She is known to millions of Coronation Street and Loose Women viewers for having a Bollywood-worthy bouffant. But today Shobna Gulati reveals the truth: she has waged a life-long battle with thinning hair.
Although afflicted since her teens, her most severe bout began two years ago when she noticed visible patches of scalp and found clumps of hair on brushes and her pillow, and clogging up the shower plughole…
Shobna, 47, says: ‘An inch fell out from all around my hairline, and I had bald patches in my parting all over the top of my head that were up to a centimetre wide.
‘I felt dreadful and unattractive, and panicked that it was all going to come out.
‘I’d leave my hair down to try to disguise it or use brown eye shadow to cover up the bald patches.
‘I was miserable and hated looking at pictures of myself.’
About 40 per cent of women will experience some degree of hair loss by the age of 50 due to hormonal changes.
But female pattern baldness remains a taboo subject, and Shobna hopes that by speaking out she will reassure others.
She also wants to offer hope as, using supplements made from sea algae, she is regaining her locks.
Shobna first discovered her hair was thinning after her father died and she moved out of her family home in Oldham, Greater Manchester, aged 19.
‘Both the trauma of my father dying and the change of diet had an impact on my hair,’ she recalls. ‘I skipped meals and didn’t eat as well as I could have done.’
Temporary hair loss can be accelerated by stress, poor diet and weight loss. While it generally lasts only six months, Shobna’s continued until, at 27, pregnancy caused a rise in oestrogen. It stopped her hair falling out and it looked fuller again.
But three months after the birth of son Akshay, her hair started falling out again and Shobna – who split up with her baby’s father while she was pregnant – struggled to cope. ‘It was something else to deal with in addition to the upheaval of single motherhood,’ she says. ‘It was a mess.’
When Shobna found fame in 1998 playing Anita in sitcom Dinnerladies, her thinning hair wasn’t initially a concern – it was neatly tucked away under a hat. But things changed when she joined Coronation Street in 2001.
‘On screen, with it all blow-dried, it looked fine,’ she says. ‘But I secretly hated what I looked like. As a shop girl I’d be asked to wear my hair up. As I got more comfortable with the make-up girls, I’d ask them to leave some curly bits at the front to make it look fuller.’
Being subjected to the paparazzi forced Shobna to fake a full head of hair. ‘Clip-in extensions became my favourite accessory,’ she says.
In 2006, on a three-year break from the soap, she cut her hair short and bleached it. But it ended up even more brittle.
‘The peroxide killed it. As my hair grew I had weaves put in [in which hair extensions are sewn on to the hair], but my hair was so weak it broke.’
She returned to the cobbles and the role of Sunita in 2009, dyeing her hair brown to make it look fuller.
View original article at: Seaweed turned the tide on my hair loss: Loose Women star Shobna Gulati was devastated by the disappearance of her ‘beautiful mane’, but she is fighting back with algae supplements