News & Events Stories Ralph shares his experience with alopecia areata My first experience of alopecia was limited to small round patches when I was around 16 years old. These grew back after a couple of years, but returned on and off throughout my early 20s. They then disappeared, and I had a full head of thick, dark hair for over ten years. I also suffer from eczema. During my mid-thirties, I was going through a particularly stressful period of my life. This eventually led to a severe, full body flare up of eczema, for which I spent four weeks in hospital in August 2017. My focus was then on recovering and managing my eczema, for which I now take immunosuppressant medication along with topical steroids, but the next surprise arrived in the December when my hair started to fall out. I remember the shock of sitting at my desk in work, and seeing my hair start to land on my desk in front of me. It all fell out remarkably quickly. That weekend, the patches were already so big I had to go to the barbers and ask them to shave the rest of my hair off. Within four weeks, it had all gone entirely anyway, along with my eyebrows and the rest of my hair on my body. It was quite a transition! I changed jobs soon after. While I was still getting used to being bald, my new colleagues assumed I had been bald for a while and before I knew it I was being referred to as one of the “eggheads”! They obviously meant no offence, but I still felt self-conscious about it. Just as I was starting to get used to now being a bald man approaching middle age, some of my hair started to grow back. Like many others with alopecia areata, I found this to be even worse – a patchy-headed man stands out a lot more than a bald one! I did my best to shave the rest off, but because my hair is dark and thick, you can still see it even after shaving with a razor. I do public presentations as part of my work and was asked to appear in a promotional video for a work project. I must admit, I needed to dig deep to find the courage to do it – previously, it would have been no problem, but when I was filming a part of the video which involved the camera being behind me, all I could think about was my patches! But when it was finished, everyone complemented the video, and no one mentioned my hair! Most of my hair has fallen out again now, and I’ve now accepted my alopecia a lot more. I’ve also learnt to talk about my issues too, and as a previously “hard man” I now encourage other men to speak to people, such as counsellors as I have now done, or other people affected by alopecia, if they are going through difficult times – it really can make a difference. Anything affecting your appearance can really impact your mental health, so it is so important to look after it. For me, this has been the biggest part of accepting my condition, and the new me!