Last year, Ricki Lake revealed her battle with hair loss on social media after posting an image of herself with a newly-shaved head. The actress and former talk show host had been struggling for more than 30 years with hair damage caused by heavy extensions, years of over styling and yo-yo dieting habits that would trigger yet more hair loss. She says it all started with her iconic role as Tracey Turnblad in the 1988 classic Hairspray.
Although the experience of going public with her condition was freeing for the star, she also worried that her hair wouldn’t ever grow back. Lake says prior to shaving it off, she had gone through almost every treatment option, including Rogaine, supplements, spironolactone, steroid shots and platelet-rich plasma injections.
Now, a year later, she is sharing the latest part of her journey that includes a full head of healthy grey hair— thanks to the Scandinavian brand Harklinikken, which specializes in hair loss. Here, the star talks about what’s happened since she went public and the hair-care routine that has given her a new look and a new hope.
NewBeauty: Before going public with your hair loss journey, what did your day-to-day hair-care routine look like?
Ricki Lake: I was wearing a hairpiece, like an extension with bangs in the front. I was living in London for a couple months for a job and the wear and tear of this piece being attached to my hair pulled it and caused it to get more and more frail. I had been on a diet and lost all this weight, so all my hair was shedding and it was just getting heavier on my head. I was supposed to take it off after one month, but I would leave it in for like four or five months because I didn’t want to deal with the reality—I was in denial.
When the piece came off it was bad. It was right around the holidays, so I bought a wig for $5,000 and only wore it for 15 minutes. I just couldn’t wear it. After that, I confided in my boyfriend at the time and shared what was going on. I wouldn’t ever let him run his hands through my hair, I was so self-conscious. So, that was the moment for me and I decided to shave it on New Year’s Day and document it with a photographer friend. I had my closest friends with me—and I know it sounds dramatic because it’s just hair— but it was like everything. It was my identity and my femininity, so it was really huge leap to just surrender and take this into my own hands.
NB: What was it like to shave your head. Did you learn anything about yourself or your scalp from the experience?
RL: I mean, showering was such a gift—I called it orgasmic earlier which is really funny. I hated showering so much before that. I hated getting my head massaged because they would touch me underneath and I was afraid they would feel what was happening. So, to not have to worry about it and to just the positive response I recieved from people that loved how I looked or people who could also relate—it just was overwhelmingly positive even though it was about something I was so frightened of. It was really liberating and I’ve never looked back. It’s been a huge gift of growth for me and I’m grateful for it, even the pain.
NB: How has Harklinikken helped you regrow your hair?
RL: I was skeptical because I tried literally everything. Nine weeks after starting Harklinikken, I went back and we did a before and after of my hair and it was not only growing back, the quality of my hair has improved so much. I have something called androgenetic alopecia, which is so common for so many women. It’s basically genetic diffused thinning of my hair through aging and through stress, hormonal birth control, and all the things. And, you know, I can honestly say my hair is in the best shape it’s ever been. I no longer color my hair. I’m embracing my natural gray and silver and I’ve been given my life back. It sounds dramatic, but that’s truly how I feel.
NB: Yes, it’s so crazy sometimes how that works. The thing you fear the most, once you’ve gone through it, it’s sometimes the thing that helps you progress the most.
RL: Yes, and it’s been true in other areas of my life, like you know I lost my husband almost four years ago to suicide and mental illness, and that was a gift too. Obviously losing my partner was the worst thing that ever happened to me, but then it’s through time and through the process of healing that you see the gifts that come out of that, like loving myself in the way that he loved me. For a long time, I didn’t value myself enough. Losing him and knowing how much he loved me, I now do value myself and that has led me to the relationship I’m in now. So, all of it is like this journey that we go on and these trials and tribulations that lead us to a better place hopefully.
NB: Is there any advice you would give to a younger you if you could?
RL: I wouldn’t have taken hormonal birth control. I would have stopped the yo-yo dieting and the self-loathing. I mean I just I beat myself up so much. I think so much of this has to come with age. You know people often say it and I didn’t believe it to be true, but now I do see that when you turn 50 you don’t really care what people think. What people think of me is none of my business. So, I definitely would have been kinder to my younger self if I had the opportunity.
NB: How has your approach to skin care and anti-aging changed from decade to decade? Is there anything you’re doing now that you swear by?
RL: Not really, I mean I get a lot of sleep I take really good care of myself. I eat well. I have a really active sex life. I mean I feel like I’m in my sexual prime and my partner would agree. I’m lucky that I do not have wrinkles! I’m 52 and I think it’s purely genetic. I would get a facial every couple of months, but I don’t anymore because of COVID. I used to get fake eyelashes and I don’t even do that anymore!