Hair. It's been called our crowning glory, a symbol of our youth, and in
some cultures it even represents
fertility. For women all around the world, it's also an expression of
beauty, confidence, and personal style.
Unfortunately, for a growing number of women -- up to 30 million in the
United States who suffer with
hair loss -- the words "bad hair day" take on a whole new and much
more serious meaning.
Like good health and youth, most of us take a thick head of hair for granted -- that is, until it is gone. For many people, hair transplant procedures can help bring back the appearance of a full -- or, at least, fuller -- head of hair.
"Hair loss not only robs a woman of her sense of style, but oftentimes
her sense of self-esteem and her security -- it can be very devastating,"
says Michael Reed, MD, a New York University Medical Center dermatologist who
specializes in female pattern hair loss.
Whether your loss is the result of the aging process, hair damage, trauma,
illness, or a genetic form of balding known as female pattern hair loss, the
good news is there are a variety of medical and natural treatments that can
On the downside, Reed says it's clear that most treatments take a
significant amount of time before results can be seen -- often up to a year or
more. And it is during this time, he says, the period of waiting and "not
knowing" if a treatment will work that most women find it difficult to cope
with hair loss.
Hair Loss, Loss of Self-Esteem
"Suddenly, hair becomes the most important part of their appearance and
even their personality -- it's not only the first thing they notice about other
women, it's the only thing -- and it can end up causing a great deal of
anxiety," Reed tells WebMD.
This, say other experts, can be especially true, if a woman has relied on
her looks as her calling card, or even if it represents a good portion of her
"If a woman is tied up in her physicality, if her sense of self-worth
and self-identity are defined by her physical self, then hair loss is going to
have a much more traumatic effect than it would on a woman whose persona is
much more wrapped around her intellect," says psychotherapist Lauren
Howard, CSW, a specialist in women's
mental health issues and an active participant in the
Alopecia Areata Foundation.
If you are someone whose looks have played an important role in your
identity, Howard says there's nothing wrong with that and you shouldn't
compound your problems by feeling guilty that you care so much about your
"If you are concerned about your appearance, don't feel shallow about
it, or ashamed of it; give yourself permission to care and to feel bad about
your hair loss, then get a handle on the situation and do something about
it," says Howard.
Psychiatrist Shari Lusskin, MD, holds a similar philosophy and says women
with hair loss should not be embarrassed about feeling bad.