Losing my hair after a diabetes diagnosis

Charlie Granby

Losing my hair after a diabetes diagnosis at 23 years old is something that I’ve never imagined would happen to me, but who would?

In the months leading to my diagnosis, my hair was the best it had ever been. Then something just changed and I didn’t know what it was. I bought a box dye and thought that would solve my problems, alas I was wrong. Around 2 months after diagnosis, I went to visit my trusted hairdresser. She knew everything about my hair and I realised as soon as I sat in the chair that something was not right. You see your hair every day, and it is normal to not notice changes; but she did a colour test and said that my hair turned into a chewing gum-like substance. I was so confused! She asked me if I had been unwell recently, which obviously I had. I was not able to have my hair dyed, and had to undergo various keratin treatments to save my hair in the interim while we figured out what was happening.

Not long after this, I noticed my hair getting thinner and falling out a lot. I was on Google every night after work researching what was going on, which led me nowhere really. I felt so self-conscious and embarrassed. It wasn’t until I plucked up the courage to speak to my nurse and people on Instagram about it, that I realised it is actually quite common! I felt so validated and hearing other peoples’ experiences made me feel much less alone and isolated. It was nice to bond with people over something that was difficult to process.

The link between diabetes and hair loss

Since then, I’ve done more research and it is very interesting. Higher blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels which carry oxygen around your body. But damaged blood vessels may not be able to deliver enough oxygen to hair follicles. This in turn can affect your hair growth cycle and result in hair loss! The hormone changes, emotional and physical stress of diabetes on the body can affect hair growth and hair loss. Diabetes takes such a toll, it’s no surprise that this can happen! Additionally, some people with diabetes can experience hair loss through an autoimmune attack on their scalp, resulting in hair falling out. This is what happened to me, it just left me feeling miserable and seriously lacking in confidence.

How I dealt with diabetes hair loss

Hair is such a huge part of people’s identity. With my hair changing the way it was, on top of all the feelings I had about my diagnosis, it started to become quite a dark time in my life. I decided to bite the bullet and have it all cut off into a pixie cut, which at the time felt incredibly empowering. However, after the novelty wore off, and lockdowns made it difficult to maintain, I gradually went back to feeling how I did before the cut. I didn’t recognise myself anymore and felt like a shell of myself. This was around the time my mental health and relationship with diabetes was at an all time low. I decided to try and treat my hair at home with a keratin shampoo, and just take it day by day. I was repairing my hair but also my relationship with myself, and over time both have improved massively.

It has taken just over a year for my hair to start reliably growing back, and I am at the growth stage now where I have a very tiny bob-style and I’m loving it.

It is honestly mind blowing that diabetes amongst many things, can cause hair loss. You just are not told about any of it at diagnosis. Even when I queried it, the team was unsure about it. Finding out about this more on Instagram has helped me so much and definitely made me feel less alone. I think it’s important to remember though, that everybody has a totally different experience with diabetes, and that is ok.

Have you experienced hair loss due to diabetes?

If you have experienced hair loss due to diabetes, it would be great to hear from you! Feel free to reach out to @quindiabetesapp on Twitter or Instagram and let’s start the conversation.

Charlie Granby