I am writing this blog post with a couple with hats on (I wear a lot of hats for the charity). The hats I’m wearing for this blog post are my ‘fundraising hat’, my ‘support hat’ and my ‘personally affected by alopecia hat.

Some things at the charity are straightforward and some are less so. Charity head shaves fall into the latter category for me. Sponsored head shaves are something that can divide our alopecia community.

Firstly, there are those who have alopecia themselves and use their first ever head shave as an opportunity to raise funds for charity. 10 years ago, as my hair was rapidly falling out, I decided to do just this. I hadn’t found Alopecia UK at that point so didn’t raise money for them but my friends, family and colleagues supported me generously and I raised over £2,000 to support a local good cause. It was a phenomenal amount that was raised in just less than a week. I was blown away. Those around me knew how much I was struggling with my hair loss, and this was their opportunity to show their support. For me, this was my chance to get something positive from what felt at the time like a big negative. My initial head shave was an emotionally painful thing to go through but by raising funds for a good cause my spirits were lifted (Photos below were taken on day of my first head shave. Left photo is a teary-eyed 'halfway' shot, right photo is the first photo of me with my 'new look').

Most people with alopecia don’t become upset by the idea of someone who has alopecia using their initial head shave as a way to raise charitable funds. Where opinion tends to become more divided is when those without hair loss choose to shave their heads. As a charity, we’ve steered away from actively and publicly promoting head shaves to the general public as a way to raise funds for Alopecia UK. We know it can be a very emotive and sensitive issue for our community. Over the years, some people with alopecia have been upset by the ‘Brave the Shave’ campaign led by a national cancer support charity. Some have seen the campaign as diminishing the emotional impact of hair loss by showing lots of happy, smiley people having their heads shaved. Some have felt this imagery has belittled the upset that many with alopecia feel when they lose their hair or undergo that initial head shave. Some struggle with the idea of a voluntary head shave being ‘brave’, believing that choosing to shave one’s head when hair will quickly return is not a brave thing to do.

I don’t share all these views myself but I appreciate that we all have different journeys with hair loss and all feelings are valid. As a charity supporting those with alopecia, we don’t want to trample on anyone’s feelings.

At Alopecia UK, we don’t have marketing departments and big campaign slogans. But we have benefited for many years from funds raised from people who don’t have alopecia who choose to shave their heads to raise funds for Alopecia UK. As long as any head shave is done in a sensitive manner, recognising that for many of us with alopecia having hair or not is a choice taken out of our hands, we welcome this type of fundraising activity.

We’ve had individuals shave their heads in support of family or friends with alopecia. As long as the person with alopecia is on board with the idea (recognising that some people with alopecia become upset at the idea of close friends and family shaving their heads), this is a simple way to raise funds Alopecia UK and show support to a loved one at the same time.

And if the wider public want to shave their heads for charity, a hair loss related charity such as Alopecia UK is a very appropriate cause to support! It can provide a good opportunity to raise awareness of the fact that not everybody has a choice when it comes to our hair.

We don’t have the budget or resources to launch a big campaign asking for people to do sponsored head shaves for Alopecia UK. You won’t see a sleek publicity campaign from us in the weeks and months to come asking everyone to shave their heads to raise money for us. But you may see us mention head shaving more often than before as a way to raise funds for Alopecia UK.

A head shave is a fundraising activity that can still happen in these times of social distancing. All you need is a set of clippers and a sweeping brush! And with hairdressers and barbers not due to reopen until July at the earliest, the next few weeks could be the perfect opportunity to try out a new look! My own housemate Dave allowed me to shave his head and his friends, family and colleagues were keen to support meaning he raised over £1,400 for Alopecia UK (See pics below: I don't think I did a bad job!)

If you would like to set up a fundraising page for Alopecia UK in respect of a sponsored head shave, you can set up a fundraising page on our website here. Or you can set up a Justgiving page if you'd prefer, here

If you need any help or support with anything, please contact the Alopecia UK team.

Thanks for reading, Amy x