When I was around 13 years old I started developing bald patches on my head. Over the next few years I went to great lengths to cover them up – with creative hair styling, headbands and even colouring in with eyeliner pencil or felt tip pen! By the time I was 17 I realised I was fighting a losing battle so I shaved the remaining strands off and started wearing a wig. I don’t remember anyone asking me if I wanted to wear a wig, or considering any other options. I just assumed that’s what you did – after all you didn’t see bald people out and about. I felt I needed to hide my alopecia. I just wanted to fit in and look ‘normal’.

I have put on a wig every single day since, often worrying about it slipping, falling, blowing off – or just looking ‘wiggy’. Wigs have come a long way in that time but they can still be hot and scratchy, not to mention expensive. I used to agonise for hours about how it looked and worrying if people ‘could tell’. In recent years as I’ve been more comfortable talking about my alopecia, people are usually surprised when I tell them I am wearing a wig – and no one really cares.

Since becoming a trustee for Alopecia UK, I’ve realised how important its work is. Awareness, Support and Research go hand in hand to create a world where people with alopecia can live the life they want with confidence. That might be wearing a hat, scarf or wig, but it’s also about creating an environment where people don’t feel pressure to do so.

Alopecia is not life threatening or detrimental to physical health, but it can have a huge impact on self-confidence, self-esteem and mental health. On the whole no one likes to look different, particularly young people and teenagers, but if we are more open about visible differences we’ll create a world where more people feel comfortable and safe to look different and feel free to choose the way they present themselves.

I think if I’d seen bald women (and men) when I was a teenager I might have had more confidence to accept and embrace my alopecia and perhaps felt less pressure to wear a wig when I didn’t want to, or when it’s not comfortable (think sauna, gym, swimming in the sea, gale force winds, roller-coaster, the list goes on!).

So in my own small way, I’d like to do something that might makes things slightly easier for anyone who is losing or who has lost their hair, like that 17 year old me or my amazing son going through it now. To help anyone who might just find it difficult to be themselves - and of course to raise much-needed funds for Alopecia UK to do their wonderful work - I am ditching the wig for a week.

I’ll be honest, it fills me with dread. I feel a bit sick just thinking about it. The wig (through its many iterations) is my comfort blanket. Doing something every day for 30 years becomes more than just a habit. It’s second nature, it feels like part of me.

Will people stare at me? Maybe, but it’s probably just because they’re not used to seeing a bald woman. And isn’t that sort of the point?

My wig free week will start on Sunday 24th September and end at Alopecia UK's London social on 30th. Wish me luck!

Emma Hickinbotham