Button: Pride 2020

Ricki Lake Opens Up About Hair Loss — And Debuts A New Buzz

Photo: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images.
“Liberated and Free, Me,” Ricki Lake wrote in Facebook caption alongside a photo of her newly-shaved head. In a long post, the actress opened up about how, after struggling with hair loss for almost 30 years, she made the decision to shave her hair entirely. She also shared additional photos (taken by Amanda Demme) on Instagram, along with a shortened version of the caption she used on Facebook.
“First things first, I am not sick. (THANK GOD),” Lake began. “I am not having a mid-life crisis. nor am I having a mental breakdown, though I have been suffering. Suffering mostly in silence off and on for almost 30 years. AND I am finally ready to share my secret.”
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Liberated and Free, Me. First things first, I am not sick. (THANK GOD.) I am not having a mid-life crisis. nor am I having a mental breakdown, though I have been suffering. Suffering mostly in silence off and on for almost 30 years. AND I am finally ready to share my secret. Deep breath Ricki…. Here goes….. I have been struggling with hair loss for most of my adult life. It has been debilitating, embarrassing, painful, scary, depressing, lonely, all the things. There have been a few times where I have even felt suicidal over it. Almost no one in my life knew the level of deep pain and trauma I was experiencing. Not even my therapist/s over the years knew my truth. I know that by sharing my truth, I will be striking a chord with so so many women and men. I am not alone in this and my goal is to help others while at the same time unshackle myself from this quiet hell I have been living in. Ever since I played Tracy Turnblad in the original Hairspray back in 1988 and they triple-processed and teased my then healthy virgin hair every 2 weeks during filming, my hair was never the same. (Yes, that was all my own hair in the film.) From Hairspray to Hairless. :( In my case, I believe my hair loss was due to many factors, yo-yo dieting, hormonal birth control, radical weight fluctuations over the years, my pregnancies, genetics, stress, and hair dyes and extensions. Working as talent on various shows and movies, whether DWTS or my talk show, also took its toll on my fine hair. I got used to wearing extensions, really just over the last decade. All different kinds, tried them all, the ones that are glued on, the tape-ins, the clip ins, and then into a total hair system that I hated, and finally to a unique solution that really did work pretty well for me for the last 4 or 5 years. I tried wigs on a few occasions but never could get used to them. It all felt fake and I was super self-conscious and uncomfortable. I’ve been to many doctors, gotten steroid shots in my head, taking all the supplements and then some. My hair would recover and then shed again. It was maddening. To read more: please go to my Facebook page. ❤️

A post shared by Ricki Lake (@rickilake) on

In the post, Lake explained that she’s been struggling with hair loss since the early days of her career. “Ever since I played Tracy Turnblad in the original Hairspray back in 1988 and they triple-processed and teased my then healthy virgin hair every 2 weeks during filming, my hair was never the same. (Yes, that was all my own hair in the film.) From Hairspray to Hairless,” she wrote. “In my case, I believe my hair loss was due to many factors, yo-yo dieting, hormonal birth control, radical weight fluctuations over the years, my pregnancies, genetics, stress, and hair dyes and extensions. Working as talent on various shows and movies, whether DWTS or my talk show, also took its toll on my fine hair.” 
Over the years, Lake tried various kinds of extensions, wigs, and hair growth supplements, and even “[got] steroid shots in the head.” Her hair extension and coloring routine was time-consuming and meant that she couldn’t leave town longer than 12 days at a time.
Along with the expense and time, the experience took an emotional toll. “It has been debilitating, embarrassing, painful, scary, depressing, lonely, all the things,” Lake wrote. “There have been a few times where I have even felt suicidal over it. Almost no one in my life knew the level of deep pain and trauma I was experiencing. Not even my therapist/s over the years knew my truth.”
Lake decided to shave her head when her hair began shedding again, “after 2 months of bliss ‘working’ in London and after my last extreme diet where I lost 20 lbs in 6 weeks.” Now, she wrote, she’s “free": “For 2020 and beyond, I want to be real.”  
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According to the academic medical center the Cleveland Clinic, over 50% of women will experience noticeable hair thinning at some point in their lives. About 30 million women in the U.S. are affected by female pattern hair loss (FPHL). It can be caused by a variety of factors, including heredity; tight ponytails, braids, or other styles (called traction alopecia); stress to the body (including weight loss, childbirth, surgery, and illness); certain medications or medical treatments; menopause; and autoimmune skin disease. 
Although thinning hair is common for women, it’s still stigmatized and can take a serious emotional toll.  "Those of us who don't currently have issues with hair loss take for granted that [hair thickness] has important implications with regard to self-esteem, attractiveness, desirability, and youthfulness,” Maryanne Senna, MD, a dermatologist and instructor at Harvard Medical School who specializes in hair loss, previously told Refinery29. Due to the stigma, people, particularly women, who experience hair loss often don't know how to begin seeking treatment, are reluctant to ask for help for fear of seeming vain, or are unaware that potential solutions even exist.
Other celebrities have recently opened up about their own similarly emotional experiences. Last year, Selma Blair shared about her hair loss as a side effect of chemotherapy, and in 2018, Jada Pinkett Smith opened up about her struggle with alopecia areta, an autoimmune disorder that leads to hair loss.
Lake hopes that being open about her journey will “[strike] a chord with so so many women and men," she wrote. "I am not alone in this and my goal is to help others while at the same time unshackle myself from this quiet hell I have been living in.” Her Facebook and Instagram comments, full of other people sharing their stories, prove her right. 
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