In December 2018/January 2019, my hair started falling out. Now some of you that have been around for a while, will know that I’ve not coped well with being an expat and then my body decided it wanted to make sure that I knew that too. In this post I’ll be talking about why my hair fell out, how it affected me mentally, the ways I tried to cope with my hair loss, how long my hair was falling out for and how I tried to help assist with its regrowth. This is my Telogen Effluvium recovery story!
Please note that I am not a doctor, this is based on my hair loss experience. Consult a doctor before changing your diet etc. Everyone’s experience with hair loss is different.
Updated: March 2021
The whole complete story in detail was too long for a blog post, so I published a book about it on Amazon worldwide in both ebook and paperback versions. This is the link to the US store but if you search for ‘Kylie Neuhaus’ it’ll come up in the search results.
Recovery From Telogen Effluvium
Alopecia Areata or Telogen Effluvium
Originally the doctor diagnosed me with Alopecia Areata, hair loss which is part of a PERMANENT autoimmune disorder which tends to ‘show itself’ in your teenage years…I’m now in my 30s. The biggest similarity to my condition is that with Alopecia Areata the hair falls out in ‘areas’…and I had one big circular patch that fell out.
Aside from that, everything else seemed to point more towards Telogen Effluvium, where something like shock or stress can send lots of the hair into the Telogen stage of the hair cycle. We all lose hair on a daily basis but Telogen Effluvium is when lots go into that stage at once. This certainly makes sense for how the majority of my hair fell out, the timeline matched and the Dermatologist put it down to stress, not an autoimmune disorder. I thought the first doctor was rude anyway so I’m going to say that he was wrong and I’ll go with what the Dermatologist said it was.
(All the white scalp shouldn’t be showing, this is also after hair fibres kinda stained the top of my hair too!)
Telogen Effluvium Timeline | How Long My Hair Was Falling Out For?
This was the thing I wanted to know the most. When was my hair going to stop falling out. This is a rough timeline of my hair loss journey:
Trigger event: October 2018
Hair started falling out: End of December 2018
Went to doctor: Beginning of January 2019
Referred to Dermatologist: End of January 2019
Steroid injections: End of February 2019
Hair fall started to ‘slow down’: Beginning of April 2019 (101 days after it started)
Fall out STOPPED: Beginning of June 2019 (5 months)
Regrowth noticeably started: Beginning of June 2019
How Hair Loss Affected Me Mentally
I really struggled with feeling out of control. My hair was falling out through stress, but I was now even more stressed because of what was happening, so how the hell was I meant to stop it?! I didn’t know what to do and it kinda felt like I just had to sit back and wait for what was going to happen, to happen. At the time I didn’t really know how long it was going to be falling out for and I didn’t know how bad it was going to get. Trying to understand it by doing my own research most of the time just made me feel worse. Seeing pictures of how bad it got for other people just freaked me out.
For a long time, I couldn’t sleep. Looking back I’m not really too sure how I even managed to function at my job because I was running on empty. Big time. I would get paranoid that having my head on a pillow would ‘rub’ more hair off my head and I when I finally did fall asleep, I’d suddenly wake up grabbing at my head thinking a massive chunk had fallen out.
The only thing that managed to get me to fall asleep was to listen to meditation apps. It didn’t stop the waking up in the night, but at least I could actually fall asleep at a reasonable time, rather than tossing and turning for hours.
Every day ‘jobs’ became a chore. I didn’t like brushing my hair because that’s when the most would fall out and I didn’t like washing it because I lost a lot during that time too. I decided not to change my hair, as I thought the ‘recovery’ time would be quicker if I just looked like myself. Instead, I just used what I had left, to try and cover up what had gone. I actually didn’t even go to the hairdressers during this time because I didn’t want them violently washing it or tugging on it with brushes. I didn’t use any heat on it while it was falling out either, so no hair dryers or straighteners.
Shampoos I Used During My Hair Loss:
Lush Shampoo Bars
Nioxin Hair Care Kit System 2 for Fine Hair with Progressed Thinning (I was sent this kit for free as part of a product review site I’m part of)
OGX (Thick & Full) Biotin & Collagen Shampoo + Conditioner 19.5oz, Duo-Set (I loved this stuff, it smelt so good and made my hair feel nice)
Things I Bought In Preparation To Cover Up Hair Loss:
As a way of feeling in control of the situation, I bought things that I could use to cover up any patches if it got to the point where I needed a ‘quick fix’.
Telogen Effluvium Diet | What I Ate To Encourage Hair Growth
Diet can sometimes be the cause of hair loss if you’re not getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals. I was pretty sure I still was, I hadn’t changed my eating habits but I made sure I was giving my body enough of the things that it needed to encourage hair growth. The Dermatologist even asked if I was vegetarian, because lack of meat can actually be a cause. A lot of vitamins and minerals can be taken in supplement form but I wanted to eat as much ‘naturally’ as I could.
I did take supplements of Biotin for almost 11 months (I took this brand for a while: Spring Valley 10000mcg Biotin Dietary Supplement). Biotin can be found naturally in the form of vitamin B7 which can be found in foods such as: eggs (in the yolk, however RAW eggs can actually stop biotin from being absorbed by the body!), almonds, spinach and shredded wheat. I have since switched to ‘Nature’s Bounty Optimal Solutions Hair, Skin & Nails Extra Strength‘ which has biotin and several of the other vitamins and minerals that I mention combined.
Lack of zinc can slow hair growth. Alcohol can lower zinc levels in the body so I cut out alcohol, not that I was a big drinker anyway.
Magnesium is meant to help with stress, depression and anxiety, this can be found in spinach and almonds too along with dark chocolate and avocado.
When your immune system is low, such as when you have a cold, it can sometimes make more hair fall out. I work in a school with kids that don’t always cover coughs and sneezes or wash their hands properly so again I then became paranoid. I’d use Emergen-C 1000mg Vitamin C Dietary Supplement to try and keep my immune system up.
(I asked the dermatologist if it was OK for me to take the biotin and Emergen-C supplements and he said it was fine for my situation)
What Does Telogen Effluvium Regrowth Look Like?
(8th month: Telogen Effluvium regrowth)
Should I Use Topical Steroids For Hair Loss?
Looking back, if it was to happen again (fingers crossed it won’t), I probably wouldn’t bother with using a topical steroid. I don’t think it particularly sped anything up, it just meant that every evening I had to touch my giant bald hole, when I just wanted to pretend that it didn’t exist. At the 2 month mark I actually had the steroid injected straight into my head, which as you can imagine wasn’t that fun. After I had the injections, I stopped using the liquid steroids.
Other than the main ‘hole’ I was losing hair all over my head, but not in patches, it just got really thin. The problem with steroids is that you can’t use them across a large area, so I could only really use it on the worst patch.
(9th month: Telogen Effluvium regrowth)
Talking About It Helped Me The Most To Deal With Hair Loss
The best thing I did to cope with my hair loss was to talk about it. I was surprised with the amount of private messages that I was sent from people that had been going through the same thing but felt like they couldn’t tell anyone. Essentially suffering in silence. I found that by talking to people, not only would it not be a shock to people if suddenly I was to wake up one morning and be half bald, but I could ask other people that had been through it about their experiences or things that had worked for them. By doing this, I pieced together all the bits of advice to find something that worked best for me.
I also decided to start talking about it on my YouTube channel (as you can probably guess by some of the videos that I’ve included in this post!). I never showed visuals of the worst bald patch as that was something that freaked me out when going through it, so didn’t want it to stress out other people that was going through the same thing. If I was suffering, the least I could do was to maybe help someone else that was experiencing it too.
How Do You Know When Telogen Effluvium Is Ending?
For me it was a case of almost a ‘black and white’ ending. I chanced going to the hair dressers at the beginning of June, as I hadn’t been for a whole year and was just about to go away for the whole summer. Washing my hair had caused a lot of anxiety and I was scared to let someone else do it instead. It was also hard to find the courage to tell the lady that I actually had a giant bald patch but she didn’t act surprised or anything, which was nice. I noticed a lot came out as it was tangled around her fingers, but amazingly the next day I only had like 4 hairs fall out when I brushed it in the morning. The lack of hair that came out was enough for me to think ‘this might be the end’!
Thankfully I was right, every day afterwards continued with the same trend, only a couple of hairs would come out when brushing. I was back to normal after 5 months of it falling out!
How long does it take to recover from Telogen Effluvium?
Where I Am Now In My Telogen Effluvium Recovery
It’s now been 2 years since my hair started falling out and as you can see by the timeline it has stopped and is growing back. I felt the lowest between March – June 2019 as that’s when I was self conscious of how thin my hair looked. As bad as it sounds, I did even photoshop a few of my photos to fill in how much ‘white scalp’ I could see. It’s not something I’ve ever really felt the need to do in the past but in this situation it felt like a ‘harmless’ edit.
One of my photoshops…
It was only when it was growing back that I could really tell just how much I had actually lost. It was a weird feeling because the short bits growing back would often blow in the wind and almost felt like I was being blown off balance…they were in big enough chunks that I could actually feel those areas being ‘pushed around’!
Other than the chunks that’d often stick out, I started to feel ‘normal’ again around the 7 month mark, purely because my head was back to ‘hair colour’ again, it no longer looked white and thin. Even with the regrowth sticking up at weird angles, for the most part I could hide them or clip the worst of it out the way until it was long enough to start properly blending in!
Obviously depending on how long your hair is, depends on how long it will take you to ‘fully recover’. I went for another hair cut in October 2020 once I had returned to the UK (just under 2 years since it started falling out). The hairdresser made a passing comment asking if I ‘twirl’ my hair because there was a bit that was shorter and it didn’t even click what she had meant. I hadn’t really noticed the regrowth anymore, as most of it was long enough to blend in with the rest of my hair again. It was only after I left that I realised she had probably spotted the chunk of regrowth being a different length. Although where that part was located on my head, after the haircut, I think now that bit is probably close to being the same length as the rest.
I can happily say that I haven’t had any more signs of more falling out or of it reoccurring. Hopefully my recovery is done! Hooray!
If you’re experiencing Telogen Effluvium or have any questions, please feel free to message me, I’m all ears if ever you need someone to talk to 🙂