I Started Losing My Hair at Age 29—Here’s How I’m Dealing

kelsey clark

@kelseymclark

It all started with an innocent search for “widening part.” Within seconds, I fell down that familiar internet rabbit hole paved with triggering WebMD articles and unnerving Google image results. Terms like “female pattern hair loss” and “alopecia” flashed across the screen, and my panic flared with every click. 

As my internet spiral came to a close, I promptly turned my attention to the bathroom mirror. I amassed a camera roll full of nearly-identical headshots, snapping photos from every conceivable angle: the back, the side, the front, the top. I styled my hair in a top knot, a low pony, a side part, a middle part, hoping something would somehow make feel this problem wasn’t real. 

An hour later, bleak photo evidence in hand, I finally asked myself, Am I seriously losing my hair? On some level, I think I already knew the answer; you can only ignore a thinning ponytail and clumps of hair in the shower before you start to seriously wonder. Bathing, which had always been a respite for me, started to border on anxiety-inducing. 

My concern had been mounting for months to years, but I kept feeding myself a list of excuses: that it was just my anxiety talking, that my mom had thin hair and mine was just following suit, that shedding is a natural part of aging. But it had gotten to a point where I could no longer rationalize it away—I could see noticeable thinning throughout my part and on the crown of my head. In my gut, I knew something was seriously off.

My panic quickly melted into worry and embarrassment. While hair loss can be just as stressful for men, it's more socially acceptable and depending on the gene pool, somewhat expected. I discovered women make up a shocking 40 percent of hair loss sufferers, but it’s seldom discussed. My femininity felt strangely threatened, and I realized my hair had long served as a security blanket. While I may not have loved other parts of my body, I was always confident in my long, wavy hair.

I eventually went into problem-solving mode and made an appointment with a top-rated dermatologist in my area. Their professional guidance, coupled with independent research, a good haircut, and naturopathic medicine, have helped my hair stage a small but mighty comeback. Ahead, find the lifestyle changes and products that have paved the way over the last six months. 

The Dermatologist Approach

As if my self-diagnosis wasn’t unsettling enough, my first appointment only confirmed my hair loss into undisputed existence. My dermatologist mentioned female pattern baldness and a temporary condition called Telogen Effluvium as possible explanations, and did my bloodwork for further analysis. He prescribed me over-the-counter Rogaine—a product that sparked tears and sent reality crashing down on me—and asked me to come back in three months. 

I picked up a bottle of the men’s 5% strength per his instructions (it's the exact same thing as the women’s, only stronger and without floral branding), and dutifully applied it to my part and crown that night before bed. The foam settled nicely into my problem areas, and I felt little to no discomfort upon application. While dermatologists can’t definitively say how minoxidil works, they believe it increases blood flow to the hair follicles, which promotes the growth of thicker, stronger strands. I eventually invested in a six-month supply of Kirkland’s 5% minoxidil, which is the off-brand version of Rogaine, with the same same active ingredient, for $5 per bottle (as opposed to $35 at CVS). 

A few weeks later, my bloodwork came back with slightly low iron. While my result of 29 fell within the "normal" range of 12 to 207, my dermatologist said he wanted to see the number up around 70. Low iron can result in hair shedding as well as fatigue, lightheadedness, and heart palpitations, all of which I’d experienced and wrote off as anxiety. He recommended taking an over-the-counter iron supplement twice daily, which I quickly added to my routine. 

The Naturopathic Approach 

I followed my dermatologist’s instructions to a tee, but I also took matters into my own hands. First and foremost, I felt I could no longer pull off the long, layered waves I'd sported since high school. I made an appointment and chopped my hair into a blunted lob—a style that promised to make my wispy strands appear as thick as possible

I began researching top-rated hair supplements, and ultimately went with Nutrafol—a system that targets the root causes of female hair loss like stress, the environment, and hormones. I completed a mineral hair analysis with the brand’s team of naturopathic doctors, and discovered stress was likely a key factor behind my shedding. Considering the last year I’d lost my job, made the difficult decision to leave New York, moved in with my parents, and then with my new boyfriend, I wasn’t surprised by this result. While I already take Lexapro for anxiety and depression, they suggested additional stress-relieving supplements. I went with the Nue Co.'s Mood Capsules and Organic India's Tulsi Ashwagandha Tea, in addition to my regular yoga classes and outdoor runs. 

I also made the difficult decision to go off birth control after over a decade of taking the pill. While this was and is purely speculation, I felt the hair loss kicked into high gear when I switched to Larissia after being on Sprintec for 13 of the 14 years. Knowing hair is heavily influenced by hormones, I wanted to eliminate all possible factors. I’d been considering ditching the pill for a few years anyway, and thinning hair proved to be my tipping point. 

Finally, I invested in a few soothing hair care products to give my strands some much-needed TLC. Minoxidil can seriously dry out your hair and scalp, and Gisou's Honey-Infused Hair oil and Mask proved to be the perfect antidote—they both smell heavenly and make my hair and scalp feel quenched. I’ve always loved Verb’s affordable, clean products, and decided to commit to their Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner for good.

The Results

My six-month follow up appointment is still on the horizon, but I can confidently say that my hair has improved. Not only did my three-month appointment go considerably better than the first (no tears this time), I’ve noticed less shedding in the shower and have a respectable crop of baby hairs along my part and crown. I’ve never been so happy to see a soft halo of frizz. 

As it stands, there are still a lot of unanswered questions, and I may never know what caused this bout of hair loss. But if I had to guess, I think this will ultimately be diagnosed as telogen effluvium, with the triggers being stress, low iron, and maybe the birth control switch. It’s difficult to pinpoint a hero product since I attacked this from all angles, but I’d definitely say the Minoxidil made the biggest impact. Without it, I don’t know if my hair would have reentered the growth phase at all. 

This has all been a stark reminder to take care of my mental health and always listen to my gut. I may never enjoy the long, thick tresses of my late teens and early 20s again, but after this experience, I’ll happily settle for healthy hair that evenly covers my scalp. 

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