Hair loss might be a major aspect of your reality if you live with chronic illness. You could be noticing that your hair has become thinner or is falling out more rapidly than you think it should.
Dr. Peter Jenkin, MD, FAAD, clinic director and board-certified dermatologist at Dermatology Associates of Seattle told The Mighty there are multiple reasons why you may experience hair loss when living with chronic illness. It may be the result of your symptoms, the medications you take to treat your condition, stress and other what Dr. Jenkin called “secondary problems” like iron deficiency.
Figuring out how to manage hair loss can be both exhausting and frustrating, especially because for many people, hair is a major part of their identity. According to Jenkin, your first step should be talking with your doctors to determine if changes to your hair signal another issue that should be addressed or to discuss medication changes. After talking to your doctor, Jenkin outlined a few basic preventative measures that might help.
“If the hair loss is due to their illness, there are still things one can do to help like getting adequate sleep [and] maintaining a proper diet with sufficient protein to support hair growth,” Jenkin said. “It is also important to treat the hair as gently as possible by avoiding harsh chemicals such as straighteners, perms or too frequent use of hair dye.”
If you’re looking for ideas on other products to treat your hair gently or prevent additional hair loss, there’s a lot of confusing options and claims out there about hair products. How are you supposed to know what actually works? It can be a little overwhelming, so we turned to those in our Mighty community who have experienced hair loss see what products work for them.
Keep in mind while these products have helped some people, they might not work for you. And be sure to consult your doctor before trying any new chemical or natural product.
Here’s what our community recommended:
1. Detangler WetBrush
The WetBrush is a brand of hairbrush that has soft bristles but is still strong enough to pull through hair. A detangler pro, it goes through knots gently, which may prevent harsh breakage or damage to your hair. Despite the brand name, WetBrush is good on wet or dry hair, and the handle is designed to be comfortable to grip.
“I use a WetBrush instead of a regular brush to prevent it from falling out more,” said Amber Bennett.
Buy the Wet Brush Classic Brush pictured above for $8.32 from Amazon.
2. Sukin Hair Products
Sukin is an Australian company that creates hair products with natural ingredients. This includes a line of shampoos, conditioners and other hair treatments for both dry, brittle hair and to add volume to thinner hair. Like other hair products designed for dry or brittle hair, Sukin says you can expect a good conditioning and a gentler clean.
“I used Sukin products on my hair that has no chemicals and it really helped,” said Sam Cannon.
Buy the Sukin Nourishing Conditioner pictured above for $10.03 from Amazon.
3. Silk Pillowcases
Silk pillowcases are great if your hair tangles easily. Unlike other fabrics, silk allows your hair to smoothly slide across the surface as you move in your sleep, which means less tangles when you wake up. This prevents needing to battle your hair later by over-brushing, which can cause major damage.
“Silk pillowcases,” suggested Chris Cruise-O’Neill. “It sounds very fussy, but they make a big difference.”
Buy the Jasmine Silk 100% Charmeuse Silk Pillowcase for £19.99 from Amazon UK.
4. Coconut Oil
Many people love coconut oil for many uses, including because it can prevent damage to your hair as well as moisturize. Research shows coconut oil can be effective for your hair because it prevents hair protein loss, which keeps it in better condition. As a side bonus, because coconut oil is so suitable for your hair, your locks may look great for longer with less effort.
“Coconut oil feels nice to moisturize on a bald scalp,” said Mikki Goldberg.
“I make a coconut oil and castor oil hair mask and do it once a week with a shower cap,” suggested Jessica Hurley.
Buy the Now Solutions Liquid Coconut Oil shown above for $9.90 from Amazon.
5. Grow Gorgeous Hair Serum
Grow Gorgeous Hair Serum is designed to make your hair thicker and stronger with regular use. Instead of an oil base, this serum has a water base, which penetrates your hair more effectively. Keep in mind while many have found it works as promised, it may not work for everyone depending on your hair type and type of hair loss.
“I use Grow Gorgeous hair serum,” said Margaret Julia. “I noticed it working before the first bottle was half gone, so you don’t have to spend a ton of money only to find out it doesn’t work for you.”
Buy the Grow Gorgeous Hair Density Serum pictured above for $26.98 from Amazon.
6. Hair Forks and Sticks
Hair elastics tend to pull at your hair when you use them and can cause damage when you overuse them, including wearing them while you sleep or using them in the same place in your hair all the time. If your hair is already fragile, that’s probably not what you want. A hair fork or sticks can hold your hair up without pulling at it as much as an elastic would.
“Using hair forks and sticks to put up hair instead of elastics!” recommended Michelle Moland. “It’s much kinder on the hair, so if you have fragile hair or roots, it can help stop breakage. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube and the LongHairCommunity forum is a great resource.”
Buy the Parcelona Large Hair Pins Sticks (2 Pack)pictured above for $6.95 from Amazon.
7. Hemp or CBD Hair Products
Hemp- and CBD-based products are all the rage in the beauty space, including in the hair care world. Though evidence is mixed, experts believe some CBD and hemp-based products can reduce skin irritation on your scalp. Experts also hypothesize because of the fatty acids in hemp and CBD hair-care products, they may help the health of your hair.
“I have ME/CFS,” said Alexandra Watt. “I ended up shaving my head because prior the only way to relieve tender spots was to pull out the hair in that area which eventually resulted in severe hair loss. I was able to relieve the pain and let my hair grow with organic hemp shampoo. It’s grown back really strong and very minimal evidence of what it was before. I’d 100% recommend anyone with scalp/hair pain related loss of hair to try it.”
Buy the Hempz Sweet Pineapple and Honey Melon Herbal Volumizing Shampoo pictured above for $12.34 from Amazon.
8. Pure Castor Oil
Castor oil is a popular remedy to combat hair troubles, and it’s most useful (and expert-endorsed) to help condition and add moisture back into your hair. As of yet, there is no research that says castor oil promotes hair regrowth, so keep that in mind, but also know conditioned hair is less prone to damage. Some people can be allergic to castor oil, so if you want to try it, test it in a small area first.
“I have sporadic hair loss, but mainly the regrowth is course and wavy (versus whip straight smooth hair I naturally had before),” said Tina LS. “It’s a side effect of medication for autoimmune diseases. I use pure castor oil and castor oil leave-in products. My new weird hair absorbs the oil and doesn’t feel or look greasy, just softer and shinier. I add oil a few times throughout the day. My hair loss is similar to the photo above, but currently grown in for a little while!”
Buy the Pure Castor Oil pictured above for $5.99 from Amazon.
9. Shampoos and Conditioners with Caffeine
Many people like the extra boost they get from caffeine, and that might even apply to your hair. In a 2012 study of people with hair loss due to androgenetic alopecia, caffeine-infused hair care products effectively stimulated hair regrowth. A 2018 study compared hair products containing caffeine to Rogaine hair growth products, and they were similarly effective.
“Head and Shoulders with Caffeine,” suggested Paulina Andrade.
“Caffeinated shampoo,” said Jenny Porrett. “Lush has started doing a shampoo bar now, and there’s Plantur39.”
Buy the Ogx Niacin 3 & Caffeine Shampoo pictured above for $20.52 from Amazon.
10. Mustard Oil
Like other oils rich in fatty acids, mustard oil can add moisture to your hair as well as soothe irritation on your scalp. It’s been used for other health and wellness purposes effectively, but it is high in erucic acid, which can be harmful if ingested, so never cook or eat anything with mustard oil in it. Some people find mustard oil irritates their skin, so test it in a small area of skin before using it on your scalp.
“I’ve noticed my hair has got much thinner over the last year especially. On my sides, I was wearing thin and have two small bold patches,” said Sanj Shergill Hussain. “My mom told me to buy some mustard oil and massage it into my head at least twice a week, leave it on your hair overnight, then wash the next morning. I remember she used to do this herself when I was a kid. A few years ago, my mom lost all her hair due to chemo and through using mustard oil, her hair now looks really healthy. I do have to warn you though, it doesn’t smell too good.”
Buy the True Oils Cold Pressed Mustard Oil pictured above for $12.90 from Amazon.
What’s a product you would recommend for hair loss? Comment below with your suggestions.