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Pictures of the actor James Nesbitt sporting what appears to be a miraculously restored hairline reminded me that last month was hair loss awareness month. Quite why May should be singled out for such an honour is unclear. Nevertheless, the people at hair supplement Viviscal commissioned a report to coincide with it, focusing on the psycho-social effects of the condition (www.viviscal.co.uk). And the results make for interesting reading.
I should say at this point that hair loss is one of my specialist subjects, since I have been afflicted all my adult life. I have more or less got used to it now, but I can't say it gets any easier. It's because of my hair loss that I no longer swim, cycle or take part in the mother's race at school; and I would no more accept a ride in a soft-top car than buy Tamiflu over the internet.
This report, by Dr Nigel Hunt, of the University of Nottingham, says that more than 15 million adults in the UK, both male and female, will experience some kind of hair loss at some time in their lives. Women especially find it hard to deal with, since so much of their self-esteem is bound up in fantasies of thick, glossy locks. "The psychological impact of hair loss (on women) can be severe," says Dr Hunt, "and can involve social phobia, lowered self-esteem, anxiety and depression."
Since 90 per cent of men say they do not view women with thin hair as attractive, you can understand the difficulties. Time and again in the study, women referred to their hair as their "crowning glory", indicating that whatever else they might do to make themselves look nice - clothes, make-up, shoes - hair was the most crucial.
Nor is there an easy solution. Minoxidil works for some, but not for all. All I know after years of dealing with the problem is that, psychologically, there are bad months and better months. When it's bad, there' s no shame in a headscarf. When it's better, a sympathetic hairdresser makes all the difference. This is my own hair emergency directory.
* Stylist: George at Daniel Hersheson (020-7434 1747). Brilliant at making the best of a bad barnet.
* Cover-up: Suburban Turban (www.suburbanturban.co.uk). Nicky Zip makes beautiful head-coverings for women with hair loss (top left £36).
* Shampoo (left): Aveda's Rosemary Mint (from £3.43; www.aveda.co.uk).
* Product: Bumble and Bumble Hair Powder (£15; call 020-7247 5656 for stockists). Fantastic if you're worried about being photographed. No good in the rain, though.
* Guru: Philip Kingsley (020-7629 4004). Years of experience; doesn't promise the impossible.
* Surgeon: Mr Greg Williams (020-7908 3611). The best man to see in the UK if you're considering the nuclear option.
Beauty writer at The Times - Saturday magazine 6.6.09