Since my hair started to fall out and being diagnosed with alopecia, I have been asked many questions. Questions that to start with, I had no idea of the answer and to be honest, there are still some where I need to research the answer. But I thought, with it being alopecia awareness month, I would try my best to answer some questions that people have sent to me or that I have been asked in the past. I hope it’s insightful but I would like to point out here that these are the answers I give and from what I have researched. I have answered them to the best of my ability and knowledge due to my personal experience.
What is alopecia?
Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss. It is an auto immune disease where your body is tricked into thinking hair follicles are foreign bodies and therefore get rid of them.
There are many types of alopecia but the ones you will hear about most are areata, totalis and universals. Alopecia areata is when you lose small patches or one more extensive patch on your head, alopecia totalis is total loss of hair on the scalp and alopecia universalis is total loss of hair all over the body.
Who can be affected by alopecia?
Men, women and children of any age can get alopecia.
Is it hereditary?
It may be hereditary but there is no proof, chances are slim with possibly only one in five cases being linked to heritage.
Is alopecia caused by stress?
Again, stress can be a cause but there is not enough evidence to prove the connection. It is more likely that stress is the trigger to an underlying autoimmune problem which can then lead to hair loss.
Will your hair grow back?
You can never predict when or how much will fall out and equally you can’t predict if and when it will grow back.
Do you feel ill because of alopecia?
Alopecia doesn’t make you feel sick and you can’t catch it but you do have to be careful when in the sun and cover your head with sunscreen or wear a hat. If you lose your eyelashes your eyes become much more sensitive so sunglasses often need to be worn. I have also read about people with alopecia universalis who have lost their nose hair so suffer more with hay fever and when they have a cold, their nose runs much more easily.
I can only speak for myself here when I say that although it hasn’t made me feel ill, it has affected me mentally and emotionally. It has totally altered my view of myself, it’s robbed me of my confidence and my ability to accept who I am as a woman.
Is hair loss painful?
Your scalp can feel tingly and itchy before the hair falls out but it isn’t painful.
Why don’t you wear a wig?
In my case it’s for two reasons.
1: because of other problems, my head and scalp is extremely sensitive with constant pins and needles which means that I can’t have anything on my head because it causes so much discomfort.
2: I’m not totally sure how I feel about wearing a wig. The few times I did wear Brian or Adams (my wigs’ names!) I found it even more distressing having to take them off as it reminded me that it isn’t my own hair, it’s a mask, a costume that doesn’t belong to me. Wearing turbans or hats is much more “normal” as you’d take them off at the end of the day anyway. It’s totally personal to each person, but as long as you feel comfortable, that’s all that matters. Never do anything to please others, just because wearing a wig may put them more at ease, it doesn’t mean you have to.
Does the heat affect you?
YES! It makes my head very itchy and painful – never forget your suncream!
Is there a plus side to being bald?
This is an interesting one. In some ways it depends on the day and how I’m feeling about the situation! Anything I write here isn’t really a plus side because really, I’d love to be in any of this predicaments but…. I get to save money on shampoo, hair products and hair cuts BUT I’m a woman and I miss all of these things. I love having my hair done and would give anything to be able to book an appointment and be made to feel nice. I try to find humour in situations where I can, so when friends are commenting on how annoying the wind is because it will mess up their hair, I have a little chuckle because, well, I don’t have that problem! Someone once said to me, “at least you don’t have to deal with bad hair days anymore!”…really?! Although my days are ‘no hair days’ I kind of consider them bad hair days every day too.
Is there a cure?
At the moment, no. There are many treatments, some of which I’ve tried, topical steroid cream, minoxidil, which comes in mens regaine treatment, cortisone injections, light treatments and various other ointments, lotions and potions. Each treatment has different outcomes for different people. For me, none have worked. It’s worth trying things but there is never a guarantee.
How easy is it to tie a head scarf or turban?
For me.. not easy at all! I am useless and know that I should really watch a few more YouTube tutorials and spend time practising! But there are so many amazing websites that sell easy tie turbans, they are little caps with two strips of material that you just have to twist and tie or even better, all done for you and you put it on like a hat…my kind of turban for sure!
Do you have cancer?
This is such a tough one. SO many random strangers have offered me their sympathy when I’ve been out and asked how my treatments going and I always feel guilty about telling them, actually, I “only” have alopecia. It’s interesting then how quickly they change their tone and walk off. But I will never forget the conversation I had with a lady when I was out who had asked me about the turban I was wearing. I would never had guessed she was wearing a wig, but she told me she’d just finished her latest chemo round and wanted something lighter than a wig. When I told her I “only” had alopecia, she gave me a huge hug and said she was sorry for assuming and that I should never feel bad for saying I didn’t have cancer and just had alopecia. She said that hair loss had been the worst part about cancer for her and that she felt for me because in her case, she knew at some point her hair would return but that for me, there was that element of uncertainty. She was a wonderful woman, who finished our chat by saying that, hair or no hair, we were both amazing, kick ass women. That chat meant so much.
Do you mind me asking why you choose to shave your head? (not asked by anyone I know – always strangers!)
Yes I do, F**k off! (that’s what I’d like to say!) I mean, how often do you stop a stranger and say, “do you mind me asking why you choose to be in a wheelchair?” or “why do you choose to dye your hair pink?” NO! It’s rude! Although shaving your head may be a choice for some people, this is NOT a choice for me. I don’t like it but that’s how it is! I read an amazing post somewhere the other week, on the same day I’d been asked this question in Holland & Barret and did my usual response of “oh I have alopecia” whilst blowing a gasket inside! The woman posted that she’d been asked this question and out of nowhere, she just responded, “only if you don’t mind me asking why you choose to have such a shit hair cut?!” PURE BRILLIANCE!!!!! I just wonder if I’d ever have the guts to say it to someone!
Why don’t you wear your Bob Marley hat?
Because Carly, I am saving that beauty for when I come to visit and arrive at the airport!
So, that’s the end of my alopecia Q&A blog, I hope you’ve learnt something from it and if you have any other questions, just ask away!
One week left of Alopecia Awareness Month so keep spreading awareness, let me know if you do anything and don’t forget to use the hash tags #hairlesshannah and #alopeciaawarenessmonth
Have a lovely weekend.