Given that the sunshine has made a return this week, you’d perhaps think this blog post is a reminder to apply sun cream to scalps to avoid painful sunburn. Well, whilst i’m at it, I will remind you to do that this Summer. I speak from experience; a sunburned scalp stings. Ouch!

However, that’s not what this blog post is about. There’s actually something else that stings and burns and that's the insensitive language sometimes thrown in the direction of those of us with hair loss.

At AUK HQ this week, we were extremely disappointed to see an online article, from The Sun newspaper, refer to those with hair loss as ‘slapheads’.

Many other news outlets covered the same story yet it appears it was only The Sun that decided to use such crass and unnecessary language. For us it felt like a leap back twenty years or so. We thought, and hoped, the days where derogatory words to describe those with a visible difference in the media were over.

What makes it more frustrating for us is that the journalist from The Sun contacted Alopecia UK to comment on this latest research. I spent some time answering his questions - ‘Is it good news?’ ‘What would this mean for people suffering from alopecia?’ - and responded quickly to his ‘urgent’ request late in my working day, even following up with a reply to further questions after my scheduled finish time. I encouraged him to include a signpost to Alopecia UK in the article, something that can be very helpful to a small charity like us. A mention in a national newspaper can mean someone can find us for the first time, someone that perhaps didn't know we existed - after all we’re not a household name like some larger charities.

My reply to The Sun’s journalist mentioned the devastating psychological impact that hair loss can have on some people affected. And this is why we were appalled to read the opening line of the online article: “Millions of slapheads could be cured of baldness...”

Language like this, which pokes fun at those with hair loss, is frankly lazy and makes the newspaper in question seem totally archaic. With this article, The Sun has unfortunately perpetuated the idea that hair loss is something we can all joke and laugh about.

We wonder if the journalist considered how the 7 year old boy, who is struggling to cope with suddenly not having any hair, feels to be branded a ‘slaphead’. Or the 16 year old girl who is not sure how to tell her friends she’s wearing a wig. Or the young man in his twenties who’s just been delivered the news that he has androgenetic alopecia and is fearful that his new girlfriend will leave him once he’s bald. Or the menopausal woman whose hair is quickly thinning, already wracked with worry and self-doubt, and now feels she will be the subject of ridicule amongst her work colleagues too. 

Or the 27 year old woman who suddenly loses all her hair and for the first year is overwhelmed with feelings of unattractiveness, inadequacy and a fear that people will think she looks ridiculous without hair or make snide comments when out of earshot.

That last one is very specific because that 27 year old woman was me. In the vulnerable state that I was in nine years ago, when my hair first fell out, an article referring to bald people as ‘slapheads’ would have been a real kick to my stomach. It was hard enough facing the world some days in that first challenging year. But reading headlines about ‘slapheads’ would have been enough to make me want to leap back under the duvet. 

Alopecia UK works hard to support media articles with the limited staff team, time and resource that we have. We try our best to provide informative and hopefully helpful quotes to support the news stories being written. Thankfully on this occasion the quote I provided was not used. I would have been absolutely mortified to find my words and name quoted within an article that included the word ‘slapheads’ and showed images of bald celebrities with mocked up hairstyles. 

Unfortunately it seems that The Sun continues to believe that in 2019 the only way to sell its newspapers is to take a dumbed-down, sensationalist approach.

We will not waste our time in the future providing quotes to journalists from The Sun for them to instead ignore in favour of derogatory slang.

To sum up, our tongue-in-cheek advice for anyone with alopecia wishing to avoid Sun-burn this summer is apply suncream and choose your newspaper carefully...

For the purposes of completeness, this is the full quote we provided to The Sun to help with their article:

"At Alopecia UK, we are always interested to hear of research taking place that will hopefully benefit the many men, women and children in the UK affected by different types of hair loss. It’s unclear whether this latest breakthrough will be of benefit to those with Alopecia Areata, an autoimmune condition that affects the majority of people in touch with the charity. With Alopecia Areata, the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles. It will be interesting to learn whether the hair cells generated with this latest technology will continue to grow in patients with Alopecia Areata, or whether they will also fall prey to the autoimmune reaction.

We look forward to seeing further study results from this technology and watch with interest to see if it could potentially help people with all types of hair loss or just certain types. Treatment options for those with alopecia are very limited and given the devastating psychological impact that hair loss can have on some individuals, we welcome any breakthroughs that could lead to new treatments.

Alopecia UK is a charity working to improve the lives of those affected by hair loss through aims of Support, Awareness and Research. For more information about alopecia, including where to find support, visit: "

For anyone wishing to read about the latest stem cell research, here it is, covered by one of the many news organisations that were able to tell the story without insulting millions of people with hair loss:

If you would like to support Alopecia UK with its work to improve the lives of those affected by alopecia, please consider making a donation. 

Click here to make a donation today