We caught up with comedian Zoe Lyons as she embarks on an epic fundraising challenge for Alopecia UK...

Zoe, tell us about your experience with alopecia..

I first experienced alopecia when I was about 10 years old. My parents divorced and we ended up moving from the South of England to Glasgow because of my step-father's job. I found the experience very stressful and my hair started to fall out. I had long hair at the time and I remember my mum brushing it in the mornings and the brush was full of hair and then the patches started to appear. I probably lost a third of my hair during that time. My mum and I used to try and weave my long hair over the patches to cover them up as best as we could. I remember I was given some rotten smelling shampoos to use and I have no idea if they helped or not but eventually my hair completely grew back. I then experienced the occasional patch through my 20s, golf ball size in diameter. They would last for a while but always grow back so when I got a few small patches a couple of years ago, initially I wasn't overly concerned. 

However, like most people, I found going through the pandemic very stressful. I lost all my work in a few days and I had quite a few domestic issues to deal with. I could feel the anxiety building in my body and I became aware that my hair was falling out more and more. I kept thinking it would stop, but it just kept shedding. the worst part for me was having handfuls of hair come out in the shower. That experience was very distressing and I got quite depressed. I remember the day when I realised it wasn't just going to 'magically' stop. That I was, in face, going to lose most if not all of my hair. 

There was a feeling like grief before I was able to accept it and then try to deal with it. I was going to be recording a second series of the game show 'Lightning' for the BBC and I knew I needed to get a wig, I wasn't able to hide it anymore. Being in the public eye has its challenges at the best of times and I can honestly say that I found it a real struggle at first to put myself out there and carry on. I just didn't want to be looked at, I wanted to hide away. I am so grateful to all the people along the way who have helped me look and feel more confident and able to get on with my job. 

How are things with your hair now? 

All my hair did eventually fall out, just not at the same time so I’ve always had a few bits growing back. I’m really pleased to say it has now stopped falling out, the alopecia is no longer active and I am seeing more signs of regrowth. I know it will take a while and that it might fall out again but I am now much more at peace with it and decided to embrace who I am and what I look like. I have since made a couple of short films for both the BBC and Channel 5 about the condition. Through making these films I made a connection with Alopecia UK and the brilliant work they do.

Tell us about your fundraising and awareness challenge for Alopecia UK

In September, which happens to be Alopecia Awareness Month, I am running a 100k Ultra Challenge and raising funds and awareness for Alopecia UK. I did a similar run last year and it was without doubt the hardest thing I have ever done and I swore I would never do it again! But following the TV pieces and the response I got from talking about the condition openly I thought, well why not! So I will be jogging the South Coast Ultra Challenge from Eastbourne to Arundel on the 3rd of September and hope to complete the 100k course in 17 hours. 

I am delighted to be able to do this for Alopecia UK because I know from experience there are so many people struggling with this and so many feel stressed and isolated by the condition. I’ve had so many people come up to me after gigs to talk about their experiences and on occasion I’ve been the first person they have spoken to about their hair loss. 

I’m quite nervous about the run, let’s be brutally honest, it’s a blinking long way in one go! However, each and every donation to Alopecia UK will spur me on as I try to ignore the inevitable blisters and feel the breeze in my newly grown tufts! 

If anyone would like to support my efforts, you can donate on my Justgiving page here

You can also see my appearance in the Channel 5 series, 'Women's Health; Breaking the Taboos' (episode 2) here

HUGE thanks to Zoe for taking on this enormous challenge for Alopecia UK! Good luck Zoe!