'I found it difficult to cope': What it's like to lose your hair in your 20s

August is National Hair Loss Awareness Month, and it’s clear hair loss can be a stigma-riddled experience – particularly for young people.

Hair loss is usually associated with age, bad luck, or a bad bleach job – but people of all ages, genders and circumstances can lose hair due to a range of issues from stress, mental health problems, physiological health issues, and an array of hair and scalp-specific conditions.

With hair loss being an all too real yet less-talked-about issue, National Hair Loss Awareness Month highlights the need for us to be talking more about the impact hair loss can have on our lives.

As a result, we’ve spoken to people in their 20s who’ve experienced hair loss, finding out what it was like for them, and how they dealt with it.

Stephanie Dobson, owner of Zxaar Hair and trichologist (the fancy word for a hair loss specialist), tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Hair loss is incredibly common and can affect anyone at any age for a whole range of reasons.

‘When in your 20s the most typical reasons tend to be; extreme dieting, vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, health issues that become apparent in your 20s like PCOS, stress, genetics such as Androgenic Alopecia, and pregnancy/hormonal changes.

‘I see a lot of women in the salon who are experiencing hair loss and the most common issues are things like PCOS, hormone issues, vitamin deficiencies and pregnancy.’

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This was the case for 25-year-old Priya. She explains: ‘I always had good hair but when I was about 19, I moved to London from Scotland for University and I started gradually losing hair. It was only when I looked back at old pictures that I realised how much thickness I was losing.

‘Then I started losing hair very quickly.

‘I became really unwell. I had a cyst that kept twisting an untwisting repeatedly. And the stress going on in my body manifested in my hair. The more ill I became, the more hair I lost.

‘At the time, it was scary. Especially when I woke up in the morning and lumps of my hair would be on my pillow and it was difficult to cope with how different I looked – you could see my scalp all the time.’

This prompted Priya to start posting her hair loss journey on TikTok, and she soon built a community on the platform where she could freely speak about those experiences.

She adds: ‘Female hair loss is not something that people really talk about and often, your femininity is so wrapped up in your hair so building that community really helped me.’

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Priya says that because her hair loss came from health issues, she helped herself become more confident and less upset, by prioritising her physical health.

‘Understanding that it’s just hair and that I’d rather have my health than my hair, and that it happens to lots of other people, really helped me,’ she says.

‘It’s easier said than done but I think, in hindsight, reminding myself that my health is the most important thing really helped me.’

This was also the case for 28-year-old Alex Simpson, who started losing his hair after a very stressful time.

He says: ‘I started suffering from hair loss problems after going through a stressful period in my life, I noticed hair thinning around the hairline.

‘Losing your hair in your 20s is very stressful. I also felt embarrassed to be suffering from this at such a young age. I didn’t like my appearance and felt like my hairline aged me.’

‘I used to regularly wear hats so no one would notice, it really made me less confident in my appearance. Losing your hair as a man is really disheartening and can really make you feel really unattractive.’

Now, Alex has came to terms with his hair loss, and is gradually growing his hair back with advanced hair growth products.

Alice*, 25, suffers from trichotillomania, also known as trich – a condition where someone cannot resist the urge to pull out their hair, often exacerbated by stress.

They may pull out the hair on their head or in other places, such as their eyebrows or eyelashes.

Alice feels similarly to Alex in that her confidence was severely impacted by her hair loss.

She says: ‘I’ve been pulling my hair – mainly my eyebrows and eyelashes – since I was nine years old and I ended up self diagnosing trichotillomania when I was 18. I had a really stressful time and out of nowhere, I started pulling my eyebrows and lashes out for the first time since I was a kid.

‘I realised I had trich when I ended up with no eyebrows, basically.

‘I was so ashamed of the condition and I felt really embarrassed when I eventually ended up with no eyelashes or hair at all.’

I was so ashamed

Alice realised after some research and self reflection that alcohol exacerbated her trich and that cutting back where possible, and simply being aware of the cycle, helped her pull her hair out less.

Now, after seven years of trying to manage stressful situations so she doesn’t pick her hair, she has a full set of eyebrows and eyelashes.

She continues: ‘Growing my hair back felt amazing and so rewarding. Finally having all my eyelashes and eyebrows growing in feels so rewarding. It took years with a lot of ups and downs but it’s the best feeling in the world.

‘I know trich will never completely go away and I wish there was a simpler way to combat the condition, but I’m happy with where I’m at.’

She feels like more conversations around all types of hair loss need to become normalised.

‘If people can talk about it more openly, it reduces the shame and embarassment surrounding it, which is one of the biggest problems with losing your hair young,’ she says.

‘In a world where it’s not always easy to access professional help, talking is so important. Talking could also reduce the overall stress and triggers by allowing people to talk and process emotions surrounding hair loss.’

If people can talk about it more openly, it reduces the shame and embarassment

Stephanie says many reports and studies have shown that hair loss can have a profound effect of confidence and mental health.

‘Many [who have experienced hair loss] admit they have put off big life events such as getting married, missing social events and even staying at home more,’ she adds.

‘Many of my clients confess hair loss controls their life and causes a lack of confidence.’

Stephanie explains that a lack of confidence from hair loss can’t be solved overnight, but informing yourself on what’s happening, the cause, seeking support and reducing the stigma of shame by talking to those around you can ‘help you see the light at the end of the tunnel.’

She adds: ‘With my clients I always start with a plan, this maybe the first step which is to find out what is causing it. After all, knowledge is power. Then start a regime that will help to improve the situation so that we can boost their confidence and overall mental health.’

Stephanie, like Alice, stresses just how important talking about hair loss really is – especially for those who are young and dealing with hair loss.

‘Taking the stigma out of something like hair loss will put you on a more confident path,’ she adds.

‘Finding and talking to others that have experienced hair loss can have a rather cathartic affect, but even just sharing your experience with friends and family can help. You are not alone.’ 

*Names have been changed at the request of the contributor

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