Why, you ask? Easy: so many women suffer from androgenetic alopecia (AGA), or female pattern hair loss, including myself. Oftentimes, this is due to our body’s hyper-response to testosterone (an androgen) and its byproducts. It’s an embarrassing thing to deal with and something I’ve struggled with since I was a teenager. Those close to me know the journey I’ve been on trying to treat this condition, and I can say I’ve recently found a treatment that works for me. Before I get to that, let’s dive a little bit deeper into my AGA journey.
I first noticed my hair thinning when I was about 15 years old. I have never been overweight and have always lived an active lifestyle, so other metabolic disorders weren’t really on the top of the diagnosis list. The endocrinologist I saw at the time tossed around the term PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) as a possible cause for my thinning hair, but we didn’t do much of a workup besides some blood work that showed elevated testosterone levels. He started me on birth control pills at that time and said to come back for a follow up a few months later. After being on the pill for a few months, my hormone levels obviously regulated and that was that. I was on the pill ever since, with really no change in my thinning hair.
Everyone always made comments on how thin my hair was (not in a mean or insulting way at all, but it still hurt every time) and it became my biggest insecurity for most of my teenage and early-twenties years. I got hair extensions around 2016 and that was a huge confidence boost. I felt like a new person. I felt like me. I was finally able to style “my” hair like everyone else could- full ponytails/buns, braids, waves, etc. It was a temporary fix, but I was finally confident in my physical appearance. There were a few issues with the hair extensions:
1. They were expensive to maintain, and
2. They were destroying the little natural hair that I did have.
So, after about four years of hair extensions, I decided I wanted to try and really treat my condition- not mask it.
I found a hair loss specialist that I went to see. He’s great and has really helped me understand what is going on with my hair. I was still on the birth control pills when I started seeing him in 2020, and at some point in those four years I had also started and stopped another medication, spironolactone, with really no improvement either. It’s been a long journey, but these last two years with my hair specialist have made a world of a difference. My hair (although still thin) has gotten so much healthier, fuller, and longer than it has been since I was a child. I was journaling a couple weeks ago and one of the prompts asked, “What part of yourself are you most confident about right now?” and I honestly wrote in “my hair.” I got a little bit emotional when writing that because never in 100 years did I think that my hair would be what I’m most confident about at any given moment.
AGA/FPHL is the most common type of hair loss in women, and it affects us not only physically, but psychologically too. It’s frustrating that I still don’t know why I suffer from this condition. I don’t have diabetes or other metabolic disorders, I’m not overweight, and I’ve never ~officially~ been diagnosed with PCOS. It’s frustrating, but I’m hoping to get more answers soon to fully be able to treat my condition and raise awareness on it. For now, I’m grateful that I’ve found a physician who has really helped my hair (and my self-esteem) improve through my treatment regimen. I’m eager to learn more about other supplements and foods that can help naturally lower androgen levels and help reduce the amount of hair loss women with this condition have. Here’s a little before and after!
Thanks for sharing a vulnerable moment with me. It’s never easy but I feel like it’s important to share. It’s a part of my health journey and I only hope to get better and better, especially once I become an advanced healthcare provider. I’m sure there are a million 15 year old girls struggling with the same thing who are just going to be told to take a birth control pill and deal with it for the rest of their young adult lives, and I want to continue learning to make sure there are other options, and most importantly, answers as to why this happens.
featured image from Unsplash