Australian Stefanie Hodgson, 21, completely bald since sixth grade, has suffered from alopecia totalis since age 6. Metro UK shares some of her story and gives her a platform to speak out against her country’s tax on medical wigs.
Alopecia totalis is an autoimmune disease which causes complete loss of hair on the scalp. It is an advanced form of alopecia areata, where hair is lost in round patches. The hair loss can be triggered by stress. Hair can grow back, but the hair loss is often recurring. In extreme cases people have complete hair loss on the scalp and body. This is known as alopecia universalis.
“We talk about alopecia as a hair loss condition but you don’t just lose your hair, especially as a woman you lose your confidence, your self-worth, your femininity and your place to belong,” Hodgson told Metro UK. “I felt like a giraffe in a sea of zebras. The world stopped being beautiful and life became a black hole that I was trying not to fall into.”
For most of her childhood she found wigs a necessity, a protection during a time in her life that was exceedingly challenging.
“It was not being stared at, not being harassed on the street and feeling safe enough to come to terms with the illness on my own,” she explained. “For most people, wigs are just a costume piece or used for self-expression, and they’re considered a cosmetic accessory rather than a medical prosthetic. But for people with alopecia, there is no medicine that will make your hair magically grow back — a wig is the only cure. I don’t know how I would have coped without being able to wear a wig growing up.”
However, the cost was prohibitive. Wigs need replacing every few years. The human hair wig that she wanted in high school cost about $4,000 according to the Herald Sun. It had a suction mechanism that made swimming and playing sports without the wig falling off a possibility. When she was 17, she received a grant from Variety enabling her to purchase the wig.
Even then, as a teen, she was already speaking out against Australia’s 10 percent Goods and Services Tax on wigs.
“The GST tax on wigs in Australia is not only unfair but downright disgusting,” she says now. “It is sickening the government is cashing in on people suffering from medical hair loss conditions. It feels like no one cares.”
Persons with alopecia are not the only ones who need to purchase wigs for medical reasons. Cancer patients often seek the relief of wigs to bring normalcy to their appearance during chemotherapy treatments. Some cancer patients actually find that their hair doesn’t grow back, as permanent alopecia can be a side effect of drugs like Taxotere, and those may decide to purchase wigs for the rest of their lives.