Photographer Sane Seven has shared with Alopecia UK a series of portraits of women with alopecia as part of their latest project to help to raise awareness this Alopecia Awareness Month. 

Sane explains: 

"I didn’t know much about Alopecia until the infamous Will Smith incident. I use photography to understand the world myself and to educate other people. To me as an artist, everything that’s different is beautiful but I appreciate that not everyone may feel the same way. I wanted to understand what hair meant to different women, how they felt the society reacted to their change and what changes they would like to see in the way society perceived Alopecia. I approached an amazing group of diverse women who had very different stories and experiences and I hoped that their stories would resonate with many people who may feel misunderstood or underrepresented in the media."

As well as the beautiful images, the participating models also share their reflections on the most hurtful reactions they have had from others and the changes they would like to see in society...

What was the most hurtful reaction from other people?

Fee (Instagram: @alopecian_life)

“It is always most hurtful when people assume I have cancer and when I explain that this isn’t cancer, they react like I should be ashamed for my hair-loss, like there is something wrong with me or like my experience is somehow less valid than that of someone with cancer. It has been hurtful when people try and tell me “it’s just hair, it could be worse!”. While I know this is likely coming from a good place, it makes me feel like I am being over-dramatic and it invalidated my feelings of loss and the crisis of confidence I experienced initially.”

Jess (Instagram: @alopecialovex) 

“The most hurtful reaction has been online, by so called ‘trolls’. I’ve been tagged in Sphynx cat photos and taunted for my appearance.”

Gina (Instagram @ginaatinukeknight)

“The most hurtful reaction is making me feel shallow or vain for caring about my hair loss. I get a lot of comments “it’s not that bad” or “at least it’s not….[insert terminal illness here]”. It invalidates my feelings, feelings that I have a right to have as how we look plays a huge role in society whether we like it or not.”

Abbie (Instagram @beautifulwarrioruk)

“When my doctor told me there’s no cure, that shattered my world. All the sadness and anger just exploded and all my hopes were crushed. But I got back on my feet again and I refuse to believe there’s no cure, only a problem I have yet to solve.”

Lydia (Instagram @lydcannizzaro)

“At times when I choose to go out without a wig on I notice some people react by staring or looking back trying to catch a second glimpse.”

What change would you like to see for people with alopecia in our society?

Fee (Instagram @alopecian_life)

“I would love it if there was more awareness around alopecia. Most people automatically assume that something is seriously wrong with me or that I am ill (e.g. through chemotherapy).

It is being normalised a little more nowadays but many people are still unaware that this is a thing and the many forms it can take. I wish there was less stigma around hair loss (for both men and women) and that people in general stop making assumptions. I don’t want or need anyone to feel sorry for me! I would love to see more representation and awareness in the media, in adverts and in everyday life so each of us can feel more comfortable to be unapologetically ourselves.”

Jess (Instagram @alopecialovex)

“To see more of a change in society’s misconception on beauty standards. I believe, this has come so far with bald barbies being produced along side with alopecia models on major platforms. I would love, as a society to see more, break boundaries and make suffers at the beginning of their journeys feel a lot less pressure to feel perfect.”

Gina (Instagram @ginaatinukeknight) 

“I would like to see more compassion for all those with visual differences and more research in regards to all the different forms of Alopecia. Alopecia and hair loss still have no cure and little understanding as to why the various conditions occur. It would be great to have more funded research so if not a cure we can at least have answers.”

Abbie (Instagram @beautifulwarrioruk)

“I want to see a change in the way the public health sector views Alopecia. Sadly so few doctors understand it. I’ve been passed around, put on steroids, had injections in my scalp, but yet not one of them mention diet, lifestyle or toxins. We’re facing a global health crisis, due to our modern diet and lifestyle and things need to change. The food industry needs to stop over processing food and using harmful oils and toxins, and the world needs to be aware of the risks these pose so we can change our mindset and relationship to food.”

Lydia (Instagram @lydcannizzaro)

“I think there exists a pressure to wear a wig to fit in or be accepted, as this is perhaps the easier option than explaining to people why I have no hair. I’d like to see a change in society where there is less judgement from outsiders, as then there can be more freedom for people to embrace hair loss in their own way without fearing the reaction of others.”

Thank you to Sane Seven for creating this project for Alopecia Awareness Month and sharing the resulting photos and words with Alopecia UK. 

Sane Seven is a leading female photographer focussing on gender equality and diversity in advertising, media, business, and politics. She gained international recognitions for her portraits of women that evoke vulnerability and tenderness together with strength and tenacity. Her work has received numerous international awards, including Gold at the New York Photography Awards in 2021 and London Photography Awards in 2022.