“How are you going to wear your hair tonight?”
“Should I wear it up or down? Curly or straight?”
These are questions many girls will ask before a night out. However, for the past year I have neither answered, nor asked any of these questions. After all, I was capable of sporting one look; the bald one – a look a 50 year old man should be sporting, not a 20 year old girl.
Three days after Christmas, two years ago, I found my first patch. I was blow drying my hair and felt an uncomfortable scratching above my left ear whenever I brushed my hair. After closer inspection I noticed that I had a bald spot above my left ear the size of a 50 pence piece. I was worried that the heat of the hair dryer may have burnt the hair, but when I touched it felt oddly smooth. I immediately rang my mum, the first person who told me that it could be alopecia. She explained to me that when my dad was my age he had lost patches of hair due to an auto immune disease called alopecia areata. This is a condition where the hair is lost in patches on some or all areas of the body.
My immediate reaction was embarrassment. I could not understand how a healthy 18 year old girl could start losing her hair. I was convinced that I was strange or weird – but after I started to research alopecia I realised how wrong my first reaction really was. Alopecia is more common than some people might realise, with new surveys showing that one in three women over 25 will suffer some form of hair loss.
My new found awareness caused me to realise that there were even people on our TV screens who were suffering from alopecia just like I was: famous faces such as the presenter Gail Porter, the comedian Matt Lucas and the football referee Pierluigi Collina. I was certainly not alone.
Although, Alopecia is a disease which is increasingly common, there is very little that is actually known about it. Alopeica is a noncommunicable disease, and is not contagious. However, it is thought to be an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own hair follicles and suppresses hair growth. But the reason why the body attacks itself is still unknown. Many issues such as emotional stress or hereditary factors have been thought to cause the condition but nothing has been proven.
The lack of knowledge surrounding alopecia made going to the doctor an extremely infuriating process. When I first visited my GP, all he could do for me was confirm that I did in fact have alopecia areata and measure my bald spot. So, apart from gaining the “interesting” information that my bald spot was 4cm at its longest point, I was still no better off.
Two months after my first unsuccessful visit to the doctor my hair was still falling out at quite a rapid speed. I decided to take direct action and went privately to a dermatologist to deal with the situation head on. After many blood tests and examinations they could still offer me no reason for my alopecia. I was sent away with two bottles of oral corticosteroids to try and stimulate hair growth. Although they had some effect, as soon as I stopped using them my hair fell out again. I was starting to look like the third Mitchell brother.
Alopecia is not damaging to your health but the effect it can have to your confidence is catastrophic. It still upsets me now to think back to my first year. My friends would get ready for a night out and look gorgeous in their beautiful dresses with their perfectly coiffed hair. I, on the other hand, would have to wear a hat large enough to cover most of my head, and dress to match that hat. And trust me, beautiful dresses and woolly hats do not really mix.
I soon decided enough was enough and with the help of two of my best friends I went wig shopping. We went to the wig section in Harrods in London, who made me feel comfortable and cared for. As well as finding me the perfect wig they gave me a voucher for a free facial and makeover worth over £90. I would not say finding my wig was a life changing moment but it was pretty close. The confidence it gave me the moment I put it on was unbelievable. I could have cried there and then in the shop, but I held it in – unlike my friends. For anyone suffering with alopecia I would recommend a visit to Vicki Ullah’s selection of wigs at Harrods; the wigs are both realistic and affordable.
Two years later, I now have hair all over my head again which is growing thicker than ever. I have regained much of my confidence and I can once again go out and feel proud of myself. Thank you for reading my story and remember that bald is beautiful too.