For the past 11 years, I have suffered from hair loss. At 23-years-old, I’ve lost around 75 percent of my hair. The hair loss came as a result of my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, also known as PCOS.
PCOS, which affects up to 10 percent of women of childbearing age, is an endocrine system disorder that causes imbalances in reproductive hormones. Due to these abnormalities, women exhibit different symptoms such as weight gain, hair loss, infertility, and acne, amongst others. Since PCOS has no cure, women like myself, often struggle to cope with the symptoms. As you can probably imagine by now, hair loss was the most frustrating and emotional symptom of them all.
I began to lose my hair during my freshman year in high school. The truth is I didn’t notice any changes until I saw a picture of myself that really emphasized my hair thinning. Of course, my first reaction was to cry my eyes out, but I quickly got over it because I thought my daily hair routine was cause. I gave up washing my hair everyday and even using heat tools, in hopes of getting my silky hair back to its healthy state. Once I adapted these lifestyle changes and saw no improvement, that’s when it really began taking an emotional toll on me.
Let’s face it, no one wants to lose their hair. Like many women, my hair was a symbol of femininity and beauty. And without it, not only did I feel insecure, but I often was conflicted with the idea that I was less of a woman. You see, there’s a reason why we hardly see women with short or thin hair advertising hair products on TV. These lack of images are reflective to the views society have on how women “should” look like. I remember sitting for countless hours searching for anyone who possibly was going through the same journey. Not being able to relate, I began to feel emotionally detached to people. For the next three year, I went from being the funny Latina to a sheltered girl, who avoided conversation with everyone. I would cry everdyday wondering why this was happening to me. Simple things like looking at myself in the mirror became excruciating, especially when hanging out with my primas who had luscious hair.
But after years of self-loathing, I finally decide to do something. I began to realize that although I had no control over my hair falling, I had a choice on how I wanted to live my life. Hair loss can be devastating — trust me, I know — but there are solutions. The idea of wigs always scared me, but I decided it was worth a shot. I made an appointment for a wig fitting and it changed my life. Although I ended getting a topper, which is an extension you wear on your crown, it really helped me come to terms with my hair loss. I no longer had to worry about people judging me simply from my physical appearance; I could finally let the world see me for who I was.
While my hair journey has been a difficult one, I’ve realized I wouldn’t change a thing. Hair loss has given me with the strength to conquer any obstacle in my life. I might not fit the beauty norm, but that’s okay. Wearing my topper is the new “normal” for me. Looking back at my hair journey, I wasted so much time feeling sorry for myself instead of doing something about it. After I put that aside, I realized I was able to find myself through the hair loss. Today I can proudly say I am a Latina, a fighter, a sister, a girlfriend, but I am not my hair.