In the third of our new series looking at women in the world of wellbeing, holistic hair expert Simone Thomas shares what led her to set up her now award-winning hair business, plus how stress can negatively impact your hair…
Trigger warning: this article discusses depression, grief, and suicidal thoughts.
My father passed away from severe brain damage following an accident. I was only eight years old. I still remember the nightmares I had for years afterwards. Losing Dad had a huge impact on how I was and am today. I am very independent and don’t like to ask for help.
My health issues began at an early age, starting with inflammatory bowel disease. Alongside this, I had my first experiences of hair loss. In my late teens, I was diagnosed with abnormal cervical cells as well as chlamydia, which eventually led to being diagnosed with a vitamin B12 deficiency. Another side effect of this was more hair loss.
‘My health issues began at an early age, starting with inflammatory bowel disease. Alongside this, I had my first experiences of hair loss.’
Although I sought medical help, I had to resort to wearing full wigs. As a young woman and being excruciatingly vain, I couldn’t decide what was worse: the pain or the hair loss. I travelled to London to have a semi-permanent wig fitted to my existing hair.
The experience was excruciating and took all day and into the night. I was also charged double what I’d initially been quoted and spent the next several years paying off the debt. Little did I know, my journey with wigs was only just beginning.
Coping with grief and extreme hair loss
After Dad’s death, I watched Mum go from one bad relationship to another. She was a strong woman, so when she was diagnosed with motorneurone disease and given two years to live, it was a huge shock. She never gave up, though, and lived for a full decade more, passing away when I was 27. After that, I had nobody left except my brother and some of Mum’s friends. Once again, I felt so lost.
Following Mum’s death, I had more extreme hair loss and reverted to wearing full wigs. I tried extensions, half wigs that clipped in, integrated systems that attached semi-permanently and day-to-day wigs I could take on and off. My age and lack of money meant the quality of my wigs and extensions wasn’t always great. The same applied to my diet. I often ate at McDonald’s and drank with my friends, none of which helped my conditions.
Searching for answers
It took until my early 30s to discover I had endometritis. Together, all my health conditions caused extreme pain, fatigue, unhealthy weight loss, irregular bleeding, heavy, abnormal periods and pain during intercourse.
Following advice from numerous nutritionists, I started on an anti-inflammatory diet. This helped my symptoms dramatically, although it didn’t cure the underlying cause.
Despite my inconsistent focus on nutrition, my hair loss really troubled me. Searching for answers, I realised there was a serious gap in the market for a specialist hair salon, where anyone with hair loss issues could be supported.
So, I went out and researched, studied and learned everything there was to know about hair loss systems. As a result, my company Makeup, Wigs & Hair (M.W.A.H) was born in 2012.
Helping others with hair loss
From day one, I felt I had found my niche. Seeing clients smile with newfound confidence when their new wig or hair system was perfectly fitted was a dream come true. I was finally making a difference in people’s lives in a way I wished someone could have done for me years ago.
Within three years, we relocated to a two-storey building, employing a team of 22, at the Simone Thomas flagship store in Bournemouth. To help customers even further, I took a course in nutrition and bioenergetics. Today, we analyse clients’ medical history, diet and lifestyle. Afterwards, we examine their scalp and hair under a microscope.
Through research, we’ve discovered an enormous range of factors that contribute to hair loss and scalp health, including poor diet, drug use, autoimmune disorders, hormone imbalances, and many other lifestyle choices you wouldn’t necessarily associate with hair.
The link between hair loss and gut health
My own studies have confirmed almost all hair issues lead back to the gut. And it makes sense, too. All diseases originate in the gut, so why aren’t we paying it more attention?
Fatigue, skin complaints and poor sleep patterns are all signs of inflammation, often caused by the food we eat. Over the years, I have witnessed so many dramatic changes in clients’ hair loss and general wellbeing, just from them addressing their diet and lifestyle.
Just three days after my first son was born, I had to jump right back into work. Caring for a newborn while building a business proved overwhelming to say the least.
After a few months of trying to do it all – and after driving down the motorway one day thinking I may as well crash the car as no one cares about me – I went to visit my GP and was diagnosed with postpartum depression.
Learning to set aside time for myself
Rather than taking the prescribed antidepressants, I decided to book a two-week holiday to Greece at a luxury spa to rest and reset. At the airport, I bought a book that ended up changing my life. It was called The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed To Transform Your Life, by Hal Elrod. I read it all holiday and came back a different person.
The main takeaway from the book is that by giving yourself an hour every morning, whether you spend it meditating, doing yoga, reading or just enjoying a coffee, you will not only be a happier person but a more productive one.
I know it’s hard for some to find even five minutes, let alone an hour, but it was this mentality of putting everyone else first that had led to my suicidal thoughts.
Your hair is often the first indicator of your overall health, especially when it comes to stress. If you allow your day to be consumed by the needs of others, while ignoring your own, the chances are your stress levels are only getting worse.
‘Your hair is often the first indicator of your overall health, especially when it comes to stress.’
Take heed of your frazzledness and use it as your prompt to recharge. Nothing is better than being awake and aware of the fact that you are recharging.
Now, I manage to find time for myself two mornings a week. On those days, I get up at 5.30am and for at least 45 minutes, before my boys wake up, I ensure I am “still”. I read, meditate, walk on the beach, do a spot of exercise, or just sit and “be”.
You can gain far more from getting up a bit earlier than having a lie-in. I can’t express how good it feels to have that time to myself – although I sometimes get sucked into my online shopping habit! This time to myself helps me survive the week. I am better able to make good choices, and I face my day with a calmer perspective.
Healthy Hair, Happy Body, by Simone Thomas (£15) is out now. Stay tuned for Simone’s top tips for stronger, healthier hair!