Northern Ireland

The trauma of female hair loss

Claire Millar with extensions
Image caption Claire Millar with the extensions that helped her regain her confidence

In 2008, I had been taking very strong prescription medication for acne.

Unfortunately, a side effect of the tablets was hair loss.

I had a large bald patch at the back and lots of smaller patches on the top and around my hairline at the front.

I went to see various specialists and tried out a number of different shampoos, creams and sprays - but nothing worked.

Because I was so embarrassed and self-conscious about my hair - I started to pull it out, which only made the situation worse but strangely made me feel better.

In September last year, I went to a company in Belfast to have special hair extensions fitted, which stopped me from being able to pull my own hair out and allowed it to grow.

On a regular maintenance appointment to my get my hair extensions tightened, I was told I didn't need to keep them in anymore.

It was exactly six months since I'd had them fitted and to be honest, they had become like a security blanket.

I wasn't sure how I felt at the thought of having them taken out. I was happy, scared and pretty emotional all at the same time.

Once my hair had been washed and dried, I couldn't believe the difference. I realised at that point I had absolutely no reason to be scared.

My hair had grown back, and was stronger and thicker than it had ever been before.

The next day, I went to my own hairdresser, who put some highlights in and cut my hair back into the style I had had before the problems began.

Shampoos, sprays and creams

Image caption Claire Millar before she began her hair treatment

I had struggled with hair loss for nearly four years and after using numerous shampoos, sprays, creams and taking different courses of herbal tablets, I only found the solution I was looking for in September 2012.

After searching online, I came across a private company who deal with all types of hair loss - from women who are completely bald, to women like me who have a less severe problem.

I made an appointment, went to the clinic at 09:30 BST - spent 10 hours there getting hand sewn extensions fitted and came out with the shoulder length hair I had wanted since 2008.

I didn't realise how depressed I was about my hair loss until I had the extensions fitted.

Bald patch

We first noticed the problem in 2008, after I had finished a course of very strong prescribed medication for acne.

One evening, while I was watching TV, my parents noticed I had developed a large bald patch on the back of my head.

When they told me and showed me, I was absolutely devastated.

We initially thought it was alopecia, and I was afraid that I might lose more, or all of my hair. However, upon further investigation, we discovered it was a side effect of the tablets I had been taking.

Image caption Claire's hair has now grown back, thicker than before

At the time, my hair was shoulder length - and it had to be cut short to try and disguise the bald patch as much as possible. I was gutted and felt like I'd lost all my femininity.

I became depressed - and even got to the stage where some days I struggled to get out of bed and go to work but I didn't tell anyone how I was feeling.

Over time - because I was so embarrassed - I started to physically pull my hair out on a regular basis because, strangely, it was the only thing that made me feel better.

I eventually discovered this was a psychological condition - which falls into the same category as things like nail biting.

Difficult to talk about

The extensions that I had range in price from £750 to around £1,500, depending on how many you need.

After that, you pay around £60 every six to eight weeks for maintenance.

It is something that is difficult to talk about and it is a big step to take.

I admit I was concerned that the extensions would look false, or that people would think I was wearing a wig.

When they were coming out, I was scared that my hair wouldn't have grown enough, and that I'd start pulling it out again, but the results are absolutely amazing and all the feelings that made me pull my hair out have gone.

From personal experience, it really is well worth checking out the options.

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