Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss, when the immune system attacks hair follicles on the face, scalp and sometimes other areas of the body. It can be brought on by severe stress. Hair often falls out in patches but in can result in complete baldness. According to Nasdaq, two-thirds of those affected by the disease are younger than 30 years old when their hair loss begins. It is often emotionally devastating.
“Kids are pretty cruel, they speak their mind and at the time I had wigs that were synthetic, which looked pretty tragic,” Sarah Christian told Daily Mail Australia. She confided in the news source about the struggles of growing up bald, her hair loss having begun around age 9.
One man with alopecia told CNN, “It affects every part of your life. I got very depressed, and it was horrible.” He said that his alopecia had led him to withdraw from people.
Others find themselves suffering from hair loss due to medications such as chemotherapy treatment. Some say they have experienced permanent alopecia as a reaction to the drug Taxotere, which is used to treat breast, lung, prostate, stomach, and head and neck cancer. These cancer survivors, shocked to discover that their hair does not grow back once the treatment is complete, find themselves forced to adjust to a new normal that leaves them looking like they are still cancer patients years after surviving the disease.
“I was utterly devastated as I felt I had lost my femininity and aged another 20 years, all at once. It was so much worse than losing a breast to cancer, because that could be fixed – I had undergone a reconstruction. Not for a second was I not grateful to be alive, but I thought it so unfair that I did not look the same as I did before the cancer tsunami struck. Looking in the mirror every day is a constant reminder of what I have been through,” said Christine on A Head of Our Time, Living with Persistent Chemo-Induced Alopecia, a support group website for people who have permanently lost their hair due to chemotherapy.
Each of these alopecia sufferers is boldly speaking out in the media or through blogs about what they have suffered. Another voice is Jade Jarvis, 24, who after suffering with alopecia areata since she was 16 has recently chosen to blog about her experiences. After the sudden loss of her eyesight in her right eye, which is linked to her autoimmune disease, Jarvis felt emboldened to speak out.
“This inspired me to publicly announce my alopecia by starting this blog to share my story and to let others know that they are not alone. Only now do I realise that it is not something to be ashamed of, and knowing that there are other people out there with the same condition as me has been extremely comforting,” she wrote. “I hope that my story will encourage others to feel confident with the condition that they are living with, and if I can make just one person feel better about themselves I will be happy.”
She has also started a petition for Apple to create male and female bald emojis, according to the Eastbourne Herald.
“There are plenty of politically correct emojis just none clearly showing a person without hair. I feel that by adding a bald male AND female we could spread awareness and make this sensitive subject more socially acceptable,” she said in her blog post asking people to show support and sign the petition.
“I know so many people would feel more confident in themselves if they could use this emoji when uploading photos to their Instagram or Snapchat! It’s who they are, and they shouldn’t be afraid to show it!”