Guest post from Nadine Dorries, on losing her hair: "it's the last taboo"

(45 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 17-Jun-13 11:46:32

The Conservative MP Nadine Dorries recently discovered that she was losing her hair.

In today's guest post, she describes her feelings of shame at the discovery, and argues that, despite being remarkably common, female baldness is the last taboo.

Read her blog, and let us know what you think. Is this something that has happened to you, or to someone you know? Why is it something that we find so hard to talk about? Share your thoughts on the thread, and if you blog about it, don't forget to post your URL.

"You might notice that your hair brush has more hair on it than usual and you are cleaning it out more often; or maybe when you change your bedding, there is a deposit of hair on your pillow. For some, it happens in the shower, and when you switch the shower off, you lift away the lace veil of hair which is left on your skin.

That had been happening for a while. Not dramatically, but enough to make me pop into a health food shop and buy a bucketful of iron and vitamin supplements with the thought 'that'll sort it' running through my mind.

And then I saw the undisputable evidence that I was no longer just losing my hair, I was going bald.

It was during an ITV News interview with Tom Bradbury and the camera took a shot of the back of my head. And there it was. The size of a 50p. My very own bald patch.

I was immediately swamped with shame, and I cannot explain why.

My daughter took out her iPhone and photographed the back of my head so that I could see the damage for myself - and within minutes I was in tears.

I work in an aggressive male dominated environment, possibly one of the most aggressive in the world. My daughters and I have faced down problems which would have floored Tyson. We are fighters because we had to be - and here was I, the matriarch of my very pragmatic household of three very feminist daughters, crying over my hair.

Why had I been in denial for so long? The photographs revealed that this hadn't happened overnight. My poor daughters had noticed and discussed it amongst themselves - but not with me, because they didn't want to upset me.

And that's it in a nutshell, because there isn't anything we four don't discuss. Female hair loss is the last taboo.

It is important to make the definition here between hair loss due to chemotherapy, which grows back in most cases and female pattern hair loss and alopecia, which in some cases never does.

I am suffering from female pattern hair loss, which is not unlike male pattern baldness. My hair is receding, and at the front and back is now so thin I cannot go out in the sun without a hat; you can see my scalp through my hair, as the picture shows. In addition to this, I suffered a recent dose of stress alopecia, the type which often occurs three months after giving birth and does usually grow back.

I looked a bit deeper into the facts of female hair loss and discovered that, whereas 70% of men suffer hair loss, a massive 40% of women are also affected. But who would know? We never discuss it.

I wrote for a national paper and spoke on the Jeremy Vine show and since then have been inundated with letters and emails from women who have lived through their own dark days of losing their hair with little help.

There is help available, but unfortunately, not a great deal on the NHS. I am being treated by a Harley St trichologist with Dermal HL. It comes highly recommended and has a good track record of effectiveness - but it's only available privately.

No one will be keener than me to see if this treatment works, and I am very fortunate. But I feel it is now my responsibility to campaign for more to be available on the NHS.

It's pointless for GPs to pay for repeated referrals to NHS dermatologists who have no treatment available, and in many cases for anti-depressants to deal with the consequences of female hair loss. For some women, and men, there is alternative help available. GP commissioning groups should consider taking a more innovative and bolder approach, especially in the case of very young women, to purchasing alternative therapies which can help - and that is something I will be working towards.

The proof or not of my treatment will be available to see in a few months. Fingers crossed."

OP’s posts: |
guineapiglet Mon 17-Jun-13 14:04:14

Thank you for drawing attention to an issue which is a huge consideration for many women, and for being so honest and upfront about it. Really hope your treatment goes well, lets hope it becomes something which can be easily afforded and accessed by the women who need it. I have witnessed the effect this horrible condition had on a very close relative, who felt it was her own fault and terribly ashamed,. A visit to a consultant dermatologist was humiliating and cruel ...' I am a doctor not a miracle worker' was the constructive comment arising out of the consultation. We live in a society which is all about image, sadly, and beautiful thick tresses are part of our femininity - to lose this results in total lack of identity, confidence and esteem.

We should, I suppose, in our way be grateful that Mr Rooney did a public service by confronting his own balding scalp with paying large sums of money for hair transplants - although as a society we are used to, and tolerant of balding men, balding women is, as you say, a taboo subject.

I have watched my own hair' thin' due to the onset of menopause, and general age and wear and tear, and have been taking a hair supplement which I have found has made a huge difference, but am still fearful that as this condition is in the family, it will become my cross to bear, so am grateful that it now has recognition. Looking forward to hearing how and if your treatment works, and if and when it will become accessible to other women who are suffering - at a cost most of us will be able to afford.

cinnamontoast Mon 17-Jun-13 15:52:39

Ask your GP to refer you to Dr Fenton at St Thomas's Hospital in London (privately or NHS both possible - long wait on the NHS). He is a dermatologist who specialises in hair loss and can prescribe a higher-strength Minoxidil than is available elsewhere. This is the only drug treatment that's been proven to work for female-pattern hair loss.

urmydarlings Mon 17-Jun-13 16:31:52

omg at last ! ive been losing hair since my teens and I have never got any helpful advice from any health professionals. My gp actually turned round and said" cant help u , im going bald myself" We desperately need help on the nhs , I would never be able to afford private treatment in a million years! Won't be holding my breath though , ive got a feeling hair loss is gonna be right at the bottom of the nhs spending budget

sandiy Mon 17-Jun-13 17:24:54

I've just started my second bout of alopecia areata.I last had it about 4 years ago thankfully it grew back Last time it was stress and I feel that this time it is also at the moment I'm colouring in the bald patches and spending ages inspecting my scalp I know it will get worse before it gets better again if ever and this time it just like the last straw.Some help any help would be appreciated.I know intellectually little can be done and it's vanity but it does nt change how awfull it is and the blow to your self esteem.My children are old enough to understand this time so I'm desperately trying to hide it from them.I don t want them upset by it.

GlitzPig Mon 17-Jun-13 18:39:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

GlitzPig Mon 17-Jun-13 18:40:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ilovesprouts Mon 17-Jun-13 19:18:51

my hair is very thin also bold patchers in sad

Hrrrm Mon 17-Jun-13 19:49:27

Yes Glitzpig!

Wonder what those feminist daughters think about some of ND's views... hmm

Aggressive male-dominated environment? How about she uses her influence to make the UK better for women?!


rocketeer Mon 17-Jun-13 20:24:05

I am a long long time alopecia sufferer. I find it a bit galling that ND advises women to see a Harley Street doctor but then adds that it's a private climic. Isn't she in a position to kick up a fuss for more NHS clinics? I have learnt to live with my baldness but it is scary if it happens with little warning.

rocketeer Mon 17-Jun-13 20:25:48

P.s I know she is campaigning for the NHS but it's still comes across as smug about paying for treatment.

JeCo Mon 17-Jun-13 21:07:53

The blog post says that the treatment is called Dermal HL and it "has a good track record of effectiveness".

I'm having trouble finding out what Dermal HL is, let alone whether there's any evidence of effectiveness. Anyone got any idea what this treatment is??

PavlovtheCat Mon 17-Jun-13 21:50:57

Welcome to my world Dorris. And thanks for the tip about the private treatment in Harley Street which I will now be accessing asap. Not.

cinnamontoast Mon 17-Jun-13 21:55:37

I looked up Derma HL - there is no evidence on the net that there have been any independent clinical trials. Honestly, for any woman suffering hair loss, there is a good chance that Minoxidil will prevent further hair loss and might result in some regrowth. It can also make it grow thicker. It's the same as Regaine/Rogaine but if you get it on prescription it will be more effective as it is a higher strength. I think that GPs can give you a private prescription - i.e. you won't get it at an NHS price, but it's still worth it. It's really worth asking for a referral to St Thomas's if your GP won't prescribe it.

zigzoo Mon 17-Jun-13 22:02:39

Campaigning for hair loss treatment on the NHS whilst campaigning against sensible sex education and against abortion! shock

Honestly MumsnetTowers - she's not popular here is she hmm - why do you get these people as GuestBloggers? I think it dilutes the brand/power of MN. confused

Knotter Mon 17-Jun-13 22:04:46

I have frontal fibrosing alopecia which is an unusual scarring alopecia which kills the hair follicles so there is no hope of regrowth. It is a receding pattern of baldness which can take 5+inches of hair from the front hairline! So far I have lost my eyebrows, am losing eyelashes and have lost 1-2 inches of hairline. There seems to be no effective treatment. I can now get wigs on the NHS! Woo hoo! hmm. Normally it attacks women after menopause, pity it started in my 30's for me!! Minodoxil etc have no effect on this alopecia. My NHS dermatologist is lovely but can't really help. Yes to ludicrous suggestions of Harley Street hmm!

Amazinggg Mon 17-Jun-13 22:05:06

Not entirely sure about your 'feminist household' Nadine, it sure doesn't show in your politics...

AnyFucker Mon 17-Jun-13 22:13:37

Does not liking Nadine's politics preclude us from feeling sympathy for her hair loss ?

This thread is rather unpleasant.

Mimishimi Tue 18-Jun-13 06:38:43

My hair was also thinning inexplicably, especially at the front, even with scrupulous vitamin intake. Found it was the 'organic' petroleum free shampoo I was using (others were not much better in other ways ie hair breakage but this one was actually doing something to the follicles) . Now I use a traditional Indian remedy of shikakai and reetha powders (3 tablespoons of each) mixed with hot water to form a paste and then mix in a beaten egg when cooled. You apply it to hair rinsed with lukewarm water and wash out about ten minutes ( if you haven't oiled your hair) to half an hour later (if you have) again with lukewarm water. It's a bit messy but the hair has grown back. If your hair is very oily, you can add 1 teaspoon of amla powder. If it needs a thickening effect, 1 teaspoon of methi powder (fenugreek). For conditioning, 1 tablespoon of chigare powder. All these powders can be bought fairly cheaply at Indian grocery stores etc.

Oiling with coconut oil once a week is also good but if you have very fine hair, only very little is needed.

PavlovtheCat Tue 18-Jun-13 09:46:31

AF my issue is not the hairloss, it's the 'oh I now pay privately at Harley Street, as it's not available on the NHS, aren't I lucky?' attitude I have a problem with. I have sympathy for her losing her hair, but, she is in the fortunate position of being able to get private help and minimise the impact of this, that does not mean she should be smug about it.

I had lots of sympathy for her, up that point in her blog.

PavlovtheCat Tue 18-Jun-13 09:47:50

mimi have heard about egg encouraging growth/thickening the skin before - I am going to look at those tips!

yamsareyammy Tue 18-Jun-13 09:58:37

I remember there was a distressing thread on here about a year ago, of a poster whose 6 year old child had alopeca.
And the woman was desperate.
No idea if the poster is still about.
I hope she is reading this thread.

AnyFucker Tue 18-Jun-13 10:05:33

I know, I get that, PTC. But if I could afford private treatment for something like this I would do it too. I do however, detect a tiny frisson of "ha! pore ole you hmm " on here.

Onesleeptillwembley Tue 18-Jun-13 10:20:32

MN - what a patronising piece. And from someone I personally would find it hard to define as reputable. Please think about your target audience.

yamsareyammy Tue 18-Jun-13 11:52:27

I dont understand at all what you are trying to say One.

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