American actress and TV host Ricki Lake began the new year by sharing photos of herself on Instagram and Facebook showing off her new buzzcut and publishing an open letter detailing her experience with hair loss over the past 30 years. 

Regardless of whether you have any experience of hair loss or not, it was an emotional read. 







These were some of the words Ricki has used to describe how her hair loss has made her feel over the years and all of these words are emotions that I have experienced at some point during my journey with alopecia areata. 

Ricki is of course not alone in her struggles with hair loss and the psychological impact that this can have. But what is so amazing about when someone with a high public profile discusses their experience; it starts the conversation again, helping to increase awareness and hopefully continue to make things easier for those living with hair loss. 

Ricki has been keeping her hair loss a secret for decades and the relief and peace she has got from finally sharing her story was clear to see from the beautiful photos shared of her new look. There has been an outpouring of support for Ricki on her social media pages and it's been lovely to see. Over 30,000 likes and 4,600 comments and shares on her Facebook post and 56,000 likes and 6,800 comments on her Instagram post, representing huge support for not only Ricki but also the individuals also sharing their stories as a result. Looking through the comments it was really moving to see all the support shared between those interacting on the posts. It reminded me of the comments and posts I see on a regular basis in Alopecia UK's private Facebook group. The uniquely comforting words that you receive from others who 'just get it' is a sense of reassurance like no other.

There have been questions about whether Ricki Lake has alopecia or not. The answer is yes. 'Alopecia' simply means hair loss. Most commonly 'alopecia' is used to describe the type I have (and the type that the majority of people in touch with the charity have); Alopecia Areata. It is not clear which type of alopecia Ricki Lake is experiencing but from my point of view, it's mainly irrelevant. What she did in her open letter was very eloquently explain the impact her hair loss has had on her over the past 30 years. It's clear that impact has been huge and this is the important thing to note. It doesn't matter about the cause, nature or severity of hair loss. It's all about the impact it has on us and how we can move beyond to ensure that we continue to live life to the full, regardless of what is happening on our heads. 

I'd like to thank Ricki Lake for speaking out and I wish her all the best for a happy and peaceful future without the burden of the secret she has been keeping for so many years. You can read Ricki's full open letter on her Facebook post here

I hope further high-profile individuals will speak out about hair loss. It helps enormously to keep the conversation going and increase awareness. I just hope any future celebrities wishing to talk about their hair loss choose to do it at a time when i'm not on my own in the office! ;-) The phone was hot with requests for TV and radio interviews. You can listen to the BBC Radio 5 Live interview I took part in as a result of the news about Ricki Lake, coverage that wouldn't have taken place without her speaking out (I am on from 1hr 24mins). 

My final words have to be a repeat of my chosen blog title - "Go Ricki, Go Ricki, Go Ricki!"*

* I believe the audience used to chant this at the end of The Ricki Lake Show. Naturally I was extremely young in the 1990s (practically a baby, honest!) so might be remembering this wrongly... ;-)