How to best disguise my thinning lady-hair?
January 19, 2016 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Asking for more aesthetic advise, not medical. My dark brown hair is wavy and about 6 inches past my shoulder blades, and falling out at a rapid pace. Is there a cut or color I should get to help make it look less startling? Or just invest in lots of hats? Or maybe there are hair accessories I can buy that sort of cover up the crown? Advice is most appreciated.

So I've read the other questions regarding hair loss for women, and they mostly seem to skew medical. I have an appointment with my doctor but not until next month. My gut tells me this is related to the low carb diet I took on about 5 months ago. I've lost some weight but I have a ways to go, and would like to continue eating low carb as it's the only thing that's ever worked for me. My last doctor said I have PCOS and recommended low carb (for what it's worth I've had pelvic ultrasounds and they never showed cysts.)

I take biotin every day (I started 3 months ago when I started noticing hair loss, at the time I wasn't sure if it was just me being paranoid.)

Like I stated above the fold, my hair is about 6 inches past my shoulder blades, very lightly layered, dark brown, and I have long bangs and a natural side part. I've always had very full hair (as in a lot of it) but the texture is very fine. The thinning has gotten bad but is most noticeable at the part, especially at the place where my bangs start. There is high contrast between my white scalp and dark hair. I'm 30 if that's at all relevant.

I've been wearing a lot of hats for now, but I won't be able to get away with that forever, and it isn't appropriate at every place. I'm very interested in what kind of hair cuts or colors could help "mask" this, or if there are any head bands or other accessories (I've never really bought either) you can recommend that might cover the crown-area. Or even if there is a way I can style my hair? Most days I just would brush it out and put a bit of mousse in for volume, so I'm not really versed in different ways to style it.

I have always cut my hair myself so I don't have a trusted stylist to consult in this case, and so I turn to you, metafilter!
posted by Syllables to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
After both of my pregnancies I temporarily lost a ton of hair. Things that helped disguise it were getting a shorter cut so it's not weighted down any, changing where I part it, and pulling it back a lot into pony tails or buns. It also seemed like wearing wide headbands would help, though they never seemed to sit right on my head - but that's just me.
posted by amro at 9:09 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Getting a layered cut, where you can puff up the crown area, and shellac it in place may be an answer.

Another thought is a wiglet. A small hairpiece that clips into your hair.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:14 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have that fine hair with high-contrast coloring, too, and getting my hair cut short and highlighted really made a difference.

I've been doing variations of Michelle Williams' Louis Vuitton cut for the past couple years and it works really well with fine brunette hair. There's enough length to play with, but it's short enough that there's a ton of volume.
posted by mochapickle at 9:18 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hi, you're me. I started losing my hair in my late 20s, partly - I suspect - as a side effect of my hormonal birth control, partly hereditary (my paternal grandmother and aunt had very, very, very thin hair). Here's what's helped me.

(1) ROGAINE. You aren't asking for treatment advice, but I'm always a bit shocked that women don't try the only FDA approved, over the counter treatment for hair loss. It takes about four months to figure out if it's going to work for you, so it's worth a shot. I've been using the 5% foam (marketed to men) for a few years now, and it's made a huge difference to the amount of shedding, and I've even got a bit of regrowth. I only use it once a day, so a can lasts about 2-3 months. Totally worth it IMHO.

(2) Lose the layers. They tend to make thin hair look stringy. My hair looked much thicker and healthier when I went to a stylist to get a blunt cut.

(3) Try a dark-coloured dry shampoo, or hair fibres like Toppik, to disguise the glaring white scalp problem. Just mist a little bit of dry shampoo directly on to your scalp. It works wonders. Toppik might even be more appropriate for you, but I haven't used them, personally.

(4) Do you use any styling products or tools? Now's the time to start. I find my hair always looks a bit better with some texture and movement, so things like blow-drying upside down with a bit of mousse stops my hair plastering itself to my scalp. That, plus tinted dry shampoo, goes a long way to making my hair appear thicker.

I also personally like to keep my hair long enough to pull back, for days when I just can't be bothered, but YMMV.

Good luck!
posted by nerdfish at 9:18 AM on January 19, 2016 [10 favorites]

I have halted my hair loss with Rogaine, but not much grew back. If I'm going out and want full coverage I use either the Bumble and Bumble tinted dry shampoo on my scalp line, or some of that Joan Rivers hair powder. My hair is ashy brown, and I use the "dark blond" shade for both. I actually got more layers in my hair cut, and try to scrunch up my natural wave to make it puffy and curlyish. I find that Toppix makes me constantly itch my head like a monkey. Good luck!
posted by Malla at 10:12 AM on January 19, 2016

Best answer: The Bumble and Bumble tinted dry shampoo is awesome; I use it to cover my grey roots in between visits to the colorist. I agree with Malla that it could help with the scalp line issue, but you have to practice with it because it can be difficult to get the look you want.

As for your cut, I would suggest a shorter cut, like between shoulder length and chin length. If the part really becomes an issue, you can go even shorter and style without a part (my aunt who has gone completely grey does this because the roots come in so quickly and a part really shows it). Going to a stylist may be beneficial because they can look at your hair and hear your concerns/goals and give you a cut and style that matches your needs. Best of luck.
posted by JenMarie at 10:18 AM on January 19, 2016

One last note: I would call your doctor again and try to get in earlier, even if it's only on the cancellation list. Extreme hair loss can be indicative of lots of different medical issues. And as someone above noted, halting hair loss may be more achievable than getting any degree of regrowth. Time could be of the essence here.
posted by JenMarie at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I lost 50% of my hair after a serious medical issue (multiple surgeries, rapid weight loss). The way I camouflaged it was to wear wide head bands close to the front of my hairline. Here are some ideas. Like you, hairline and part were where the problem was most obvious. Headbands covered this, and were less cumbersome than hats. Happily, my hair came back! Sending you good vibes.
posted by kimdog at 10:29 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are powders that you tap on in pigments that match your hair color to hide the bald patches. They are excellent! A quality Beauty Supply will carry this. It will more than solve your initial problem - no hats necessary!

That said, I'm worried for you. That much hair loss suddenly is startling and you should get an emergency doctor's appointment.

- Don't diagnose for yourself by attributing to the low carb diet. THIS IS THE DOCTOR'S JOB

- Stop taking the Biotin on the off chance what you think is in the bottle is not in the bottle. I take lots of supplements, but I'm aware there is not much regulation. That's a significant correlation you've mentioned, so stop taking it for now and keep the bottle.

- Ask your doctor before applying any medicine to your scalp. You don't know what's causing this. You don't want to complicate this concerning issue. See the doctor asap :))
posted by jbenben at 10:33 AM on January 19, 2016

I also have dark brown wavy hair, and for years kept it about the length you are describing. When I switched to a much shorter hairstyle -- started about chin length and have been steadily going shorter with each cut -- I noticed that my hair seemed way, way, WAY thicker. Something about getting rid of all that length, and also keeping it mostly a blunt cut, just really gives me so much more body. I like to keep it just long enough so I can tuck the front wisps behind my ears.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:38 AM on January 19, 2016

I have heard thinning hair on the scalp is a side effect of PCOS, so make sure you mention it in the course of your PCOS treatment. It is also genetic, so take a look at your elders. It also just plain happens to a lot of women over 30. Personally, I found that turning 30 and a considerable weight loss caused a worrisome amount of shedding and my part visibly widened. All of this is to say, you're certainly not alone. But do go to the doctor to rule everything medical out. And do visit a stylist at least once (you can ask if there is anyone at the salon who works with thinning hair when you make the appointment) because they can take a look and show you tricks, whereas we can only guess what might work for you.

I'm going to second the Rogaine. They make a women's 5% once-daily foam and it has markedly decreased my shedding and caused some baby regrowth after 7 months. Worth a try.

Without seeing your hair/face, I can only tell you bangs are a horrible idea for me personally-- I feel I do not have "enough" hair to spare that I can pull some of it forward, and I especially do not want to create another part (i.e., another opportunity to display my scalp.) I also find that excessive layering (like more that one layer) makes my ends look very wispy. Excessive length ABSOLUTELY weighs it down. Just above my shoulders seems to produce the densest look for me, with one layer for movement and a lightness at the crown I can position for coverage. So to me, it sounds like you could go shorter and try to grow your bangs and integrate them into the rest of your hair for a fuller look.

As for styling, keep conditioner off your scalp and avoid any heavy products (silicone is a killer for me, weighs everything down.)
posted by kapers at 10:45 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think I have similar hair to yours and have been through periods of hormonally triggered hair loss. Today, at 52, I am back to having a lot of fine hair.
First thing is: cut it off. If it starts coming back you can easily grow it back. If it's wavy now, it will probably be curly when you cut it short, and you need to remind your (new) stylist of that so as not to end up looking like an old lady with a bad perm. However, the curliness efficiently hides any shortage of hair.
When I was your age, most of the time my best friend chopped of my hair in a way that was both practical and flattering but obviously not done in a salon. It suited my budget and general attitude and style at the time. But every time I needed radical change - for instance because of hair loss or color experiments, I went to a stylist to get a good basic cut and advise for maintenance.

Second, if any color, then lighter than your natural color, or with lighter highlights. Actually, that is good advice for almost anyone with light skin after they turn 30. At a particularly bad time, I went all blond. This is a problematic solution, though, because the color-products harm your hair and scalp, which you don't want to happen. Now, I try to encourage natural lightening - such as leaving the sea water in during summer (or even spraying it with salt water, both for easy styling and lightening).
posted by mumimor at 10:53 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I lost quite a lot of hair, when I lost a lot of weight. It's a not-uncommon side effect of weight loss, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that's why your hair is thinning right now, but I'm glad to hear you're going to be seeing your doctor soon.

Mine grew back in, and after the initial shock from the weight loss, hasn't shed any more or less than it did before I lost weight. At the time I started losing weight, my hair, which is fine and plentiful in general, was waist-length. I had it chopped off to chin-length, and that immediately made it look thicker. I avoided all styling products and conditioners, because they only seemed to weigh it down and make the thinning more obvious, but my hair isn't prone to drying out, so I don't need to moisturise it very often anyway. For what it's worth, I first noticed the hair loss about three months into the diet, and it had tapered off about three months later, and started growing back in a short time after that.
posted by skybluepink at 11:10 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Losing weight exacerbated my PCOS hair loss big time. It takes a while to notice any hair loss so the PCOS took me up to the edge and the weight loss pushed me over. Rogaine, low androgen birth control and Spironolactone saved my hair. It's never going to be what it was when I was a teenager, but it's so much better than my rock bottom! Ps, Toppik helped in the interim. Pick one lighter than your hair color. Good luck!!
posted by cecic at 12:14 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Get into your doctor ASAP.
I lost a ton of hair with PCOS over the last 15 years. I wish I had used a wiglet when I still had enough hair to make a difference. I tried rogaine, biotin, toppik, etc.

Now I wear a full wig. LOVE IT. I feel so much more confident, and so many other things are now easier. I just came to the conclusion that life was too short to hate myself (over something I couldn't control)!
posted by heathrowga at 12:16 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hair growth and loss is on a roughly 100 day cycle, so it might even been too soon to tell if this is a permanent problem. A good stylist can help a lot (and may even be able to tell you if they see regrowth). If the hair at the crown of your head is still in good shape but you're not ready to do a giant cut, think about a triangular graduation. It takes hair weight off parts that don't need it, and the hair in front has some help from elsewhere on the top that doesn't look like a combover. I did that haircut for a long time, and just recently moved to the Michelle Williams one linked above. Highlights help visually and texturally -- when I had even less hair than usual thanks to post-anesthesia hair loss, getting them made a huge difference.

I've found lots of products that help. One brand I haven't seen mentioned here, which should be, is Living Proof. A lot of people also swear by Nioxin. Clarifying shampoos work fine for me. "Volume" shampoos are VERY hit or miss.

While I agree with everyone who says seeing a doctor is a good idea (an endocrinologist might have insight if your GP doesn't), it's not unusual to start taking biotin and think that all seems worse for a while. Biotin's not working on the hair and nails that have already left the launching pad. Also: Although the FDA doesn't require biostudies of OTC vitamins -- if you're buying your biotin from a reputable source, like a nationally known drugstore, it's reasonable to assume you're taking biotin.
posted by gnomeloaf at 12:56 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: shorter cut. like almost pixie. i experience a bunch of hair loss on topamax and i had my stylist cut and layer and razor it so it was almost unnoticeable. also check out volumizing powders like "powder play". i believe another brand also has tinted versions that kind of go with your hair color.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:17 PM on January 19, 2016

In my experience: shorter haircut (I have shoulder length now), use Nioxin or Bosley shampoo.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:00 PM on January 19, 2016

I had pretty significant hair loss due to PCOS, and before I started a treatment that worked (for me it was Spironolactone and a low-carb diet), I used Aveda's thickening shampoo and volumizing hair tonic. I have long, straight hair and otherwise don't style it at all. It worked so well that my partner at the time didn't even notice I'd been losing my hair until I told him about it.
posted by rhiannonstone at 7:00 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the wonderful advice. I ran out last night and got it mostly all chopped off, which was absolutely the right move. I went with the graduated bob recommend above, and while I can't say I love having short hair, it made a HUGE difference.

I had no clue products like Toppik existed. For now I'm going to invest in some tinted dry shampoo and some wide headbands and hope I don't need to call in the big guns.

One final note: the stylist had a lot of wonderful tips mostly echo'ing the above advice, but she also showed me how to do a sort of zig-zag part (not in the exact same style that I wore to middle school in the 90s, it's far softer and really really helped hide the loss in the part!).

And thanks for everyone voicing concern and well wishes. I know this is a common thing to happen to women, but that doesn't mean it doesn't suck.
posted by Syllables at 8:13 AM on January 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

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