My Hair Loss Story (And How I Learned to Love Wigs!)

My Hair Loss Story

How I overcame sudden hair loss and gained a new perspective

Hi, y’all! For several years, I’ve debated on just how open I wanted to be on my blog. I was happy to share tips and tricks that make life with chronic illness easier, but I always struggled with sharing the more personal side of chronic illness.

The pain, the frustration, the side effects of medication and honestly, false hope. It happens a lot. And it is so hard! However, over the last few months, some major changes happened and I personally was looking for a hand to reach out to for advice and inspiration on a journey I never thought I would be on: hair loss.

And that’s why I’m sharing my journey with you. I’ll be uploading a video soon detailing my story, but in the meantime (or if you’re more into words over video), check out my story below.

Since my early twenties, I’ve had thin hair that never seemed to grow much farther than my shoulders. Which is fine! That was cool, I had grown to figure out which hairstyles and hair products worked well for me.

Over the years, I’ve been on so many different medications for my arthritis. Last year alone, I had tried out four different medications with little success.

 

All had different side effects that weren’t worth the benefit and my body just wasn’t having it. I had started a new medication in November to go along with my bi-monthly infusions to see if we could get my joint pain down a little bit more.

And a side note: a lot of these medications usually have strong side effects when you first start taking them. Patients are often told, “Give it a few weeks, a month or two and your body will get used to it and the side effects wear off.”

First realization of hair loss

Around Christmas of last year, I saw a picture of me with our son and my hair looked like it was so, so thin. You could see my scalp. It shocked me!

And okay, I’m not a vain person, but I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I had relatively good hair that I was pretty decent at styling on a consistent basis. But again… you could see my scalp!

Since I was trying to tough it out with this new medication, I tried to ignore it, hoping that

  1. I was imagining it. Maybe I was being sensitive and overly critical.
  2. My hair would come back in a few more weeks.

A few more weeks later, and my joint pain started getting really bad and it turns out, I was one of the people who this medicine makes your arthritis worse. Figures, right? So my doctor had me stop the medicine.

A few more weeks later, my husband and I were getting ready for an event, I was styling my hair. I was really feeling my hairstyle despite the thinness and I take a mirror just to check the sides and the back and…

Oh my gosh, you guys. I saw BALD spots.

I have my makeup all finished, my hair all done and I am trying so, so hard not to burst into tears.

I had been ignoring my hair loss for about a month at that point, not brushing my hair unless I had to, being super gentle. But that was the moment I noticed legit bald spots, where my hair was just GONE!

That week, I ask my doctor about it, and it’s like a 3-5% chance that medicine I was on causes major hair loss. Like… chemotherapy kind of hair loss.

It was really shocking. He said I could continue to lose hair for up to a year even after doing a washout of the medication. There’s no guarantee that it would actually grow back, depending on if it was temporary medication-induced alopecia or it caused me to develop autoimmune type of alopecia that lasts forever.

Over the next few weeks, I am furiously searching for answers. What do I do? How can I hide it? What products can I use because this was medication-induced alopecia. I look up hair extensions. I look up hair growth products. I cry to my husband. I cry to my mom. I cry to myself because I feel so vain about being so wrapped up in my hair loss.

It was a true grieving process. I had gone through denial, anger, bargaining, depression.

I start taking photos to document how much hair I’m losing, which makes me feel worse about it, but I know I need to be documenting this for progress and for my doctors.

I continue to lose more and more when I brush it and when I shower. Handfuls and handfuls of hair despite my hair being super thin and the length was at my chin at the time. It was so shocking.

Finding support for hair loss

So after all of this, I keep doing more research and more research. I create a secret Instagram account as I stumble upon this amazing hair loss community on Instagram.

I’m telling you: The women’s hair loss community on Instagram is straight up amazing. They helped me realize I wasn’t the only one going through this. There are options. Wearing a wig isn’t just for people going through cancer treatments or older women.

After that, I start looking into wigs. And talk about being thrown in the deep end. It is confusing, y’all. There is so much to learn about wigs. The types, the styles, how long they last, the price, how there are so many rip offs out there.

I genuinely was so overwhelmed. My first two purchases were small, tiny hair toppers and as soon as I got them out of the package, they went right back in and returned to the sellers. They didn’t look like me, they didn’t feel like me, they didn’t match or blend at all. And I had no idea how to make them blend, either!

I was still in a bit of denial, too.

Bless my mom. She’s one of my biggest supporters. At this point, I’m still so incredibly embarrassed about my hair loss, talking to her on the phone, and she mentions how maybe I should visit a wig shop. Just to check things out, see what it is about.

Wading into the wig waters

So I did it. I went to a local wig shop. And oh my gosh, I was so nervous. I tried to do as much research as I could, but I was still so overwhelmed. The owner of the wig shop was so sweet and so helpful and had worked with other women who were losing hair at my age. I walked out that day with my first wig ordered and a little less shame about what I was going through.

It’s been about three months since I went to that wig shop, but it feels like a lifetime.

I continue to learn things about wearing hair each and every day, but most of all, I have a brand new perspective.

When I first started telling people about my wig, I was met with a lot of sympathy, which let me tell you: that is the LAST thing someone wants when they lose their hair. We feel like we’ve already lost a lot. We already feel vulnerable and knocked down a few pegs. Being felt sorry for just makes it worse.

Gaining a new perspective on life & beauty

But then! I realized it was all about how I framed it. Yes, I’ve lost a majority of my hair. But the bonus is I get to have the hair of my DREAMS with so little effort. I mean, I style my hair about once a week and it takes me 15 seconds to put my wig on in the morning.

As someone with arthritis whose hands would be in pain after hair drying and styling every day, this was straight up a miracle. It’s awesome. And now, I kind of feel bad for all the women who have to spend all the time, money and stress trying to upkeep their natural hair.

Copyright Brenda Dalton 2020

Wigs allow me to have the hair I have always wanted, but was unable to grow myself. Wigs gave me TIME back. Wigs have given me so much energy back. Wigs have kept me from a lot of physical pain, too. Wigs have given me a new perspective on life. We aren’t just our appearances. We are our experiences and how we grow from them.

Wigs have given me the confidence to finally share my story. For years, I’ve been really, incredibly shy about sharing what I’ve gone through the last six or so years with my chronic illness.

And all this time, I truly wish I could have found someone who was going through the same thing that was open with the world about their experience.

I’m now ready to support YOU

Now that I’ve seen how women in the hair loss community have shared their stories – and made me realize I wasn’t alone – it’s made me realize I have no choice but to do the same thing. It’s the right thing to do.

If I reach just one person who is going through a tough time with chronic illness or hair loss… all of this was worth it. I’m going to try my best and make it my goal to be as transparent as possible about my journey and where I’ve been and share with you along the way.

Are you going through the same thing? I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below! Shoot me an email or find me on Instagram to tell me your story (I’ll keep it private!), ask questions, or just vent. I’m here to help every step of the way.

P.S. If you’re wondering, the hair I’m wearing in this blog post is ROMAN by Ethereal Hair purchased through SilkorLace.com. She is a European human hair wig with a silk top and lace front. She’s a one-of-a-kind piece, but she is constantly updating her shop with beautiful pieces!

Best Beauty Products for Arthritis

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any products linked below at no extra charge to you! Click here to view our disclosure policy.

The Best Beauty Products for Arthritis

One of the most difficult tasks for people with inflammatory arthritis is getting ready in the morning. Between the fatigue, stiff joints in the morning and whether or not you’re in a flare, simply doing your hair and makeup can be a mountain of a task. Over the years, I’ve figured out the best products to help me get ready in a flash, flare or not.

Revlon One Step Hair Dryer & Hot Air Brush

I genuinely don’t know how I’ve gone so long without discovering this little gem, the Revlon Hot Air Brush! When my arthritis gets bad, sometimes my husband would have to help me blow dry my hair. While he had gotten really good at it, the time and effort this hot air brush has saved me is beyond words.

It used to be a three or more tool job, using both hands — hair dryer, round brush, then a straightening iron or curling iron after. Now, I can use the hot air brush and not even need to straighten my hair! And it gets the job done in a quarter of the time. I’m usually finished with my hair in five minutes flat! It’s absolutely a life-saver for folks with arthritis in their hands. 

Tip: Clip sections of your hair and dry one section at a time, starting from the bottom of your head and working your way up. Trying to dry huge sections of hair will take longer and is more difficult to manage.

Kristin Ess Blow Dry Mist

This blow dry mist by Kristin Ess is a huge helper in getting my blow dry and style time down to five minutes. In fact, a few days ago I forgot to use this product in my hair and it felt like it took me forever to dry my hair! In reality, it was ten minutes, but wow — what a difference! Less is more when it comes to this mist. I have shorter, thin hair and I use only two brief sprays to cover my hair. More than that and it gives your hair a greasy look — not pretty!

Aquis Fast Drying Microfiber Towel

This towel is a cult favorite for a good reason. As you can see, I’m ALL about getting my hair to dry quickly. For most people with arthritis, doing your hair can be one of the most difficult and time-consuming tasks when getting ready in the morning. I’ve had my Aquis Towel for more than two years and it still looks and feels as great as it did when it first came out of the package!

This towel claims to dry hair from wet to damp 50% faster than regular cotton towels… and I believe it. And a bonus to it drying your hair quickly: It helps prevent damage and frizz, too! 

Beaky Makeup Sponges

When I’m having a rough hand day when it comes to my arthritis, sometimes putting on makeup with brushes or fingertips can be difficult. That’s when I reach for the makeup sponges. I love the multipack Beaky offers, because they’re different shapes that are easy to grip. Plus, they’re a bit larger and sturdier than the average makeup sponge, making them even easier to hold. They’re hypoallergenic, too, a must for most people with chronic illnesses.

The key for using these sponges with liquid foundation is to “dot” the foundation on your skin first, then use the sponge to blend it in using a tapping motion. Each sponge lasts about one month, but be sure to clean it every few days by rinsing and applying facial cleanser, then rinse clean.

Use Pump Bottles Over Twist Tops

For those of us with arthritis, we know the battle of twist top packaging. When you can, make sure the beauty products you purchase have pumps or other easily accessible openings instead of twist tops. Shampoo, body wash and face washes are typically easy to find pumps for. Brands like Lorac and Mac have magnetic or pump packaging that make it incredibly easy to use, too!

Do you have any products or tips that make getting ready easier when you’re in a flare? Tell me in the comments below!

Airplane Essentials | Travel Tips

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Airplane essentials for the modern woman. What to pack in your carry-on for easy and stylish traveling by air for arthritis and autoimmune disease. Read more from brendadalton.com!

For some people – like myself! – half the fun of traveling is packing and over the years, I’ve perfected my airplane essentials list. I’ve figured out the things I can’t live without while traveling by plane and the things that make my life with arthritis, a gluten-free diet, and autoimmune disease much easier. Most importantly, I’ve figured out the things that aren’t worth bringing because they never get used. I’ve even figured out the items that help me speed through security without an additional bag check, because that can slow down your race to the gate by a few minutes to half an hour!

First, it’s important to start with what’s on your body before you get out the door.

Things I never wear to the airport:

  • Statement jewelry
  • Dresses – especially maxi dresses – you’re more likely to be stopped by TSA for additional screening
  • Flip flops or strappy sandals – Mostly because you don’t want your bare feet touching the floor where thousands of others’ have, especially if you have autoimmune disease
  • Layers that are difficult to remove, like over-the-head sweatshirts and jackets
  • Belts
  • Hairstyles that require lots of bobby pins or metal hair accessories
  • Outfits that would work well in hot weather – because airplanes can be cold!

Things I do wear to the airport:

  • Sneakers, Sperrys or slip-on Keds
  • Socks (and if not, I have them ready to slip on at security/TSA Checkpoint)
  • Leggings or stretchy jeans
  • Tank top or plain tee
  • Oversized cardigan, preferably with pockets!
  • Simple necklace and earrings (these go in my carry-on until I’ve passed security)
  • Crossbody purse as a personal item

The number of items you may wear or pack depends on your ultimate destination, but here are my can’t-leave-home-without-’em airplane essentials that make traveling a breeze!

Travel Pillow & Blanket

This guy is a lifesaver. Not only is it easy to strap to your carry-on, but I also put some of the items that appear in this list in it: nose spray, facial spray, earbuds, a spare pen, Kindle, eye mask. What I love about this travel set is the pillow inflates when you take the blanket out, so you can control the firmness.

It works great as a lumbar pillow, regular pillow or just something to rest your hands on when tray tables are in their upright position. Shoutout to my arthritis friends! It’s also nice to have a little pillow and blanket in unfamiliar hotel rooms, too.

Lavender Mini Towelettes 

One time while traveling, I realized I was down to only one of these and still had a flight left before I was home. It was not pleasant. These delicious-smelling towelettes are a lifesaver on dirty planes, in not-so-clean hotel rooms and a great way to take makeup off or refresh your face at the end of a long travel day or a mid-flight nap. The lavender scent is also a great way to naturally ease any jitters before takeoff.

Since they’re antibacterial, I use these to wipe down the tray table, seat belt and everything around me when I board a plane. These are also great to do a little extra cleaning when you get to your hotel room, because trust me, it’s not as clean as you think!

Evian Mineral Water Facial Spray

My husband teases me about this one when I remember to bring it, but especially when we’re traveling early morning or late night, this is a lifesaver. It’s a great way to restore moisture to your face when you’re in a rush. And this spray lasts forever. Once you’ve stepped off the plane, spritz this facial spray under or over makeup. It’s especially lovely whether you’re on your way to your destination or back home to the real world.

Filtered Water Bottle

I do not travel anywhere without this thing. Seriously, it’s such a life saver. As someone with autoimmune issues, I’m not keen on drinking out of the tap or water fountains. I bring this empty water bottle through airport security and fill it up before I get on my flight.

This water bottle is also a big money saver! Ever notice how water bottles can get pretty expensive in hotels? The filter in this water bottle removes all the gunk and leaves you with delicious water even from your hotel bathroom. The ounces markings also make it easy for me to track how much water I’ve had for the day. Gotta stay hydrated!

Kindle & Kindle Unlimited

If I had the time, I would read three books a week, minimum. While I use my Kindle at home, it gets the most use when I’m traveling. I’m a fast reader and once I start a good book, it is impossible for me to put it down. This is especially true when on planes and in airports where the wifi is spotty, expensive or non-existent. Plus, it feels a little better to pass the time reading a book than it does to mindlessly play games on your phone or scroll through Facebook, right?

My favorite thing about my Kindle – besides the fact I got it half-price through a Black Friday sale – is Kindle Unlimited. For anyone who reads more than one book a month, it is 100% worth it. For $10 a month, you have access to over a million books on your Kindle.

Considering Kindle books can be anywhere from $5 to $15+, if you read one or two a month, you get your money’s worth. They even have super popular books, like the Harry Potter series and The Handmaid’s Tale.

With Kindle Unlimited, you also get access to thousands of audiobooks and magazines in addition to the massive library of regular e-books. Double win!

Portable Electronics Charger

It’s hard to imagine traveling without a smart phone, laptop, tablet, and ahem, Kindle! Even on short flights, I bring a portable charger. This thing has saved many a situation and is at the top of my airplane essentials list. You never know when you might have to bust out the navigation on your phone, which is a total battery suck, or research gluten-free restaurants near your hotel without access to an outlet.

This particular charger from Anker has been my favorite. I’ve gone through a few, but the Anker PowerCore has lasted me a few years. It holds a charge for a long time (fully charges an iPhone from 0%), is so small it can fit anywhere – even a pocket! – and recharges itself quickly. As of June 2017, it’s on sale for 50% off (under $20!).

Smith’s Rosebud Salve

I’ve mentioned this staple in blog posts before, but it bears repeating: This stuff is amazing. It’s on the list for airplane essentials and life essentials. This sweet little balm goes beyond a simple lip balm: Calm cuticles, patches of dry skin, smooth flyaways, keep brows in place, and even as an emergency makeup remover.  It’s perfect for ladies with psoriasis to help soothe skin! It’s soft, gentle, and the little tin gives it a luxurious feel and makes it incredibly durable for travel.

Saline Nose Spray

This is a pretty recent addition to the carry-on essentials list and not super glamorous. About two years ago, I started to get incredibly painful headaches and facial pain upon descent on airplanes, no matter what. My husband’s grandmother recommended a simple saline spray… and it works like a charm. About 30 minutes before landing, I pop this guy out, spray twice and relax.

I later learned this headache actually has a name: Aerosinusitis or an airplane headache, as it is commonly known. What happens is some folks are unable to equalize the change in barometric pressure when a plane begins to land, and that causes pain around the eyes and face. It typically clears up within 30 minutes of landing.

Snacks on Snacks on Snacks

Airplane snacks and meals can be expensive and if you have food allergies, finding gluten free or dairy free food can be a challenge! Some of my favorite travel snacks are nut mixes, oatmeal, popcorn, jerky and dried veggies and fruit. For morning flights, I love to bring a banana (or two!) from home with some of Justin’s individual nut butters; however, but bananas don’t always travel well in a purse or bag. Check out my full list of favorite traveling snacks and where to buy them in this blog post.

Overnight Essentials

Knock on wood, I’ve never had my checked luggage lost, delayed, or stolen, but I am always prepared just in case. In my carry-on, I pack the necessities that will last me overnight once I get to my destination. These overnight airplane essentials include: A comfortable tee (for pajamas or another outfit), linen shorts or leggings, underwear, bra, swimsuit, travel toothbrush, makeup and skincare basics, comb, hair ties, flip flops, mini first aid kit, and so on. And for my spoonies: Always, always, always carry all of your medications (even over-the-counter meds) in your carryon or personal item.

Backpack

For the longest time, I only traveled with “cute” or designer bags. After I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, my doctors suggested I stop carrying heavy bags on my shoulders. I love fashion, so I was devastated. …Until I realized the joy in traveling with an adorable backpack. Backpacks – or bookbags – are 100% in now. They make travel so. much. easier. And so much less painful!

I picked up a Herschel backpack in a gorgeous gray and can fit all of the airplane essentials on this list, plus a few other essentials like my laptop, notebooks, and more with room to spare. I typically check my larger luggage because arthritis can make it difficult for me to lift and carry for hours on end, so having an easy-to-transport piece of luggage as my carryon has changed airplane travel for me.

What are some of your favorite airplane essentials?

Sensitive Skin Beauty Products

Best Sensitive Skin Beauty Products

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The Best Sensitive Skin Beauty Products by brendadalton.com including The Honest Company, CeraVe, Caudalie and more! Visit brendadalton.com to read more.

 

One of the biggest battles for ladies with autoimmune diseases and sensitive skin is finding the best sensitive skin beauty products that don’t irritate!

As I’ve probably mentioned once or twice or a thousand times here on the blog, I have a gluten allergy. The thing is, for the longest time I didn’t realize that beauty products that had some sort of wheat or gluten had a negative effect on my skin, too.

I was all about the oatmeal scrubs and shampoos for their sweet smell, even if they were approved for sensitive skin, no parabens and other nasty stuff, or even products marketed as safe for babies, yet… I was always breaking out. Soon enough came the epiphany: duh, gluten was in my hair products!

When looking for the best beauty products for sensitive skin, always keep an eye out for sulfates, parabens and gluten (the latter only if you are, in fact, sensitive/allergic to gluten, of course!). Reach for those hypoallergenic brands. Here’s a rundown of my top five favorite sensitive skin beauty products:

TONYMOLY I’m Real Sheet Masks

When I pair these heavenly smelling sheet masks with an epsom salt bath in my jacuzzi tub, everything is right in the world. Sure, you look a little scary when the sheet mask is on, but I use these 1-2 times per week to add a little extra moisture, soothe and rejuvenate my skin.

It also doesn’t hurt that these smell heavenly! My favorites of the TONYMOLY I’m Real Sheet Masks are the red wine, tea tree, and rice. They each have a specific purpose and even the more strange scents like tomato are surprisingly relaxing and lovely to smell.

Caudalie Micellar Water

I wasn’t sure what to think of the Micellar Water trend when it first hit. What happened to soap and water? Why do they call it water? How is it even going to clean my skin? Y’all. This little product is now in my nightly and morning routine. I have combination skin, so I never know when I’m going to wake up oily or dry.

As long as I use this micellar water, I have no issues. It’s gentle on my super sensitive skin, yet is still powerful enough to take off waterproof mascara at the end of the day with two cotton swabs. It has a very light, soothing scent and as a bonus, it boasts toning properties as well.

Baebody Eye Gel

I’ll be real: I have a little bit of a love-hate relationship with the Baebody Eye Gel. I’m 30. I know I need to use some sort of eye moisturizer on a daily basis, but there’s something about putting more things on my face after I cleanse. But, I notice a massive difference on the mornings after I use this Eye Gel. It’s a little sticky when you first put it on, but after about 5-10 minutes, you don’t feel a thing. It is tremendous in clearing up puffiness and under-eye circles.

My eye wrinkles are hardly existent (thanks, Ray Bans), but I do think this eye gel has played a massive part in it over the last year, too! I’ve tried dozens of different brands of eye moisturizers and this is the only one I’ve encountered that doesn’t sting or break me out — and breaking out on the sensitive skin around your eye is the worst!

Honest Company Orange Blossom Shampoo & Body Wash and Orange Blossom Conditioner

Not only did I find a gluten-free shampoo and conditioner duo from The Honest Company, but it’s made without silicones, parabens, synthetic fragrances, dyes, formaldehyde carriers, ethoxylates or PEGs. And it’s vegan! They now have a scent-free version if your skin is sensitive to any type of fragrance, but the orange blossom is my all-time favorite since it leaves a subtle scent in your hair that isn’t overpowering one bit. I just love this stuff.

Pssst, you can get 30% and free shipping on your first bundle from The Honest Company through this link! I set mine up to deliver every 6-8 weeks with shampoo, body wash, and sunscreen!

CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion

This one is a beauty staple for anyone with sensitive skin. It’s mild, no fragrance and doesn’t leave your skin feeling gooey like a lot of lotions. My routine is jump out of the shower, CeraVe it up, and within just a few minutes, my skin is dry and smooth and ready to get dressed. In my opinion, trying to put clothes on when your lotion is still wet and hasn’t soaked in is the absolute worst, especially if they leave streaks on your clothes. None of that with CeraVe lotion. I even keep the travel sizes in my purse!

Sensitive skin beauty products honorable mentions:


Disclaimer: Not all beauty products may be a good fit for your skin, despite claims of hypoallergenic, sensitive-skin safe, etc. These recommendations are an opinion only and brendadalton.com is not liable for any reactions or outcomes by purchasing products listed. Always test on a small portion of skin and check with your doctor for professional advice!