My Experience With Telogen Effluvium

Disclaimer: Prior to reading this post, I want to point out that I am not a health/wellness/medical professional, and am not suggesting that you care for your body and potential hair loss as I did. I urge you to make an appointment with your doctor or Naturopath to seek treatment. I am simply sharing what my choices were as I experienced what I assume to be Telogen Effluvium, based on my own research. Please take your health into your own hands., as it is your own personal responsibility.

As I explained in my previous blog post, I diagnosed myself with Telogen Effluvium (“TE”) after experiencing significant hair shedding over the course of a few months this past spring.

In early May, over Mother’s Day weekend, I’d noticed an increased amount of loose hairs on my clothing, brush, pillow, and hands when I’d run my fingers through. It bothered me as hairs tickled the back of my arms, landing in unwanted places and landing all over my house, car, and wherever I went. It was annoying, but I chalked it up to the weather getting warmer, and that my body was going through some sort of “seasonal shed”. I wasn’t losing a significant amount, but it was enough that I was noticing something seemed abnormal.

I mentioned it to my acupuncturist and he advised me to keep an eye on it and let him know how it progresses over time.

I began to notice over the next week that it was getting worse… Instead of losing my usual 2-3 hairs when I’d mess with it, which had then become 7-10, or about 10-20 when brushing which had turned into 25 or more… I was now shedding in mass quantities that wouldn’t cease to stop. Every single time I’d grab all of my hair at once and do a light “twist and pull”, which was my test to see how many would come out, it was 50, sometimes 75-100 strands every single time, and more when I would shower.

As a note, I wasn’t purposely pulling my hair out. I would do a little test every day or so in the beginning of all of this, just to see if it was getting better or worse, but as it continued to progress, I just put my hair on top of my head in a bun with a soft scrunchie and left it alone all week, washing it only when I had to work or be around people who would think less of me for showing up like that, lol. The longer I waited to wash it, the better it seemed to “hold on”, but then the second I got it weighed down with water and moisturizing conditioner, the follicular floodgates became wiiide open.

Actually, the hair that remained was getting pretty healthy from all of the natural oils it was absorbing. Though I haven’t washed my hair every day for a while, I do about every 3 days or so, doing so once a week or about 8 weeks really served a positive purpose as far as the health of my scalp and hair. We aren’t supposed to wash our hair that much, and if your hair seems oily, chances are that you’re washing it too much. Start trying to “oil train” your hair by gradually spreading out the time between washes.

I’d avoid washing it because the shower was when things got the scariest. I would wash my hair and then I swear it would just fall out uncontrollably, especially when I conditioned. One time I pulled out an amount the size of my pinkie and that was just devastating. It’s not like I was undergoing medical treatments or was diagnosed with a condition that would initiate this, so not knowing what was going on made me really nervous and I began losing sleep and getting sick over it. It was to the point where something was definitely wrong and I needed to call a doctor.

I’d had an appointment scheduled with Dr. Ria Gilday, a Naturopath outside of Philadelphia about two weeks from this point, but I couldn’t wait that long. I called Laura Ruby, my holistic Endocrinologist’s office and she was on vacation, but could see me that following week, so I waited a few days until I could get in for some blood work and hopefully - the reason behind all of this. I left my hair alone, only wearing it down to attend a wedding over that week, and then tediously maintaining the remaining strands until I could see Laura.

I really need to break this habit, but I’m such a Googler and research every possibility and symptom to the nth degree. I feel like the more I know, the better prepared I’ll be for any potential outcome. But that also means that I have myself diagnosed with everything under the sun that it could potentially be, which also isn’t good for my anxiety and self-care… I’m still having trouble finding the moderation in my internet searching, so hopefully one day I’ll get better with it. Because it really had me a mess. Would it grow back? What was causing it? Is this treatable? Do I have some kind of disease? Are my hormones that out of balance?

I’d calm myself down, and Tyler would help, but then other days I’d be a completely nervous wreck. It’s really an issue for me when I don’t have answers, and it really taught me how to really just rest and trust… Not easy, but it’s something we all need to learn in life. God really does have this all under control…. And yes, I’d considered that this could have been stress-induced, and it very well could have been.

In my research, I determined that what I did have was Telogen Effluvium. It wasn’t Alopecia and my fall out symptoms weren’t as bad as some of the stories others had posted about. So I knew it was TE, which does get better over time. So that was a relief I had in the back of my mind as I waited to answers.

Anyway, during my appointment, Laura asked me if my hair was coming out in patches or if I’d noticed my hairline receding. I answered “no” to both. My hair was coming out all over rather than in specific parts of my scalp. It was getting so thin, though. My ponytail was half the size, and I kept telling Tyler I felt like Kid Rock with long scraggly hair. I could see through my hair just like you can here with the chunk on his left, which had never happened to be before. I realized this wasn’t the end of the world and there were of course worse things that could have been happening to me. But for any woman, when our hair is coming out uncontrollably for an unknown reason, it’s pretty unsettling. If I’d just had a baby or knew I had another kind of issue or scalp problem, that’d be one thing. But nothing was necessarily adding up.

Laura tested my testosterone, iron, and a few other hormone levels, all of which came back normal. I was low in Vitamin D and B6 which I’m not supplementing for, but nothing came back as a trigger for my hair shedding. And that was that…. but still, my hair was falling out.

I saw Dr. Ria, and she treated me for mild hormone imbalance and wants to start me on a cleanse protocol, to ensure my liver is spic and span so that my endocrine system is allowing my hormones to balance and function optimally. I plan to do that in a few weeks.

My acupuncturist kept telling me to just relax and keep an eye on it, that it wasn’t worse case scenario, even though I was still worried about the potential cause (which could very possibly be from worry in the first place).

I’m glad the doctors weren’t freaking out like I was, but still I wasn’t sure what would happen. The only saving grace I had was reading other people’s stories about their TE experience, that this would eventually stop and improve.

A calm sense of peace was also given to me by a lady who works at Sonnewalds, one of my favorite natural food and supplement stores near where I live. I went in looking for Biotin and told her what was going on, and even couldn’t help tearing up in front of her. I think this was before I was able to see any of my doctors so it was really helpful to rest my mind and stop the worrying. She was so sweet and told me she sees so many women come in with the same symptoms and says it 100% was stress-related. So I opened up to her about some of the stressful situations I’d been going through. She was so sweet and listened, affirmed me and told me not to worry, and directed me to the CBD aisle, along with encouraging me to increase my self-care and relaxation.

If you read my previous post, you know that on one night while out for a run, it occurred to me to look into whether or not having the flu could implement hair loss, and so I looked into it the second I returned home that evening. Turns out - it can! And I’d had the flu pretty badly about 2 months prior to the onset of my shedding. Combined with a few months personal and emotional stress I was going through over the winter, which could easily have been the cause as well or in addition to, my body suffered the flu and I now associate my TE with the flu. After all, the word “flu” is in Telegen Effluvium! My body went through such shock of the fever, virus, and sickness that it caused the life-cycle of my hairs to come to an abrupt end. You can read more about chronic and acute TE here. So I somewhat think it was stress, but definitely think it was the flu because my body never goes through that! I am stressed at times and never lose hair, I never get the flu so I think my body just went into shock from it and didn’t know where else to disperse the energy, and took it out on my hair!

I hope my situation was acute, as I am now on the other side of it, at least for now. It’s been about two and a half months and I now find myself tending to my hair regularly, throwing it up in a bun without worrying about pulling on it or having it be too tightly secured, and am washing it normally, conditioning too. I can tell it’s “over” and behind me. I have little baby hairs coming in all over my scalp and it looks like I’ve just been electrocuted most of the time, lol. But I welcome the hairs! They give me peace of mind and excitement for having a lush full head of hair again one day! I’m blessed I didn’t lose more than I did, as many do and have.

Here’s what I did to take care of my hair during all of this…

  • I ventured to Target and picked up a Biotion supplement of 10,000 micrograms/day and started that right away, just to get the jump-start on the (hopefully) upcoming regrowth.

  • I massaged 3-4 drops of both Lavender and Rosemary essential oils into my scalp every few days to stimulate regrowth and scalp health.

  • I have always used a natural all of the bad things-free shampoo, so I continued using it even though I wasn’t washing as often. I use Young Living’s Copaiba shampoo and conditioner.

  • I used scrunchies instead of rubber bands for my hair, and wore it up so that it wouldn’t get pulled or tugged, and was out of my face and not touching me. Whenever I could feel my hair, it was a reminder of the fall-out and added stress to my emotions, which I was trying to keep at bay so that, in case it was due to stress, feeling calmer would help it stop.

  • I upped my intake of fruits and vegetables even more, dedicated my time to relaxation, salt baths, and yoga, relaxing my mind and heart to stop my worry and balance my emotions.

  • I started using CBD in my morning smoothies to relax me and help calm me down.

I swear I lost about a third of my head’s worth of hair if not more… but it’s ok, I learned a lot from this experience, first and foremost being that - it’s just hair! I shouldn’t be that vain. People go through much more serious situations and struggles, diagnosis, and life-altering conditions than hair shedding, and that I should be grateful that this was all I had “struggled” with. I need to remember that the next time I freak out and Google something.

But if you’re going through hair shedding and aren’t sure why, start with thinking back to the last 3-4 months of your life. Has your body been through anything “shocking” or different like pregnancy, medications, surgery, emotional stress, the flu, or something alike?? Really think about it, as you could really help yourself and your doctors out by doing a little thinking and jogging of your memory first.

Secondly, get some blood work done to test your vitamin and hormone levels.

Boost your immunity and self-care strategies too. It will most likely come to an end in time, even though it feels like an eternity, for me, it was only a couple of months. And build your confidence in other ways! Do something for yourself that makes you feel of value, without putting all of your self-worth into one thing: your hair! Easier said than done sometimes, I know….. trust me. I was there!

I’d love to hear your story if you’re going through TE or have been through it before! Please reach out or comment below!