At 72 years of age, superstar Elton John is one third of the way through his farewell world tour, and celebrating the launch of his autobiography, Me.
As the multi-award winning singer and composer takes a brief look back over his incredible career, he has decided to talk candidly about his life for the first time since his infamous 1997 documentary, Tantrums and Tiaras.
In an exclusive BBC interview with Graham Norton, the Your Song hitmaker discussed the media attention his hair loss has garnered over the years. This included why he hates being bald and is now happy with his look after finding wigs that suit him.
Failed hair transplants
Elton John’s Male Pattern Baldness was never a secret; his noticeably thinning hair got gradually worse over the years, as is the natural progression of this permanent, hereditary hair loss condition.
This can be charted via his record sleeves and music videos. It also led to him spending large parts of the 1980s covering up his thinning on top with a cap, hat or headpiece, both on and off-stage.
His hairloss became such an essential part of the Elton John – formerly Reg Dwight – story that it was covered in his award-winning 2019 biopic, Rocketman.
“In the film my mother says I’ll be bald by 20 – well I wasn’t quite bald by 20 but more or less by 30 it was going, and I don’t like being bald. I look like Shrek and I don’t like it,” Sir Elton told Graham Norton.
“I had hair transplants which didn’t work – that was the early ‘Louis Pasteur’ version of a hair transplant..,” joked the Circle of Life singer.
“There was a tabloid story that it had been put it in upside down,” recalled Norton of Elton John’s unnatural-looking ‘hair plugs‘ which were the result of one of the earliest forms of hair restoration surgery.
“So that didn’t work either – and I’m sure the drugs didn’t help either,” admits the reformed cocaine addict and alcoholic, who was well-known for his love of excess. Famously, the father-of-two ran up a £293,000 bill for flowers over 20 months prior to his bankruptcy hearings in November 2000.
He is absolutely right in thinking his recreational drug use was unhelpful to healthy hair growth after hair transplant surgery or just in general. The combination of alcoholism, marijuana smoking and cocaine use will likely have had various negative effects on his hair, as well as his overall health.
Belgravia superintendent trichologist and senior hair loss specialist, Rali Bozhinova explains, “In cases of alcoholism, alcoholics may absorb less nutrients from their diet, for instance absorbing less B vitamins – including biotin – and zinc, both of which play a key role in supporting the maintenance of normal healthy hair growth.“
“Elton John’s general lifestyle at the time, based on stories he has told, would have involved a lot of additional stress being placed on his body – from late nights, drug and alcohol abuse, to bulimia, smoking and the emotional stress of handling fame, the media, divorce and bankruptcy,” she notes.
“Stress is well-known to contribute to hair loss and poor hair quality, so it is perhaps unsurprising that his hair transplants did not go well. He would have also had to be dedicated to using a pharmaceutical male hair loss treatment course on an on-going daily basis as aftercare, to ensure the DHT-prone hairs surrounding the new grafts did not shed too. But the lifestyle he has described does not sound conducive to consistent use of medication.”
“Furthermore, these stressors can trigger temporary hair loss from all over the scalp – a condition known as Telogen Effluvium – which can further exacerbate Male Pattern Hair Loss”.
“I don’t like being bald”
“I decided to wear a wig and the first wigs I had were so bad, I remember the review when I came out for the Freddie Mercury concert at Wembley said I had a dead squirrel on my head,” the ex-Watford FC chairman told the BBC.
“Looking back at it it did look like a dead squirrel – more like a dead mole – and it’s gotten better over the years. I was teased mercilessly in the press.
I’m very happy with it now. It looks good, I’m happy with it on. Yes, I am bald but I don’t like being bald and so I wear a toupee.”
Recounting a visit to Atlanta, Elton John explained how he ‘took his hair off’ and left it by the bed before going to sleep. Upon being awoken by a strange noise, thinking he was going to be burgled, he ran into the corridor only to remember “I haven’t got my hair on!”.
After running back and grabbing his toupee, he quickly put it on and went back to find two maintenance men fixing a leak. “I went to the bathroom and looked at myself… I’d put it on back to front. I looked like Frankie Howerd on a really really bad day. So God knows what they must have thought because I was just wearing underpants and a back-to-front wig…”
“It’s the first thing you grab in a fire,” teased Norton.
For those who don’t like the idea of surgical hair restoration or wearing a wig, but are equally unhappy at the thought of going bald, a timely visit to a hair loss clinic for a consultation is recommended.
Once the hair follicles have atrophied to the point that they are incapable of producing even thin hair and the skin has taken on a smooth appearance, this means baldness has set in and hair regrowth solutions will be largely futile.
However, as it generally takes a number of years to get to the point of baldness, the earlier professional advice can be sought, the better – not to mention, potentially the more cost effective!
Finding out which hair loss treatments and appropriate hair growth supporting products are best-suited to your specific condition, level and pattern of shedding, plus medical profile, early on, can give you plenty of time to do your own research into which hair loss solutions you feel most comfortable with, saving a lot of trial and error.
The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.