I do people’s hair for a living – so my self esteem dived when I started losing mine

Work was hard. I’d get really jealous of clients who came in with amazing, thick hair (Picture: Emily Williams)

I love making people feel good about themselves, seeing them leave my chair more confident than when they first sat down.

That’s where my job satisfaction comes from. 

And hair has always been tied to my own sense of confidence, too. I always took so much pride in mine when I was younger – it was thick, long and glossy. I knew I was lucky to have it, and became even more aware of it when I trained as a hairdresser in my early 20s. 

Back then, when I was going out often and dating, I would have fun with styling it. It was part of my look, having this big, thick long hair. It made me feel like me. 

So, when it first started falling out, I was in utter distress. 

My first brush with hair loss was when I was in my 20s. I’d noticed that my scalp had started to tingle constantly – it was a really weird feeling. Then, after a few weeks, it started coming out. I’d lose clumps every time I washed it. 

I knew about hair loss and had experience dealing with clients who’d been affected, but I couldn’t understand why it was happening to me. I would cry all the time and hated looking at myself in the mirror. 

At the time, I’d just broken up with someone and I didn’t like where I was working, so I think stress played a big part. To add to that, I was going out loads and not eating very well, either. 

It went on for weeks and weeks, my hair getting thinner and thinner until there was so little left. It was actively falling out for at least two months, but even when it stopped it didn’t start growing back until months afterwards. I thought it was never going to. 

Work was hard. I’d get really jealous of clients who came in with amazing, thick hair and would feel so much worse about my own. I thought people’s hair made them – that’s what you’re taught in that job. 

To try and hide my hair loss I had extensions put in. But that made the situation so much worse – they were just putting weight on my already fragile hair that wasn’t sturdy in my scalp. When I eventually had them taken out, my natural hair was in tatters. 

As I’d just found myself back in the dating game, it was the worst time to lose my hair and have my self-esteem take such a knock. I remember going on a date with all these extensions in – I honestly thought that I looked so ugly without them –and I truly believed that if the boy I was with saw me without this extra hair he’d drop me like a shot.

Slowly, my hair started to grow back, but the experience of losing it has always stayed vivid.

Then, in 2018 when I was 30, just when my hair had finally recovered, it happened again. 

This time it was as a result of my pregnancy. I had been expecting some kind of hair loss after having my little boy, as my friends had experienced it about three months after giving birth. 

I was dreading it. I couldn’t bear the thought of having hair as bad as it had been a few years before. But, like clockwork, three months after the birth, it started shedding. 

I’d Google postpartum hair loss and just couldn’t find any stories or images that I could relate to (Picture: Emily Williams)

While my friends had lost a little hair at the front, mine was all the way through the head. And it just kept on coming – for three months. 

I believe I lost 50% of it – even more than last time. You retain hair when you’re pregnant, so the change was even more stark. Although I had a healthy, happy little boy that I was so focused on and grateful for, I couldn’t help but feel deflated and desperately disappointed. 

It was just so thin, leaving big patches of my scalp exposed. 

My reaction this time was to avoid looking at it, so each time I’d wash it I’d just put it straight up again when I came out of the shower. I hated catching glimpses of it in the mirror accidentally, or when I was working. 

But if I ever tried to talk to friends about it, or tell clients who were down about having fine hair (which was always so much thicker than my own!) no one really took it seriously. They just told me my hair was fine. 

I was doing my best to hide the problem – so perhaps they really didn’t notice – but it did feel like the issue was dismissed a lot. 

It’s tough when you’ve just had a baby: there are already lots of changes in your body to get used to, you’re so tired and hormones can be all over the place. With my hair loss on top of that, I felt really down on myself. 

And it was really difficult dealing with hair loss at work, too. If I had a wedding booking, even though I’d usually have to get up at five o’clock in the morning, I’d still take the time to style it really carefully, in a very particular way, to hide the problem.

You don’t want to turn up to do bridal hair on a woman’s wedding day with your own hair looking terrible – that’s definitely not going to inspire confidence in them. There’s a lot of pressure to make sure you’re turning up with a hairdresser’s head of hair. 

But at least this time around my hair loss was less of a focus, less of a priority – I had a baby to look after, and he was more important than anything else. 

Still, I’d Google postpartum hair loss and just couldn’t find any stories or images that I could relate to, and although I have worked with a lot of people with postpartum hair loss, I’ve never seen anyone who’s had it as bad as me – even my own hairdresser tells me she’s never seen a case like mine. 

So, I felt I needed to check that nothing more sinister was going on – I was starting to worry I’d developed alopecia.

I went to the doctor and showed them photos, explaining my history with hair loss. They weren’t very interested though; I had a blood test and, as that came back normal, that was the end of it.

I felt dejected and wanted answers. 

Eventually, I decided to see a specialist who found that I had really low ferritin levels – which is a known cause of hair loss. So I’ve been taking tablets for that, as well as making sure I’m massaging my scalp to try and stimulate the hair follicles.  

I’ve dealt with it all differently this time. I learnt my lesson and would never have extensions bonded in again – although I do have clip-ins that I sometimes wear if I’m going out with friends or have a special occasion that I want to dress up for. I take more care of my hair than ever. 

I’m definitely not looking forward to going through it all again if I have another baby – but at least I now I know it will grow back eventually. And while my hair still plays a big part in my sense of identity, I don’t feel that it defines me any more.

You can follow Emily on Instagram here.

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