Emmerdale’s Laura Norton’s 20-year hair loss battle: ‘It was so intense’

Many of us see our hair as our crowning glory and conditions that lead to its loss can have a devastating impact on self-confidence and self-esteem.

Emmerdale actress Laura Norton, 38, can relate to the emotional toll it takes, having lived with hair loss for 20 years.

But she also knows it is far more widely experienced than most people believe – and you can do something about it.

Here, she talks about her shedding and her journey to finally accepting herself with or without hair…

A journey of hair loss can be such a personal, private and devastating experience. The classic “Don’t mention it or you’ll draw attention to it” chestnut leaves us insecure and dealing with it alone.

And because you don’t want to talk about it, you think it’s just you. And because it’s just you, you don’t know how to fix it, so you just accept it (or try fads you read on the internet). 

I think the pressures in this Instagram-filtered world make everyone strive for perfection and not want to talk about the fact that our hair, part of what’s supposed to make us “beautiful”, is actually falling out. So, here I am, opening the conversation and hopefully imparting a little bit of wisdom on the subject.

I have suffered hair loss on and off since 16, when I started using synthetic hormones to control my horrendous periods. What they never told me was certain pills are testosterone-heavy and attack hair follicles, making hair get thinner and weaker, then fall out.

After years of ups and downs, falling out, growing back and so on, I reached a peak. I got my dream job playing Kerry Wyatt on Emmerdale and – boom – my hair was falling out in clumps. Thanks, universe, great timing!

It wasn’t great for the old self-esteem. I was at crisis point so I decided to take proper action with professional help.

I was based in Newcastle at the time and called a local trichologist. In swoops my guardian angel in human form, and before you know it (well, six months later) my hair is growing back, bigger and better than ever. Only now, I know why and I know how to hold onto it.

What I learned from my hair angel was invaluable. She taught me nobody in this day and age needs to be walking around with thin or thinning hair thinking there’s nothing they can do.

Natalie (aka my hair angel) works for the brilliant Philip Kingsley franchise, experts in hair loss. In the PK process, you have a consultation in which your scalp and hair is examined and they can determine whether you actually do have a hair loss issue and to what extent. The next step is blood tests that may give clues on why it’s happening.

What you tend to be tested for is hormones (oestrogen/testosterone), vitamin D, iron, B12, thyroid and biotin. My results came in with hormonal issues (knew it) and a pretty big ferritin deficiency. I’d never heard of ferritin. Basically, it helps your body store iron – so I didn’t have enough ferritin for my hair to grow to its full potential.

Then there was the “bad-hair contraceptive pill” I was on. It was such a relief to find out what was going on. So I had hair loss, iron deficiency and shedding. With some topical drops for the hormones and regular ferritin, and a “hair-friendly pill” (basically, androgen-free), my hair is now growing thicker than I can ever remember it being.

It’s also worth mentioning the difference between genetic hair loss and shedding. Hair loss tends to be gradual, shedding is something more drastic and does rectify itself, over time.

And worrying about it literally makes the hair loss worse. Stress releases testosterone and androgens, which attack the follicles. So relaxing about it is a must – I’ll come back to you when I’ve learnt how to do that.

So, after nine years of looking after and nurturing my hair like it’s my own child, it was thick, shiny, healthy and strong. It’s hard to believe it’s something that I used to cry over – and while I was so self-conscious I’d never let my hair down, I was showing it off at any opportunity.

Then hit 2021 and pregnancy! Elated to be expecting my boy, who I named Jesse, one of the first things I did was tell my hair angel. Because of the hormonal content, you immediately have to stop taking the drops. I won’t lie, a bit of fear crept in at this point.

Natalie reassured me and advised me to use regular scalp mask and elasticizer on my hair for the duration of my pregnancy. I was one of the lucky ones in getting thicker hair in pregnancy, even though my precious bundle was stealing my ferritin. My oestrogen was basically sky-high and overriding everything else.

My little miracle came along and the last thing I thought about was my tresses. I’m responsible for a small human and so tired I’ve not slept properly for two years.

The last thing I needed was to see my hair rapidly falling out in vast amounts. I was breastfeeding and you’d expect my oestrogen to be through the roof and the hair to stay put. So it was a shocker when my period came back and shedding started.

As I’ve had shedding on and off over 20 years I didn’t expect to be as deeply affected. But I’d never seen anything like it. It was so intense I don’t know how I had any hair left on my head.

As the days went on, I just stopped worrying. I had bigger fish to fry now and I knew how to get it back. It’s not the first time my hair’s left me and I’m sure it won’t be the last. It’s really not the end of the world. It’s hair. It grows back. And it did.

I’ve learned you can be going through hell and think it looks so noticeable while others are unaware and, more importantly, don’t care. I’ve learned to accept I’m a beautiful person whether my hair is shedding or not. I’ve learned that, like everything else, it needs love and special attention to be at its best.

So this is for anyone who has suffered and felt hopeless with any sort of hair loss or shedding. Worry not, there’s a reason and a way to fix it. You just need time and patience – and money. It’s not cheap but it’s worth it. Talk about it and you’ll realise there’s a lot more people going through the same thing. You’re not alone.

And to any mum experiencing postpartum hair loss, never feel anything less than superhuman – you brought life into the world, the hair grows back. It’s a beautiful mark of an incredible thing you did!

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