It’s my own fault for having not looked at Ricki Lake‘s Instagram recently, but I was taken aback in the best way when she popped up on my laptop screen for our Zoom chat with the most incredible short yet voluminous gray hair. Lake, in my mind, is a brunette — though, after seeing her with this naturally silver style, I would beg her not to dye it if she gave me the opportunity. It looks incredible. And she knows it.
“As women and in this society, we’re not supposed to embrace gray hair, but I’m really, really happy with it,” the former talk-show host tells me, positively beaming. “Colorists are saying to me, ‘You can’t bottle that.’ Being in my early 50s, it’s all about self-acceptance.”
Lake has been growing out her hair since she shaved it off on New Year’s Eve 2019 and shared a photo and message that went viral. At the time, she didn’t really know what to expect of the growing-out process because the main reason she’d given herself a buzzcut was that she was ready to accept, in a very visible way, her long-time struggle with hair loss. But she also couldn’t have expected that, a month later, she’d be introduced to something — and someone — that would change her hair journey and the way she felt about herself.
Lake made what she calls a “serendipitous” connection with hair-loss expert Lars Skjoth, the founder of Danish brand Harklinikken, after he’d seen that she’d shaved her head and opened up so candidly about her hair loss. “He felt like I’d done such a service to women to talk about this issue publicly. And he said, ‘I want to help you.’ So it just turned into this natural partnership where I want to help women, too. I want to share with them what’s worked for me,” she recalls. Because frankly, she says, nothing else has. In addition to minoxidil and spironolactone (a topical over-the-counter growth-stimulating treatment and an oral medication the inhibits the effects of androgens, respectively), “I got shots in my head. I was on steroids. I did [platelet-rich plasma]. Everything you could think of, I had tried.”
Lake has also tried to figure out why she’d dealt with hair loss for so long, and while no singular reason or event stands out, she has theories — taking hormonal birth control for so many years, being under a lot of stress, yo-yo dieting, aging, and genetics among them. And although she doesn’t blame the frequent bleaching she underwent while originated the role of Tracy Turnblad in 1988’s Hairspray, she doesn’t think coloring her hair for decades did her any favors.