Extreme Hair Loss

Hair loss
Photo: Andrey Popov/Shutterstock
Q: Thank you for your website and answering these questions. I've found some good information already however, this question I didn't find:
I have been experiencing extreme hair loss due to multiple things; hypothyroidism, low iron and possibly medication side effects. It has gotten progressively worse for about three years now. I'm working on all these issues and seeing an endocrinologist, taking adjusting thyroid meds, etc.
Because I have long hair that started out very thick and full, most people can't tell yet. I haven't had my hair professionally cut recently because I am afraid to go to a hair salon and have this concern not taken seriously. I'd like to get it cut without having it washed (I'd lose 200 hairs at least) but if it won't make it worse, I'd also like to have it colored (blond). Any advice?

A: From a strictly cosmetological standpoint, I cannot think of anything that would be a hindrance to having your hair done. That being said, your first move should be to check with your doctor and make sure he has no issues with what you want to have done to your hair.
The fact is that cosmetologists (hairdressers) are not trained to know about possible negative interactions with medications and treatments for various conditions, since we are not qualified to offer medical advice or diagnose health conditions. Only your physician can tell you whether you should be truly safe to proceed with a chemical service to your hair.
Because medications and treatments can alter the body's reaction to chemicals and levels of sensitivity, it is IMPERATIVE that your hairdresser performs a patch test AND a strand test BEFORE performing your chemical service (provided your doctor gives you the go ahead). Unless you are already lighter in color than the blonde you desire to be, you will have to have your hair lightened either as part of the color process or as a precursor to a color application.
Lightening the hair is always a harsher process than depositing color and you need to make sure that the meds and conditions you have been dealing with haven't altered the way your hair responds in too-dramatic a fashion.
I know that you want to have your hair cut without a shampoo service, but that will not be possible with regard to the color service. In fact, if it is necessary to do a pre-lightening as well as a color application, you will have to have at least two shampoo-equivalent services to remove first the lightener, then the color formula after the respective steps.
I also want to address your concerns over not having your problem taken seriously at a salon. This is also a situation where your doctor may be able to assist. He or she may know of salons or stylists who work with other patients with similar challenges. Even if this isn't the case, you can do what many others have to do: interview your stylist. Anytime you are looking for a new stylist, treat the process as you would the steps in hiring a potential employee.
Look for recommendations from friends and family members, talk to the stylist before putting them to work and see how you feel about them and their level of qualification. I'm sure you will find someone with whom you are comfortable, and who will do you a good service. I wish you well in your treatment and your service.
See also:
Hair loss
How many hairs do we lose per day?
The effect of medications on your hair
How thyroid disease can affect your hair