The Hair Centre, Hair Loss Products For a FREE Hair Assessment Call 020 7976 6868
Male Hair Loss
Male Hair Loss

Hair Loss » Blog » Sue Holderness on her battle to beat alopecia: My hair was falling out in handfuls. Could faddy diets be to blame?

Sue Holderness on her battle to beat alopecia: My hair was falling out in handfuls. Could faddy diets be to blame?

By Lucy Elkins

Sue Holderness is known to millions as the bouffant-haired Marlene from only Fools And Horses. It’s an image that endured when sue appeared as Marlene in the spin-off TV programme The Green Green Grass.

Yet her trademark big-haired look was achieved only with the help of make-up artist wizardry. For Sue, 60, like millions of other women, has been plagued with severe hair loss since her 30s. At times it has come out in handfuls, leaving her with bare patches of scalp.

Talking about this for the first time, sue says she has often had to resort to wigs and sometimes even painted her scalp with an eye liner to disguise how thin her hair was.

Sue Holderness as bouffant-haired Marlene from only Fools And Horses, with co-star John Challis. Sue has been plagued with severe hair loss since her 30s

‘I have lost hair ever since I had my children in my 30s,’ says Sue, who is married to theatre producer Mark Piper, 61, and lives in London.

‘Initially, I thought it was maybe part of being an exhausted new mum and didn’t do anything about it. But as I got older it got worse and, one day, after I turned 40, I woke up and saw a carpet of hair left on my pillow.

‘It was very frightening. I didn’t want to look in the mirror because I thought I must look bald.

‘When I did, on one side there was a big bit missing and the rest looked really thin. I went to see the doctor straight away to see if there was something medically wrong with me.

‘He referred me to an allergy specialist but no one could get to the bottom of it. looking back now, I wonder if it was as a result of delayed shock. My dad had died unexpectedly six months earlier and it had really taken me by surprise, but I will never know for sure what caused it.’

Hair loss or alopecia can affect not just the head but the body too. Hair loss among women is actually almost as common as with men.

A recent study found that a third of women aged 25 or over suffers from hair loss and almost five million women in the UK have a serious hair loss problem.

A recent study found that a third of women aged 25 or over suffers from hair loss and almost five million women in the UK have a serious hair loss problem.

No one would deny that hair loss can have a big impact on a man, but for women to lose their hair is a particularly devastating experience.
‘The one thing that has ground me down the most throughout my life has been the problem with my hair,’ says Sue.

‘As a woman, how you look changes your whole outlook on life. I have wasted so much time worrying and crying about it.

‘I have spent hours with volumisers and curlers trying to make it look fuller so I could face going out. When it was really bad, I would use eye liner or eyeshadow to cover my bare scalp.’

It is normal to lose 50 to 100 strands of hair a day on average, but sometimes hair is shed faster than this and the effects can be mortifying. There are many different causes of female hair loss, but the main ones are hormonal changes, diet, medications and illness.

‘With women, there are lots of different reasons, but with men hair loss tends to be inherited,’ says Dr Peter Williams, a hair transplant surgeon from The Hospital Group.

‘Women tend to get thinner hair all over because as they age they have less oestrogen circulating and this means they not only grow less hair, but it becomes thinner too.’

Marilyn Sherlock, of the Institute of Trichologists, adds: ‘There is always a cause for hair loss, but occasionally it can be something as innocuous as having had a fever.

‘The high temperature kills the hair, but it won’t fall out for about three months.

‘Healthy hair requires all vitamins and minerals and being low in certain ones, especially iron, can lead to thinning because iron is vital for new hair cells. A crash diet can lead to quite dramatic hair loss too.’

Sue’s trademark big-haired look was achieved only with the help of make-up artist wizardry

During pregnancy, normal hair loss slows down dramatically. However, once the baby is born all the hair loss that would have taken place during pregnancy happens all at once.

Normally hair recovers a few months later, but in Sue’s case it didn’t. She had her first daughter, Harriet, when she was 35.

‘During my pregnancy, my hair was gorgeous. Then I had Harriet and it all fell out after three months,’ she says. ‘It did frighten me, but I thought I was just tired and run down as new mothers are.

‘After I had Freddie in 1987, my hair fell out again, but not as badly. It was two years later that my hair fell out in earnest and I wondered if I might have to face the future bald.

‘After the allergist could find nothing wrong, I started reading up on hair loss and took fish oils, evening primrose oil, you name it, hoping that my hair would get better.

‘It did for a bit, but then for no obvious reason it would fall out again. I was appearing on television at the time. My character, Marlene, had big hair and achieving it was a struggle,’ she explains.

‘The hair and make-up people knew the problem. Sometimes we had to clip in bits of hair. When I did theatre, I usually used wigs. I have worn them when I had to go to parties and I could not stand the sight of my hair – or lack of it.’

When Sue hit the menopause, aged 52, she found her hair loss accelerated. ‘I would stand in the shower and watch blankets of hair come out,’ she says.

‘There were times when I felt sure I would be bald by the time I got out.’ Sue thinks another possible cause for her thinning hair was the debilitating stage fright she suffered during the 1990s.

She says: ‘I went through three years of panic attacks and my hair definitely suffered as a result. Not only did it fall out, but it become really dry and brittle. I was prescribed beta-blockers, which helped to a certain extent.’

The only treatment for hair loss normally given to women is minoxidil, which is applied to the scalp. It improves blood supply to the hair follicle, but it is only effective in 20-25 per cent of cases.

‘Before women are given this, there are other things that should be checked first, to see if there is an underlying condition causing the hair loss’ says Dr Williams.

‘You should check for low iron, thyroid problems, autoimmune conditions – all of which can cause hair loss. Often, these issues can then be treated and the hair loss will resolve itself.’

Sue’s hair is thicker than ever – partly, she believes, through a good diet. ‘I eat a good balanced-diet these days, with plenty of oily fish and vegetables,’ she says.

‘I used to try diets such as a grapefruit or a protein-only diet, especially if I had a big role coming up, and I do wonder if that contributed to the hair loss.’

She believes her new, thicker hair is also partly due to taking a natural one-a-day tablet called Viviscal which contains marine proteins, silica and vitamin C.

‘I took it for three months two years ago and noticed a real difference,’ she says. ‘since then, I have taken it as and when I need it, and my hair looks fuller and thicker.’

While some studies have found that it can promote hair growth, some experts remain unconvinced. ‘Whether or not this product works I don’t know, but because there are so many different causes of hair loss I find it unlikely that one pill will help everyone.’ says Dr Williams.

But for Sue, who is on a tour of the theatre production of Calendar Girls, it has certainly helped.

‘For one of the very first times in my life, my hair is not an issue – and I cannot tell you what a relief that is.’

Do you have Hair Loss Problems, read our Hair Loss Help

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 14th, 2010 at 12:06 pm and is filed under CELEBRITY HAIR LOSS. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Fake oakley sunglasses online Oakley sunglasses free shipping Cheap oakley from china Cheap oakley free shipping online Fake oakley from china Oakley sunglasses wholesale online Replica oakley paypal online