55% of women will experience hair loss at some point in their lifetime. That’s over half the female population. And yet, despite this, we are so often encouraged to view baldness as something which afflicts men, and only men.
The issue, of course, is stigma: male baldness is normalised and accepted a lot more than female baldness, which means that women are more likely to feel ashamed of their hair loss and attempt to conceal their symptoms. And – if lots of women are concealing their symptoms – it creates the false impression that fewer women suffer from hair loss than is actually the case, which feeds into the shame and stigma even more.
In 2023, we should be putting this stigma to bed, so that women everywhere know that female hair loss is not as rare as it is made out to be. Fortunately, there has been a recent wave of female celebrities opening up about their experiences with hair loss, and sharing their solutions for coping with this very devastating experience – from hair transplant treatments to medications such as Minoxidil to simply embracing their bald scalps for what they are.
In this article, we have compiled a list of 9 female celebrities who suffer from different types of baldness and reveal their hair loss secrets.
What is hair loss?
Hair loss is the involuntary shedding of hair from the body. It can be the symptom of a medical condition such as alopecia areata, or a scalp infection such as ringworm. It may be the product of ageing, a genetic predisposition, or a side-effect of taking certain medications or supplements. It can be triggered by a hair-pulling disorder called trichotillomania, or by the hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy, childbirth, menopause or a thyroid condition.
It may be caused by a treatment such as radiation therapy on the scalp, or by an injury, burn or scar. A traumatic incident can cause ‘shock hair loss’, whilst recurrent stress over time can also lead to balding. The frequent use of heated tongs, hair extensions or other intensive hair products and accessories can cause the hair to grow thin and fall out over time, whilst elaborate hairstyles – particularly those which pull tightly on the roots – can lead to traction alopecia. In other words, hair loss has a lot of potential causes.
And there are nearly as many types of hair loss as there are causes. ‘Hair loss’ can refer to thinning (the significant reduction of hairs in an area of the scalp) or baldness (the total absence of hairs in an area of the scalp). It may manifest as a receding hairline, or as a ‘bald spot’ on the crown.
Hair loss can sometimes refer to ‘patchiness’, which is when spots of baldness puncture an otherwise healthy head of a hair. Other patients experience ‘loosening’ of the hair, which is when the anchorage of the roots in the scalp weakens, resulting in clumps of hair being uprooted by hairbrushing or other forms of gentle touch.
Regardless of the form it takes, hair loss is always distressing. Learning about female celebrities who have experienced hair loss can help to soothe the worries of those who suffer from the condition, whilst also shedding light on possible solutions and treatments.
Female celebrities who have suffered from hair loss
The comedian, actress and TV personality, Rosie O’Donnell, is well known for her philanthropy and service to others. In addition to being an LGBT+ rights activist and the founder of Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation, she is famously outspoken on social and political issues.
It is not surprising, therefore, that O’Donnell has been very vocal about her experience with hair loss. In an attempt to raise awareness about female balding, she posted a photo of herself on Twitter, in which she points towards the spots on her temples where the hairline has receded significantly. “Male pattern baldness … aging is fun”, she jokes in the caption beneath.
Although O’Donnell refers to her hair loss as “male pattern baldness”, the shape of her hairline actually resembles female pattern baldness – which is the corresponding condition for women. Unlike male pattern baldness (which is characterised by a receding hairline and the emergence of a bald spot at the crown), female pattern baldness manifests as general thinning across the entirety of the scalp. This thinning is usually most prominent at the temples and along the parting, and – as the condition progresses – bald spots can appear in these areas.
Female pattern baldness is talked about far less than male pattern baldness, and it is generally stigmatised a lot more. This creates the impression that the condition is much rarer than it actually is, and – as a result – women often respond to it by attempting to conceal and hide their balding, rather than seeking treatment. By opening up about her hair loss on social media, Rosie O’Donnell is helping to fight this stigma by raising awareness about how common the condition actually is.
Another female celebrity to open up about her experience with female pattern baldness is the personal trainer and fitness coach, Kayla Itsines. Kayla has made a career out of promoting healthy living: she is the creator of Sweat with Kayla (a fitness and meal-prepping app) and the author of the Bikini Body Guides (a series of healthy living ebooks). By divulging her history with hair loss, the fitness guru has shown that even the healthiest of us can fall victim to this condition, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.
In an Instagram post, Kayla revealed to her followers that she has “genetically really thin hair” due to a “family history of female pattern baldness”: “I can see my hair getting thinner and thinner the older I get.” Nevertheless, she is determined to “focus on being happy and healthy” and “not let it rule my life”. She concluded with an important message for anyone who suffers from the same condition: “you have NOTHING to be shy about, be PROUD. I am sure all of you girls know what I’m saying, so let’s talk about it.”
By doing just that herself – talking about it – Kayla is helping to quash the stigma associated with female baldness, which will hopefully encourage other women to open up about their experiences and seek out the treatments that can help.
Kristin Davis has been playing and reprising the role of Charlotte York from Sex and the City since the romantic-comedy drama series began in 1999. She starred in the franchise’s two Emmy-award winning films in 2008 and 2010, continues to play the role today in the sequel-series And Just Like That…
Although Charlotte York became a style icon in the early 2000s for her glossy, voluminous curls, Davis herself suffered from hair loss as a result of traction alopecia. This condition is triggered when the hair is subject to repeated pulling, tugging and strain, which often happens when a person frequently wears their hair in tight braids or buns, or if they style their hair using heated tongs.
Davis’ hair loss was prompted by the excessive heat styling that her hair was subject to during her time on Sex and the City, as well as her choice of hairstyle – since she often wore her hair in tight, high ponytails. Luckily, the actress was able to reverse the impact that traction alopecia had had on her hairline by having a hair transplant, which restored her hair to its former glory.
The American singer, songwriter and actress Ariana Grande’s most iconic feature is her signature high ponytail and lustrous loose curls. What some fans might not know, however, is that the pop sensation always wears her hair in this style because it conceals the hair loss that she has suffered as a result of intensive styling.
In a Facebook post that she uploaded back in 2014, Ariana explained that her hair began to fall out during her first four years on the teen sitcom, Sam and Cat. The singer played Cat Valentine, and she had to dye her hair red on a weekly basis for the role. “As one would assume, that completely destroyed my hair,” Ariana wrote in her social media confession, before going on to explain that her hair became so damaged that she started to wear wigs on the sitcom, instead of dyeing it.
Although Ariana’s hair has now returned to its natural brown colour, the damage that the regular dyeing had on it is still visible. “I wear it in a ponytail because my actual hair is so broken that it looks absolutely ratchet and absurd when I let it down,” she wrote. She also wears hair extensions to conceal her hair loss, and hopes that wearing these will – for the time being – allow her natural hair to recover and grow back underneath them.
Unfortunately, whilst hair extensions can be very effective at concealing hair loss, they will continue to cause damage to one’s natural hair as they do so. This is because extensions tug at the hair follicles, which can trigger traction alopecia. This means that it is unlikely that Ariana’s natural hair will grow back beneath her hair extensions as she hopes it will, and patients are advised to avoid following her example.
Sometimes, hair loss can’t be attributed to a medical condition or connected to a single cause – as it’s the product of many contributing factors. This was the case for the actress and talk show host Ricki Lake, who is perhaps most famous for playing Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray. “I believe my hair loss was due to many factors: yo-yo dieting, hormonal birth control, radical weight fluctuations over the years, my pregnancies, genetics, stress, and hair dyes and extensions”, she wrote in an Instagram caption.
The actress had been secretly suffering from hair loss for 30 years before she revealed her scalp to the world on social media in 2020. She described these three decades as “debilitating, embarrassing, painful, scary, depressing, lonely, all the things. There have been a few times where I have even felt suicidal over it.”
After decades of experimenting with different hair regrowth products, Ricki now swears by a holistic hair care regimen, and uses Hair Gain Extract on her scalp every night before she goes to bed. “It was unbelievable. I was like, ‘This is working and it’s so easy’”, she told her fans. “I just put the extract on my scalp at night and go to bed. It’s a no-brainer.”
Ricki’s experience demonstrates how deeply traumatic hair loss can be, and highlights the importance of talking openly about your symptoms, so that you can find the treatment that you need to put your distress to bed.
When the coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020, the main symptoms to watch out for – shortness of breath, sore throat, a lost sense of taste and smell – were plastered all over the internet. The less common – but still very real – symptoms were discussed far less, which is why the reality television icon, Khloe Kardashian, was deeply alarmed when she began to lose her hair after suffering from the illness.
“It happened in chunks, and it was like two or three weeks after I had COVID,” the television personality explained. “A couple months after, my doctor, who is a great friend of mine, was like, ‘You know what, I’ve seen so many women, specifically, who have lost a lot of hair and they think it’s because of COVID.’”
Covid-induced hair loss occurs when the virus pushes the hairs on your scalp out of the anagen (or ‘growth’) phase, and into the telogen (or ‘resting’) phase of the hair growth cycle. In other words, your hairs cease to grow and prepare to fall out sooner than they ordinarily would – and this phenomenon is known as ‘acute telogen effluvium’.
Thankfully, covid-induced hair loss is only temporary – as Kardashian gratefully discovered: “a year and a half later, I’ve seen such a difference in my hair. The growth, the thickness, the fact that I’m able to bleach it — it’s amazing,” she said, giving hope to thousands of others who are facing this unfortunate and distressing side-effect of the illness.
As the resident style guru on This Morning and The Today Show – as well as the writer of a weekly fashion column in The Daily Telegraph and the host of What Not to Wear – Trinny Woodall knows everything that there is to know in the world of beauty, shopping and fashion. Consequently, fans were shocked in 2021 when the style expert went on Instagram Live and held a clump of her own hair up to the camera.
Like Khloe Kardishian, Trinny revealed that her hair has been falling out in handfuls in response to COVID-19. Hair loss does not run in her family, so the sudden, rapid shedding of her hair came as an incredibly upsetting and sudden surprise to her. She immediately went to see her GP, who told her that some patients who contract the coronavirus suffer from stress-related hair loss in the weeks following their positive test.
Covid-related hair loss is not reported on enough; in fact, many people are completely unaware that shedding can be a symptom of the illness – which is why Trinny took to social media. “What always eases my mind, is sharing. Because I then know that I’m not alone,” she said.
Unfortunately, hair loss is a common side effect of many medications and medical treatments. The actress Selma Blair – famous for her performances in Hellboy, Dark Horse, Legally Blonde and A Guy Thing – was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2018, and has been undertaking chemotherapy to treat it. Hair loss is an unfortunate but inevitable byproduct of this treatment, and – when Selma began her course of chemotherapy – she preemptively shaved her head in preparation for what was to come.
“I cut my hair short to transition myself and my son for impending baldness,” Selma wrote in the caption of an Instagram picture which showed her bald head. When her hair began to regrow, Selma shaved it off again – preferring baldness to “fine and pale and very sparse” hair: “It looked too sad. For me.”
Whilst losing all of her hair has been extremely upsetting, Selma inspired her followers by claiming that this medical side-effect has also given her a renewed appreciation and gratitude for the things that really matter in life. “I have been away from California for two months,” she wrote. “I will go home soon. I will sleep near my son that first night and thank the stars every waking minute that he IS. I am. You are. This is what we have.”
Four months after she welcomed her son into the world, the actress and singer-songwriter, Lea Michele (famous for the albums Louder, Places, and Brunette Ambition, as well as her acting roles in New Year’s Eve and Glee – among other things), found herself holding a clump of her own hair in her hands.
It is common to experience hair loss after childbirth due to the hormonal fluctuations that occur at this time. “The postpartum hair loss is REAL,” Michele wrote on her Instagram story, alongside a photo of a ball of her hair balancing on the palm of her hand.
Although postpartum hair loss can be extremely agitating (especially when combined with other postnatal symptoms, such as depression), it is only temporary. In fact, most women will see their hair make a full recovery by their child’s first birthday.
Is there any hope for female hair loss?
Hair loss can be incredibly distressing – especially for women, who tend to be stigmatised more than men when it comes to baldness. However, there is plenty of hope for women experiencing thinning or hair loss, as there are many different ways to reverse and overcome the condition – from changing one’s lifestyle to seeking out cosmetic treatments.
The best way to tackle hair loss is to speak to a medical professional and discover why your hair is thinning or falling out. Understanding what type of hair loss you have will provide you with the recipe you need to reverse the hair loss. For example, if you discover that you suffer from traction alopecia, you will simply need to avoid hairstyles which pull tightly on the roots of your hair until your hair has made a full recovery from the condition.
Similarly, you may discover that stress is responsible for your hair loss. To combat this, you could practise meditation, mindfulness and journaling, whilst also engaging in regular, light exercise and yoga. If these methods do not successfully reduce your anxiety, you might want to consider professional help, as an experienced counsellor or therapist could help you get to the root of your stress and give you the tools you need to cope with it.
Finally, there are plenty of medicines and treatments for hair loss which can reverse the condition and restore your hair. Minoxidil is a medication which stimulates hair growth by widening the hair follicles in the scalp. By increasing the size of the follicles, the medicine allows them to receive a greater quantity of oxygen and nutrients from the bloodstream. This enables them to produce thicker, stronger hair at a faster rate than they would naturally.
Of course, you should always speak to your GP before you start taking Minoxidil so that you can be sure that the medicine is suitable for you. It is sold in pharmacies under the brand name Rogaine, and it can be purchased over the counter in the form of a foam or a topical liquid. Alternatively, you can get a prescription from your doctor and receive tablets which are taken orally.
Finally, there are cosmetic procedures which can completely reverse baldness. A female hair transplant restores lost hair by extracting healthy hair follicles from areas of the scalp which are not affected by hair loss (typically, these follicles will come from the lower back and sides of the head). The follicles will then be transplanted into the balding areas of the scalp – such as the hairline or the parting. With time, the transplanted follicles will start to produce new hair in the balding areas, which ‘fills them in’.
Can thin hair become thick again in women?
Your hair grows through shafts in your scalp called hair follicles. As a result, the size of your hair follicles determines the thickness of your hair: wide follicles will produce thick hair, whilst narrow follicles will produce thin hair.
Unfortunately, you cannot change the size of your hair follicles, so – if you have had thin hair all your life – there is not much that you can do to change that. However, if you used to have thick hair, but have found it to grow thinner over time, then it is possible to make it thick and voluminous once again. This is because the thinning of your hair is not the product of the size of your follicles (these do not change shape, and will still be wide). Instead, the strands of hair hanging from the follicles have narrowed due to fluctuations in your hormones or lifestyle factors such as stress, diet and exercise – and this can be treated.
If you suspect that anxiety is a cause of your thinning hair, take some time to reflect on where the stress is coming from in your life (and if you are unsure, journaling or therapy can help you to figure this out). Reduce your alcohol and caffeine intake, as well as your workload, if possible. Try regular meditation, mindfulness, yoga and gentle exercise. These practises will help to drain the cortisol (otherwise known as ‘the stress hormone’) from your body, which will restore thickness and shine to your hair.
Changing up the food on your plate can also increase the length and strength of your hair. A protein-rich diet is essential for healthy hair follicles, since hair follicles are (mostly) made of protein. Nuts, beans, eggs and fatty fish (such as tuna, mackerel, sardines and salmon) are great sources of protein, since they also come with added benefits: nuts and beans come with zinc (which boosts your body’s ability to repair broken hair), eggs provide biotin (which fights thinning and hair loss), and fatty fish are a source of omega-3 fatty acids (which stimulate hair growth).
In addition to all of the above, patients must take proper care of both their scalp and hair to notice an increase in thickness. Refrain from regular straightening, curling or other heat treatments – and brush gently. Massage the scalp regularly to increase blood flow to the follicles, which will feed the hair with the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to grow thicker and longer. Finally, moisturise your hair deeply using a shampoo that is designed for dry hair – but make sure to do this no more than two times a week, so that your hair retains its ability to nourish itself with its own, natural oils.
Which vitamin deficiencies trigger hair loss?
Vitamins and nutrients play a critical role in maintaining healthy hair. Boosting your vitamin intake by altering your diet or taking supplements (or better yet – both!) will increase the thickness of your hair whilst also accelerating the rate at which it grows.
Many different vitamin deficiencies can trigger hair loss. Notably, an iron deficiency can cause thinning and eventually lead to hair loss. This is because iron produces haemoglobin – a protein in your red blood cells that transports oxygen around your body. Without oxygen, your cells can neither grow nor repair themselves. If there is not enough haemoglobin in your blood, therefore, then the cells in your hair follicles will not receive the oxygen that they need to produce new hair, nor heal broken hair.
Women who are pregnant, menstruate heavily during their periods, or eat a vegetarian or vegan diet are at greater risk of suffering from an iron deficiency. Patients can boost their iron intake by adding iron-rich foods – such as spinach, dried fruits, red meat, fortified breakfast cereals, red kidney beans, chickpeas, or soy bean flour – to their diet. Foods that are high in vitamin C (such as broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes or oranges) will also increase the rate at which the body can absorb iron, which will boost the overall health of your hair.
Iron supplements will also help to tackle iron deficiency – but only take these if you are directed to do so by a healthcare professional.
A biotin deficiency may also activate thinning and hair loss. Incorporating egg yolks, mushrooms, legumes and an abundance of dark green, leafy vegetables – such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage and Romaine lettuce – into your diet is one of the best ways to remedy this deficiency.
Similarly, a vitamin D deficiency can trigger hair loss. The nutrient is responsible (among other things) for stimulating the hair follicles to produce new hair. When someone is deficient in vitamin D, new hair growth can be completely halted. This means that – when hair falls out, breaks, or grows weak – it will not be replaced with new, healthy hair, which will lead to thinning and hair loss.
The body produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to the sun. Consequently, patients who spend a lot of time indoors, or who wear heavily protective sun cream, are more likely to be deficient in the nutrient. Additionally, patients who have darker skin are more likely to suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. This is because dark skin has more melanin in the epidermal, which makes it more difficult to produce vitamin D from sunlight. Equally, ageing skin can struggle to produce vitamin D, and so patients over the age of 65 are also at greater risk.
Spending more time in the sunshine will help to increase your vitamin D intake, as will eating foods that are rich in the nutrient, such as eggs, avocados, nuts and chia seeds. In addition, the NHS advises adults in the UK to take a vitamin D supplement every day throughout the autumn and winter, since a government survey found that 1 in 6 British adults have low levels of the vitamin in their bloodstream due to insufficient sun exposure in this country.
Whilst the above vitamin deficiencies can trigger hair loss, there are plenty of other nutrients which are essential for maintaining the health, strength and glow of your hair, such as zinc, selenium, folic acid, fatty acids Omega-3 and Omega-6, and vitamins A, C and E. Increasing your intake of these essential vitamins by adding foods that are rich in these nutrients to your diet and taking regular supplements will help to protect you from hair loss whilst also boosting your overall health.