From the moment I was born, people often fussed over my hair. Doctors gathered in the delivery room in awe, as they had never seen a new-born with such a thick, full head of hair. Throughout primary school, people would always compliment my beautiful, long, brown hair, which was always the “longest in the class”. It was my defining feature…oh the irony!

On the 22nd September 2013, a very insecure 14-year-old me, found her first bald patch. It was the classic small circle at the front of the head kind that you often hear about. In all honesty, I could not tell you what I felt in that moment, because I felt nothing. Complete and utter numbness as I was so shocked at my discovery. Speechless, I showed my hairdresser Mum, who then found an additional flock of bald patches all over my head and soon after, diagnosed my loss as Alopecia Areata.

At this time, I lost a third of my hair to alopecia areata. I find it difficult to explain how I felt at this time as in all honesty; it’s a complete blur. I think I have subconsciously blocked this period out of my mind as it was a very confusing and difficult time. I didn’t properly process what was happening and how I felt about it as I was in complete denial that it was even happening (which is why I have no photos of my bald patches). I told very few people about my hair loss and rarely confided in others about it as I felt ashamed. It’s already hard enough being a teenage girl, with trying to navigate who you are and become comfortable in your own skin, without having the added pressure of trying to cover up an ever-growing community of bald patches, which is exactly what I did.

With the help of my Mum, and what was left of my thick hair, we were able to completely disguise my alopecia like it didn’t exist. So well so that anyone who didn’t know that I had Alopecia were stunned when I revealed my secret. It was almost like living a double life. I count myself very lucky to have been able to do this as I know that many people suffering with alopecia struggle to hide it, meaning they need to face it head on. 

There’s often a misconception about alopecia, where people associated the word with complete baldness, which is why I think people were so shocked when I revealed myself as having alopecia. But that’s the thing, everyone’s alopecia looks different. Although I am extremely grateful to have not lost all of my hair, it doesn’t make my experience of hair loss any less difficult. A saying I often think of to put things into perspective is; “Sitting next to a person in a full body cast doesn’t make your broken arm hurt any less”.

Pain is pain. Hair loss is hair loss. It might differ in severity, but it’s traumatic either way. This is something that took me a while to realise as I often felt guilty about feeling upset when other people with alopecia “had it worse”. I also felt like I was being superficial for being so down about hair, as it was something so surface-level which in the grand scheme of things, maybe wasn’t so important. I was wrong. If you are someone with alopecia please know that even though others may have it “worse off”, your feelings are valid, especially regarding something so personal. You are completely right and allowed to feel how you feel and you aren’t superficial for doing so.

Although denying its existence was a necessary way for me to cope with my alopecia, I think this attitude was damaging as I didn’t allow myself to deal with what I was going through. In my later teenage years, I feel like these supressed emotions and trauma came back to haunt me which meant I was mourning hair that had already grown back, which was even more confusing. As I had never been fully honest and open about my alopecia, I struggled to tell others about my experience, even with my hair fully grown in. This has been particularly challenging when it comes to dating, as I often shy away from telling guys about my alopecia, due to the fear of them finding me less attractive and ultimately, rejecting me (if anyone reacts like this they are NOT the one!) However, I have learned to see this as a secret weapon, as it allows me to identify those who are not worth my time. This also applies to friendships as it reveals to you the ones who will try to understand how you feel, even though they can’t ever truly understand. Those are the keepers!

At present, I am extremely thankful to say that I have a full head of hair. However, the occasional bald spot does appear every now and then, but I’m now so accustomed to it that I see it in a similar way to getting a pimple. Just the norm! Although I sometimes have crippling fear of losing more or all of my hair, I try my best to not dwell on this too much as it’s simply out of my control. Instead, I try to do what I can to help others who have also experienced hair loss.

In 2018, I donated 7 inches of my hair to The Little Princess Trust who provides wigs for children and young adults with medical hair loss. This is something I always wanted to do pre-alopecia so finally having the opportunity (and the hair) to do so was one of the most empowering experiences of my life. I also hosted a fundraising event for ‘Alopecia UK’ in 2019, which managed to raise an amazing £2,541 for the charity. This was the first time throughout the 5 years that I stood up and announced to a room of 100 people that I had in fact experienced alopecia. It was the most terrifying yet freeing thing I have ever done and if you take anything from my story I hope it’s this: own your alopecia. Denying it for so long was the worst thing I ever did and I hate that I allowed myself to feel ashamed for so long.

I’m not saying that you have to tell a room of hundreds of people, but even confiding in one person can honestly make the world of difference. Your hair does not define you, in fact, none of your physical features do. However, that does not make you superficial to be upset about losing your hair. It’s such a cliché but you can’t control what life throws at you, but you can control how you respond. By that I mean that you can’t prevent or change your alopecia for the most part, but you can choose to not let it defeat you. Your worth and beauty does not lie with your hair, it radiates from your inner strength to keep going without it.