Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Illness and its effects on hair

I’ve seen numerous people who have grown out their hair and lost a great deal of thickness or on the other hand start on a path towards longer and healthier hair after such a loss. Personally, I had a period of about one year before deciding to grow out my hair after being ill. I wasn’t suffering from anything life threatening but I did end up with inflammation of my spleen, lining of my heart, and liver due to severe mono. This caused bradycardia and medically low blood pressure, blood loss through.. (TMI), and anemia. I had some of these issues addressed while hospitalized and others in later ER visits. My health improved when my body finally could break that cycle but it takes a very long time for the immune system and body as a whole to recover. For example, after I broke a bone in my foot, my body was unable to heal itself properly. Or, the flu would turn into a month and a half of bronchitis. Many medical conditions, including some mental conditions, effect the hair, nails, and other bodily functions. After that period I have great sympathy for those dealing with chronic and painful illness. It’s also very important to note that changes in hair can also signal that a trip to the doctor is needed. What’s more, if you have been struggling to get through periods of lesser health, previous thickness and hair luster can be regained. The key is patience and attention to one’s health. 

First, here is a photo from about a year before I was diagnosed with mono:

I chose this one because it is clear from the photo that my hair is naturally relatively thick. My hair grew longer and I got some layers with the longest layer being a bit below BSL. Then, I became ill. I wasn’t paying attention to my hair at all during that period so I didn’t even notice the extreme difference until after. This photo illustrates the difference well:

I had a “medical haircut”… meaning my hair shed at such a rate it became shorter. I’m glad that at the time I did not realize how severely my hair was effected. It would have just been one more thing I felt I couldn’t overcome.

Then a little over a year passed and I started to take photos (I had dyed my hair in the meantime and had a large hair cut that grew out considerably):

Below my shoulders the old thinning is still very visible. Especially on the sides where it looks scraggly.This was already after a large cut between APL and shoulders and then a few small trims. However, you can also tell the top looks thick again.

Since then, I have trimmed regularly and tried to take better care of my hair. The thickness is definitely growing down. Before, when I would trim the bottom inch off, that inch would be well under .5” in circumference. It was this way until recently. For the first time, I had to make an effort to cut off the bottom inch and it was more of a substantial chunk of hair. Honestly, I don’t think my hair is even completely recovered at this time. It has now been three years of relentless patience. It is worth it to me though.
I wanted to get my old hip length hair back:

(ps- I don't smoke!! that is a candle.. )

But, now I believe I will try to surpass that. 

What has helped my efforts thus far:
-Patience. This means burying your face in the sand sometimes and not comparing your progress to others. Unfortunately after severe shedding you have two options: keep the thinned out hair or cut it off. I felt my hair looked really odd thick on top with wisps through the length so my goal always was to cut it off.  The result of this is that while others grow rapidly to their goals, you will be the tortoise. But remember that we all have individual needs and don’t fret over it. 

-Regular trims. I was never a trimmer before. I would go years without a cut or at best only once a year. But, I do believe small trims on a frequent basis help your hair recover faster. If nothing else, you don’t have to wait months to remove the thinnest bottom inch. Once you get to a point you are reasonably satisfied with you can always alter the frequency you trim. 

-Not looking at my hair from behind. This goes back to trying to ignore it and not let it get you down. For the first half year of growing my hair, this would regularly result in tears. The fear that you will never recover can be overwhelming. Are the old years gone forever? Are you now incapable of growing hair past your shoulders that looks uniform? You can’t know those answers but not letting the questions get the better of you, will give you the strength to try and reach your potential. 

-Happiness in small victories. For me that was petting my new growth and feeling how soft it was. It was only a few inches but at least I had that ^_^’

-Acceptance of imperfections. Remind yourself that you are a work in progress. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Those who tell you: it is all downhill from here for you, your hair is too scraggly to grow, you are older now I guess your beautiful hair is gone, or even those who tell you what you *should* do with your hair. In one ear out the other. 

Remember that the road is long. 

Happy growing


  1. It is a very interesting what you are saying about the relationship of the health and the "quality" of the hair, this comment coming from a guy who
    unconcerned and uninformed just let his hair just grow up, the thing was that I used a treatment that "straightened" my hair but since then it has been a hell. To make it brief, I started loosing my hair in incredible amounts, I also started to think that I was going to get bald. Then I visited Dermatologist and he diagnosed me with seborrheic dermatitis and now I'm in treatment since like a year and a half but there's something that I realized in all this time and also what you also wrote, It's about not seeing every day the progress because of the process is too long even though our cases are not the same, the psycological part is fundamental for both. Well haha sorry if I bored you with my comment, greetings and keep always growing.

    P.S. I was stunned when I saw your height :D, love it BTW..

    1. Why is my height stunning? :P... I'm glad you found out why your hair was falling out. Personally I didn't notice mine as it was happening because I was sick. I wasn't very concerned about my hair at the time :3