Ricki Lake on the Pain of Hair Loss & How She Went from a Buzzcut to a Full, Healthy Bob

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Back in January 2020, the world watched as Ricki Lake shaved her head on Instagram, sharing a huge secret she had been keeping from fans: Lake was struggling with hair loss. The talk show icon has been on TV since 1993 and originated some of our favorite roles even before that, including Tracy Turnblad in the 1988 film Hairspray. Throughout her career, no one knew she was suffering from alopecia.

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Lake’s hair loss started when she was just 26 years old filming the movie, Mrs. Winterbourne. “I was on a crash diet and that’s when I started to lose my hair dramatically,” Lake tells STYLECASTER. It started to get a little better but then she had a baby and the shedding began again. “I’d see a ball of hair in the shower,” she says, “and it would creep up every year or two.” It got so bad that in her 40s, she started wearing a hair system, basically a weave, she would have to get tightened every month.

It was hot, heavy and time-consuming. Lake admits her hair did look good but she just couldn’t keep it up anymore. The natural hair she still had left was also becoming more fragile. “I finally just said, fuck it, I can’t do this anymore,” she says. She took clippers to her hair and finally felt free.

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Lake was ready to live with this buzzcut for the rest of her life. “I look good bald,” she says. (She does.) Then, her friend colorist Tracey Cunningham introduced her to Lars Skjoth, founder and head of research and development at Harklinikken. Lake says she went into the meeting with Skjoth very skeptical as she had tried everything to cure her hair loss. “He offered it to me for free,” she says. “There was nothing contingent on me trying it. At that time, he wasn’t asking me to be anything with the company. He just wanted to help me.”



She followed Harklinikken’s strict regimen of a custom extract, shampoo, conditioner, leave-in treatments and more. Two years later and she can’t believe how healthy, shiny and strong her hair is. “Three years ago, I was really distraught and it was very lonely and I was pretty desperate, you know, and I’m a happy person,” she says. “I am now in a place of, I love myself, I like the way I look. I love the way I look, and I’m really, really happy and I think it shows.”

Lake is quick to tell me she’d happily shave her head again because bald is beautiful. She also loves her natural, multi-dimensional gray color and has no plans to dye it. “It just feels like I’ve been wounded in a major way,” she says. “I know for people that don’t know about hair loss, they don’t get it. They say ‘just get over it, get over yourself.’ But it’s a big deal. It was a big deal. It’s still a big deal in the fact that I don’t worry about it anymore. It’s like a new life for me.”

One person who does understand the bread? Jada Pinkett Smith. Lake shared her feelings about what happened at the Oscars.

“Violence is never the answer so what [Will Smith] did was completely unacceptable and I have such empathy for Jada Pinkett Smith,” she says. “Only people who have walked in her shoes can understand what it’s like…I feel her pain. I just commiserate. She’s gorgeous regardless and we have to accept ourselves with what we see in the mirror. It was a very sad thing and it definitely struck a nerve for me. The joke itself wasn’t funny, especially to people who struggle with alopecia.”

Because of the pain and stigma around hair loss, Lake is working with Harklinikken to let others know they’re not alone and there’s hope out there. “I didn’t mean to be the poster child for this. That was not my plan,” she says. “I just needed to be free of keeping a secret. But I felt that it was affecting every aspect of my life, you know? I didn’t expect to be like this beacon of hope for people.”

But she has been and she’s taking the role very seriously. “We need to support women,” she says. “Women in today’s society with what we see in media, what we see on social media, we’re seeing what is not possible for most of us. I think we just need to work on ourselves and appreciate that we’re all different. We’re all beautiful in our own ways.”

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