When Kim started to lose her hair, she felt like she was losing herself, but through bravery, grit and resilience she gained more than she thought possible.
Like most young women, Kim spent a lot of time wanting the kind of hair she didn’t have. “As a kid, I had curly hair and a lot of it. I hated it so much – it was a frizzy untameable mess,” she says. Kim discovered hair straighteners in her teens and as an adult got it coloured every eight weeks for seven years straight to wrangle it how she wanted.
In 2017, she noticed that her hair was out of shape so she decreased the frequency of salon visits. By January of the following year, she started to get concerned about how much hair was coming out in washes. Seeing the extent of her hair loss through a video of the back of her head sent her into a panic. The reality of her hair loss had hit. “I couldn’t tell you the amount of hours spent searching for answers on Google,” Kim says.
Hair-loss campaigns targeted to men provided Kim with what she thought might be the fastest solution. She booked the first appointment that she could get with a hair-loss clinic and rushed to the chemist to buy ‘Rogaine’ (a men’s hair-loss product) desperate for a quick fix. “I was determined to find some kind of solution to my hair falling out, and would have done anything [and] paid any amount of money,” she says.
Unfortunately, the visit to the hair-loss clinic led Kim to feel even more helpless. She was told that her hair would likely be gone within six months and was offered a solution that would cost a minimum of $7000 which was well out of Kim’s budget. This would be the beginning of a long and arduous search for answers.
Kim saw a doctor who told her that she was otherwise healthy and needed to reduce her stress. She even drastically changed her diet as advised by naturopath. Unsatisfied, she booked an appointment with a dermatologist that she was referred to by another doctor, but had to wait three months until she could get an appointment.
During this time Kim tried everything to keep her hair as she continued to lose more of it. “Managing the anxiety of losing your hair is such a difficult thing to do. I had to do a lot of internal emotional work to help me get through it, with the help of a psychologist who I saw regularly every two weeks over a six-month period”, she says.
Kim continued to search for solutions online and joined numerous hair-loss Facebook Groups. This was where she first learned about ‘hair toppers’. “I remember my first ever appointment to try on hair toppers like it was yesterday. I was nervous, but also excited.
It felt like I had this solution to just cover up what was going on, and that I could conceal my hair loss from the world,” Kim says. It wasn’t until she found an Instagram group of women ‘rocking’ hair toppers that she was comfortable with the idea of ‘wearing hair’.
The second hair topper consultation came with sobering news. Kim learned that hair toppers would be a viable solution only if she didn’t lose all of her hair – something that she would need to wait for a dermatologist to confirm. “I felt incredibly low at that point, as I’d finally worked up the courage to commit to getting a topper, only to be told that a topper might not even work, since I could lose all my hair,” she says.
Kim continued to do her own research as she waited to see the dermatologist and suspected that her hair loss could be linked to the pill as she was experiencing irregular periods and breakouts. Her research led her to the book ‘The Period Repair Manual’. “Reading the section on how to have conversations with your doctor was so helpful because it made me feel validated, and to keep pressing for answers if you aren’t getting them”, she says. “You know your body, and you know when something feels off. If a doctor isn’t taking your queries seriously, find a new one. I went to around five different doctors until I found one who would listen to my concerns.”
By the time her dermatologist appointment came around Kim had done enough reading and research to correctly predict her diagnosis of Androgenic Alopecia. The condition rarely leads to complete hair loss in women. The diagnosis put an end to the stress of ‘not knowing’ and also confirmed that toppers would work for Kim.
“The first time I ever wore a hair topper out was the day of my birthday. I felt empowered and beautiful – it didn’t matter if it didn’t look 100% because I knew how it made me feel.
It was the first time that year that I felt like myself again. It made me feel like I had taken back control over my hair loss,” says Kim.
Discovering hair toppers and the community of women championing them on Instagram pushed Kim to start her own Instagram page and share her story. “I didn’t know they existed, and when I discovered them I wanted to shout it from the rooftops,” she says. “Meeting other women through Instagram was such an amazing experience, I never in my wildest dreams imagined that there would be literally thousands of women going through hair loss. I was honestly convinced I was one in a million going through this,” Kim says.
She considers some of the friends she made from this experience as some of her closest friends. “Losing your hair is such a rollercoaster ride of emotions, which can only truly be understood by another woman who is going through the same experience… Having the support of other women in the hair loss sisterhood has helped me to reach the acceptance stage of my journey. I’m thankful for every single person I’ve connected with! It is what drives me to continue sharing my journey, and to build my online community.”
She encourages women going through hair loss to ‘be brave’ and ‘reach out’ so that they can find the connection and support from others. Kim also cautions against searching for an ‘easy answer’ when it comes to hair loss. “It can vary for each individual – every case of hair loss is unique in its own way. The best advice I can give is to start by getting an overall health check to rule out any underlying issues,” she says.
Kim’s relationship with her hair, and indeed her femininity has evolved through this experience. “I have a much greater understanding of what works for my skin and hair, and that it’s not a one size fits all for everyone. I’m quite cautious now of how I approach discussing certain products because what may work for me, might not work for another person,” she says.
“It’s certainly made me dig a lot deeper into my own internalised views of what femininity really is, and how it’s viewed by society. I’ve had to do a lot of unlearning, and learning,” says Kim.
Like most women, Kim entwined her femininity with her hair, which made the prospect of losing it all the more terrifying. “When you lose your hair, you are losing a part of yourself. It’s difficult because you have no control over what is happening, so you are losing this part of you,” she says.
What she has gained from her hair loss though was lasting friendships, a sense of empowerment, a community and confidence that came from bravely reaching out while weathering her storm. It’s fitting then that her chosen Powerpants affirmation is, ‘I am resilient’.
Be brave and reach out.
About the Author
Alegria Alano is a roaming writer and a bottomless pit of curiosity. Most of her time is spent exploring new places, interesting ideas and fascinating people. She writes about what she discovers in a diary, on alegria-alano.com, and more regularly on the gram at @alegriaalano.