NHS mental health nurse reveals how stress-induced hair loss that worsened during the pandemic left her locks so thin that people thought she had cancer
An NHS worker who suffered severe hair loss as a result of stress, which was exacerbated due to working through the pandemic, has revealed how her locks were so thin people assumed she was undergoing chemotherapy.
Ashleigh Barnes, 36 an NHS mental nurse from Manchester, used to take pride in her thick, luscious locks and formerly worked as a hair model but began noticing clumps falling out following a divorce.
‘Styling my hair suddenly took me no time at all,’ she recalled. I would go to blow dry it and it would already be dry. And my brushes were always completely covered in hair, but I thought maybe it’s just normal for that much hair to fall out.’
Eventually she was left with a bald patch at the top of her head and found her condition worsening as she worked on the frontline of NHS healthcare during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Eight million women from across the UK suffer from hair loss at some point in their lives, with stress, pregnancy and eczema among the most common causes.
Trichologists, experts who specialise in the study of diseases or problems related to the hair and scalp, have reported a rise in the number of women seeking treatment for hair loss since the start of the pandemic.
Before: Ashleigh Barnes, 36 an NHS mental nurse from Manchester, used to take pride in her thick, luscious locks but began noticing clumps falling out following a divorce
Today: Ashleigh was able to regrow her locks thanks to the help of Hair Gain, a supplement made from pea shoots that is formulated to stimulate the root of the hair follicle
Hiding her hair: While experiencing the hair loss, NHS worker Ashleigh coped by hiding her head in a variety of turbans (pictured), which she used to match to her outfits
Hair thinning has been reported as a symptom Long Covid, and has been linked to the stress of living through the pandemic.
Ashleigh was able to regrow her locks thanks to the help of Hair Gain, a supplement made from pea shoots that is formulated to stimulate the root of the hair follicle.
Ashleigh, who said her hair was previously one of her favourite features, recalled: ‘I used to love going to the hairdressers.
‘When I first noticed things were happening [with the hair loss] I went to get it highlighted but the stylist said she couldn’t highlight it it was too weak. It would just break.
‘I was devastated because my hair colour was always light blonde, I had never had dark hair. It really upset me that I couldn’t have it the colour I wanted.
‘I kept going back to ask if it was ready and they said it wasn’t. It just got worse and worse. Going to the hairdressers turned from one of my favourite things to an ordeal.’
Luscious locks: Ashleigh used to pride herself on her hair, pictured before any hair loss, and worked occasionally as a hair model
Balding: Eventually she was left with a bald patch at the top of her head and found her condition worsening as she worked on the frontline of NHS healthcare during the pandemic
Solution: Ashleigh has seen significant hair regrowth since she started taking Hair Gain supplements. She shared a photo revealing how she has had several inches of hair come through
Ashleigh said she believes it was her body’s way of processing the stress she was experiencing.
‘I was married for seven years but then I got divorced,’ she said. The breakdown of that relationship was very difficult.’
She continued: ‘It affected me on an emotional level of course, but my body responded in a way that I didn’t expect. I wasn’t expecting to lose my hair.’
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF HAIR LOSS?
It is perfectly normal for people to lose small amounts of hair as it replenishes itself and, on average, people can shed between 50 and 100 hairs per day.
However, if people start to lose entire patches of hair or large amounts of it it can be more distressing and potentially a sign of something serious.
Pattern baldness is a common cause of hair loss as people grow older. At least half of men over the age of 50 will lose some of their hair just through the ageing process, according to the British Association of Dermatologists.
Women may lose their hair as they grow older, too.
Other, more concerning causes of hair loss include stress, cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, weight loss or an iron deficiency.
Most hair loss is temporary, however, and can be expected to grow back.
Specific medical conditions which cause the hair to fall out include alopecia, a disorder of the immune system; an underactive or overactive thyroid; the skin condition lichen planus or Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer.
People should visit their doctor if their hair starts to fall out in lumps, falls out suddenly, if their scalp itches or burns, and if hair loss is causing them severe stress.
The mental health worker also experienced extreme stress at work, which heightened during the pandemic.
She said: ‘I love my job but I was working with people who were mentally unwell and I was already struggling with my own mental health. It was really difficult.
‘It was challenging as the people I work with need the optimum care and that was harder to give with everything I was going through.’
Ashleigh coped by hiding her head in a variety of turbans, which she used to match to her outfits.
‘People started assuming I was seriously unwell and had lost my hair having chemotherapy,’ she explained.
‘I tried everything and spent hundreds of pounds buying specialist shampoos, ointments, stimulating sprays and hair treatments. I even shipped one over from America.
‘I tried adjusting my diet and incorporating numerous vitamins to try and help restore my hair. But I saw little change in my hairline.’
Eventually she came across Hair Gain on Instagram and ordered a 10-week supply of the gummies.
Hair Gain is made from pea shoots, which have the highest concentration of phytonutrients of any other food.
These powerful nutrients can help to support healthy hair by stimulating specific signal molecules at the bottom of the hair follicle which are responsible for reactivating hair growth.
Ashley added: ‘I’ve been taking them for eight months now and I have had around 4-5 inches of growth of the top of my head. I am so thrilled with the results.
‘I’ve been through so many changes both mentally and physically so I feel so much better now.
‘My social life has improved, I feel a new lease of life with everything. My hair’s come back too. It’s not what it was but I’m getting there.’
Hair Gain was founded by ex-marketing manager Lucy Palmer, 39, from East London, who experienced such severe hair loss after childbirth, her bath was ‘constantly’ clogged.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Lucy said: ‘Experiencing hair loss is horrible, after my first baby I lost handfuls of hair each day and clogged the bathroom plug on numerous occasions.
‘I had two big bald patches on the side of my head and other areas were really thin. I would comb over my fringe to cover them up or would wear a hat.’
Hair Gain was founded by ex-marketing manager Lucy Palmer, 39, from East London, who experienced such severe hair loss after childbirth, her bath was ‘constantly’ clogged. Pictured, during hair loss (left) and once she found a solution (right)
‘The hair loss I experienced with my second baby was even worse, the bald patches kept growing but at least this time I had a treatment to deal with it.
She added: ‘Losing my hair really knocked my confidence and I found it really scary. I wasn’t warned about postpartum hair loss and had no idea it was such a big problem.
‘The more I spoke to other women the more I realised that female hair loss is a huge problem, over eight million women in the UK will suffer from hair loss at some point in their lives and there are many causes.
‘Stress, anxiety, over-styling, hormonal fluctuations, menopause and nutritional deficiencies can all cause hair loss – as well as it now being one of the symptoms people can experience post-Covid.’