Ricki Lake on Female Hair Loss, How She Regrew Her Hair and That Oscar’s Moment

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Ricki Lake on Female Hair Loss, How She Regrew Her Hair and That Oscar’s Moment featured image
Courtesy of Harlinikken

Female hair loss is not discussed nearly as often as male’s. Actress, TV host and documentary filmmaker Ricki Lake has been on a mission to change that following her own hair loss journey. We sat down with Lake to discuss her experience with alopecia, the decision to shave her head, what has helped her hair regrow and what she does to ground herself amidst all the daily stressors.

Ahead of our discussion, Lake had an interview with Harklinikken founder Lars Skjoth. During the Q & A portion, someone asked Lake to address the Oscars incident regarding Chris Rock’s comment about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair and why it generated such an emotional response. “Violence is never the answer. So what he did was completely unacceptable,” said Lake, then she went on to describe her empathy for Pinkett Smith. “I feel her pain, and I commiserate,” she added. “It was a very sad thing, and it definitely struck a nerve with me. The joke itself wasn’t funny, especially for people who struggle with alopecia.” Lake then chatted with us about her hair loss journey and where she’s at now.

When did you start experiencing hair loss?

“I was about 26. I did a movie called Mrs. Winterbourne. I was the leading lady in this movie, and they put me on a diet. They wanted me to lose weight for the role, and it was a period of nine or 10 weeks, and I lost like 30 pounds, which is a lot. I believe that’s what triggered my initial shedding of hair. This company Philip Kingsley helped me, and at the time, it did recover, but then a couple of years later, after my first baby, it shed all over again, and it just has been a cycle over a period of 25 years of struggling.”

What brought you to the decision to shave your head? How did having a shaved head shift your perspective of yourself at the time?

“It was huge. When I shaved my head, it felt like I had no choice. I had been dealing with wearing a hairpiece on my head for a long, long time, and it was pulling, and it was hurting and coloring my hair every two and a half weeks would burn my scalp. It was just getting harder and harder to do that protocol. I just kind of reached my breaking point, and this was on New Year’s Eve day of 2019, so right before 2020, right before the pandemic, and I just said to myself, excuse my French, ‘f**k it.’ I just needed to be set free.

It was such an empowering experience, and I didn’t expect to feel as good as I felt. I felt liberated because when you have a secret that’s bogging you down, it’s affecting every aspect of your life. Every time I walked by a mirror, it was a reminder seeing my scalp, seeing extensions. So when I finally just said, ‘I don’t want to deal with this anymore.’ It was just like being released.

It transformed my life, not just how I look, but internally just coming to a place of self-acceptance and self-love that has carried me to where I am now. I’m in this beautiful new marriage. I think it starts with just loving ourselves unconditionally. It’s been a process. It’s taken me years and years to really own who I am and what I see when I look in the mirror, and it’s been profound. It’s one of the most badass moves I’ve ever done in my life. But it wasn’t a calculated move. It was simply that I was at the end of my rope.”

How do you feel when you look in the mirror now versus when you were in the midst of your hair loss journey?

“Oh, I’m like a different person. I still deal with like—okay, I’m 53 years old, holy shit. I’ll never look the way I did 20 or 30 years ago. I’m never going to be a size four again like I was 10 years ago. It’s okay, I’ve kind of come to terms with the fact that I have to get rid of those clothes because it’s just not in the cards, but I’m happy. I’m truly in a place of contentment and appreciation and gratitude. I have this beautiful home life. My kids are good. I’m doing good work. I really like what I see when I look in the mirror, and that says a lot being a woman in today’s society and being in my middle years.”

How did Harklinikken help your hair regrow?

“I’ve been around for a really long time, and I’ve had a lot of endorsement offers over the years. I’ve never partnered with any companies, this is the first time, and it’s because this product has really helped me. I didn’t believe it at first. When I met Lars after I shaved my head, he said he could help me. I had tried everything. I was literally a guinea pig—I was on Propecia, I was getting scalp injections, I was on Rogaine. I tried everything that was available, and nothing seemed to help. He explained this product, and he did a whole scalp analysis, and he thought that this could really help me, and lo and behold. 

When I shaved my head two years ago, I did not think it was ever going to grow back, and now I have a full head of hair. I don’t color my hair anymore, and I don’t stress about it, and I don’t put extensions in, and I don’t really put a lot of heat on it—I mostly let it air dry. It’s been a game-changer for me. Women, we’re so attached to our hair. It’s been quite the journey to come to a place of peace in this area.”

Why do you think hair loss in women is not widely and openly discussed the way it is with men?

“I think it [feels] embarrassing for women. I think it’s shameful. I think we’re so attached to our hair, and it’s as if it’s a part of our femininity.”

As discussed, stress and changes in eating habits can lead to hair loss, so what are some self-care rituals that you do to center yourself?

“I go out in nature every day. I live in the hills in Malibu. I just moved there last year after I got engaged and got married. I like being out in nature every morning. I go on a two-mile little hike with my dog, and it’s quiet. I don’t meditate—I really should. My walk in the mountains just grounds me, and it’s so beautiful, and it’s so quiet in the wild. That’s my kind of happy place, and I mostly do it alone. Sometimes my husband will come, but for the most part, I go super early with my dog, and it’s just a time of recalibrating.”

What is your advice to women in a similar situation?

“Shave your head. No, I’m kidding. This is what I found that works for me. I can’t speak for everyone else. I can just say wholeheartedly that this brand, this protocol that I do with Harklinikken, has helped me tremendously. I would recommend everybody get a consultation, it’s free, you can do it in the privacy of your own home, and they’ll tell you if you’re a candidate, and they’ll tell you if they see an issue with your scalp. 

So much of it is about scalp health, not even your hair necessarily. You start with the scalp and the follicle care, and that’s what makes the hair grow healthier. I want to say to people that are struggling, I commiserate. I have so much empathy. It’s a really hard pill to swallow for women to come to terms with the fact that they don’t look the way they used to, and their hair isn’t the way it was. I’d start with this company and see if they can be of service.”

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