I admit it. I loved my hair. All those wild red Irish tresses were as much my signature as the freckles that went with them. By age 30 I knew I’d never let my hair go grey, red was too much part of me.
What I didn’t know then was that color would be the least of my hair issues. Mine began to thin after the terrible shock of my daughter’s illness and death… like the small white patches that suddenly appeared on my cheek and arm as if some of my own lifeforce had gone with her.
“My hair is grey but not with years,” laments the Prisoner of Chillon in Byron’s poem
“Nor turned it white in a single night
As men’s have turned from sudden fears.”
Such things can happen from terrible stress, I was told.
I’d always thought thinning hair meant hair grown sparse from falling out. I didn’t know the hairs can stay right where they were but could thin into delicate fairy wisps because follicles weaken with time and trauma. If only my waistline could follow their lead.
For a long while I ignored my anorexic locks… by comparison with my other troubles it was small potatoes. But finally, as frail hairs began to break at an alarming rate, and the threat of a Donald Trump future comb-over loomed in my imagination, I started to panic. I researched online and called a biochemist friend. “You need more Vitamin B,” he said authoritatively. “Egg yolks. B complex, walnuts, cashews and almonds full of omega 3’s plus biotin, zinc, primrose and borage.”
“Hormone replacement therapy and scalp massage,” said my hairdresser, with genuine concern.
“100 strokes a night with an antique hair brush and stop washing it so often!” pronounced my friend with more hair than Chewbacca.
I tried it all to no avail and with mounting dismay – thinning hair and a thickening waist didn’t seem a winning combination.
I called my doctor and had blood work done. “All perfectly normal,” he said cheerily, “and I think your hair looks just fine.” No help there.
Hair Raising Solutions
Then I remembered Philip Kingsley, the New York and London trichologist who’d been my client when he first came here from England. Widely renowned as an authority on hair and scalp, Philip, courtly as ever, at his Manhattan Salon, turned me over to Elizabeth, who gave me the straight scoop.
“You can slow down or even stop the loss and damage, but you can’t bring back what’s been lost and it will be four months before you can expect to see any change,” she said, cheery as my Internist, then she turned me over to someone who slathered me in something fluffy, massaged it in, covered me in a snood like Sister Bertryl’s and soon after, I left with $600 worth of product and hope in my heart. It hasn’t been four months yet, so the jury’s still out but I don’t think my hair has gotten any worse.
“It’s an epidemic,” my Beauty Editor friend told me with genuine solicitude, when she heard the story. “Since women are in high pressure jobs, their hair is thinning and falling out at an alarming rate after 35, and they’re having heart attacks just like men.” I remember when Nora Ephron said the Woman’s Movement had only succeeded in giving us the Dutch Treat. Now it was giving us baldness, too? Hmmm…
She rattled off lots of product names: scalp stimulating serums might help rev up blood circulation and concentrated hair strengthening formulas claim to increase circulation around hair follicles. Hair volumizers from Scandinavia claim we need more copper in our diets to grow hair and offers it in vitamins, while Aveda suggests “naturally derived Invati” with ginger and turmeric, which sounds like a nice salad dressing. “And don’t forget,” added my editor friend as an afterthought, “special hair transplant techniques for women are the new hot button in plastic surgery.”
It’s all enough to make your head spin.
So I decided to console myself that at least my frail hairs are being treated by someone who knows one hair from another, and dignity now demands I stop sniveling about it and start being grateful I’m still a redhead. Then I went to a dinner party where Dr. Orentreich was the hot topic at the table because he’d injected something magical into my hostess’ head that had actually started her hair growing robustly again she said, even in the bald patches she’d developed after illness and antibiotics. He hadn’t told her what was in the “Special Sauce” (I’m a bit squeamish about unknown substances) but her abundant shoulder length hair was a gorgeous testimonial.
So, I’m thinking of making an appointment if I ever get over the sticker price of $750 for the first visit – or maybe win the lottery.
© Cathy Cash Spellman/The Wild Harp & Co. Inc 2014