Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – Part 2
Elder Poverty in the U.S.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – Part 3

Okay, that was a bit of a cheat on Monday - all process, no news. But it was quick and easy to write and I needed time to prepare for the arrival of a houseguest. No excuses today.

Joseph_hairarchitectsThe Joseph of whom I wrote yesterday, is Joseph Pearce, the owner of Hair Architects, “a full service salon specializing in hair design and custom color," as the website states.

It is located in Portland, Oregon, but only a 15-minute drive from where I live in Lake Oswego so it meets my requirement of being easy to get to.

First, I gave Joseph a long speech and he was quite tolerant about it, checking out my hair as he listened: the gradual hair loss over ten years or so in two locations on my head, my solution of pinning up my long hair that covers one area but not the second balding spot just above my hairline, that both balding spots are becoming larger and more sparse.

I mentioned how much I dislike pixie cuts. I may have mentioned it twice. (Have I explained here that an additional problem with pixie cuts for me is the frequency with with they must be trimmed to look good? I don't have that much money.)

Joseph and I also discussed both wigs and going bald as a style and that either of these might be acceptable to me in the future, if necessary, but for now I want to pursue the possibility of a style that would hide the bald spots enough that I can live with it – at least for now. More drastic measures to be negotiated as required.

Together we (ahem, that would be “I”) ruled out a soft perm although that might be a solution to give the illusion of thicker hair for some people. He also asked if I object to using some hair spray which I don't.

I decided to trust Joseph and he went to work with the scissors, checking to see if I had a problem with him chopping off seven or eight inches of my hair. There was a time, when I was much younger, that whacking off so much would have been emotionally wrenching. These days I don't care.

Here is what I looked like when Joseph was finished: (sorry it's not focused better; my ancient camera was acting up).

Joseph and Ronni

Large brush2Yes, a downside is that to get this look every day, I have to refresh my skills with a hair blower (settings on warm and low) and a large round brush similar to this one - not ideal for a woman who has become impatient with a lengthy morning ritual. But neither is losing my hair ideal although it has happened.

The biggest thing I've learned from my work on this project is that it won't get better without compromise.

And with that word in mind, here are snaps of the crown of my head before and after Joseph's work:

Crown Before and After

Actually, I don't look as bald as the “after” photo indicates. At home the same day and since then when I've washed and dried it myself, it looks much better.

No one would confuse this with the thick hair I had when I was 20 or 30 or even 40, but it works for me for now.

Getting this result also involves, in addition to the cut itself, a small amount of very light mousse applied only at my crown. As Joseph indicated, my mistake with that product or gels in the past was using a too-heavy version and a too-heavy hand. In that case, it weighs down hair and separates strands thereby showing more scalp.

Following Joseph's instructions for the mousse and the final spray – again, a light touch – keeps my hair pretty much in place. Enough so that as a week has passed now, I am no longer obsessively checking out my crown in the mirror throughout the day.

What about my forehead hairline you might ask – the other balding spot. Joseph explained how to make use of a cowlick I have in that area. (No stylist ever in my entire life mentioned cowlicks to me before.)

For the years I've been pinning up my long hair, I've brushed it straight back from my forehead. Saying, “Don't do that,” Joseph showed me how parting it at the cowlick – but only back an inch or so from my hairline – and brushing to the side camouflages that front balding spot.

Take a look (sorry for the black-and-white; those newfangled florescent light bulbs above my mirror make dreadful colors in photographs):


Pretty neat, huh.

Some conclusions:

For women with age-related, hormonal hair loss, nothing regrows hair. Anyone who tries to sell you anything – potions, lotions, pills, treatments, diets, etc. – that regrow hair is a flimflam man (or woman).

Surgical transplants work for only two to five percent of women. See this WebMD article for an explanation.

Backcombing to create volume damages hair resulting in weakening and breakage.

If you dislike the time involved in hair care, bald is the easiest “style” of all and if my hair gets too thin for Joseph's remedy to continue working, I will seriously consider it.

Wigs and wiglets are an option. These days, synthetic hair looks terrific, is easy to care for and not expensive. In fact, it might be fun to have a whole wardrobe of different styles and different colors too, like the young people who dye their hair Crayola colors.

We could take a page from their book and make a statement that deliberately wearing false-looking hair is fun - even when you're old.

For me, full-time hats, caps and scarves are not an option (now, anyway). But they can work for many people.

As I said somewhere earlier in this series, if there were any product or treatment that reliably and efficiently regrows hair, believe me, we would know about it: whoever invented or discovered it would be too eager to make him/herself a zillionaire to keep it a secret.

I accept that I'll never have my own full head of hair again and given the decreasing funding available for medical research these days, I would rather that money be spent on curing debilitating diseases than what is, at bottom, a vanity issue.

What I deplore, however, is that within the hair profession, hardly anyone will talk about thinning hair – not industry associations nor many individual salons - and it makes me wonder if they are loathe to be associated with old women. Is it ageism that prevents them from talking about it?

But I do believe there are individual Joseph Pearces out there - men and women who have developed their skills and enjoy helping clients with a wide variety of hair problems including elder women with our thinning hair.

I wanted to be able to headline a TGB story blaring something like: A FIX FOR THINNING HAIR. I'm disappointed that I cannot. There are those other solutions above but if, like me, it seems simpler to keep working with your own hair for as long as possible, you will need to research your local stylists and salons as I did.

Yesterday's post contains some advice to help you find your own Joseph Pearce. It's not easy – I spent several weeks (not full time) searching online, reading, calling, emailing until I found this man who turned out to be the right one for me.

I am so grateful to Joseph for listening carefully and working so well with a woman whose first move was to give him a set of limitations. When/if my hair becomes too thin to wear this way, it will be Joseph to whom I'll turn to discuss the next option. I hope you can find a similarly talented person.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – Part 1
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – Part 2

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ross Middleton: Continuous Creation


You look fantastic! The shorter cut lightens up your face and the styling tricks - genius!

Something tells me that there will be many of us printing this out to bring to our own hair stylists!
You and your hair look great.

Thank you for this very interesting series of posts.

My mother and two of my sisters have severe hair loss, and for them it began very early in life in their 30s.

My mother wore a wig through her 50s, but gave up in later life. One of my sisters takes a doctor-prescribed drug regimen and she finds that her hair loss is not quite as severe because of this. I don't know what she takes, but it is two expensive drugs.

I have been lucky and have been spared this until now my late 50s, and it is not severe yet. But it's gotten so that I hate washing my hair because the bathroom needs to be vacuumed afterwards.

I asked my hairdresser about this after reading your posts, and here is her response: "Sadly our industry focuses on youth and I truly appreciate your concern over thinning hair. To date I personally have not heard of a solution.

As you can well imagine if something was discovered to grow hair the world would know immediately. However I do know that if the follicle is dead there is no hope however a dying follicle can be nourished."

My hairdresser is in her 60s, and so she well understands this problem and the salon caters to many older clients as well as younger ones.

They also carry a high end line of products (that I won't mention because of your prohibition on brand-name mentions, but it starts with K and is expensive). I have certainly found these products helpful in styling.

As your hairdresser said, a good cut is vital and the important thing is to use products that don't weigh your hair down.

Love it, love it! Good for you and good for Joseph!

You look beautiful sporting your new, full looking head of hair. In a hurry, you can snatch that back into a baret or clip it on either side. Loove the look and there isn't a bald spot anywhere I can see. :)

And I take back a previous comment I made about "generally not liking long hair on elder women." It looks great on you!

Another great article, Ronni. Thanks so much for sharing a problem that so many of us have.

I like the results. Enjoy.

Thanks for sharing his other suggestions - the soft perm would be a good option, especially for me - I want to get up, shower and go with no fuss. I have two left hands when it comes to styling.

I think your hair looks beautiful that way and shows off your pretty face.

This was a great series of articles, and you are a beautiful woman, hair or no hair.

Joseph is a good and thoughtful person, and your new style looks lovely!

Will you add the stunning new front view photo to your banner of photos right under the blog name and tagline? Loved this series and... happy ending (for today, which is all we have!).

Pretty neat, indeed! You look great, Ronni! Nice to know that research, hard work and wanting to know DO sometimes produce results!

Your hair looks beautiful Ronni and so do you. Looked Joseph up online and will be passing his name along to my sisters in Portland. You made a great find in him.

A good hair stylist is worth his/her weight in gold.

There is nothing worse than a bad haircut and nothing that makes you look better than a good one. Joseph is an artist and his palette (You, Ronni) is a very pretty one. I agree with all who told you how great you look; so much so that I saved the picture of you and Joseph.

Beautiful, Ronni! Especially with your gorgeous silver color (I'm so jealous). What a thoughtful and talented stylist you've found. Too bad we can't clone him for all of us.

The cat's meow you are!

Gorgeous and it does the trick beautifully! Congratulations and kudos to you for all this research.

I can empathize with your search....moved last year and thus lost my longtime perfect hairstylist. My hair isn't thinning, but I'm old. I know what I want and don't want. Still searching and there have been a number of complete failures that have to grow out to start again. You have given me incentive to keep searching. Thanks!

The new cut looks good. Glad you found a sympatico stylist. We just went to our local monthly Senior Circle breakfast which always features a talk from a medical specialist on a topic of interest to seniors. The talk wasn't on hair loss but the conclusions could easily be applied. The prescriptions and strategies have be tailored to the individual. I have used scarves, hats, and wigs depending on my mood and the season. And sometimes I simply don't bother with anything except the clips that hold my hair up. I find it interesting that when I wear scarves people wonder if I am a cancer survivor. I have seen more Muslim women wearing hijab so maybe soon enough my wearing my scarves (definitely not in hijab style) won't seem so unusual.

Glad it worked out so well, Ronni.Your hair looks fabulous.

It's odd about the cowlick. I also have one, and I always thought of it as a problem-- not a possible styling solution. I just happen to have an appointment with my hairdresser in about 45 minutes. I'll talk to her about using the cowlick to make my hair looks fuller.

Well done! I LOVE that new cut and am so happy that you've found the stylist that can produce it.

Joseph is an artist with the scissors and dead right about choosing products that are way lighter than we would have used 20 or 30 years ago. I found that out, too, on my own by trial and error, and when I did, it was like a light (no pun intended) bulb went on. Works with makeup, too. Lighter textures and shades are far more flattering.

I think we all dread looking like a sad cartoon of our younger selves. I remember older ladies in the 60s and 70s with bright red lipstick, lacquered hair, and black eyebrow pencil from 30 years before--very harsh.

I also agree with Tamar--it's definitely time for a new addition to the blog head with a new pic of that stunning cut!

congrats Ronni! Your hair looks healthy and very full now, not to mention very stylish!

You look great! And, when you know you look great, you feel 100% better.

There is money in making men's baldness go away, but us old ladies are outa luck.

I do think it's ironic that when Rogaine first came out, the rumor was that it also caused impotence! So older men had to make a choice - to have hair and attract the ladies or to be bald, but able to perform...

I shouldn't laugh since my son is going bald and is now shaving his head. He looks like a professional wrestler to me, but I'll never tell him that!

What a wonderful classic style.It looks terrific on you. Joseph is a well trained hair stylist..You were lucky to find him.

You do realize you just dropped about 10 years off your age with that cut! Keep a shine on it and use your gel and get it trimmed every six or eight weeks and you should be very happy.

You look lovely! I do hope we see a shot of the new you on your banner!

Looks great!

Love the new look, and how I envy you a stylist who listens and delivers.
Most "stylists" just give you the standard cut that everyone else gets. Whatever Joseph charges, he's well worth it.

I don't have time to read the other comments and I apologize if this is repetitive:
I have a similar problem with thin hair and I resolve it with blow drying and product (hair spray). I purchased a hair dryer stand at Target for $15 and it was the BEST $15 dollars I ever spent. Blow drying your hair without holding the dryer makes it 200% easier to manage. Seriously, it's way better.

Thank you for your wonderful blog. We all benefit from your research.

Joseph is a magician. The photo of you in his chair is great. I love your hair like that and I wish I could grow mine out to that length.

Awesome, Ronni...looks lovely. Impressed as always by your research skills--this time applied to a very personal problem.

Join several commenters in looking forward to a new photo at the top. Hope you'll post periodic updates on how the new regime is working.

looks very good indeed. I have very fine hair and it is much thiner than in my salad days. I have it cut short because I like short hair. We all need to find someone who will listen and do the best with what we have.
I am so glad you found a good solution.

Ronni, I think you look absolutely terrific. Kudos to your hairdresser and to you for having the courage to try a new hairstyle.

I have had similar problems to yours--used to have incredibly thick hair, but it started falling out in droves about 10 years ago (I was 51) to the point where it scared the pants off me. I went to a specialist and she suggested I try eating more protein. And it worked, in terms of slowing down the hair loss. I also take folic acid, and the combination of that and eating more protein has made a big difference. I'm not growing more hair, but neither is my hair falling out anymore (except for the normal few hairs that come off in my comb each day).

I don't know if this will work for you or anyone else, but it's cheap and easy to try and can do no harm. Good luck!

For me the solution may be the pixie cut, which I wore when young.
By the way, my dermatologist told me hair thinning comes from the father's side. Now I remember my aunts with thin hair!
Thanks for this series - great.

Hi Ronnie and all..I'm one of the people who usually respond via email to Ronnie only but thought I'd try a web comment this time.

I started losing my hair when I went on a strict low fat vegetarian diet-I had over 100 lbs to loose and had lots of medical issues from being obese. The low fat diet worked like a charm and I lost the 100 and more in about 16 months. I also started losing my hair, which was long and full and hubby loved it.

Cut to 18 years later-I'm still good on the weight loss but have cut my long hair in frustration. Yep, I sold out for the pixie cut, which I did have in 1960 and liked andI like it on me now.

I couldn't grow long hair again if I wanted to-it takes months for my hair to grow even an inch, which makes haircuts infrequent and dye touch-ups only necessary every 6-8 weeks. I do have a good stylist who taught me to use my back cowlick as a coverup for the crown balding, with "product" and a good brush and blow dryer I can now go out with a cute style that minimizes balding.

Re Abbys comment about the male pattern baldness coming from the mothers dads genes.....I remember from college that this is a strictly male genetic pattern-and doesn't necessarily follow for women that female balding comes from the mom. Still it's a toss of the dice as genetic matter does come from both parents. My dad had thick wavy hair until his death at 82. I told my sons that they would hace grandpas great hair but surprise! both of them started balding in their 30's. My older son wears a style that covers his balding and my youngest son went bald..he carries it off well. Dunno where genetics went wrong there but other genes obviously got into the mix.

Just got a chance to look--it looks terrific! Way to go.

The comments to this entry are closed.