Depending on which generation you’re from, you may know Ricki Lake from her role in the hit musical Hairspray, her US talk show, or as a contestant on the first celebrity season of The X Factor.
Throughout her career, the much-loved American was hiding a secret which she has only now opened up about: hair loss.
After shaving her head into a neat crop, the 51 year-old took to social media to talk about the pain of losing her hair and the remedies she has tried to get it back.
“From Hairspray to Hairless”
In a long post, published on New Year’s Day 2020, Ricki Lake detailed her hair loss story, first clarifying that she was not sick – that was not the reason for her new short haircut.
“Suffering in silence off and on for almost 30 years… I have been struggling with hair loss for most of my adult life. It has been debilitating, embarrassing, painful, scary, depressing, lonely, all the things… Almost no one in my life knew the level of deep pain and trauma I was experiencing… I know that by sharing my truth, I will be striking a chord with so many women and men,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
Outlining how she believes a number of factors contributed to her thinning hair, she said it started due to the over-processing and over-styling required during filming for Hairspray. From what Lake says, it is likely the frequency of these damaging techniques may have caused chemical trauma and Traction Alopecia.
In addition, she feels that “yo-yo dieting, hormonal birth control, radical weight fluctuations over the years, [her] pregnancies, genetics, stress and hair dyes and extensions” were all part of the on-going hairloss problem.
Numerous causes of hair loss
It is often the case that women’s hair loss has numerous causes and factors.
Certainly emotional stress and the physical stress placed on the body by extreme diets and weight changes, hormonal contraception and having a baby, plus the strain placed on the follicles by extensions and wigs – something Ricki Lake also tried to hide her hair thinning – are known to cause or exacerbate hair loss from all over the scalp, or where the source of the tension is located.
Furthermore, a genetic predisposition can cause thinning and hair fall from the top of the scalp, from crown to hairline and temples, from Female Pattern Hair Loss. Common signs of this permanent, hereditary condition include the parting looking increasingly wider and changes to hair density, such as the ponytail feeling thinner.
Tight hairstyles, extensions and wigs can cause Traction Alopecia, whilst stress-related hair loss is known as Telogen Effluvium or Chronic Telogen Effluvium and is generally temporary. However, in those with an underlying disposition to androgenic alopecia (Female Pattern Hair Loss) Telogen Effluvium can trigger this type of shedding prematurely, or make it worse if it is already active.
Whilst each of these hair loss conditions can be treated, individually or simultaneously, where the follicles are still capable of hair growth, in the UK at least, they are not treated with steroid injections, nor hair vitamins – as Ricki Lake advises she has tried.
Steroid injections tend to be used in some cases of patchy hair loss or baldness caused by the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata, whilst vitamin supplements are not designed to treat hair loss of any kind; they are generally intended to encourage the maintenance of healthy hair through supporting the normal functioning of the hair growth cycle.
In the UK the only MHRA-licensed women’s hair loss treatment for Female Pattern Hair Loss – which is also the only FDA-approved treatment in the USA, too – is the topical drug high strength minoxidil.
Although it has only been authorised for this specific use, the dose-dependent hair loss solution is largely acknowledged to have benefits when used as an ‘off-label’ treatment for other types of shedding, including Traction Alopecia and Telogen Effluvium.
After her last “extreme diet” caused another bout of hair fall, Lake decided to go for the chop instead of exploring further hair regrowth options. “I buzzed my hair off and it feels so good!… I am liberated. I am free…” she wrote, to much acclaim from her followers who left her over 1.6 thousand overwhelmingly supportive comments.
She said that she will continue to “wear hair” on occasion, but wanted to tell everyone because, after such a long time, she is now “so done with hiding”.
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.