My hair is befuddling me.
February 12, 2007 1:19 PM   Subscribe

Help me with my mysterious hair medical mystery.

I have always had pretty thick, wavy hair. About six months ago I started thinking my hair was falling out. It seemed like I was pulling out handfuls at a time. Everyone told me that it was my imagination, that I just noticed it more because it is significantly longer than it used to be and because my stylist had thinned it out about 3 times in the last year.

Then I started noticing a lot of white around my crown. Not gray, bright translucent white. Meh, I thought, I am getting old. (27 y/o) A couple of days ago I was checking my hair out and noticed a ton or new growth, baby hairs everywhere and not only that, when I plucked two of the grays out they both had over an inch of brunette growth.

So my hair flipped out, fell out, and went white and then looks like it is now fixing itself.

I haven't made a drastic change in diet or meds, or any crazy stressfull events. Any ideas?
posted by stormygrey to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have no explanations, but my hair has definite "seasons", and it seems like they kind of match up with hormonal drifts. I seem to have worse PMS during the shedding time, and my skin goes nuts around the same time I go white-blonde (like when I was a little kid, towhead blonde - I'm ash blah now) at my temples, which seems to be just before I hit a big growing spell.

I hadn't ever considered it a problem, except in a shower-drain sense. It just seems normal to me.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:39 PM on February 12, 2007

Stress can cause you to lose more hair than normal, due to homones too.
posted by sulaine at 1:48 PM on February 12, 2007

My sister-in-law had something similar happen for about 6 months after the birth of her son. I'm guessing the combined effects of stress (she's a perfectionist having to deal with the whirling ball of chaos that is an infant) plus hormonal changes brought about by the whole birthing experience was at the root of the matter. You say that there have been no single drastic changes, but perhaps there have been many smaller changes that might be snowballing?
posted by lekvar at 2:04 PM on February 12, 2007

I can't find the specific article, but according to one study, stress does not make your hair fall out, but it can make it turn gray.
posted by JacksonEsquire at 2:14 PM on February 12, 2007

Best answer: IANAD, but it sounds like you may have some type of diffuse alopecia. I have alopecia areata and in my case it's an autoimmune disorder which is tied to stress/general health. My hair falls out in circular patches and when it grows back the first inch or so of hair is very fine, tapered, and completely white. The hair then regains all of its natural pigment, but usually the next several inches grow in curly/wavy while the rest of my hair is straight. Also, root ends of the hairs that fall out will be very fine and tapered, and that differs from the hair that falls from natural shedding.
posted by defreckled at 2:27 PM on February 12, 2007

Hair is mysterious, four anecdotes: When I was a baby, all my hair fell out at once in the bath and then grew back a different color. I have a friend from high school who lost several large chunks of hair, the doctor said it was stress, the hair eventually grew back. A friend from college got a weird bald spot on the side of his head, the hair regenerated. An acquaintance lost all of her hair in grade school, and it never returned.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:46 PM on February 12, 2007

Ok...I am pretty sure why that's happening. But only if this is true...if your premenstral symptoms have gotten in you have more noticeable symptoms during periods and even in your teens and early 20s. Is this the case before I go into the explanation?
posted by icollectpurses at 4:15 PM on February 12, 2007

Response by poster: I have been on depo for the last decade pretty straight, as such I don't have cycles or periods. However, the quasi pms I get right before I am due for a shot can knock me off my feet with fatigue and body aches.
posted by stormygrey at 4:23 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

ok! I am pretty sure I know what it is then. While stress can cause hair loss, thinning and color change, it has to do with how cool your lower body is as opposed to how warm it should be. By nature, women's lower body is warmer than Where as men's upper body is and should be warmer than lower body. Why this has to be is another explanation that you don't care about. But for women it has to do with protecting our reproductive organ. When our lower bodies get cooler than it should be, the 'heat' travels upwards which causes excess heat around heart, head, etc which results in numerous symptoms which includes, thinning of hair, greasy hair, getting tired easily, sleepy eyes, hot flashes, dry eyes, dry nose, dry mouth/bad breath, etc. And during or even before menstral cycles, one might have worse symptoms than she did when she was younger.

This is caused by many things but I'll mention some that most of the women encounter. One of the factors is I don't mean to sound like a religious fundamentalist but the fashion has sort of encouraged us to wear low rise pants and pay more attention to keeping the upper body warmer than the lower body...I am a victim of modern fashion as a working woman. Another factor is the stationary working condition we are used to. The lack of activity/exercises doesn't help but to take that 'heat' away. This also applies to overweight women, esp if they're getting older. You see some overweight women with long thin hair that's sometimes's not coincidental, being overweight brings raises the heat to upper body which can result in breakouts and hair that gets greasy easier than before.

Depending on the woman, I hear once you have a child, during the 9 months, your body is able to retain that 'heat' because you're not releasing it each month. While birthcontrol is making your brain think that you're pregnant, your lower body knows what's going on.

I hope I didn't confuse you with this explanation. Being active as in regularly working out releases that heat from your upper body and you are able to work your lower body(not muscles but around your belly and reproductive organs). And also try to keep your lower body warm with a warm blanket at work or warmer clothes or by not being out in the cold too long.
posted by icollectpurses at 5:08 PM on February 12, 2007

icollectpurses, you're really going to need to cite some sources on that. I'd google it to do it for you, but I can't even figure out what I'd use. In the very least doesn't fashion also encourage women to not wear any clothes on their "top halves" either?

Using Occam's razor, I'd say defreckled's idea would be the best place to start as the symptoms match almost identically.

In the end the fact that the OP hasn't changed or undergone anything would make a doctor the inevitable result should curiousity turn to worry.
posted by artifarce at 5:39 PM on February 12, 2007

Actually I don't have to do anything...I wrote what I wrote stormygrey and not for you. Yes fashion does that, you're correct, good for you, but as I said, that's not as necessary as keeping the lower half warm...if you cared to read the whole thing before expressing your skepticism.

I am as skeptical as the next person, but this whole forum is based on sharing intelligence...but I have noticed there are more of people like you who have time to reject and share your experience not read the whole thing and say...oh listen to me I got nothing to offer but do what this person says.

This forum also comes with an unspoken understanding that one should seek doctor's opinion when it comes to physical matter. And I think Stormygrey is capable of knowing that what I wrote is not based on my personal diagnosis of her condition. The question is...are you capable of making that decision or do you go around posting 'no you need to prove it to MEEE'?
posted by icollectpurses at 5:56 PM on February 12, 2007

icollectpurses, I don't think artifarce was trying to attack you, necessarily, but rather asking you to explain what sort of theory your ideas come from. It's obviously not western medicine, and doesn't sound familiar. So where does it come from? If it's your own idea, that's fine, but if it's tied to something - Ayurvedic practices, etc - artifarce is just asking that you identify that tradition. I'm wondering the same thing myself, and it's not unreasonable to do so. No need for defensiveness, it makes your answer seem less reasonable. Just friendly advice, since you're fairly new and all.
posted by donnagirl at 6:48 PM on February 12, 2007

Let me rephrase that. In the interest of getting anything but skepticism for your opinion you'll need to cite sources. I did read everything you wrote, and instead of coming off as "[shared] intelligence," it sounded highly irreproducible. At the very least sources would give the OP a name for this condition, something to ask her doctor about, and more actionable items than exercise or not wearing such skimpy clothing (neither of which may even apply to her!) or wearing a blanket.

I said a doctor would be inevitable because nothing has changed in her lifestyle. I did not say she should ask a doctor instead of listening to your advice. The only thing we have to judge by is her actual symptoms, which as I noted, sounded very similar to a previous explanation.

(And yes, on preview, if it's tied to other medical traditions, then please share. I'm actually rather cold at the moment (no snark intended!).
posted by artifarce at 7:00 PM on February 12, 2007

Response by poster: Lots of good discussion folks. Since I have thick hair naturally my doctor did take a look during my routine physical last week and she said I seemed to have plenty of hair and no discernible bald spots. She also said all my blood work was "immaculate" so its nothing obvious.

It does sound so very much like defreckled's experiences.
posted by stormygrey at 7:14 PM on February 12, 2007

Best answer: I second alopecia — in my case it was stress-related.

Several years ago my mother developed a golf-ball sized bald patch over her right ear after breaking her right arm — she lives alone and the stress of having to dress herself, figuring out how to drive and just function in daily life without your dominant arm caused it, according to her doc.

Three months after getting married and moving to Korea (both within the same two-week period) I developed a golf-ball sized patch on the back right side of my head, sort of behind my ear. I got cortisone injections (IN MY SCALP! YEOW!) to make it come back quicker, but my experiences with regrowth were the same as defreckled's. Doctors believe alopecia is genetic.

When I went to the derma, though, he asked me about stress in my life and I replied "I wasn't stressed until I realized my hair was falling out!" But really, I've endured much more stressful times than the marriage/moving period, so I'm not sure what caused the negative reaction then.

I later learned that the hair loss occurs roughly three months after a traumatic/stressful event because though the hair stops growing at the time of the stress, it takes three months or so to "push out" of the skin, leaving the bald patch. Maybe there weren't any lifestyle changes at the time you noticed the change in your hair, but if you think back a few months, perhaps something happened or changed then?

Actual real life scientific answers can be found here.
posted by Brittanie at 8:45 PM on February 12, 2007

If you'd like to know anything more about my experiences, email is in my profile.
posted by defreckled at 1:25 PM on February 28, 2007

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