The Thinking 

Is Feminism Making Women Bald?

July 27, 2012


I HAD a fascinating discussion yesterday with a woman who has been in the hair salon business for 40 years. This woman, whom I will call Adriana, knew nothing when we were first talking about this website.

Adriana was very excited because she had just invested in new laser technology for her salon. This technology is something of a miracle because with no apparent side effects other than reddening of the scalp, it can stimulate non-functioning hair follicles to grow hair again. She described in detail how it works and I grilled her with questions because, well, it was just interesting. My first thought was that this represents a revolution for bald men. The treatment is time-consuming and fairly expensive, but a man who is largely bald can achieve a full head of hair again.

However, Adriana said she expects her chief customers to be women. She said in the decades she has been in the salon business she has noticed a remarkable increase in women with seriously thinning hair and bald patches. Thinning hair in women is often caused by hormonal changes or medical anomalies. But it can also be caused by stress. And Adriana was adamant that a significant number of women who make up her clientele, which consists mainly of career women, is under such constant stress that they are going partially bald.

“It started around the late 80s,” she said. “That’s when I really noticed it. It’s very sad because a woman’s hair is the most important part of her appearance.”

Though she was obviously excited about meeting this new demand and profiting from it, Adriana, as a genuine appreciator of hair, was also visibly disgusted as she spoke of women whose scalps are plainly visible. She was disgusted because she believes it is all unnecessary. Women are not meant to live at this pace. The days when they spent leisurely hours at the beauty parlor and then went home to cook dinner were far better, she said —  which reminds me of a man I know whose mother had six sons. Every Friday without fail his mother spent two hours at the beauty parlor. This man, who is also in the hair salon business, said that this was the one luxury in his mother’s life and was key to her sanity while raising six boys in a fairly small house.

Adriana herself has a remarkably lush head of hair. But maybe that’s because her main dream in life has always been to marry a doctor, a dream which remains unfulfilled but continues to represent an inner check on Adriana’s ambitions.

I agree with Adriana that there are few prospects more horrifying to a woman than that of going bald. I also think that if Adriana’s theory could be proven true and if the news were sufficiently broadcast, all calls for women CEOs and women soldiers and women presidents would immediately and permanently come to an end. Feminism would be defeated overnight.


— Comments —

Joy writes:

A leading cause of thinning hair in women is hypothyroidism, and the main cause of hypothyroidism is the autoimmune disease called Hashimotos. I have the condition and the impact it has on one’s hair can be absolutely devastating. Dermatologists have told me that they see very thin hair “all the time” with thyroid disease, even when it is properly treated. There are many theories about what causes hypothyroidism (and other autoimmune diseases like lupus, which also impact hair growth) but a leading theory is that severe stress can trigger the autoimmune process in those who have a genetic predisposition to it. Another similar theory is that a virus activates the gene that sets off the condition. The majority of all autoimmune disease sufferers are women and many reputable sources estimate that up to 10% of women over 50 have some form of thyroid disease. Also, it is widely reported that up to 50% of women have some thinning of their hair by age 50. When I look around, I think this is true. There is an awful lot of thin hair in women out there, whatever the cause.

There is an array of solutions for women with thin hair, and while I am all too aware of the causes of thinning hair, what I do not understand is why any woman would walk around with visible scalp when there are many excellent hairpieces, styling techniques and so on that can more than compensate for any hair loss. There are human hair, lace front wigs that look better than most people’s natural hair ever did and they can be purchased online in total privacy. I think that the unwillingness of many women to use some of the excellent cosmetic solutions available is more a result of feminism than the hair loss is. I attribute the hair loss we see so often in women to an aging population, though I do think that some of the premature thinning in women can be due to autoimmune conditions being triggered decades earlier than they would otherwise have been due to severe stress. I had a very difficult upbringing, and I think that stress caused my condition to be triggered much earlier than it would have been if I had a peaceful, happy childhood, which is something I am trying to give my own children.

Whatever the cause, women suffering from hair loss are often devastated and the subject should be treated with the utmost sensitivity by hairdressers and others. Many women with thinning hair are so self-conscious they stop going to the hairdresser and cut their own hair, which just makes it look worse.

Laura writes:

I am very sorry to hear of your troubles. And thank you for those tips.

Adriana seemed fairly knowledgeable about hypothryoidism too and talked about this as a factor. And, she was extremely sensitive to the negative effects on women’s hair. Also, she specifically talked of a group of women who do not have hypothyroidism and yet suffer from severely thinning hair.

Joy adds:

I think poor diet in many working women causes a lot of the thinning that is not related to aging or autoimmune disease.

There is another autoimmune disease called alopecia aerata. It is related to Hashimotos as it “clusters” with it. It causes extensive, patchy or total hair loss. Like other autoimmune diseases, there are theories that state the condition is related to severe stress, which triggers a genetic predisposition.

As for my condition, I find that men are much kinder than women. My husband does not care what I do about my hair, as long as it looks good, and he is very nice about it. Women, on the other hand, are vicious. I am pretty except for my hair, on the thin side, and I look quite young for my age. Women have taken the opportunity more than once to point out thin spots in my hair, sometimes in public. One cousin stood over me when I was sitting and announced loudly that my husband’s hair was “much thicker” than mine in front of about 30 family members. It was horrifying. Other women have bragged excessively about their own hair in front of me, knowing full well I am dealing with a problem. When my hair was at it’s worst (and I was very sick), I was part of an online support group and I was not alone in dealing with cruelty from other women.

Laura writes:

That’s sad.

Joy writes:

I think when someone has a “defect,” even a mild one like thin hair, it gives others around them a chance to show what is really in their heart. Mean people say mean things when they sense a weakness. Kind people show their kindness. My struggle with my hair has helped me to sort out who is good to have around me and who is not.

Laura writes:

That is very wise.

What you say about some people having almost a supernatural sense of another person’s weakness or self-hatred, and a desire to prey upon it, is very true.

Lisa writes:

It’s getting harder and harder to find anyone over 30 who has long hair that looks healthy and lovely. There are other factors that have negatively affected women’s hair over the last century: the switch from well water or untreated spring water to the chemical-laden chlorine stuff most of us wash with and drink. Our grandmother’s garden and fresh raw dairy products are not usually available, and we substitute nutrient-deficient McFood. Plastic and artificial chemical shampoos further assault what God gave for our glory. If you put a plastic bowl in greasy dishwater, what happens? All the oils cling to the plastic. Plastic hairbrushes (instead of wood and natural bristle) also strip protective oils from our hair. It is rather fitting, isn’t it, that as we have exchanged our femininity for feminism, we are losing our “glory.”

[Aug. 4]

Robin writes:

Lisa speaks about the rarity women over thirty with long hair. It is so true. I believe there are several factors involved in early hair loss and also the lack of long hair in “older” women, and I speak from experience that many modern men and women alike find long, greying hair on this forty-two year old woman to be sadly disgusting! Thankfully, it was my husband who convinced me to grow it out in the first place, and it is for my husband’s pleasure that I wear it long and continue to grow it – no one else’s opinion matters much.

When I was younger, and I was a feminist, my hair couldn’t be short or spiky enough, and I regularly colored it with permanent hair color to look even artificially younger. The color was absolutely nothing close to my natural color, and it made my hair dry and brittle. Looking back at photos from this time, I looked like a man with breasts. It is disturbing in retrospect.

As I began to be healed from the mental illness of feminism, my hairstyle followed suit. By the time I met my husband, I had achieved an almost shoulder-length style, but it was angled sharply and not feminine to him at all as the style went against my natural texture and was still artificially colored, a much darker shade than my natural roots. Neither of us knew how much grey I had under there!

After we married, he began to ask me to grow it and stop coloring it. At first I was frightened at the thought of not coloring it; I was vain and worried about others opinions. One day I was flipping through a few news channels on the television and came across a show featuring a young woman who was a victim of a violent crime: she had no nose, no face, only one eye. I wept in guilt that I would be so vain as to worry about my hair color when this woman lived without a face. After sharing this reaction with my husband, I decided to stop coloring.

My hair texture immediately improved. Upon his request, I also stopped fighting my natural texture – which is wavy – and ceased using a flat-iron. This radically improved the condition of my hair. Since I was now going naturally wavy, I stopped blow-drying unless it was winter – a great improvement occurred in growth and texture! I also no longer required expensive and damaging products to “tame” my waves.

As my hair grew and my color grew out, I came across a website called “Going Grey Looking Great”, which was an encouragement, as I now saw so much grey that I was truly feeling ugly. How sad that the bible calls grey hair a sign of wisdom, and I felt foolish for allowing it to show! My husband was a tremendous encouragement, constantly reminding me how beautiful my hair was – naturally – even though at the time, it was tri-colored in its stages of growing out the grey and the color.

It took about three years to grow it all out – the grey – and in the process I gained mid-back length. After our first daughter was born, I went to the salon and had the last inches of nasty, dry old hair color cut away. Although I lost some length, I felt so free! Free to wear my hair the way my husband enjoyed it, and free to be me.

I agree with Adriana; lifestyles have greatly influenced hair loss in women. My hair is richer, fuller, longer, healthier, shinier and smells better than it did when I was abusing it by trying to look “younger” and compete with other women in the workplace. I think if I had continued to process my hair and abuse it, I never would have been able to grow it long for my husband.

It has helped me to take calcium, magnesium and zinc supplements – the zinc being operative – as this apparently helps grow healthy hair (I spoke to a stylist about this), but that is certainly only one factor in my long-hair-growing success. We both love my hair now that it is down to the middle of my back, naturally wavy, woven in a tapestry of my natural strawberry blonde and the new greys. I often receive compliments on it from other older women, who believe that I have highlighted it!

The younger women I have contact with have all tried to get me to color it again. It is one of the first things they say upon seeing the finished product of my all-grown-out-gray-and-long hair. “Oh, we know just the person that can FIX that for you!”, they all say. One man who is a friend of my husband even said, “What’s up with that WITCH hair, anyway?”, which we both ignored. Obviously he shares a different idea of beauty than my husband!

All of this to say: our modern lifestyle is not conducive to taking care of a woman’s hair, which is supposed to be her glory. From diet to hair products, to trying to maintain a fountain of youth via the hair coloring industry – no wonder women are losing their hair. You cannot grow long hair if you are losing hair; it looks ridiculous, stringy and unkempt. The hair loss I suffer now on a daily basis is normal (even if you count the shedding that occurs after childbirth) compared to the profound loss of hair I was experiencing when coloring, processing, hot-ironing, and butchering my hair regularly. My scalp is healthier because I wash it less; long hair is best not washed daily. I switch between sulfate-free shampoo and regular shampoo and often add virgin coconut oil to the ends of my hair to moisturize and help with split ends. These activities require t-i-m-e.

Feminists do not have time; they live on a hamster wheel. No, thank you. I’ll keep my “ugly witch hair”, thank you!

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