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This story contains mention of suicidal thoughts. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
In January 2020, Ricki Lake debuted a new look on the 'gram: a buzz cut. It was her way of sharing one of her biggest secrets with the world: she had been privately struggling with hair loss for almost 30 years.
The experience had taken a toll on her life, at one point event making her feel suicidal. "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 therapists over the years knew my truth," Ricki wrote in the Instagram caption of her new look.
The first time she noticed her hair loss was when she was around 26, Ricki says. She underwent dramatic weight loss for a role on the film, Mrs. Winterbourne. It was then that she noticed her hair started shedding.
"I freaked out," Ricki tells Women's Health. "It was traumatizing to see the clumps of hair come out in the shower on or on the pillow, or on my shoulder." At the time, she was also working on her talk show, so she didn't shave it all off, but she did cut it really short.
The sources of her hair loss actually started much earlier.
Though there were stints when her hair was fine, the shedding always came back. Ricki says the cause of her hair loss over the years has been many things. One of them was her role in Hairspray when she was 18. The hairstyles she dons in the movie are larger than life, and were styled with her own hair, resulting in a lot of hair damage.
There are a few other moments that have spurred more hair loss, like when she's crash dieted, when she stopped breastfeeding her first son, and when she went on hormonal birth control. Then, there's all the dyeing and styling her hair's been put through as someone who's lived her life on camera. Although there are many causes, Ricki's hair loss has been attributed to a condition called androgenetic alopecia, female pattern hair loss caused by an imbalance in hormone levels.
She experimented with every remedy she could possibly find.
In the past, Ricki has sought out too many hair loss treatments to count. "I’ve tried everything, you name it— PRP [scalp injections], I was on Propecia, which is for men. I was on Rogaine. I was on all the supplements, every company you could think of. Viviscal, the scalp treatments, spironolactone, which is a blood pressure drug, but I was on that." Before getting pregnant with her first son, Ricki also sough treatment at a Philip Kingsley salon in New York, which she says, did help her hair recover, until her pregnancy.
But in 2020, nearly three decades after an on-and-off battle with hair loss, Ricki had enough. She had recently been working in London for The X Factor, and had gone on a crash diet that had cause her hair to shed again. So, she started wearing extensions and a hair piece. It became too much for her. "It was painful. It was hard to work out. My head would sweat underneath this piece, and it was just getting really unmanageable. I just had enough, and i reached my breaking point. I was like, 'You know what? I quit," she says.
That's when she decided to go for the full buzz.
So she took a drastic step: shaved her head and took to Instagram. "It was really just about surrendering," Ricki says. " I wasn’t thinking about the ripple effect of others at that point. It was really more, 'I need to come clean. I need to tell my secret. I need to be set free from this.'" And in releasing herself from the pressure of her secret, Ricki also helped many other women also dealing with hair loss. "It kind of blew up around the world," she says, and it did. Countless women commented on Ricki's social media posts with their own stories about hair loss.
Ricki says she shaved her hair, never expecting it to grow back. But then, through the suggestion of colorist Tracey Cunningham, she connected with Lars Skjoeth, the founder of hair care brand Harklinikken, a full line of hair growth-inducing products, including an extract, shampoos and conditioners, and styling products.
She started to see results in just over two months.
Ricki admits she was skeptical at first because she hadn't heard of Harklinikken before. She didn't have high expectations, but after using the products for just nine weeks, she was surprised with the results.
"It was unbelievable. I was like, 'This is working and it’s so easy.' It’s all natural, and it’s not toxic. I just put it on at night. It has no odor to it. It has no sticky consistency. I just put the extract on my scalp at night and go to bed. It’s a no-brainer," says Ricki.
Now it's been one year since Ricki first started using Harklinikken products, and she says her hair really hasn't experienced shedding. "I'm sure it may go through phases, but the truth is the quality of the follicle of my hair has improved so greatly with this product that I don’t worry about it anymore," she tells WH.
It's simplified her hair routine so much.
Ricki currently has a full head of hair, styled into a textured pixie in her natural gray. "I love my hair color. I don’t dye my hair anymore. I’m into it. This is 52, and I love it," she says of her new 'do and outlook on life. Her hair routine currently consists of the Harklinikken shampoo and daily conditioner, and the extract. Because the winter has made her hair feel a little drier than usual, she also applies the Harklinikken hair mask.
Ricki says she still can't believe she has a full head of hair again. "It’s a miracle for me. It’s been a game-changer." Lars tells her that her hair will only get better, but she says she's not worried. "I know that if at the end of the day my hair were to fall out ever again, I know I look good with a bald head. I rocked it," she says. "It could have gone another way, but in the end I still thought I looked pretty cute."
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