Blogs My Experience With Alopecia Areata as a Young Professional Even before 2020 made virtual meetings a staple for most workplaces, I hated them. I hated having to see my face washed out by the pale light from my computer. I hated the frantic searches for non-cluttered backgrounds; I hated how, no matter what, my eye bags seemed to be accentuated, even behind the glare of my glasses. And, when I was diagnosed with alopecia areata, I hated how the struggle to cover my bald patches made me feel like less of a professional. ** My name is Emma Sloan, and I have been living with alopecia areata since December 2020. It took until May to get officially diagnosed: with my alopecia having started out as just a miniscule bald patch at the nape of my neck, it soon expanded to the top of my left ear, the crown of my head, and the front of my hairline. Even those closest to me didn’t notice how just how rapidly it was progressing until we put the before-and-after photos side by side. My world felt like it had been flipped on its head. For so long, I had used my hair as a smokescreen for my insecurity: no matter how much I disliked my other features, I could always fall back on my hair, which was naturally thick and had been kept back-length for years. From then on, virtual meetings became a source of genuine anxiety. I felt that, if one of my clients spied my widened hairline, or caught a flash of exposed scalp when I bent to grab a pencil off my desk, I would be the source of office ridicule. It got to the point where, when I went to what was supposed to be a fun evening of team members getting together to enjoy lawn bowling, all of my thoughts frantically orbited around if people had noticed the bald patch at the top of my head instead. When I got home later that night, sick to my stomach with nervousness, I went on social media as a distraction. What I chose to search ended up being the simple mindset shift that has changed everything for me. ** The hashtag #alopeciaareata on Instagram was what guided me to a series of accounts that completely overhauled my self-image. Everywhere I looked, suddenly there were young professionals just like me with various forms of alopecia. Whether it was small accounts telling personal stories with hair loss, like @italian_pudding, or charities that provided supportive content, like Alopecia UK’s Instagram account, @alopeciauk, social media—which I had previously written off as a largely negative influence on my self-confidence—became, overnight, my #1 source of solace and reassurance. This crystallized when I discovered Alopecia UK’s Personal Experiences and Stories. It was like taking a deep breath; after reading through the stories of other women, so many of them similar to mine, I felt as at peace with my alopecia as I may ever will. That means having accepted that, some days, I’ll feel melancholier than others; and, other days, I’ll be able to laugh it off when a bald patch gets exposed unexpectedly, or when a new wig may need a bit more professional help than expected for it to look the way I anticipated it. While alopecia areata may not be a linear journey, having self-confidence throughout it can be. And, when it comes to looking “professional” at work, I’ll be happy if I can destigmatise hair loss for just one person.