Ricki Lake shaves head, shares emotional post about hair loss

"I am liberated. I am free," Ricki Lake wrote. "I am releasing and letting go."
Image: Ricki Lake attends an event in Los Angeles on June 4, 2019.
Ricki Lake attends an event in Los Angeles on June 4, 2019.Richard Shotwell / Invision / AP file

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By Gwen Aviles

Actress Ricki Lake revealed her newly-shaved head in an emotional post about "struggling with hair loss" on Instagram on Wednesday.

"I am not sick. (THANK GOD.) I am not having a mid-life crisis," Lake, who is best known for starring as Tracy Turnblad in the 1988 film "Hairspray" and is credited with being the youngest person to host a syndicated talk show, wrote. "Nor am I having a mental breakdown, though I have been suffering."

Lake said that despite not disclosing her pain to her therapist or anyone else in her life, she was finally ready to "share" her "secret": that hair loss has been a source of depression for most of her adult life.

"It has been debilitating, embarrassing, painful, scary, depressing, lonely, all the things," Lake, 51, wrote. "There have been a few times where I have even felt suicidal over it."

About one-third of women experience hair loss — also known as alopecia — at some time in their lives. According to Harvard Medical School, not only can such hair loss have a greater effect on women than men because it's "less socially acceptable for them," but it can also "severely affect" a women's quality of life and emotional health.

Lake mainly attributes her hair loss to her time starring in "Hairspray," when her "healthy virgin hair" was triple-processed and teased regularly, but hair loss among women can also be genetic or spurred by pregnancy, thyroid disorders, anemia, autoimmune disorders and other conditions. The actress also believes other factors may have played a role in her hair loss, including stress, hormonal birth control and yo-yo dieting.

In her attempt to curtail and disguise the hair loss, Lake said she tried using hair extensions and wigs as a temporary solution. She has also visited doctors, received shots and taken supplements, but she said her hair continued to shed and that she "became a slave to this maintenance schedule." Now that a new year has begun, however, Lake said she felt inspired to share her story with others and buzz her hair short as an act of reclamation.

"I am liberated. I am free. I am releasing and letting go," Lake wrote. "I will on occasion choose to wear hair, but now it is for fun, not because I am hiding anything. I am so done with hiding."