Imran's Story My name is Imran, I am 39 years old, I am married with a boy of 6. I have hair loss, more or less, everywhere on my body. How it started After my 2nd Covid vaccination, I first noticed that I had a small bald patch on my beard near my chin, it was literally the size of a pea. I didn’t really take much notice as I assumed it must have just been a small nick from the barbers' machine when I went for a beard trim. A few weeks went by, and I started noticing that the small pea patch started to get bigger and bigger and it was becoming more and more noticeable. I went to my GP and told them I was starting to experience hair loss on my beard, and I was referred to a dermatologist. The dermatologist did some checks and advised it was nothing uncommon, and it was probably related to stress I was not aware of. I was advised that my hair follicles were not dead, and it would settle down and grow back within 6 months. I was told the condition I had was alopecia areata. I just put this down to possible stress of me not being happy in my job at that time and I went on a mission to change my life and moved roles to where I am much happier. After a few months passed, I didn’t notice any improvements at all and, in fact, the hair loss was starting to spread to my arms, chest, eyebrows and legs and this caused real stress and worry. I contacted my GP again and they referred me back to the dermatologist. The second visit with the dermatologist left me with real frustration because I was seen by a student dermatologist who got a senior involved and I was in no uncertain terms told ‘You have alopecia, we have already told you this’. I was so disappointed and angry because I was not being helped or given support. I was told I have alopecia and there was nothing that they could do. By Christmas 2021, my wife noticed a small patch on the back of my head and this patch became bigger and bigger within few weeks. It got to a point where it was affecting my mental health and I was deteriorating seeing my hair fall out at the slightest touch or seeing it fall in chunks in the shower. I shaved it all off in January 2022, purely because all my hair was falling and shaving it off was the best way to deal with it. How it made me feel At the end of 2021 and probably up to March 2022 I really struggled. I felt deflated, depressed and I hated it! I hate the way it has taken over my life, I hated the way I looked. I could go about my day and then all of a sudden, I see my reflection in the mirror and it will take me right back to hating the way I look and feel. We always say appearance doesn’t matter, don’t we? We always say it’s what is inside that person that counts. But when it happens to you it brings you to the reality of knowing that of course we care about the way we look. Seeing myself in the mirror, with no hair, no eyebrows, no beard / stubble, it’s been really hard. I think its hard being an Asian man because I feel like the hair loss is more noticeable because of how thick and dark my hair is. I’ve had quite a few people ask what’s happened because most people think I am sick or got cancer. It’s not really talked about in the Muslim community. When I do talk about it and say it’s a medical condition, people don’t understand why it can’t be fixed. When the hair loss first started, I thought nothing of it but the more it progressed, the more I started to stress. I felt anxious, but also frustrated and angry that there was nothing I could do. I tried so many things such as cupping (Islamic and Chinese), acupuncture, different oils, changed my diet, but so far nothing has worked. I definitely feel in a better place now, I can look in the mirror. Over the past month or so I have been getting a bit more confident and I have been to the gym without my cap on. I am able to forget about people staring and don’t care so much what they are thinking. Managing my hair loss I have tried to be brave, resolute and show strength in coping and managing my hair loss. Individually, I have struggled and at the beginning felt so broken, but my wife, my family, my in-laws, and friends have all helped me greatly and have given me strength. They don’t care about the way I look. All they care about is that I am still the same person and that is Imran. I have tried fake eyebrows, but they are not for me. I don’t like the feel and look of them. They can be attached via glue and I didn’t like the way they were on my skin. I have also tried a real hair wig and went to a specialist company in Huddersfield. They were absolutely brilliant with me. I bought a wig after trying a few and got it cut for the way I wanted it to look but after some time I just didn’t feel comfortable because in warm weather it irritated my head and made me feel sweaty and sticky. In the windy conditions, the wig would not stay in place and the hair kept going out of shape so the only way around it was to wear a hat. Eventually I decided a wig was not for me, purely because if I am spending money to make myself look and feel good, I wanted my wig to be seen and not having to hide it under a hat all the time due to the weather conditions. I wear Islamic caps a lot of the time as they are so thin and I can wear them in all conditions. I can also match them up with my outfit for the day. I have also got sports caps which I wear for the gym or just generally when going out for a walk in the sun. I have also got a winter wool flat cap, and a nice summer linen flat cap. What I have found is that there is not much out there for men with alopecia. There are hats buts it’s hard to find ones that are not irritating on the skin. I am going to get some new glasses with a thicker rim to hide the loss of my brows and lashes. I definitely feel in a better place now and I think most of that is down to the support I have had from my family. Managing the reactions of others I have not had many negative comments, more joking comments from people I know such as ‘I bet you save loads on razors and barbers now’. What I have embraced is that people who know me have asked me straight up what has happened, and they have shown real interest in the condition. What I have struggled with a lot is the stares from people, which has sometimes caused me panic attacks and anxiety. I have been to restaurants and people have blatantly stared and pointed and this makes me feel so uncomfortable. I once went to eat with a friend of mine. There was a young couple sat next to us and the male pointed at me, then both he and the female started laughing and pointing at me. I was so hurt, and I just wanted to get out of the restaurant as fast as I could. I feel like when I am out, I try to hide, I don’t want to be noticed, I just want to keep my head down and just move along in life. More recently I have gone out without a cap and I just try and forget what people think I just do what I want to do, its not easy but I feel a bit more confident now. Staying active with alopecia My alopecia has had a major effect on exercise and sports. I have no eyelashes so when doing exercise / sports, the sweating has caused real discomfort because it goes straight into my eyes. I look like I have just walked out of a shower, the way my head and face are soaked. Even my gym clothes or football clothes are all sticky due to no hair at all anywhere. Even just going out for a nice walk is a struggle because if it’s a bit windy I can hardly keep eyes open due to no eyelashes so I need to have glasses on just to protect my eyes from the weather or dirt going into my eyes. Even things like flies can get in my eye so easily. And this may sound disgusting but because I have no hair in my nose, I have a constant runny nose. It is so frustrating because I could just be eating or talking and, suddenly, my nose just starts running and I have no control at all. It is so embarrassing and to explain to people why I have no control over it is frustrating. Feeling supported by some but not all The greatest support I have had is from my wife and my son. They have been amazing. They keep saying that it does not bother them at all. They are the reason why I am not depressed; they are the reason why I know I will be alright in life; they are the reason that I know I will get stronger and will learn to cope with my alopecia. What I am greatly disappointed about is the professionals. My GP has been absolutely brilliant but the dermatologist has been disappointing. To just tell me there is nothing they can do and that is it? No advice or guidance on support out there? Nothing about how maybe changing things in my life may help? Surely more needs to be done, more support needs to be provided. More must be done! What would I tell others about male hair loss? I wasn’t sure about writing this blog at first but then I talked to my wife and I wanted to help raise more awareness of alopecia and especially because there are hardly any stories from Asian men. I think its really important to talk about it so people know more about what alopecia is. From my own perspective I would say that it is stressful and can cause stress and anxiety. Please don’t just leave it, deal with it as soon as possible and get it checked to ensure it is not something medically that is causing the hair loss. I would also say look and research into it, there are so many things out there that you can try. The most helpful thing for me has been my family so try and talk to people around you. My wife and I looked online and found the Alopecia UK website and it helped to read stories from others.