How I brought my thinning hair back from the brink

Did you know that stress, iron deficiency, illness and extreme weight loss can all cause thinning hair? When I was losing more than the average 80 strands per day and it wasn't growing back, I had to take action.

I'll be honest, my hair is like a security blanket. More than just an aesthetic thing, I rely on it to conceal the jawline I'm not mad about and to hide my embarrassingly red cheeks if I'm blushing. So this bout of telogen effluvium (the technical term for excessive shedding) did not jive with my world view at all. So here are the steps I took to bring my hair back to life, and to stop terrifying my hairdresser every time I attended for a colour top-up.

VISIT YOUR GP

After some research online, I found that if you've noticed your hair thinning or more than the normal amount of hair falling out, over the course of three months, there might be cause to go to see your GP about correcting any imbalances. The most common causes of hair loss are hormonal imbalances, stress, iron or B12 deficiency - and your doctor might be able to help with the  deficiency side of things, and the hormones. I went to see my GP and she gave me some great advice as to how to get back to full hormone health, which in turn improved things with my hair.

TRY TARGETED HAIR PRODUCTS

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Another thing I swear by when it comes to improving the health of my hair, and hence the thickness and length, is the Nioxon three part system. The first time I tried it was a few years back after a disastrous run with some badly applied extensions (shudder). And it worked like a charm. I religiously used the shampoo, conditioner and treatment every wash for about a year and I had my 'old' hair back. This time, I am in the process of doing the same and after three months, I can already see a massive difference. My hairdresser can too, and she's intimately involved with the thickness of my hair.

If your hair is visibly thinning, I would recommend system no.4, but system no.3 is probably the most popular for women. Definitely consult a professional hairdresser before you buy, however, as they will know which will suit you personally.

In the kit, which is about €50, comes with a shampoo, conditioner and treatment that should last three months. The shampoo cleanses the scalp and takes away anything inhibiting hair growth at the scalp level. The conditioner is applied from scalp to ends - scary, I know, especially if you have easily greased hair - but in actual fact it works and doesn't leave any conditioner-y residue. Then, after you've towel dried your hair and before blow-drying, you apply four or five small pumps of the scalp treatment. Work it in from scalp to ends and blow-dry straight away.

Not only does it make your hair grow at it's optimal level, but it thickens each strand to give you the illusion of thickness in the meantime. I love it, and know from experience that it works with consistent and correct use.

Nioxin Three Part System no.3, large, €52.50

WASH AND STYLE LESS

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It can be tempting, when struggling with hair thinning, to over-style and over-process your hair because, annoyingly, it looks better when freshly coloured or styled well. A hair catch 22. But overdoing it with heat styling and colour is totally counterintuitive and will only result in more hair damage and thinning. Try, where possible, to leave your hair to dry naturally, or blowdry on a lower heat than normal. Use a heat protecting spray or oil for protection (I love this Kérastase one, below).

Kérastase Elixir Ultime L'Huile Légère, €33

IMPROVE YOUR DIET

Eating complex carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, wholegrain rice, brown bread) is essential for your hair to have the energy to grow, and proteins (fish, chicken, lentils, chickpeas) are required to build and repair all of our cells, including our hair. Make sure your diet is balanced and features these things. Taking a multivitamin can't do any harm either.

AND REMEMBER...

  • Always bear in mind, using one product or changing one aspect of your lifestyle might not result in your hair improving - it could be, and most likely is, a combination of things. So a once-over with your doctor and advice from your hairdresser is recommended.
  • It's also worth noting that because of the nature of hair growth cycles, it could take up to six weeks to see an improvement. Having patience is tricky when you're hating your hair, but try your best.
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