How to stop bad hair habits

Compulsively pulling out your hair – sometimes even eating it – may sound weird, but it affects a surprising number of people. Worldwide, three people in 100 suffer from trichotillomania, the majority of them women. ‘Girls on the pull’ (as a recent documentary dubbed them) most often attack their scalps, followed by eyelashes, brows, arms and hands, and in men the beard and chest.

According to the Trichotillomania Learning Center (, hair-pulling varies greatly in severity. ‘For some people, it is mild and can be quelled with extra awareness. For others, the urge may be so strong it makes thinking of anything else nearly impossible.’ Although the majority of sufferers do it as a self-calming mechanism for anxiety and other emotions, hair-loss expert Lucinda Ellery says it often becomes subconscious.

The peak age of onset is nine to 13, but it can start later or earlier. One mother told me her little girl started pulling and chewing her hair when she was two and continued for three years. It stopped when she was given her mother’s hairbrush to take to bed and could pull the hair out of that instead.

A small habit can escalate, resulting in large bald patches or complete hair loss. A friend’s teenage sister was mercilessly teased about her curly hair and was so badly affected she removed all but a few wisps, and had to wear headbands or scarves to hide it.

Towie star Sam Faiers, 22, is known for the luscious lashes fringing her eyes, but in fact they are false. Sam has been tugging out her eyelashes since the age of seven. ‘My stepsister told me you could pick out a lash, make a wish and it would come true. Shortly after, my dad went to prison and I thought I could wish him home.

‘I still do it when I get stressed with the show, or when I’m watching telly with a million things on my mind.’

Nothing helped Sam long term. It is only now, through targeted psychotherapy, that she is recovering from ‘this really horrible condition. I had to find out why I started and work through it. The therapists made me understand I was self harming. They made me accept that I haven’t done anything wrong so I don’t deserve to hurt myself.’

Sam admits she is not totally cured but now has a ‘proper understanding’ of her condition and her lashes are growing. This week sees the start of International No Pulling Week, started by  Lucinda Ellery, to encourage sufferers to seek help.



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Don’t miss Breast Cancer Care’s annual fashion shows in Glasgow and London, to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Funds raised from ticket sales, which start at £60, go towards BCC’s free support and information service. Each event offers a champagne reception, musical entertainment, luxury prize draw and a goody bag to take home. Visit or telephone the numbers below:

• Glasgow, 26 September, Radisson Blue Hotel (lunch or dinner)/0141-353 8330.

• London, 2 October, Grosvenor House, JW Marriott Hotel (afternoon tea or dinner)/0845-092 0806.




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