wish I knew at the beginning of this journey.
UPDATE OCT’2020 | I originally wrote this post in the spring of 2018 when I started to really see improvements in my hair regrowth. I’ve received tons of gratitude from my readers who’ve implemented my recommendations and have gained a sense of clarity from this tried-and-true information. As someone who was so scared to put this out into the world… it’s become my most rewarding post of all to help women struggling in silence with this issue.
Since hitting “publish” on this post, my personal healing journey has drastically changed. I put my Hashimoto’s into remission, got pregnant, had a healthy baby girl, and am currently navigating Postpartum Hair Loss as a natural (but unamusing) part of the healing process. So, I came to revisit this post to ensure all my tips are up to date. Using many of the tools in this article is definitely helping me to navigate the postpartum hair loss more easily, and I’ve combed through and inserted/edited minor details wherever helpful for you. Thanks to everything listed in this post, I myself, have more patience with my body and am seeing amazing regrowth and less shedding even in this stage of postpartum.
I sincerely hope this info helps you, wherever you are in your journey.
This post includes:
- How to find out what’s causing your hair loss
- Why you need to keep your stress in check and cut the sugar
- Know your bloodwork & history
- Helpful supplements & my Nutrafol review
- Products I use & how I care for my hair
- Tips for self-acceptance through this journey
I remember thinking, “oh man I am going to write an epic post when I finally figure this crap out”… well, guys, this isn’t something you can just completely fix or figure out sometimes. Some of us, sure, it’s temporary and will bounce back… others it might not ever, some of us might see some improvements yet don’t know if it’ll ever really be the same. All of these scenarios are okay, you will find ways around it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and where there’s self-love, true healing can come – I promise. Notice I said “I am finally on the upswing”, not, I’m “healed” or “I fixed it” because I truly do understand that there are cycles of loss and growth, there are triggers that can make the loss worse, and that stressing over it constantly doesn’t fix a damn thing and just perpetuates it! There’s no true arrival or destination on a journey with hair loss, but there are better days and times when you’re not sad or obsessing or confused at who’s staring back at you in that mirror. There can be a time when you realize you’re finally making progress and your body is healing – and it can be truly amazing to experience. I write this post with some humor, tough love, and sweet sweet love because I truly know the depression that comes with this. Darling, I really hope this helps you on your journey.
ALRIGHT ALREADY. Let’s cut to the chase. Here is my advice.
1. FIND OUT WHAT IS CAUSING YOUR HAIR LOSS.
For 3 years after getting off birth control… my hair fell out in clumps. Constantly. After the first year or so… my hair was permanently worn back in an ever-shrinking bun. I was desperate for answers, panicking, my Mom was crying over it when she’d see me… and doctors had NOTHING to say about it except, “sorry hun, you look normal to me”, “nothing shows up in your blood”, “maybe you’re aging…?”, “give it some time, sometimes the pill has weird side effects”, “are you really stressed?”, “you know you could always just use Rogaine… but for life, you can’t get off it”. WOW, THANKS.
I spent so much money on ridiculous products that burned my scalp or did absolutely nothing. I had it in my head that it was the hormonal imbalances or the PCOS (though I don’t have the high testosterone male-hair-loss type). Finally, when a doctor confirmed it was Hashimoto’s (An Autoimmune Disease that affects the Thyroid and the Thyroid is underactive or hypo-). Hair loss is a major symptom of both hypothyroid and Hashimoto’s which I had persistently been asking to be tested for… I will tell you right now, many conventional doctors and Endocrinologists do not test for this properly, if you suspect you have either of these, please do yourself a favor and go to a Naturopath, Integrative Medicine Doctor, or Functional Medicine Doctor. They will get you proper testing done, invest the money — you’re worth it.
Finally with this diagnosis, was I able to have some direction, I wasn’t chasing my tail and going insane with trying to figure it all out. The course of action was medicine for me, my thyroid was so low on hormones… I had no energy, I was feeling depressed, my joint pain was out of control… and I was ready to do something about it. I did make the decision to take natural desiccated thyroid, which is medication, (WP Thyroid brand) and after finding my proper dose, the hair fall started diminishing. *If you currently take Synthroid for either of these conditions and see hair loss, consider the natural version as it provides you with both T3 and T4 hormones and may improve this. Ask your doctor about it.*
Also, accept it might not just be one reason or another. Your body has A LOT going on and so do you, there are many factors that contribute to hair loss, figure out these contributing factors and get on them.
UPDATE’2020 | As mentioned in the intro of this post, I’m currently navigating postpartum hair loss, so that + my thyroid are my main causes presently. With postpartum hair loss, oftentimes we are depleted and need to ensure we are eating well and supplementing (list of supplements below). Lack of sleep and stress from big life changes (hello, you’re a PARENT now) along with whatever other stress in the world is happening… and it’s a perfect mix for hair loss. It’s normal but it’s also normal to recover and heal from it. If you’re in postpartum as well, I’ve got notes for you where necessary, otherwise… it all applies!
To sum up: If you don’t know why your hair is falling out, find out why. A Functional/Integrative Medicine doctor is my recommendation for finding out why. A Naturopath can also help run relevant tests. You know your body, and you have to take control.
2. KEEP YOUR STRESS IN CHECK AND CUT THE SUGAR.
No matter what the “root cause” of the loss is… especially for women, hormone imbalances are usually at play with hair loss. In some way or another. When we talk about hormone imbalances, we have to look at two things: your blood sugar & your adrenals. Why? When your body is under stress (commonly caused by eating sugar, living a stressful life, and overall living in a fight or flight zone), your body is in survival mode. It thinks you are under attack constantly and cannot prioritize hair growth for you right now. Sorry, but more important things are going on. Your body has to prioritize making more cortisol (the hormone produced by your adrenals) so you can respond to this non-stop stress. So your priority of growing your hair just got moved to the bottom of the to-do list! The adrenals’ needs go above and beyond your other Endocrine organs’ needs and these are the organs that make hormones. Ovaries, Thyroid, etc. are all taking a back seat to what they need so your Adrenals can get what they need. Because your adrenals, in essence, are what’s keeping you alive (since you’re in the fight or flight response).
Here’s how you can attack this. Try doing a Whole30, get your sugar from sweet veggies and whole fruit, and depending on how bad you are with your energy crashing (or hypoglycemia), kick your starches and fruits to the latter half of the day. Stop riding that blood sugar roller coaster, because it’s not doing you any favors. You’ll be cranky in the beginning. You might even hate me. But after a while, on the other side, you will be so freaking stoked!! Promise.
As for the stress, you KNOW what you have to do. Cut out toxic relationships, talk to a therapist or good friend you can confide in if you’re struggling with grief, loss, sadness… let it out. Journaling is a favorite coping mechanism of mine. Sometimes I can’t express it all verbally and I need to write it down to get it out. However you do it, do it. If nothing else, please make sure you are sleeping and if you’d like to try a few minutes of meditation, that will also be wonderful. We all have stress and a lot of it is hard to avoid, so improving your relationship with stress is the KEY.
To sum up: How are your 3 “S”s? Stress, Sugar, Sleep… check in on all of them, make sure you’re cutting the stress as best you can, cutting the sugar, and getting plenty of sleep. When these are out of whack, your body simply cannot act optimally.
3. KNOW YOUR BLOOD WORK & HISTORY
Before you even think about spending half of your paycheck on supplements you need to know what you are working with – hence get some blood work done and find that out. Everyone will tell you to take Biotin and YOU totally CAN IF YOU NEED IT. But confirm first, and don’t assume that’s the magic pill everyone makes it out to be. I personally was never low in it… so taking it obsessively and spending the money at first, just made me angry when I saw no change!
A very common need in correlation with hair loss is IRON & FERRITIN. Ferritin is the stored version of iron, so you need to get both tested and need to have ample amounts of both. Your iron could show up as perfectly normal in your labs, but if ferritin wasn’t tested, you didn’t get the full picture. You must have iron reserves for healthy hair.
Here are the labs I suggest you get (and ALWAYS get a copy for yourself to read)*:
- B vitamins including Biotin & B12 are crucial for hair, but are not a magic pill – see below for more factors.
- Iron (optimal levels: 80-120)
- Ferritin (optimal levels: 70-100)
- 25 OH Vitamin D3 (optimal levels: 80-90)
- DHEA (serum) (optimal levels: 200-380)
- Cortisol (serum) (optimal levels: morning: 10-15, afternoon: 6-10)
- Free Testosterone (serum) (optimal levels: 1.1-2.2)
- Thyroid Labs (TSH, TPO Antibodies, Thyroglobulin Antibodies, Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3, Iodine, Selenium) – more info here.
*Disclaimer: These optimal ranges are from my notes from various resources such as SaraGottfriedMD.com, Hypothyroidmom.com, and Izabella Wentz’s Root Cause book, and of course in working with my own doctor. You will mainly see the conventional ranges on your lab work and it may differ, read up to confirm with your own research and medical support system. Also always combine your symptoms and how you feel with what you see on the piece of paper – blood work is a snapshot in time, but chronic symptoms are not to be ignored. This should not be used as medical advice but as a resource in your toolkit to take control of your health.
Cortisol, Testosterone, and DHEA are testing hormones, if they’re out of balance, you know this could be issues with PCOS or general blood sugar dis-regulation which we covered in #2… your steps are to keep focusing on your blood sugar, stress, and sleep first and foremost.
Also! Speak to your fam. Find out if any women in your family or extended family (aunts, grandmothers, mom, cousins, etc.) have gone through or are going through this. Realize that they might not have answers, but knowing that it’s in your family will help conversations with your medical team and perhaps you now have more support on trying things together. I found out AFTER my diagnosis that several of my aunts on my father’s side have had major thyroid issues, one even had hers removed MORE THAN ONCE (it grows back… crazy, right?) and they’ve all suffered from hair loss and thinning. While they had some suggestions, it was helpful to know I wasn’t alone or crazy! hahaha but I also kept searching.
To sum up: Know your levels, family history, and record your symptoms for your own records and for working with medical & wellness professionals.
4. HELPFUL SUPPLEMENTS & MY NUTRAFOL REVIEW
I have been through them all, folks. Sad to say it. There’s a lot of absolute garbage out there too, false claims, weird ingredients, I’ll spare you the details and let you know what I do like.
- Multi-vitamin (Bonus: Try a Prenatal, I recommend Thorne which has methyl-folate and B12 which is a more bioavailable form)
- Fish Oil/DHA/EFAs
- Vitamin D3 + K2
- Liver Pills (or make a point of eating liver a few times a week)
- Collagen peptides: You can also add collagen peptides in your morning coffee/tea or any liquid really! The amino acids from protein and collagen are helpful for nails, skin, and hair. I take it pretty regularly. Here are my faves: collagen creamer &collagen peptides.
- Nutrafol* Supplements: Nutrafol is a blend of adaptogens, vitamins, and minerals targeted to help you adapt to stress and to give the body what it needs to support your hair. There’s a women’s and men’s formulation so they can focus on the common reasons each gender has for hair loss. I was skeptical at first, and you may ask yourself the same: Does Nutrofol actually work? By the time I came across this supplement, I was up to my wit’s end of hair supplements, but I actually love this one. I’ve taken it for over 4 months now – It’s helped me with both the hair falling and the strength of it. I’ve noticed a considerable difference with this added on to my thyroid meds.
- *If you are in post-partum and experiencing post-partum hair loss, there’s a new supplement I’m using for this that’s safe by Majka instead of using Nutrafol*
- Additional supplements as recommended with your blood work if you’re not in optimal ranges.
To sum up: After you know your levels and your root cause, address this appropriately through diet and supplements to support your body’s natural healing process.
5. PRODUCTS I USE AND HOW I CARE FOR MY HAIR
I still remember the agony of reading another article claiming that rubbing coconut oil on my head would be helpful… guys, when your hair is literally falling out… COCONUT OIL MAKES IT COME OUT EVEN MORE. Below are the products and haircare that has actually worked for me.
UPDATE OCT’2020 | My current hair product stack:
- Prose (take the quiz for your personal shampoo + conditioner)
- O+M Thickening Spritz on damp hair (OMG DOES IT WORK!!)
- Elaluz Dry Texture Finishing Spray (loving this stuff to give more OOMPH to my thin hair when I want to get fancy)
I steer clear of masks because they make my hair come out and clog my follicles, even the natural oil/egg/avocado ones. If anything, I’ll rub some coconut oil on my ends and leave them for 20 mins before the shower since Hashimoto’s hair can get very dry. But never on the roots – proceed with caution. I also wash my hair every other day or so. I went through a time when I got advice that my follicles had to be cleaned daily so I washed it daily and cried at how much hair was in the drain all the time… I had to pull back from it. Every other day works well for me. I’ve also read that washing it much less is better, but that makes my head itchy and I can’t go that long. Do what works for you, that’s what will be best, and find a product that doesn’t irritate you, that you can afford, and that will keep your scalp clean, as that is important so that oil isn’t clogging up your follicles when they’re already in a sensitive state. Minimize hair products on your scalp to prevent buildup.
To sum up: Products like shampoos are great but be wary of hair re-growth claims. Healing needs to come from the inside first, find products that make your scalp feel good and clean, and make your hair look voluminous! Have fun with it, without going broke and you can double-check ingredients using EWG.org.
6. TIPS FOR SELF-ACCEPTANCE
Great, you’ve gotten the tests… you’re taking the supplements, you’ve come a long way with the reduction in sugar and stress and your hair smells like flowers and scalp is squeaky clean! NOW, WHAT? Let. It. Go. Don’t beat yourself up anymore, you’ve put steps into motion and the best thing you can do going forward is to LOVE YOURSELF UNCONDITIONALLY. Stop the faces in the mirror, the sarcasm about your hair never growing, any and all self-deprecating talk as best you can. I still work on this and have my days when I just don’t care and we all do… but put in the effort and it can get better. Say POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS in the mirror instead of tugging on your hair or looking sad. Be thankful that our body is TAKING CARE OF YOU by doing whatever it’s doing. I made peace with my hair loss when I really became so thankful that it was the predominant symptom and reason I kept looking for answers and got my diagnosis. Our bodies are communicating with us, and THAT’S A BIG DEAL. Don’t respond to it by saying “I don’t want to hear your problems, figure it out”. LISTEN TO IT, support it, and be patient.
A big issue with women losing their hair, is they associate it with their beauty and confidence. I know I have. As the saying goes… a bad hair day is a bad day. They say this because, through statistics and polls, it’s proven, that when someone has a bad hair day, they have a negative attitude which ends up royally screwing up their whole damn day! I remember hearing that when I was a kid and well when you have nothing but bad hair days for years… you really start to believe it! Of course, I couldn’t let it cripple me, I’d feel even worse when I’d say no to social engagements just because I’d prefer to hideout. I’d feel bad when I put so much focus on it, knowing there was “so much worse” that could be happening. But none of that helped, I just wanted to feel and look like myself and it was a nagging thought, feeling, and insecurity that kept growing and growing.
Finally, one day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I ran to my hairstylist and asked her to put in extensions. I finally felt like I had no other options… until most of it was all gone and I’d need a wig. Well, she had to tell me some hard truth… my hair wasn’t strong enough to hold extensions. I held my composure, said thanks… and left in tears with no one seeing. I went home and didn’t tell my husband… he was already feeling so sad to watch me go through this, I couldn’t make it worse. So I let it fester, I tried finding hairstyles to cover it… but basically found myself giving up, just slicking it back wet and going about my life… trying to convince myself I accepted it. And this was already by the time I started thyroid medication, but it took a long time to find the right dose and to see the changes happening.
Through the medication, through years of an improving diet, through adding in some helpful supplements, by saying positive affirmations in the mirror instead of sighing or making faces, and by giving in a bit to just surrender and love myself... I started to see a ton of new hairs on my scalp which I had seen before… but I’d see them come and go pretty quickly. Not this time. I started seeing them get longer and longer… and a bit less and less falling out. It’s so gradual you can almost miss it sometimes, but it’s there if you watch closely. I realized my hair was getting stronger and I could even blow dry it a bit (I had stopped altogether for a very long time, it was too stressful to see all the hair coming out).
Once I realized it was stronger, I found some lightweight clip-in extensions to help me grow it out and fill in the spaces at the bottom. I’m very lucky that my scalp remained covered with no spots, but the bottoms are a different story… that’s where I can see it very prominently. And to me, it makes me look sick. That might not be how anyone else views it, but I know myself and that’s how it makes me feel. I couldn’t do it anymore and I didn’t want to hide anymore. So some days, my hair is back, and sometimes, I place one thin row in the back so I can wear it down, confidently… and have a GREAT hair day. It doesn’t pull my hair out and I alternate days with it to give myself a break. It’s been a blessing in disguise for me. A part of me was embarrassed to share it, but then I remembered that there are some of us suffering from this and we need to talk about it. We need ideas and help. And if I can even help one person, this journey has been worth it.
Also, here’s a newsflash, many women wear extensions and wigs. Many of these models, fashionistas, and fabulous fashion bloggers that women look up to… are wearing them. Just check it out on Youtube if you don’t believe me! And they’re doing it FOR FUN. Not because they’ve lost so much hair they don’t know what else to do. FUN, remember that? Have fun with your hair, take care of it, honor your body, and go easy on yourself. Your body is doing what it has to and these tips can help you to support it and take some of the burdens off. All the while, life doesn’t stop, and you should love what you see in the mirror. You should strut your stuff, not hide and show the world your smiling face so you can enjoy your life.
Maybe extensions aren’t your thing, and a beautiful clip or hat is. Maybe you want to try rocking a pixie cut, bob, or another cut suited for you! Whatever you try, have fun with it, and don’t take yourself so seriously. One thing I had to learn is… no one else is watching that closely. They’re not obsessing over it as you may be, they just want to see you happy. You’re alive, you’re beautiful, and this will not defeat you.
Everything was confirmed for me that I was moving in the right direction when my long-time hairdresser confirmed how much healthier it was, how much stronger, and how happy she was to see it! I was over the moon. She also helped blend the extensions in more for me (which I highly advise you do if you buy them).
**FYI – No one really tells you this gem. But after excessive hair loss, when your hair does grow back … it’s different. It’s usually not the same texture and can feel like baby hair. It might not be the same curly or straight hair you had before, it’ll have new quirks and without the extra hair weight you used to have to hold it in place in a certain direction, you may notice funky things. I personally have a frizzy patch in the back now (what thaaaa…?)- that shit needs extra attention when I blow dry it LOL, it curls in strange places now, and is very soft and can get dry in some places. I realize this is now probably making you re-think wanting to re-grow your hair, HAHAH, but stick with it. As more hair grows, it will get better, and if you try extensions that extra weight can even help. And as more of the follicular cycles pass and your hair sheds and re-grows, it will strengthen. It’s a slow process but nonetheless happening, hang in there!!**
To sum up: Hair regrowth takes time. Don’t put your life, happiness, or self-confidence on hold. Trust your body, trust the supports you’re using, and remember to still have fun with your everyday styling. Consider extensions, find a helpful stylist, try hair accessories like clips, scour Youtube for different styling ideas you can try, and remember… this too shall pass but you can have some fun in the meantime. You’re beautiful just as you are.
I truly hope this helped you. When I say I tried nearly ALL THE PRODUCTS, I have. I wonder how many vacations I could have gone on with the money I wasted. The ones I listed, I’m not affiliated with at all right now… they just have actually worked and have made me feel more confident. They’re not harming me and I did a lot of research before trying them. Try not to get overwhelmed at all the health claims, studies, and hair loss articles out there – because the truth is, there are a million reasons why it can be happening. By following these steps, you can get closer to figuring out why it’s specifically happening to YOU so you can take control of putting support in place for your body, and then let go because it TAKES TIME and you still need to live and be happy without obsessing over it. What’s harder than buying a product, is the part about self-care and self-love, which is a constant practice in a world that wants us to feel bad in order to buy things to feel better… do not let this hold you back, and do not forget to stop and enjoy life as it is, right now. Hopefully, these tips can support you in doing so while your body can do its thing. I’ll leave you with a mantra that helps me…
I trust my life. I trust my body. Every day, I’m healing.