My name is Declan Leavy, and I’m a trichotillomaniac. Where anorexics see themselves as overweight, I see myself as going bald. Yes, there’s actually a name for the irrational fear that dominates my life. I religiously research new techniques, lotions and potions for anti-hair loss, constantly check my hair in the mirror and I spend hours every day making sure it is styled to perfection so that my receding hairline is, visually, non-existent.
Trichotillomania is actually the name given to people who physically pull their own hair out, but I have been assured by my trichologist (yes, I have one of those!) that the term also applies to someone like me; a person with an overactive fear of losing their hair.
I have recurring dreams about hair loss, brought on by an eternal dread that one day it really will be hair today and gone tomorrow. One regular vivid dream is where I wake up and look down at my pillow to see that all of my hair has fallen out. To make matters worse, I’m surrounded by male friends who are all sporting immaculately-styled weaves of thick, dark hair. Hair rage kicks-in but it’s at this point that I usually wake up – sweating and shaking.
So where does this irrational fear and dread stem from? My dad and my brother both lost their hair in their early twenties. Pops opted for a comb-over, but my brother rocks the Ross Kemp look and it really suits him. However, I have studied my face and head shape extensively enough over the years to know, without a shadow of doubt, that I would look positively hideous with no hair.
But are there any remedies that actually work? Can you really rub a lotion in to your hair and expect to see new hair growth? My personal opinion is that you can’t. I have no scientific proof to back this up, I haven’t carried out any tests or surveys, but what I do have is first hand experience. During several years as a beauty writer, I have tried countless potions, all promising to ‘strengthen hair follicles’ or ‘encourage new hair growth’, and all they succeed in doing is making one’s hair smell particularly unpleasant.
However, I do believe that tablets and supplements can prevent hair loss, because they provide the body with essential vitamins and proteins needed to keep the hair follicles strong and healthy. I religiously take a twice-a-day supplement called Viviscal, which costs €59 per month. Viviscal has scientific proof to back up the efficacy of its supplements and they have countless case studies from their many customers worldwide, including yours truly.
Supplements may not work for everyone but so far so good where my hair is concerned. My ‘do’ is in tact, albeit a little bit further back up my already large forehead. But should the time come when I can no longer strategically style my hair to within an inch of its life, I will opt for whatever surgical procedure is on offer, including direct hair implantation, which has worked for some of my friends. This trichotillomaniac isn’t going down without a fight!
Direct Hair Implantation
My case study Niall Hughes opted for the popular AHI technique, which is available at the Ailesbury Clinic in Dublin and Cork. The AHI method doesn’t use any scalpels, stitches or donor strips for preparing follicular hair transplants. The follicular units are instead extracted one-by-one from the lower back and sides of the head using precise micro-surgical tools. The procedure is relatively painless, with the donor area healing within two to four days. Most patients start to see a difference within a couple of months but full re-growth can take up to twelve months.
The cost per follicle is around €4. Most patients require at least 1,500 follicles to begin with, so expect to pay upwards of €7,500 for your first treatment. Niall now has a full head of hair, but it didn’t come cheap. His procedures so far have cost him nearly €25,000 and he’s not finished yet! I’m told, however, that Niall was an extreme case and most patients require a lot less, with the average cost being around €7,500.
For more information, log on to www.ailesburyclinic.ie
Viviscal Man contains AminoMar C marine complex, which provides the essential proteins needed to nourish thinning hair and support natural hair growth. Amino acids are the basic structural building blocks of proteins and are essential in the formation of the hair structure. The inclusion of zinc and flax seed is believed to keep the hair follicles healthy and full of nutrients. €49.95, at selected pharmacies and online at www.lifes2good.ie
As we get older, most of us will experience some sort of receding or balding. There are ways to style your hair without looking like you’re verging on a comb-over. There are also products out there that work to cover up bald patches. Super Million Hair gives the appearance of a full head of hair in a matter of
seconds. Fibres attach themselves to the hair that’s there and thickens it, so they’re perfect for covering an emerging bald spot or where the hair is receding. There are eleven shades available and you simply sprinkle the container over your hair, dispersing thousands of tiny fibres to intertwine with your own hair. They bond securely and stay in place and there’s also a mist spray to help set them in place. €38 from Knights on the Green and Knight Dundrum. Expert tip: when drying your hair, don’t rub vigorously with a towel, be gentle and even let it dry naturally if you have the time.
Flax seed is believed to reduce the DHT inhibitors (which cause hair loss) and helps to keep the hair follicles healthy and full of nutrients. Zinc is an essential mineral for healthy hair and is often found in hair health supplements. It is also proven to boost a man’s libido so you’re getting two benefits for the price of one! From around €4 at Holland & Barrett stores nationwide.
There are countless shampoos and conditioners on the market that all promise to promote healthy hair growth but the effective ones for me are specialist thickening shampoos, which help to make the hair look thicker and therefore make it that bit easier to cover up receding hair lines or bald patches. A tip here is when you’re styling your hair, use a drier styling product like a clay or dry putty to give the hair a fuller look. Gels make the hair look wet, causing hair to stick to the scalp and accentuate any trouble areas of thinning or receding. My shampoo of choice? Kiehl’s Ultimate Thickening Shampoo, €20.50 from Kiehl’s stores in Dublin city centre, Dundrum Town Centre and soon to open in Arnotts.
As a male grooming writer, over the years I’ve been inundated with topical lotions that promise to prevent hair loss and even make it grow back. Personally I don’t think any lotion can make your hair grow back, otherwise the percentage of balding and receding men around the world would be a lot lower. However, I do believe you can stimulate the hair follicles to promote healthy hair growth. Rogaine would be the best known product on the market but my product of choice is Vichy Homme Dercos Aminexil Pro, €40 from pharmacies nationwide. It contains Arginine, which is one of the 20 essential amino acids required for the formation of proteins essential for healthy hair growth. The massaging applicator helps to stimulate circulation at the hair’s root. You apply on the problem areas morning and night for six weeks.
Old Wives Tales
Don’t believe everything you read! Hanging upside down whilst rubbing curry paste in to your hair will not cause hair to re-grow. Nor will massaging the scalp with honey and egg yolks.
Unfortunately, there’s no truth in the idea that the more sex you have, the less hair you’ll lose! And the same goes for the rumours that the chemicals released during sex can affect hair loss. Science has yet to uncover any proof to this fantasy. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep experimenting!
And for those of you who are going bald – and unlike me you’re willing to embrace it – look how well the bald/shaved head look works for these guys: