For over two years I battled extreme hair loss caused by what my doctor said was psoriasis. I broke down, felt isolated and completely alone because the hair loss would not stop. Ultimately, I found out I did not have psoriasis and I was in fact suffering from a fungal infection complicated by staphylococcus aureus. Thus began a year-long nightmare to treat the infection and get my hair back.
Battling Hair Loss
I spent thousands of dollars on hair products, shampoos, serums and on and on, to try and help get things under control. I went back and forth with whether or not I should even write this, but I am sharing my story and the hair care products and supplements that worked for me in hope that this helps at least one person out there. Hair thinning and hair loss is extremely personal and can be devastating.
Ringworm and Hair Loss
When this first started, unbeknownst to me, nothing I could have done would ever have worked to curb my initial hair loss. At that time my doctor was giving me cortisone injections and they were exacerbating the fungal infection, ringworm, and making it much worse, and causing more extreme hair loss.
Of the few friends and family that know I went though this, one question was almost always asked, where did the ringworm come from? It was a cat or my daughter’s friend. It does not even matter. But what I know is that if this happens to you, the only thing that treats ringworm of the scalp is an oral antifungal. These little dermatophytes, they are not actually worms, get into your hair follicle. Topical treatment will not kill this fungal infection. It can take months to fully treat a ringworm infection in the scalp. Run, do not walk, to the doctor if this could be you.
Your Dermatologist Matters when It Come to Hair Loss
I was living in Wisconsin when this first started, but thankfully, I was lucky enough to move to Nicaragua for a year, leaving the Wisconsin dermatologist and cold weather behind.
We moved at the tail end of October 2022. When I got there, I had a massive abscess, the size of a golf ball on my head. It itched non-stop, and I was in so much pain. But I thought the prescribed topical medications from my Wisconsin dermatologist would eventually help. I was incredibly naïve. The prescribed solutions were doing the exact opposite since I did not have psoriasis.
The abscess got so big that my hair could not lay flat. I finally realized this was something much more serious than the so-called-psoriasis diagnosis. Although it was complicated to find the right doctors in Nicaragua, I did go under the care of a team of dermatologists that did everything they could to help me. The abscess was eventually drained, and I was put on antifungal medication and antibiotics. Unfortunately, because the abscess was so big, it took months of antibiotics and antifungals to get things under control, and it got much worse before it got better. It spread across the entirety of my head. I had massive bald spots underneath my hair.
Hair Loss Does Require Patience
I am incredibly lucky that I was born with thicker hair so I could hide most of this, but I knew the bald spots were there so it was uncomfortable, all the time. I ended up losing about 65% of my hair. It was brittle, dead, colorless and lifeless. I was also told the hair loss would be permanent, scarring alopecia, which scared me to a point that I can’t even begin to put into words. There is literally nothing you can do when you lose you hair, but have a lot of patience. Necessito mucho paciencia.
A biopsy was eventually done which showed that I did not have folliculitis decalvans, scarring alopecia, or anything of the sort. I just had a massive staph infection and the fungal infection was gone. But the bacterial infection would not quit. As anyone who has experienced a severe medical issue knows, when an infection is not healing and lingers with seemingly no end in sight, it is emotionally draining. Coupled with mass hair loss, it is a pretty major blow to your self-esteem.
How Much is Normal When It Comes to Hair Fall?
Prior to this, I never thought about my hair. With the exception of the perm my mother made me endure at the age of 8, my perfectly straight, thick hair was on my head and that was that.
But just like that, one day I was in the shower and there were massive clumps coming out. I could not brush, comb or touch my hair without losing 50 strands. You typically lose no more than 50-100 strands per day. I was loosing handfuls, 700-1000 strands. (see photo) That is beyond typical. If this is you, call a doctor immediately. Hair fall like that can come from any number of things ranging from autoimmune disorders, fungal infections, illnesses, disease to hormonal imbalances, but it is a sign of something that needs to be addressed.
When to Talk to Someone about Your Hair Loss
It got to a point where I would sit in the bathroom for an hour or more every night and cry, alone. I would go running and I would stop and cry along the way. I would hyperventilate, to the point where I could barely breathe. I truly thought this nightmare would never end.
Living in Nicaragua and going through this, was good and bad. I was isolated from friends and family and that was tough, but I could not imagine having to be around people I knew all the time and dealing with this. Worse, I had a hard time interacting with all of the wonderful new people I met because I was so embarrassed about how I looked. I felt so bad about myself. I felt ugly. It does not matter what anyone tells you about how they think you look, it’s about how you feel, and I did not feel good.
I had also taken up surfing, but got to a point where I did not want to get in the water because I knew the bald spots would show. And then I was not allowed to go in because the infection might get worse. Living in a country like Nicaragua, near the ocean, not being able to go in, puts a pretty major dent in the old activity calendar. While my kids and husband were having the time of their lives, I was out of the water watching with too much time to think. It felt like every minute of every day was consumed by hair loss, the thought of continued hair loss, the pain from the infection and constant itching and the fear that this nightmare was not every going to end. It was emotionally devastating.
I did not share what was going on with anyone for many months, not my family, or friends. When I talked about it, I just lost it. I don’t recommend going through something like this alone. In retrospect, I wish I had been more open about it. But I did know if it was going to end and I did not know how to explain the situation, explain what I was going through emotionally, or give an accurate understanding of the whole situation.
Frankly, I did not know where to start. When I finally talked about it, I was months in and my friends were questioning why I did not share. Ultimately, it was so embarrassing and there was nothing they could do to help me. Health issues are tough. What can someone really do or say? But as the infection lingered, and got much worse, I had to tell someone that could help.
What the Doctor Ordered
I ended up in the only good hospital in Nicaragua. At this point I had massive bald spots on my head and there were puss filled pustules everywhere. This was at the end of January, and I had now been dealing with a serious scalp issue for over 10 months, and a massive infection for 3 ½ months. When I was there, they changed my antibiotics, put me back on antifungals and sent me on my way. Flash forward two weeks and the hair was still coming out in droves and there was still an infection.
I was close to losing my mind. I was a mess. I could barely function, but had to keep it together with work, and do my best to try and keep it together for my family. I failed miserably on the latter.
I finally called a friend that is a doctor at a very good hospital in Boston, booked a flight there, and was admitted directly under her care. I was put on IV antibiotics, and despite two other doctors saying the IV antibiotic was unnecessary, I was kept on it because it seemed to be the stopgap needed to get the infection under control. It did not entirely get rid of the infection, but it certainly made a massive dent.
I left there with a new antibiotic prescription, and what I felt was the best plan of attack. The oral antibiotic was eventually switched up in Nicaragua to a more effective medication. And the infection, while still not completely gone, is 100 times better than it was one year ago today. I have lingering spots, but I am off oral biotics and a topical solution seems to be the last piece of the puzzle.
Products for Hair Thinning, Hair Loss and Hair Fall
Throughout this ordeal, I tried so many hair serums, vitamins and whatever I could find to help fix my hair, and also give me some of peace of mind. I am not an expert on hair loss, hair thinning, and I am not a dermatologist. I am only sharing what worked for me, what strengthened my hair and is still helping to get it back to some semblance of normal.
My hair is all growing back, albeit, growing in at multiple lengths and some of the ends look like they were fried in an electrical socket. I joke that any 80s rock hairband would have paid good money to mimic the style I am rocking right now.
Here is what I recommend. If you have a question, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email.
Shampoo and Conditioner to Prevent Breakage & Strengthen Hair
Where to start? Once the infection was under control, I was still dealing with major breakage. The hair fall was not over, and the strands of hair were not smooth or silky.. They had ridges in them and felt so unhealthy. The hair was brittle and dry.
I never loved Keratase products until this started. Keratase shampoos and conditioners seemed to weigh my hair down, but that opinion quickly switched to unadulterated love when I found there Genasis Bain Shampoo and Genesis Hair Masque.
The Genesis products are specifically designed for hair fall, weak hair and breakage. They work.
I used and still use, the masque, not the conditioner, everyday. I let it sit on my hair for several minutes. It is worth every penny. It has made my hair healthier, shiner and the strands of hair are much stronger now. I felt like this helped virtually overnight.
Leave In Conditioner and Hair Repair Oil
On a daily basis I added L’Oreal Absolute Repair Oil. I use this after the shower. A few drops on all of my hair to help smooth our all of the new hair coming in. It is essential.
This will not weigh hair down. It will give your hair more shine and gloss; especially, if your hair has underdone any major trauma.
It is also a reasonably priced product. You just need a few drops so it will last a while.
Because my hair was so dry due to all the antibiotics, I add a few sprays of It’s a 10 Miracle Leave In Conditioner.
This leave in conditioner brand has a ton of options. It will strengthen hair and add shine.
Hair Serums to Calm the Scalp
Scalp health is essential. It is basically the microbiome of the hair.
I used these products, and continue to use them, because as the infection healed, my scalp was still red, inflamed, and dry. The hair was also brittle. I needed something to calm the scalp down, keep it hydrated without changing the hair texture or weighing it down and help my hair from the root. What I can tell you is that it was a combination of these three that helped my scalp and ultimately, my hair.
If you are in the U.S. Floxia is only available through a distributor in Canada. It is expensive, but of all of three serums, this is the one that saved my hair. As soon as I started using it, I could feel and see a visible difference in my scalp and hair. I have no idea why it works, but it worked for me,
Hair Regrowth Solution
I now know my hair would have regrown on its own, but when you have massive bald spots, you want something to speed it along. I used Men’s Rogaine with 5% Minoxidil. Yes, I know the package says do not use if you are a women, but I took my chances. The women’s is primarily a mouse and it changes your hair texture—no thank you. The men’s is a liquid and I can safely say, it sped up the hair regrowth.
This will stimulate hair growth, assuming it is not related to your natural genetic predisposition.
Hair Supplement Vitamins
Okay, I am going to tell you right now, I have no clue if these work for hair growth. I take these vitamins for hair health, not hair growth. I was on antibiotics for just under a year and they were strong. The strongest antibiotics you can be on. My face was swollen, my hair looked dead, and I felt dead on the inside. The vitamins cannot help with how you feel, but they do seem to help improve the hair health.
I recommend Nutrafoil, not the Vegan as it doe not have Biotin in it, which is essential for hair health, and Arey—again not for grey. This one is for hair health. There is not one scientific study, not a single one, that shows there is anything you can do to repigment hair that is already grey. Not one iota of proof. But Arey + Nutrafoil absolutely will help with scalp and hair health.
Collagen for Skin and Hair Health
Last, but not least, I added a liquid collagen to the repertoire. Do I think it is helping my hair? I have no idea. But at the very least, I do know your body stops, full-stop, producing collagen at 45 years-old. Once it stops, that Is when you see skin laxity, e.g. sagging skin, lots of fine lines, wrinkles and more. There is not a lot you can do about that, but I will be sharing things you can do soon, but for now, I drink this collagen to overall skin and scalp health. I recommend purchasing two at a time. It takes about three months to see any difference, per the company. I am on month two.
Hair Loss is Personal
Don’t forget that hair loss is personal. Just like there is no one stop shop for skincare, nor is there one for hair loss. What I do know is that the healthier your scalp, the healthier your hair. So if you are going to start somewhere, start with your scalp health first and foremost.