Women are truly the strongest beings on earth. Friend, mom, CEO, partner, teacher, caretaker, problem-solver, survivor… we wear all of these hats and more — often simultaneously.
Our lives are a practice in fearlessness, resilience, and tireless dedication. But when we notice changes in our hair, it feels like the rug is being pulled out from under us. Women’s hair thinning is a taboo topic shrouded in stigma — even though 40% of us experience it by age 40.
“I personally like to speak about hair thinning more boldly and just shout it from the rooftops, because we should be able to talk about it,” says Nutrafol co-founder Dr. Sophia Kogan, MD. “Why can men talk about it and we can’t?” The answer, Dr. Kogan knows, is we can. The power to break the stigma and take control is ours.
It starts with strong women sharing their hair stories, fearlessly and candidly, to remind other strong women that they are not alone and that there is hope.
Read on to learn why the stigma around women’s hair thinning persists, and to meet a few of the 40% who are shattering it.
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You don’t just lose hair — you can also lose your identity.
“My hair is everything,” begins Beth, age 30, “so when it’s off, everything is off and I don’t feel confident.” She noticed thinning when her go-to hairstyle, a ponytail, felt lighter and she could double the hair band around more times than she used to. “I couldn’t believe it was happening and I was even shy to bring it up to my friends,” she says.
For women who like to feel feminine, hair is our “crowning glory.” Society’s beauty construct puts a thick, full head of hair at the top of its criteria. So when we have less hair, it can make us feel less than. Julia, age 36, experienced this firsthand: “I’m a woman who likes to feel beautiful and who gets a fair bit of her power from how she looks. All the great beauties have great hair, so it’s hard for me to feel beautiful — or confident or powerful — when my hair doesn’t match the beauty ideal.”
The blow to your self-esteem can ripple throughout your career, social life, and relationships. Lana, age 42, can’t even enjoy sunshine anymore. “I hate when the sun shines through my hair or you can see my scalp. It makes me feel much older than I am,” she shares. “I’ve lost confidence in public because of my hair.”
The realization is devastating.
When we asked women how they felt when they realized their hair was thinning, one word echoed over and over again: sadness.
“I was heartbroken when I noticed my hair was seriously starting to thin,” says Hope, age 29. “I felt a loss of femininity and, to be honest, I felt a little less than, a little sad, and like I’d lost a part of me and my sexuality,” confides Erica, 48. The women we talked to overwhelmingly felt shock, fear, and loss. “I froze when I saw it in the mirror. I felt unrecognizable to myself,” Julia describes.
Why are we so taken aback by something that, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, affects over 30 million women in the U.S. alone? “Hair thinning is something that women don’t anticipate because it’s never talked about,” notes Dr. Kogan. “We expect that we’ll get wrinkles and our bodies will change, because that’s an expectation we see in our mothers, but if our mothers never talked about their hair thinning, we never think it will happen to us.”
Shame keeps us from speaking out and finding the root cause.
After the panic and fear come the Google searches: “how to grow hair fast,” “hair extensions for thin hair,” “best hair powder to cover scalp.” We have this overwhelming urge to cover it up or fix it fast — no one can see it.
“I found myself wearing wool beanies in July just to hide it,” says Erin, age 31. Unsurprisingly, many of the women we spoke to told no one about their hair thinning, which is why they felt alone and ashamed.
“I’ve experienced it myself,” says Dr. Kogan, whose battle with hair thinning led her to co-found Nutrafol. “I would rather have covered it up so it’s not visible even to myself. You don’t always want to be told you’re losing your hair or be shown the truth. But I think once you do see it, it’s much more empowering to take control of it than to live in denial and shame.”
There is a solution.
As women, we already have the strength to take control of hair thinning. We just have to remember it’s there.
“I refused to believe that expensive cosmetic treatments and potentially harmful drugs were the only solution.” says Hope. “I refused to accept that thinning hair was my new normal.” She had a feeling underlying health issues were contributing to changes in her hair, and after working with her doctors and discovering Nutrafol, Hope finally found hope.
“I truly believe that the cause of all hair thinning is multifactorial, so you can have different combinations like stress, hormones, nutrition, metabolic, and environmental triggers,” says Dr. Kogan. “At Nutrafol, we’re all about how you can support yourself from overall wellness to hair wellness. This is not just hair. A positive way of looking at it is that it’s a form of self-care. It’s something you do to improve. Taking care of your hair is a simple act of self-care.”
The power to change the conversation is ours.
Your strength to share your story can inspire another woman to do the same — and with that, slowly the stigma will start to fade away. Open up to a friend, a doctor, your hairstylist, or someone you feel safe with.
Stay positive, “rock what you’ve got,” as 28-year-old Kelly suggests, and know that the power to take control is already yours.