Losing your hair at any age can be traumatic. But imagine seeing it fall out when you’re just 21.
For David Anderson, it was an experience that was to turn his life upside down.
He spent years searching for treatments that worked and is now employed as an advisor for other people suffering hair loss.
The 43-year-old first noticed he was losing his hair while on holiday.
‘I never used to wear hats and I had burnt my head,’ he says.
‘That’s how the whole journey started. Being 21 and starting to lose my hair, I had a great deal of concern so I started to look at what was available at that time. That was in 1994.
‘But there was very little available to treat hair loss. There were no medications out there.’
David, who is now a senior patient advisor for The Maitland Clinic at 1000 Lakeside in Portsmouth, says coming to terms with his hair loss was difficult.
‘My dad was completely bald, but I was in denial that it would happen to me.
‘It was the early ’90s and I used to use hairspray and I abused my hair. I used the hairdryer and blew it into a quiff.
‘I never thought hair loss was going to happen to me.’
He adds: ‘When it dawned on me that I was losing my hair, I was terrified. I felt it was a sign of getting old.
‘I went into total panic. I spent probably the vast majority of my time thinking about my hair and checking myself in the mirror to see how bad it looked. It consumed my existence.’
David went to see a trichologist and was advised to bathe his head in cold water to try to generate blood flow to his scalp. But that proved unsuccessful.
It was then that he decided to have a hair transplant.
‘I had that at the age of 23,’ he adds.
‘Looking back at it, hair was really important to me.
‘Men do suffer when they are losing their hair, particularly when they are in their 20s.
‘After the first transplant, I realised that wouldn’t be enough. I had three in total.
‘But I was left with an unnatural look. At the time they were far less refined.
‘I had three transplants and three scars at the back of my head. I couldn’t show my hair at the back.
‘It affected my self-confidence and my relationships. I didn’t want to go out because it was a way to show my hair off at its worst.
‘After those three bad surgeries that I had, I felt worse because not only was I still losing my hair but I had the reality of this unnatural hairline.
‘I realised that hair transplants at that time weren’t going to give me the look that I wanted.
‘I wasn’t confident meeting new people. If people were looking at me I would feel they were looking at my head.
‘I got to the stage in about 2001 where I just had hair transplant hair.’
And David’s hair loss ended up affecting all parts of his life.
‘I ended up leaving my job to go and work from home,’ he adds.
‘My marriage split up eventually. It had a devastating effect on my life.
‘My hair was such a big part of my life growing up in my teens. It was my identity.
‘When you lose your hair, you lose your identity and everything that goes with it.’
David began looking into travelling farther afield and found that he could have much more advanced treatment in the USA or Canada.
So in 2006 he flew to Vancouver where he had the hair transplant he’d always hoped for.
He then began talking about it on forums and sharing his experiences with others.
He also wrote a blog for a year, sharing what happened to him. This became extremely popular with other people also suffering from hair loss around the world.
‘There is a whole world of forums where people share their experiences and gain advice from individuals,’ he says.
‘I built my online persona. It was nice to feel part of a community where people understood how I felt.
‘I was finally happy with how I looked again. I felt I had got the old David back.
‘I lost a lot of my 20s being consumed about my hair and how I looked.’
David got his old job back and began to rebuild his life again.
‘I travelled on my own and did lots of things that I wouldn’t have considered doing prior to that.
‘At that particular time I was helping a lot of people online by documenting my results. I got a lot out of being able to help people.’
In 2009, he was asked to represent the Canadian company Hasson and Wong, which carried out his procedure, as its UK consultant.
David re-married two years ago and says: ‘My wife is very supportive. ‘I believe it’s very important to be open with your partner regarding your hair loss.
‘I feel you get a great deal of support by talking about it. It’s great therapy for me.’
‘TRANSPLANTS THAT ARE AS GOOD AS ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD’
David Anderson now works for The Maitland Clinic, which was set up by Dr Edward Ball.
Dr Ball, a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, started a Harley Street clinic but has now brought his services closer to home in Emsworth, after he found there was a lack of clinics in the south outside of London.
Dr Ball has been joined by Janna Shafer, a leading hair loss clinic director in America, to bring pioneering treatments across the Atlantic.
Dr Ball, who has undergone treatment for hair loss himself, has experience both in the UK and in the USA.
David’s role with with the company, based at 1000 Lakeside in North Harbour, is to talk to potential patients to establish if they can be helped.
‘I had seen Dr Ball’s results and I wanted to get in contact with him,’ he adds.
‘It was key for UK patients to be able to find somebody that could do things locally.
‘Now I believe we have got someone here in the UK and here in Portsmouth that can do transplants that are as good as anywhere in the world.
David adds: ‘People come for a consultation and they meet me and realise that I haven’t just gone through the same feelings as them, but I have been through the whole experience myself.
‘I would encourage people to come and talk to myself and Dr Ball. It’s not just hair loss treatments, there are other options available.’
To find out more, visit themaitlandclinic.com.