Over the past two years, my already-fine ponytail has dwindled down to a quarter of its size. I’ve tried everything to reverse the trend: Going off birth control; going on a hiatus with my colorist; trying every hair-growth supplement under the sun. I had four failed hair trials for my upcoming wedding before I finally accepted defeat: I wouldn’t be able to wear my hair down as I had always wanted to, because my hair had become nearly see-through. I know I sound melodramatic (it’s only hair, after all), but it was devastating.
Cue my excitement when a colleague suggested I meet with a trichologist to get to the root of the problem. For those unfamiliar, trichology is a subset of dermatology that focuses on scalp and hair health. Semblance of hope restored, I booked an appointment with Stephen Pullan, a consultant trichologist (aka hair doctor) for the Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic in New York. Here’s what he taught me:
Birth Control Might Be a Factor
As mentioned, I had gone off birth control in the hopes of restoring my natural hormone levels. But as Pullan told me, that actually might have been a hindrance to my hair growth, as many birth controls can actually stimulate follicles. According to the clinic, “oral contraceptives that use drospirenone have the potential to be more favorable for hair follicles, as there is a lower androgenic affect.”
...and Ferritin Levels Definitely Are
PSA: Low levels of ferritin—a blood cell protein that contains iron—is the leading cause of hair thinning in women. Pullan instructed me to get a ferritin test to check whether my iron stores were low. But after sharing my standard weekday meals (a banana on the way out the door; veggie and grains salads for lunch), he assured me—no test needed—that my iron levels were definitely not up to snuff. He sent me home with a Tricho-complex supplement (a blend of iron, B12 and vitamin C) as well as gelatin proteins to take twice a day.
Hair Needs to Eat in the Morning
As new information to me, I learned that hair is a “non-essential tissue,” meaning the human body doesn’t prioritize its nutritional needs first and it’s the first place to visibly suffer when nutrition isn’t up to par. The most important hair meal (sorry, banana on the go) is breakfast: Energy to form hair cells is lowest when you first wake up, so you need extra protein in the morning—plus complex carbs, vitamins, minerals and tons of water for a healthy hair diet.
...And to Be Coddled
I replaced my brush with a wide toothcomb and have been using a detangling spray every time I comb my hair to avoid split ends and breakage. I’ve laid off heat styling entirely and now brush my hair super, super gently. While I’ve yet to get my blood work done to deduce whether something larger is at play, I can happily say that my locks are shinier and more voluminous after just seven weeks of the regimen.