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When YouTube star Hannah Forcier bleached her hair for the first time last year, she never predicted that she’d end up with a buzz cut a year later. But that’s exactly what happened in October when most of her hair fell out after a negative reaction to a drugstore hair relaxer.
“Before my hair was not only a form of expression, but it was almost a personality booster. My hair made me more bold and confident, and since losing it, my whole vision of myself has changed,” she told TODAY Style.
Forcier recently shared her story in an emotional video titled “How All My Hair Fell Out By Making One Mistake: Story Time” on her popular YouTube page, which has more than 136,000 subscribers. Since its release, the video has over 5 million views and 100,000 likes.
After bleaching and dyeing her hair (often pink) for the better part of a year, Forcier purchased a hair relaxer and conditioner — whose brand she prefers not to name — thinking it would help her damaged locks. “I was using a hair relaxer for the first time to save my hair. I thought if I didn’t run a (flat iron) through my hair twice a day then my hair could grow in thicker and be stronger,” she explained.
Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect, since relaxers are best suited for virgin, unbleached hair. And despite reading the warnings, Forcier said she didn’t realize just how damaged her hair was until the product singed it all off. (In other words, let her mistake be a lesson to follow instructions.)
While washing the product out, large clumps of hair started to fall off Forcier’s head, and the more she washed, the more hair came out. When she saw the whole side of her hair was gone, Forcier spent more than an hour in the shower, desperately trying to get every last bit of product out, but it was too late.
All that remained was a small patch of damaged hair at the top of her head, which a hairstylist told her couldn’t be salvaged, so Forcier took the only option available and got a buzz cut. At first, the video was a simple way for Forcier to explain what happened to everyone she knows (including her followers), but she’s thrilled it’s reached such a wide audience and has made such a positive impact.
“After reading thousands of comments, I realized that my story is relatable to many people. It saddens me that people lose their hair daily and don’t know what to do, but by Googling ‘hair loss’ they can find my video and see that they are not alone,” she told TODAY.
In a series of follow up videos, the YouTube star has chronicled the experience of growing out her hair again and even trying on wigs — though she eventually decided she feels more comfortable sans wig on most days. Moving forward, Forcier told TODAY she plans to keep her hairstyle more natural, and intends to use little-to-no hair products. In the meantime, she said she’s learned to approach new products with caution and test them before using.
If you’re dealing with damaged hair of your own, Cortney Peck, a stylist at Boston's renowned Jeffrey Lyle Salon, recommends regularly using hair masks and heat-protecting styling products, and indulging in a weekly treatment such as Olaplex Hair Protector No 3. And though it seems counterintuitive, a regular trim can also help your hair grow back faster.
"For growth, I recommend trims every eight weeks so your stylist can check in with you and help guide you through the various stages of regrowth," she said.
Forcier misses her old hair, but this experience has taught her to embrace beauty in all its forms, and that’s a concept we can all get behind.
“When I first lost my hair I became very depressed. I didn’t realize everything I wanted to do in my life (like acting and modeling) are all based on looks. I felt like I had to relearn how to like myself again,” she told TODAY. “It has now been over a month since my hair fell out and I am now being stopped at shopping centers (and being asked) to model for designers and crazy situations like that. I feel so much better knowing that I could have chosen to throw everything away but instead I am achieving my dreams with an angle and can be a figure for girls and boys to learn from, and see that with hard times come new opportunities.”