I decided to finally delve into one of the most painful issues of my health journey – my hair loss. I used to be a child with fabulous hair. I remember everyone complimenting me on my hair.
Then I hit fourteen and started shedding. My hair never went back to its former glory and kept constantly getting worse. A ride that has been with me for the majority of my life.
Hair loss is incredibly complex, that’s a fact I have learned throughout this journey. In some people, the trigger might be quite straightforward and easy to fix. In some, it’s multi-factorial.
I do appear to be the second case. It’s obviously hard to trace back what and why happened more than 20 years ago. I know that whatever is going on with my hair has a strong genetic component. My sister’s hair went down the drain too.
It is likely that my hair loss started as a chronic telogen effluvium resulting from decreasing ferritin levels. My shedding started two years after my periods.
It seems that there are genetic differences in how much ferritin people need for proper hair growth. I knew seriously anaemic people with the most fabulous hair.
Yet, my journey increasing ferritin has been complicated. At my latest test, I still showed suboptimal levels. I know that the consumption of green tea decreases my absorption and that I don’t have optimal vitamin D levels despite supplementation.
With the coronavirus situation now raging, it is complicated for me to get a re-test. I do not know where I am at now, I just know that, after a few months of very little shedding, I am shedding again profusely.
By writing everything about my hair loss battle, I want to put myself into a more scientific mindset to evaluate my situation.
Despite all I have been doing in the nutrition and supplement area for the past five plus years, one possibly very detrimental thing has been interfering with my healing – my CPTSD.
Now, my CPTSD seems to be a bit better. I got into a place where I can deal with my depressive states and dips into despair much better, and so it feels it might be the right moment to start my health review.
Hair loss is a very stigmatising and traumatising issue, especially for women and I do feel obliged to not only contribute to removing this stigma, but also to help people see what choices they have on this journey and make it easier for them to make their decisions from a more informed place.
Now the question – is it worth seeing a trichologist when you have hair loss issues?
My general answer would be yes. The reason for that is that they will have the right blood tests done for you. You might be one of the lucky ones who will experience full regrowth after correcting an underlying issue as simple as ferritin of vitamin D deficiency. I don’t seem to be one of those.
Over the years, I have visited three trichology centres in London. Sara Allison, the London Institute of Trichologists and Philip Kingsley. Philip Kingsley are the ones whose treatment I currently follow and am not totally sure about. So I decided to write about them first.
Philip Kingsley trichology clinic in London – the good stuff first:
They do order a comprehensive blood test for you. Mine revealed that despite supplementation, I have insufficient vitamin D levels (might be a result of my IBS), and ferritin levels below what is considered optimal for hair growth (even though those levels are pretty much in the range considered absolutely OK by a GP).
They did advise adjustments in my supplements.
And they do request you to repeat your blood tests.
The problematic stuff:
My main problem with Philip Kingsley is that they are way too eager to rush you on their magic potion called the 3M drops.
The previous trichologists I visited diagnosed me with chronic telogen effluvium, chronically increased hair shedding, which is the problem I have had since the age of 14.
Philip Kingsley were a bit too keen to dismiss the hair shedding problem, although I keep recording the number of hair that I shed each day (yes, I do count the hair that falls out of my head).
In their view, they would have to count my hair shedding themselves. My word wasn’t enough for them. I felt seriously patronised and quite frankly offended by this.
I felt like they would do with improving their listening skills and respecting their clients more.
They, instead, focused on the androgenetic alopecia diagnoses. That’s the nasty condition when your hair is essentially allergic to testosterone and its by-products. Even if you have normal testosterone levels, if your hair follicles have this sensitivity, they will essentially start shrinking and eventually die.
Now, I do not disagree with their diagnoses. I do think that I might have a comorbidity of chronic telogen effluvium and androgenetic alopecia.
I am still too sensitive about this issue to be sharing pictures of my troubled hair here so you will have to take my word for it (I do immensely admire all those brave girls who not only speak about it but also show it bravely to the world. At this stage, I am not one of them).
To stop my androgenetic alopecia, Philip Kingsley put me on these 3M drops. It’s a mixture of minoxidil and some anti-androgenetic hormones that should protect your hair from the testosterone.
I did subscribe to the treatment but I do have quite some reservations about how they went about it.
It’s a treatment which you are supposed to continue indefinitely for the rest of your life. Since it contains hormones, it can have possible systemic side-effects. Now Philip Kingsley claim that ‘they don’t have evidence of it absorbing systemically’. The fact that they don’t have evidence doesn’t seem it doesn’t happen.
Now, I was very vocal about the fact that I suffer from hormone-related conditions. I have fibroids and endometrioses, both of which are made worse by excess estrogenic hormones.
I was also very vocal that I would prefer not to be put on minoxidil. Minoxidil is a highly controversial drug. One of the few things deemed sort of effective for hair loss. But there are many caveats. What I am the most concerned about (the vain woman that I am), are the studies and plentiful anecdotal evidence showing that minoxidil negatively affects collagen synthesis and leads to skin ageing.
My facial skin, unlike my hair, has been quite a joy. At 37, I do have very few signs of facial ageing and I want to keep it that way as long as possible.
Philip Kingsley also didn’t take any photographs of my hair, which means that there is no scientific means for evaluating my progress. It’s just their word that I am supposed to blindly trust.
When I asked them to produce some data on the success of their treatment (since they have been supposedly prescribing it for 30 years), they weren’t able to.
So why did I decide to stick with them? It’s simply based on their reputation for treating celebrities and rich people and a couple of positive reviews, which I found on the internet.
I also understand the logic of protecting the hair follicles against the testosterone, although the science behind this is quite inconclusive and results mixed:
I wish more people were sharing their experiences so that we all had more information when making decisions about our health.
Where am I more than six months after starting Philip Kingsley treatment
Let me first say this. When I started the 3M drops treatment, I was in the middle of the probably worst shedding period of my life. It was a horror movie.
This shedding did reduce and in fact, I had a couple of months this winter when I shed only a little. Unfortunately, I am now back to shedding my usually chronic telogen effluvium amount.
It is true that I went through a very challenging relocation in January and started a new job. The move from London to the Netherlands was mentally taxing. There was a period of almost a month when I averaged on four hours of sleep a night, simply because I was so wired.
It is generally accepted that major psychological stress is one of the key factors contributing to hair shedding. My current shedding did start about three months after the relocation madness, which is considered the generally expected delay between the time when your hair switches from the growth phase anagen and reaches the point when it falls out at telogen.
For this reason, I want to, for now, continue with the 3M drops, even though I have not seen positive effects. In fact, I am quite convinced that my hairline has gotten worse since I started. Unlike Philip Kingsley, I do keep photographs to refer to.
Since I was so reluctant to use minoxidil, I never used the full 2ml dose they prescribed. I decided to test a smaller amount on a smaller area – my hairline. And the result in this area seem really poor. I do see a worsening of my hairline, my thining is at least the same, maybe a bit worse. I did try to discuss this with Philip Kingsley and they said that no way their drops could make anything worse. I mean, that’s the mind-fuckery when someone is trying to persuade you that what you see is not possible. I am quite allergic to that.
I am continuing to use a smaller amount dispersed on my scalp and combine it with rosemery oil, which in one study showed as effective as 2 per cent minoxidil in regrowing hair.
Why I want to continue with this treatment for another six months despite concerns?
There are three main reasons:
- The stressful period of relocation, which may have skewed my progress
- Simply wanting to give it more time
- Aiming to optimise my health on all other levels to create the best conditions for all the genetic elements to start expressing in the right way
Are there risks of coming off this treatment?
Yes, there are. Coming off minoxidil usually comes with a massive dread shed. That means I will have to wean myself off slowly if I want to avoid another hair apocalypse.
My conclusions about Philip Kingsley?
- the good: you get the blood tests
- the bad: their blind faith in their hormonal drops. My experience with this potion so far is negative. My hair situation is worse than when I started