‘I feel sad and old’: Loose Women star Nadia Sawalha cries as she reveals she is going bald.

After being diagnosed with the balding gene last year, Nadia Sawalha has now revealed the effect the condition has had on her hair.


More on female hair loss

Consultant dermatologist Dr Sharon Wong explains: There are many myths regarding common baldness, which is the commonest form of hair loss, and include the fact it can only be inherited from the maternal grandfather. The truth is in fact that genetic hair loss anywhere in the family is a risk, and can affect both males and females alike, and the genetic trait is stronger the younger you develop hair loss.

In women, hair loss can be further exacerbated at times of hormonal fluctuations such as post pregnancy, menopause and with use of the some forms of contraceptive pills, all of which can impact hair growth. Many women experience dramatic hair shedding a few months after pregnancy, known as post-partum shedding, and is due to the pregnancy hormones returning back to their pre-pregnancy state, but this usually settles over time without treatment. The menopause is also a time of significant change where the oestrogen levels drop and there is a proportionate increase in male hormones (androgens) in the body. Oestrogens have a protective effect on hair growth whilst androgens can exacerbate hair thinning and loss. In addition to hair loss, the lower oestrogen levels changes the texture of the hair – usually becoming more dry and brittle – so not only do women going through the menopause notice hair thinning and loss, but also textural changes to their hair, all of which can make the hair difficult to style and camouflage the areas of thinning.

Hair loss is often trivialised as ‘just hair’ or ‘just cosmetic’ because it isn’t a life-threatening condition, and I commonly encounter patients who aren’t taken seriously about their concerns and are often made to feel guilty for being upset about their hair loss. Throughout history there has always been an intimate relationship between a person’s hair and their identity, and those who lose their hair feel stripped of their identity as a consequence. However, the psychosocial effects of hair loss due to any cause can be profound and are grossly under recognised, with many patients spiralling into depression, anxiety and social avoidance behaviours.

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© 2020 Dr Sharon Wong

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