Hair Loss? Heads Up, Ladies. Here's Help!

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Hair Loss? Heads Up, Ladies. Here's Help!

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Women and their hair are linked by more than mere follicles. If clothes make the man, then hair makes the woman. But where does that leave those who have lost their locks from cancer treatment or alopecia? Amy Gibson speaks up for them on her radio show, Heads Up! She joined us on Oct. 13, 2004, to share practical and personal tips on looking and, more important, feeling great again.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MODERATOR:
Welcome, Amy. You had a personal motivation for creating Heads Up! Tell us about your own experience with hair loss.

GIBSON:
I had alopecia areata, and then it moved into alopecia totalis. And then I did not have any hair on the scalp at all. During my 20 years of daytime television starring, no one ever knew I had alopecia. I kept it completely quiet. I found all the ways to hide it from everyone, which caused me great sacrifices in my life.

I then decided it was time to help other women, and for the last several years, almost 10 years, I have helped many women through the hair loss process, which can be devastating. I then decided that I needed to take my passion for helping women another step farther, so since I have learned all the tricks I needed to learn to live a normal life with wigs, I opened a company and make wigs for women that are real quality. This area can attract very vulnerable people that are sometimes faced with their own mortality dealing with cancer, etc. and going through chemotherapy. After going through a difficult journey learning right from wrong, good from bad pieces, I decided that I would manufacture those that were correct and comfortable for women at reasonable prices.

But that wasn't enough. I still felt incomplete. So I decided to create a radio show that will soon be syndicated around the country, called Heads Up! You can listen to it on the Internet every Sunday. Go to newstalk870.com and click on "listen live" at 11:00 a.m. PT on Sundays.

MODERATOR:
That's 2:00 p.m. ET, for those not inclined to do the math!

GIBSON:
The show is the first bold female forum that covers menopause, antiaging, and the first show in the country to consistently cover female hair loss on several levels: medically, emotionally, physically how to work with wigs, etc. I teach my clients how to live a normal life with or without hair. If they choose to wear a wig, I guide them through the processes they need to know about in order to do everything from sports to actually having intimacy without the man ever having to know.

So I've become the No. 1 spokeswoman in the country dealing with hair loss, but I need to stress something, and that is that I am not a therapist, I am not a doctor, I'm not a hair stylist, and I'm not a healer. All I do is show women what has worked for me, and if it works for them, fantastic. If it doesn't, I'll find an expert for them that does deal in the area of their needs. I do phone sessions; I make lower body hair for women; I do eyebrows. That's what I'm here to do. After years of praying for answers to the question, "Why has this happened to me, what am I supposed to do with this?" I know now, thank God.

MODERATOR:
Congratulations on your success taking this unpaved road! Let's look at some questions from our members:

MEMBER QUESTION:
I am 30 years old and have been having hair loss for almost a decade now. I had three to four times the thickness before. I wash my hair once every week with shampoo but stopped oiling my hair. Is there any treatment I have to go through to stop this?

GIBSON:
First of all, the most important thing I can suggest is to make sure you look at your lifestyle first. So first I need to ask how your stress level is. Stress is one of the top contributors to hair loss.

  • No. 2, I suggest you go to your gynecologist and get a full hormone panel done. If your hormones are out of level, it can cause hair loss.
  • Third, are you low iron or low thyroid? These are major contributors to hair loss and something you may have had since birth and you may not even know it.
  • Fourth, understand we have more than 1,000 hairs on our scalp. We lose approximately more than 100 hairs a day normally.

I feel that shampoos, per se, are not the cure or the band-aid. Trying to find the underlying issue is most important, and here's what I suggest: Go to your dermatologist in your area. You're going to ask him about the following things:

  • Ask if he works with Aldara. Most hair loss, if it's not due to chemotherapy or menopause, has to do with a challenged immune system or one of the things I mentioned prior. Aldara is an immune modulator. It's a topical treatment.
  • Ask him if you are a good candidate for Rogaine, which works terrific, except when you stop the hair loss continues. But it's fine when you take it, terrific.
  • Ask him if you're a candidate for Propecia. Propecia is highly recommended as long as you're not in childbearing years or do not plan on having any more children. They say that 5 milligrams is usually safe and works terrific for women.

Now, there are medicines that contribute to hair loss. They are the following:

  • Medicines that go under the subtitle of anticoagulants/blood thinners
  • Any medicines used for gout
  • Too much vitamin A
  • Birth control pills
  • Antidepressants

Quick GuideBreast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

There are 30 million women currently in the U.S. right now dealing with some form of hair loss. FPHL stands for female pattern hair loss. This is when the hair becomes thin in the front of the scalp and then becomes thin towards the back, all the way on the top, but starts where the widow's peak is. There's a wonderful product that I do carry called Home Support that is a shampoo; it's a three-step process. It's a little aggressive on the scalp but brings the blood circulation to the scalp and helps the follicle.

Nothing is guaranteed 100%, of course. This mystery condition hitting so many women right now, unfortunately, is a step-by-step trial and error process. The good news is that there are a lot of alternatives out there.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I have just been diagnosed with cancer and will be starting chemo in a month or so. I have had long red hair since I was 16 and am now 52. I don't even know where to start with the issue of losing my hair. What is the first step?

GIBSON:
First of all, I am sorry for your challenge. You must know that more women are living from cancer today than ever before. Therapies and treatments used today are better today than ever in history. That's the first thing.

Secondly, know that with chemotherapy 99% of the time your hair will come back. So you have not lost your hair forever. In fact, regrowth usually begins even before treatment is over. Now, where to start? Would you mind telling me what form of cancer you have, No. 1, and if you're having radiation in conjunction?

MEMBER:
Breast cancer; and radiation first.

GIBSON:
We're going to walk through this together right now. We're going to go from feeling like a victim to being a victor together right now. Your hair does not always fall out from radiation, and there are some treatments and chemotherapy that also don't cause your hair to fall out. However, let's get prepared in case it does. Have you asked your physician if the type of treatment you'll be receiving is going to make your hair fall out?

MEMBER:
Yes, it will.

GIBSON:
I want you to go to your hairdresser and what I want to do is have your hair cut very, very short, and I'll tell you why. I don't want you to wake up with your hair on your pillow; I don't want you to be in the shower with all your hair falling on the floor, and I certainly don't want your hair falling in your soup. All of the above can happen, and will, all of which will add to emotional duress. Let's not go there; let's conquer that one now.

This will do two things:

  • One, the head gets very sensitive with radiation and chemotherapy, most of the time. Sometimes it doesn't, but most of the time. It could be as sensitive as having difficulty putting a brush through your hair. I don't want you to have to experience this, nor do you.
  • Two, this will help with wearing a wig. It will be much easier to fit and to deal with without the hair coming out and without clumps underneath, which happens in perspiration. What I mean by that is, when we sleep and we perspire, if you're going through treatment, sometimes the hair that has fallen out on your pillow will end up matting your hair on your head forming a very painful ball, pulling on the follicle. Let's avoid this.

There are terrific wigs available. If you would like to email me about the type of wig to get, etc., feel free to do so at yrcrowningglory@aol.com. But remember one thing. Life is very temporary. Our conversation will never take place in the same way again. This process will be over before you know it. As soon as you decide to move through this process you can focus on knowing that you're healthy afterwards and that your cancer is in remission, regardless of your appearance or how you may be feeling one day, because this will be behind you very soon and you will move through this. It's absolutely possible.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Are you familiar with flaxseed? Two tablespoons every other day works well for me. As soon as I stop taking it for about a week straight, the hair loss returns. I have had gradual hair loss ever since high school (long strands by the root) and the condition worsened after I had children. I breastfed both of them. Any ideas what could be causing my problem?

GIBSON:
I am not that familiar with this issue of flaxseed for hair loss; however, email me your information at yrcrowningglory@aol.com. I will ask one of my experts in the alternative area and get back to you. How long ago did you have your child?

MEMBER:
The last one was three years ago.

GIBSON:
Get your hormones tested. Are you 10 years or less close to menopause?

MEMBER:
I am 42 and holding.

GIBSON:
You're near a perimenopausal age, so my first suggestion is getting your hormones checked. I will find out about the flaxseed for you. I don't know of any other answer for you at the moment, but I will find out.

MEMBER QUESTION:
There are a lot of articles saying shampoos use chemicals and are not good for the hair. What is your opinion?

GIBSON:
There are shampoos that use chemicals, and the more natural shampoo the better. First of all, biotin is very good for the hair. Some say it's good for hair, some say it's only good for the nails. My experience is it's been good for the hair. I always believe going into a health food store, using the more natural organic botanical shampoos are the best, versus over-the-counter regular shampoos out there. Rusk hair care products are good.

MEMBER QUESTION:
My mother has very thin hair, but won't consider a wig. She says everyone will know when she goes from wispy to wavy overnight. Are there ways to be gradual about covering hair loss for those who don't want to be obvious about their new look?

GIBSON:
I manufacture, and so do other people, a top piece that actually clips in that's very thin hair specifically made to look gradual. So what someone would probably say to her is, "Wow, something's different about you, you look so good, but I just don't know what's different."

It comes in three different textures. So for someone that has very thinning hair, you want to get the thinnest topical piece. Nobody will know you're wearing it. They're straight, by the way; they're not wavy. You can curl them if you want, because they're made of human hair. But nobody will know. Trust me.

MEMBER QUESTION:
My wife seems as concerned about her hair loss as she does her chemo treatments and radiation. What can I do to help assure her that I, and others, will still think she's wonderful, no matter how much hair she has?

GIBSON:
First of all, the one fear that goes through a woman's mind is that the man's going to leave. Pointing out all of her other positive attributes without saying anything about the hair is the secret. Thus, building her self-esteem in the interim, so that the hair loss becomes the least important thing she'll end up worrying about. It works every time. And telling her you love her, you adore her, and she's beautiful with or without hair also helps. It is vital.

One more thing that can help is getting personally involved. Now let me explain. When I go out, mind you, all my wigs, "my girls," have names. So if I'm out and my hair may be a little messy, or even if it isn't, my boyfriend will say, "Let me brush the back of Elizabeth," or whoever I'm wearing. The intention here is to join the process, which accomplishes two things. One, she's not feeling so alienated, and two, it takes the pressure off of something being so foreign and being much more innate.

Quick GuideBreast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

You may want to brush her wig for her. You may want to, after she places the wig on her head, say to her, "Give me the brush for just a second," and even if it doesn't need brushing, fix it for her. And after fixing it, look at her, give her a kiss, and say, "Boy, do you look gorgeous. That's my girl." She'll feel like a million bucks.

MODERATOR:
We are almost out of time. Before we wrap things up for today, do you have any final words for us, Amy?

GIBSON:
Something I always say is, girls, we are more than hair. We are amazing people that are multitasking, and that have an emotional depth that goes far beyond the external. Hair loss is more common than you think. You're not alone, and when you decide, "This is what I'm dealing with," you look at it realistically, you don't go into denial, and decide at that point to be proactive. You will go from feeling like a victim to feeling victorious.

I really hope I was able to alleviate some of your stress. Again, call me if you need to. Set up an appointment. I'll be happy to help you. Crown and Glory Enterprises can be reached at (310) 859-6906 or toll free at 1-877-FOR-WIGS. Hair loss can be devastating, but you can live a normal life with it.

MODERATOR:
Our thanks to Amy Gibson for joining us. For more information on Amy's radio show, Heads Up! please visit www.crownandgloryenterprises.com.

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Reviewed on 5/4/2005 7:04:05 PM

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