Chill out Tuesday

Hello! Welcome to the second Tuesday blog. This week I’m going to be doing a blog that has been requested by a couple of people…how to have the ultimate chill out evening. Learning to unwind and de-stress is so important in the world we live in. Every one of us will have something that riles us up over the course of a week whether it be work related, personal worries and stresses or the fact that traffic and road rage destroyed our day from the out set! Therefore it is so important to take time to focus on you. To realise that the most important thing to focus on is you, because if you aren’t taking time out to restore your batteries you won’t be any good to anyone!

Everyone will have different ideas for what their ultimate chill out evening will involve. Mine however includes baths, pampering, beauty products, PJs and either a good book, chilled music or my favourite TV programme or film.

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The main part of my chill out evening is my bath. I will start the bath running while I gather all my bits and bobs to create the perfect setting. Dimmed lights and a nice scented candle (for me a Bath & Body Works one every time) always make the mood immediately calming. Once the bath is starting to fill I will pop in my LUSH product of choice. If I have a Bath Bomb like I did in these photos, I will also add in some Sanex unscented bubbles so that I get colour and bubbles! Some people do choose to throw in a Bath Bomb and a Bubble Bar but for me that becomes too expensive. At this point I will also put my towel on the radiator (in the colder months) so that you don’t get that horrid cold shiver when you get out later.

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Here are a selection of the LUSH baths I’ve had and the names just incase you want to go out and have a splurge!

(From L-R)

1 – Northern Lights Bath Bomb   2 – Sunnyside Bubble Bar     3 – Avobath Bath Bomb

4 – Ickle Baby Bot Bath Bamb       5 – Autumn Leaf Bath Bomb    6 – Dragons Egg Bath Bomb

7 – The Experimenter Bath Bomb    8 – Bright Side Bubble Bar   9 – Lava Lamp Bath Bomb

10 – Twilight Bath Bomb

I will then set up my entertainment (!) whilst the bath finishes filling! I normally watch something on the iPad which I prop up on the basket next to the bath. Occasionally when I don’t want to concentrate on a screen, I will have my chill out playlist going which is lovely when you’re in a candle lit bath – heaven. I do chop and change the playlist but just incase anyone is interested, I’ve listed the songs that have made the cut at the moment for you:

  1. Patty Griffin – Up to the Mountain
  2. Gallant – Weight in Gold
  3. The Beach Boys – God Only Knows
  4. Simply Red – For you Babies
  5. All Saints – Pure Shores
  6. The Script – I’m Yours
  7. John Legend – Stay with You
  8. Kelly Clarkson – Breakaway
  9. Ray LaMontagne – Trouble
  10. Coldplay – Us Against the World
  11. Beverley Knight – First Time
  12. James Taylor – Sweet Baby James
  13. Otis Redding – These Arms of Mine
  14. Bruno Mars – Count on Me
  15. Jack Johnson – Banana Pancakes

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Obviously I wash (shock horror) whilst in the bath and due to my skin sensitivity I have to be careful with what I use. I find that the scented Dove products are fine for me or I opt for Johnsons. I love using a body puff as it allows your shower gel to go further and I find them gentler on my skin compared to sponges or flannels. I’ve got a bright yellow one at the moment which was given to me as a ‘piece of sunshine’ which always makes me smile! Since being in Dubai I have definitely started looking after my skin more. I exfoliate once or twice a week and my go to product is called ‘Rub Rub Rub’ and yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s a LUSH product. It’s bright blue in colour but has a fresh but not overwhelming scent and isn’t harsh on the skin.

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Once a week I will give myself a face mask or face exfoliation when I’m in the bath. I absolutely love using Clarins Doux Polissant which is a gentle refiner and has tiny microbeads resulting in an extremely gentle but effective face exfoliation. Although cheap and cheerful, I find the face masks from Superdrug are really lovely. I really like the Manuka Honey Peel Off mask but I have never had a bad experience with any in this range so I’d highly recommend them.

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You may find that depending on how long you want to stay in the bath, you may have to top up the hot water which is no big problem. Something I have never owned but am tempted by is a bath pillow, the better ones have little suction pads underneath so you can position it perfectly without worrying that it’s going to slip.

Once you’re ready to get out, make sure you have your choice of body moisturiser ready. I go for Dr Organic Aloe Vera Skin Lotion or another LUSH product called Dream Cream. Both are so refreshing on the skin and sink in quickly and aren’t greasy. It’s easy to forget to look after your feet so I always include them in my moisturising regime after a bath! My favourite foot cream is called, ‘Best Foot Forward Foot Butter with Peppermint Oil’ by Dirty Works. I get mine from Sainsbury’s but I’m sure you could find it elsewhere. Once the cream is well rubbed in, pop on some cotton socks and this will ensure that the cream is fully absorbed leading to maximum mositurisation.

Then you need to look after your face. I either use the Dr Organic Aloe Vera face cream or the Clinique Moisture Surge however, Dream Cream can also be used on your face. Twice a week I also like to apply Clinque’s ‘All About Eyes’ cream which is a moisture surge for the under eyes, reducing the size and colour of circles. Then a little layer of Vaseline to keep your lips moisturised too is a must do.

I always have my baths when I know all of my other jobs are done and anything that’s needed first thing in the morning is ready to go. That means I can then either get straight into bed and spend some time reading or continuing to listening to calming music or I can snuggle up under a blanket and watch some TV. Something that I would recommend is to not have any screen time i.e TV, iPad, phone, computer within the last hour before you are going to sleep. I find that when I do this, I get to sleep much quicker and sleep much more deeply and wake up feeling more refreshed the next day.

As strange as it is, I don’t like hot drinks but I know that many people find having a hot tea or hot chocolate helps them relax and sleep better too. Some people will even have this when they are in the bath although it’s more common for people to have a glass of wine or a soft drink whilst soaking! Each to their own!

I have always been a stickler for making my bed in the morning because then when it comes to bedtime, you are getting into a welcoming bed rather than one of mess and chaos which would destroy your relaxation of the last few hours! There’s nothing better than sinking into a freshly made with plumped up pillows and warm covers! My most relaxing evenings are aways made better when it’s been sheet washing day – I’m sure most of us will agree that fresh sheets are one of life’s true luxuries…or maybe that’s just me!! Sadly, alopecia has only robbed me of hair from the neck up but that does mean that the fab feeling of getting into a freshly made bed with newly shaved legs hasn’t been taken from me! Some men will never understand the joy of that feeling!

So there you have it, a simple yet fulfilling way to spend an evening which will guarantee you have a happy and productive day when you wake up.

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Happy Tuesday!

#hairlesshannah

History of #HairlessHannah’s hairstyles

Hair, or lack of it is one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place. Since losing my hair, it’s made me obsessed with looking at people’s hairstyles and I find myself longing to be able to brush my own hair, wash it, dry it, straighten in, curl it…all the things that when I had it, I found a drag! Hair was always the feature that I loved most about myself so I find it so hard that I no longer have that, there really isn’t much I like let alone love about myself now.

Over the years I have had so many different styles so I thought I’d take some time to look back at the good, bad and ugly decisions I’ve made and share them with you!

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So here I am, age two, blissfully unaware of the child abuse my parents have inflicted upon me!! As Jack said the other day, it is like they picked up the bowl from the table, plonked it on my head, cut round it, placed it back on the table and poured my cornflakes in! I have to say though, when watching back video footage of me dancing to Kylie, this hairstyle does have the most amazing swish about it that no other hairstyle could produce – every cloud!

As you can see here, over the following year, I just grew the hair out into a mohawk/the most incredible bowl hair cut you ever did see – simply horrendous!

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

Ah, age 4 and the hair is slightly better, grown out in a softer style with a much improved fringe. However….let’s talk about the outfit choice. Wow. I mean, I am obviously suitably happy with my clothes, the pose oozes confidence and just look at the stance and the hand! Yes, I do believe I styled that out beautifully even if it does look like Maria from The Sound of Music has pulled down more curtains to create this atrosity!

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

Two years later and I have to say, the hair is looking good! I loved having long hair, mum enjoyed crimping it and I remember loving laying at the end of mum and dads bed with my hair hanging over the edge and Dad brushing it with my much-loved orange brush, pretending to be Vidal Sassoon! I often just wore it down but I did like having pony tails and occasionally rocked some bunches. It was the 90’s!

Not being one to keep a style for long, by my seventh birthday I went for the chop! From long locks to my first ever, grown up, silky bob! From then on, the trusty bob often became my go to hair cut, it’s always suited my face shape – so I’m told – and I always found it quick to wash, dry and style. I loved this cut and was thrilled at my choice!

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

Oh good lord. What. Was. I. Thinking?? Why did my parents let me do this? Why did my hairdresser let me do this? Oh the shame! From my gorgeous bob to this. At this stage of my life, let’s just say I wasn’t yet ‘developed’ and I will never forget the day the balloon man at Stone Park Farm said to me, “Yes young man, what would you like?” I died on the spot and from that moment on I regretted this hair style.

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

Then I stumbled across this little beauty! Mum used to take Jack and I to have professional photos each year when we were younger – what you can’t quite see if the very fetching waistcoat I was wearing over a white shirt, I was so classy! The hairstyle is gradually starting to grow out and yes, it is in great condition but I look at this photo and see a nine-year old styled as a forty-year old woman!!

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

Luckily, and ironically, my hair always grew super fast so by the time I was almost ten, the hair had grown out and the trusty bob was back – hallelujah! (seriously, I was such a poser though wasn’t I!)

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

I can’t believe I am actually putting this photo out there for all to see! There is literally nothing positive about this photo! The hair has grown again but is just hanging there with the most hideous, neon, looped headband ever to grace this Earth. Then we move down to the braces – I was so uncomfortable with those on and remember really not wanting to go to have these photos done but I’m glad in many ways because otherwise there would be no documentation of this stage of my life. I won’t even comment on the top apart from saying , 5, a fan before they even became a band!

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

I was such an awkward teen! I felt awkward in my body and awkward in my style but this night I was going to a party and clearly figured that shoving a fake white flower (all the rage in 2002) in my hair was going to make everything better. It didn’t.

Now, finally, these are photos I can look at and think, yes, I got it right here! I had lost a shed load of weight, had my highlights done and went from a long bob to a graduated bob which has to be my all time favourite. I had also discovered straighteners here which changed my life!

2008 saw two very different styles (as you can tell, I really am one to experiment with my hair which is why I miss it so much!) I went from very light blonde to a gorgeous chocolate colour. However, that didn’t last long, I had got quite fond of my blonde hair and I missed the graduated bob too so, I changed it back again! I was lucky here because I had vouchers for a make over day so I had the colour and cut included in the day and they did a really good job. That is something I really miss and something I took for granted at the time – actually having my hair done and having control over it and being able to make choices. I loved being able to reinvent my image and I loved having my head massaged and being pampered.

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

A year later I let the bob grow out but had a wispy fringe cut in – thicker, fuller fringes were okay for me when I was younger but they aren’t for me now. This style of fringe didn’t bother me too much and on days that I didn’t want it, I was able to simply clip it back – perfect.

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

Here we go again – you can see the pattern here can’t you?! Blonde to brown, short to long, fringe to no fringe – I really did like changing things up on a regular basis! I do enjoy having darker hair, I’ve never been brave enough to go black. It is much cheaper to maintain as you don’t get the whole root problem but I have to say, having lighter hair is my favourite. At one point I did go short and red at uni, sadly there isn’t any photographic evidence of this, or that I could find at least and I have to say, I’m quite glad about that!

It seems like the art of crimping came back into my life in 2011. Only for fancy dress purposes of course but actually, I quite liked it! My hair here was long enough to put up in a pony-tail which I quite enjoyed but also, I purchased the doughnut rings and experimented with using them. I may like to change my hairstyles and colours frequently but don’t let this fool you, I was never very good at the actual styling. I mostly went for a side clip, the occasional poofy back clipped fringe thingy-ma-bob and when I was feeling especially creative, would pop in a bow, I know, get me! So using the doughnut was a challenge. I did achieve the required look a few times but the time it took to get there wasn’t worth the end result! At one point I  did spend some time learning how to curl my hair using straighteners which I grew quite fond of. It was nice to have a bit of volume and I enjoyed mixing it up.

Then we come almost up to date. When I moved to Dubai it became clear quite quickly that hair was going to be an issue! The weather meant that keeping any style for a prolonged period of time without using a ridiculous amount of products was quite unobtainable due to the heat! But also, finding a decent hairdresser was like finding a needle in a haystack. Amongst our group of friends we had several disasters and tears shed over the most hideous cuts known to man. Frustratingly, once I did find a good one who did my highlights and styled it beautifully, one month later it all fell out! Blinking typical! I loved living just down the corridor from my friends though, especially friends who knew how to do pretty things with your hair! I became quite accustomed to a french plait!

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

This is the last photo I took before my hair started to fall out again. As you can see, I really didn’t do much with my hair in Dubai and the trusty hit clips could be found most days keeping my hair out of my hot face! Also – please note that we are very happy in this picture because we are at the most amazing cinema with blankets and reclining seats! One of the things I miss most about Dubai!

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

So there you have it, the history of my hair! I have only included this one photo of the last year or so – I am currently styling out my Lidocaine patches like a badger – much easier than doughnut rings and curling tongs! But if you’re new to the blog, check out my post called, ‘Hair today, gone tomorrow’ under the category titled ‘Alopecia’ to fill in the blanks.

At the moment I do still have the hope that one day my hair will grow again, whether that be next week, month, year or decade. One day I will learn to properly style my hair and not worry about spending money to treat it like it deserves. Look after your hair guys and gals, because like many things, you don’t realise how much it plays a part in your life until it’s gone.

Have a fab weekend,

#hairlesshannah

 

 

Christmas present haul

Christmas may be a few weeks ago now – I know, how did that happen? – but I wanted to have a go at doing my first ever haul blog! They are blogs and vlogs that I really enjoy reading and watching, probably because it satisfies the nosy parker in me but also because I like to get ideas for nice gifts for people when an occasion next comes up. I haven’t included every single gift I received but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t love and appreciate each and every one. So before I get started it’s disclosure time…this isn’t about me bragging about what I got, it’s just me having a go at writing a new type of blog.

As with every year, I was so lucky with the gifts I received, most of them being total surprises and I didn’t have one single gift that I needed to exchange or take back – score! The first gifts I want to show are some of the gorgeous LUSH bath bombs and bubble bars I got. I have taken them out of the beautiful gift boxes as I wanted to use them ASAP! Honestly, I know I go on about LUSH a lot and I will be doing a Blog in more detail about baths and relaxation, but seriously, if you haven’t ever shopped there – go. Yes, it is on the pricier side of bath and beauty products but I’d rather have fun baths than a run of the mill, boring, functional bath!

The first set I opened was called ‘Happy Daze.’ It included The Experimenter Bath Bomb, Fizzbanger Bath Bomb, Brightside Bubble Bar and The Comforter Bubble Bar. I was so thrilled with this set because out of the four, three are my favourites  and since trying the Fizzbanger, it’s safe to say this set will now feature on any future wish list!

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The second box was a seasonal Christmas selection box was called ‘Festive Friends.’ Inside were three gorgeous LUSH products: the Butterbear Bath Bomb, Father Christmas Bath Bomb and the Penguin Bubble Bar. You won’t see the Butterbear in the photos because I’ve already used him up! It was another product I’d never tried and again, LUSH didn’t let me down. I’ve always loved a musk scent (who remembers White Musk from The Body Shop?!) so this one suited me to a T.

Whilst on the theme of bath and beauty products, I want to mention the other skin care items I got. My skin has been even more sensitive than usual lately. On one of our many trips to Holland&Barrett, we discovered their skin care section. Mum has restocked my shelves with their Dr. Organic Aloe Vera skin lotion and the concentrated Aloe Vera cream which is the only thing (along with Clinique’s Moisture Surge) that my skin can handle at the moment and I LOVE them. They don’t have a scent as such but they aren’t greasy and dry on your skin quickly which is a positive for me. You don’t need to apply much of any of these Dr. Organic products, they are thick but they go a long way which means you don’t need to buy them frequently so are very cost effective. High Five!

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I also received a gift which will be really useful; it’s called, This Works, Super Sleep Dual Pillow Spray. The set contains two 20ml sprays, a sleep plus pillow spray which is a “fast acting, natural remedy to restore a healthy sleep pattern,” and deep sleep pillow spray which is “a best-selling natural sleep aid that inspires feelings of calm.” An absolutely spot on gift for me at the moment seeing as sleep is very important and can be a painful, disturbed experience.

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I haven’t been able to photograph my next gift because it was in use from Christmas Day! Mum and Dad got me the most amazing Dreamland Intelliheat Premium Fleece Dual Control Fitted Electric Underblanket. Now seriously, anything that’s name is that long and that detailed must be an out of this world product! And on top of that, it was a Which? best buy – wouldn’t expect anything less in terms of research from my Dad! It has two controls which means you can heat one side of the bed or both (I opt for both because I don’t have anyone else to warm up the other side for me!). When you are getting ready for bed you set the controls to ‘quick heat up’ for five minutes and then set the under sheet to your own personal preference once the time is up. You can set it to heat the bed for either one hour or nine. This is my only negative thing about the product – it would be good to have an in-between time setting, like four hours because at the moment, nine hours is too long but an hour is too short – first world problems or what?! Then there are five heating options, the last few nights when its been freezing I’ve gone for five but really, three is the optimal temperature and enables the perfect nights sleep. All old woman jokes aside, I really have found that it’s helped with my muscle pain during the night. Like with hot baths, heat does seem to ease pain and I haven’t felt as stiff when I wake up (!) Honestly, one of the best presents I have EVER recieved! I believe Mum and Dad got it from John Lewis but I’m sure there are other places it can be purchased from too.

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Next up are books. I got four this year and all serve a different purpose!

  • First up, Mum and Dad gave me a  Dorling Kindersley photography book aimed at helping beginners. It takes you through everything you will need to know as a beginner and uses step by step pointers and photos which is a real positive for me as I’m a visual learner. It teaches you about ISO, aperture and shutter speed as well as shooting in various locations, lights and photographing  different subjects. Photography is a hobby I want to learn more about this year so I was really chuffed with this book.
  • Then I opened my annual diary from WH Smith’s. It’s a beautiful, bright, butterfly themed, page a day diary which is what I have used since I was twelve! Spot on Mum – thanks.
  • Next I opened a hilarious book from a friend entitled, ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight. I’ve heard so many people talk about this book, although the title is funny, having browsed over the first few pages, it seems like there will be lots of things to take from the book to implement into my life. I’m looking forward to reading it and will feed back once I’m finished!
  • Then finally I received, ‘The Christmasaurus’ by Tom Fletcher – yup, the guy from the band McFly! He is also the author of the series of children’s books, ‘The Dinosaur that Pooped…..’ series. As a teacher, I know that children adore these books and as an avid follower of Tom on YouTube, I’d followed his writing and publishing process, so was excited to get my hands on the finished product. The book has already been commissioned for a stage show next Christmas and is being made into an animated movie – amazing, what a talented guy.

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I have an inkling that people may have picked up on the fact that I am partial to a quote here and there! The plaques and shaped quote gifts I received were all so lovely, meaningful and ones that Dad is going to have to come and put up for me – I mean, what else is he going to do with all this time on his hands now?! I don’t know where they are from but if you like the look of them as gifts for people, all you need to do is search the internet and you will be bombarded by similar things. They may not be big or expensive gifts but personally, I think they are a perfect sentimental gift for someone you care about. The one Mum gave me about socks, is an example of one that isn’t soppy but one that I will read over and over and always have a little chuckle to myself because we all know it’s so true!

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You will also see that I received my own personalised recipe book – so cool! I already have one but it’s the one I was given when I went to Uni and it’s quite small and won’t fit in the recipes I find in magazines etc. So this one is perfect. I am going to transfer the recipes into the new book but also make sure I cut and stick in the recipes that Mum hand wrote because they hold a sentimental value to me. There’s something about keeping handwritten recipes that hold a bit of family history in my opinion.

Luckily my friends know me very well! I received three, yes three Mahogany Teakwood Bath and Body Works candles! One all the way from Chicago and two from Dubai – seriously, so happy! I also received one other beautiful candle and a gorgeous, stripped wood tea light holder with butterfly detailing. I don’t have a problem – promise.

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My brother treated me to a necklace that I have had my eye on for ages. It is designed by a lady called Anna Saccone who is part of the Saccone-Joly family who are vloggers on YouTube. Each necklace has a Zodiac design on which means you can buy in accordance to the recipients star sign. You can choose from silver, rose gold or silver gold plated and they come in L, M or S sizes which is a great feature. Mine has the Taurus sign and is in rose gold, it came in a beautiful display box and included the story behind the designs. Anna sells these pieces on stilnest.com and she also designs Zodiac style charms and bracelets. Beautiful gifts for all ages, I would highly recommend.

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I wanted to feature the gorgeous tree decorations I received. You may see a pattern occurring here – I may possibly like penguins! All three are from from three different friends and I love them all. One is a wood carved decoration with my named carved into one side and a Christmas penguin into the other. The next one is a glass Christmas penguin and the third is a glitter covered, more traditionally shaped bauble and I love him! Also along the penguin theme, a friend bought me a penguin pen which I will use to plan future blogs – another quirky, fun gift.

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Finally, I wanted to mention a gift that you won’t be able to find or buy anywhere but that I am in love with. When I went to Egypt I purchased some beautiful material from a market at such a cheap price and had the idea that I wanted to use it for a throw or some kind. I mentioned it to Mum and Dad when I brought it home but never noticed that it had disappeared! So when I opened up the most beautiful quilt/bed throw and pillow on Christmas morning, I was in total shock! It was beyond what I had imagined for the material and I will treasure it forever. It was made by one of mum’s friends from choir and I would highly recommend her if you need anything like this made, she has done such a great job.

So there you have it, my first haul!  I hope you enjoyed it and that you may have some gift ideas for the coming year, let me know what gifts you loved this Christmas…that way I can continue to indulge in my nosiness!

Happy weekend!

#hairlesshannah

 

Raising Eyebrows

This week I took back some more control, made my own sunshine, put my anxiety to one side and got two tattoos…on my face! Yes, people, I am now the proud owner of two, brand spanking new, hair stroke eyebrows that, even if I do say so myself, look pretty damn awesome! As with everything recently, I have had my eyes opened to a whole new arena: I never thought I’d ever get a tattoo or have semi permanent make-up but as with everything else, if it makes you feel better – do it.

As with most things like this, it’s better to go somewhere that has been recommended. I have started following so many inspirational women with alopecia on Instagram and one posted photos of her ‘new’ eyebrows that she had done in Canterbury. It had taken her four years to make her decision but she said how there were no regrets and she’d prompt anyone thinking about it to just take the plunge.

So, I started by ringing Evolution Skin Studios in Canterbury and had a lovely conversation with Helen Porter who owns the business. I knew almost immediately that this place was the real deal: she was calm, patient in answering my questions and very encouraging. I took time to then look at her Facebook page at eyebrows that she’d done (search:Semi Permanent Make up by Helen Porter) and then spoke to mum about whether she thought it was a good idea. The waiting list was 7 weeks for Helen but I opted to have mine done by Steph and, within a week, I found myself laying on the treatment bed!

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Strangely, I wasn’t as nervous as I had expected to be – probably because it surely couldn’t be as bad as my acupuncture experiences in the last week…I won’t be going back to that woman! Yes, I was nervous because these tattoos, although semi permanent, would be on my face for at least a year before they start to fade, so they had to be done right – both shape and colour wise. I had my wonderful friend Claire with me who I knew would be honest about what suited me or not which also put my mind at ease and she was given the job of being photographer for the day to document the experience!

So, we started by looking at photographs of my natural hair colour and eyebrows so Steph could see what I was used to. She then started measuring my face – who’d have ever thought my face would be a blank canvas for an artist to draw on?! It seemed very mathematical – measuring from my nose out, having them set 3cms apart and using a rather heavy duty, ticklish piece of apparatus to do so!

Next, Steph set to work drawing on the template for my eyebrows – yes, we got the giggles and yes Claire had to step away with the camera because if this part went wrong I would have looked either permanently surprised or permanently naffed off! I then had to look in the mirror and decide if I liked the shape that had been drawn on – we edited them a little but overall, I was really happy. I was shocked at the colour and had to be reminded that this was just the template and it was block colour rather than hair strokes which is what I would have eventually. I must admit, I did feel like Boy George at this stage and did have a moment of doubt!

 

A question that I asked and many have asked me since, is did it hurt? The first outline did hurt, more so on my right hand side which is obviously where my weakness is at the moment but it wasn’t an unbearable pain. Helen did the outline and was very gentle and talked to me throughout which made me feel more comfortable. Once the initial outline was done, anaesthetic was applied and from then on I could barely feel a thing. In fact, it was the first time in five months that I didn’t have the irritating pins and needles in that part of my face and it was heaven. Once the initial hair strokes were in place, they had to be re traced twice more and then Helen came back to apply the powder base to give the final overall effect.

 

I then had another chance to look in the mirror and check to see if I wanted anything changed. One seemed slightly darker than the other so Steph adjusted that but apart from that, they were done.

For the first time in months I looked in the mirror and felt more like ‘me’ which was totally overwhelming. I knew how much losing my eyebrows had changed me emotionally but hadn’t realised just how much until they were back. Eyebrows change the shape of your face by giving  definition but I also felt like I had a bit more colour in my cheeks and that my smile was better placed. Obviously there were tears but for once, they were tears of joy and pure happiness.

relief

Aftercare was explained to me – no getting them wet or touching them for a week. They would scab over so needed to be coated in bepanthen cream using a cotton bud twice a day. I was also warned that because I have alopecia, the dye may not take as easily as it would for ‘normal’ skin but I wasn’t to worry, it would just mean that I possibly would need two top up sessions rather than one. I must admit I did make a panicked call to them this morning when little patches started to come off but as I’d never had tattoos before, how was I supposed to know that was normal?! The only thing I can compare it to is henna; the dark layer will fall off and leave me with the lighter tattoo underneath – I was a little worried at how dark they were but am confident that this isn’t the final colour I’ll be left with.

Claire said afterwards that it was already hard for her to remember what I looked like without my eyebrows but when we compared, side by side, it became even more apparent what a difference two strips of hair can make. When I think about that, it makes me excited for when my head hair comes back, I can’t even begin to imagine how that will make me feel. In a way, I’m almost frightened to let myself think that far ahead in case it doesn’t grow back but I must admit, it’s a nice thought.

before after brows

I paid £195 for the 2 hour session and the top up in five weeks is £75. I know this sounds like a lot of money, and it is. I would NEVER go out and spend that amount of money on myself but as my dad would say when buying a pair of jeans, spend your money in a good shop and you’ll save money in the long run! You can pay more for eyebrows, even in Evolution, because different levels of experience warrant a different price label, however, I cannot praise Steph and Helen enough. They were simply amazing and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone. It’s amazing the range of treatments they offer and I’m unsure they are aware how life changing what they do for people like me is; within that 2 hour session they transformed me from a  girl who couldn’t look in the mirror to someone who could look in the mirror and smile again, and for me, there is no price tag for that.

selfie

Now, as you know, when I got my wigs, we gave them names – Brian and Adam – because calling them ‘wigs’ somehow just seemed, for me/us, a hard term to get to grips with. So, naturally, trying to make light of tough decisions, I’d asked Cathy what she thought we should name my new eyebrows. Initially, we couldn’t think of any girl duos so we came up with possibles: Pinky and Perky, Ant and Dec, Bill and Ben. However, when I sent Cathy a photo of my new additions, she sent me a text that I will keep and treasure forever. Amongst friends, Cathy is known for her loooooong text messages because she likes to get all the details in and we love her for them, so when I could she was writing back, I was thinking, uh oh – what names has she got for them now?! But, in actual fact she sent a rather short text and in true Cathy form (known to be one of the only people to just give me a look and make me cry!) instantly made me cry because she hit the nail on the head:

“No name for them darling as they look so real why would we normally give our eyebrows names?! So, they’re just naturally now called, your eyebrows xxx.”

That was SUCH a special text to receive from such a special person to me and I will never be able to properly put into words how right she was.

Wednesday was my longest, most eventful day I’ve had since I became ill. I had the doctor first thing which I walked to (I’m trying to walk a mile every other day to build my strength up – excruciating but needs must) and then Claire took me to Canterbury. It was lovely as we had a nice lunch before my appointment and then we headed straight home but it meant I’d been out for almost 8 hours. I was on a bit of a high with my eyebrows but boy have I paid in spoons ever since. I’ve had a real flare, exhaustion like I haven’t felt in several weeks; I’ve slept so much more – with the help of new dose of tablets from the doctor – but my muscular pain has been so much worse alongside my sensitivity to light and sound. Don’t get me wrong, Wednesday was totally worth it, I just have to learn from it – I’m not ready for BIG days out yet, I didn’t pace it right, I probably should have got the bus to the doctors rather than walked as I did a lot of walking in Canterbury but, you live and learn and for now, I’ve just got to build my spoons back up again.

Also, I had some more sunshine thrown my way this week from an ex-colleague and friend who organised a cake sale at her hairdresser’s and raised £72 for Alopecia UK which is just amazing. Thank you Alison, your support has been fantastic. Also – thank you to those of you who have sponsored Jane for her run for Alopecia UK, every penny counts and doesn’t go unnoticed, both Jane and myself are very grateful.

 

To sign off today’s blog with something to make you smile, for some random reason my iPod souffléd to Jay Z the night I’d had my eyebrows done – 99 problems – and in my hysteria, without thinking, I changed up the lyrics – “I’ve got 99 problems but my brows aren’t one!” Gotta make my own sunshine right?!

brows

Hairless Hannah xx

Different is beautiful

different is beautiful

What is the definition of beautiful? What does it mean to you?

It’s a word that people use often; what a beautiful sunset, a beautiful wedding dress, a beautiful flower, a beautiful person. When it’s used to describe something about  you, it makes you feel on top of the world, it’s an adjective that evokes an emotion that’s indescribable. But recently I’ve had to really think about this word because there is nothing about me that feels ‘beautiful’ right now. That’s nothing to do with anything anyone has said to me, it’s just how I feel about myself because of how I have grown up with society’s definition of beauty.  This is sad because our appearance shouldn’t be something that defines beauty, it should be the hidden beauty, the actual person, the soul, that makes the definition.

I’ve been reading about and following a lot of very inspirational people on social media and seeing the confidence they exude in front of the camera without any hair. They are redefining the meaning of beauty by making bald normal and acceptable. They aren’t ashamed, they aren’t hiding it away, that is who they are and they are proud of that. Being ill, loosing your hair, it makes you acutely aware of how the public perceives you and how society portrays beauty. Hair is something that we don’t think twice about unless we are having a bad hair day – it’s true, if your hair is good, then typically you feel good.  But when that element of beauty and feminity is taken away, you have to find other things to feel good about or learn to feel good having bald as your new hair style!

define beauty

As humans we pass judgements on people on the TV, people we drive past on the street, in shopping centres – that doesn’t look good on her, that really doesn’t suit her, what a horrible colour….it’s something we all do and infact, I did this morning. Whilst in the car with dad we drove past a woman with bright orange hair and I said, “why on earth would you want your hair that colour?” Well Hannah, she has hair, she is allowed to dye it whatever colour she blimmin’ well wants, it’s her choice and her choice alone and if it makes her feel happy and good about herself, nobody else matters! Hair does not define beauty, only we get to define ourselves.

The more I thought about it and researched, the more I realised a few things. Men who shave their heads are, on the whole, seen as more masculine, sexy – you don’t assume they’re ill and feel sorry for them but for women, it is assumed you’re ill, probably cancer because why on earth would you want to shave your head otherwise?! Or it is widely perceived that she is now deemed less attractive or sexy to those around her because hair is quite strongly linked to how attractive a woman is – do you prefer blonde or brunette – bald is never an option. One example sprang to mind; the episode of Friends when Bonnie shaves her head. Rachel actively encourages her to shave her hair off because she knows Ross will hate it, not find it attractive and will therefore definitely take Rachel back. They laugh at her, mock her, no one wants to touch it and when they do – “you can feel the skull”. Yes, it’s an episode of Friends and a funny one at that but I must admit, now I am a self confessed Baldie myself, it’s things like that that put worries into my mind about how people perceive me.

adam levine

This picture was brought to my attention this week and you could say was the catalyst to me writing this blog post.  Adam Levine, the absolutely gorgeous lead singer of Maroon 5. He hasn’t got alopecia, or cancer, he decided that he wanted to shave his hair – so what?! When I Googled it I was horrified at the search results and some of the headlines:

  • “Adam Levine shaves head, causes internet heartbreak.”
  • “Adam Levine shaves head, internet freaks out.”
  • “Adam Levine shaves his head and sends the internet reeling with sorrow.”

Hair is NOT everything. Yes, at the moment for me, it feels like everything because I don’t have any and I also don’t have any control over it but I am trying to train my brain into accepting that hair or no hair, I’m still me and my hair doesn’t have anything to do with that. I can’t let it define me. But seeing things like this on the internet doesn’t help. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but sometimes, as Thumper would say:

thumper1

Hairless Hannah

xx

*******************************************************************

you are my sunshine

As promised, here are the sunshine points of my week!

  • Feeling happy that I’ve managed to keep alive the lucky bamboo plant a friend gave me last week – believe me, I am not green fingered at all, this is a real achievement!
  • My light box was delivered and although the men in the house disagree, I think it  is amazing!
  • Having a visit from one of my best friends and her gorgeous baby and seeing what a wonderful mother she is.
  • Receiving several bits of post (I love post!) which made me smile.
  • Getting a message from an ex colleague who has organised with her hairdresser to have a cake morning and raise money for Alopecia UK – just amazing, thank you so much x
  • Starting to feel the benefits from reflexology and reiki.
  • Shaving my own head. I managed a few minutes in front of the mirror but have now realised I don’t need one, I can shave my head quite well by feeling..my talent is endless people!

light box

Hair today, gone tomorrow.

image

So it turns out that the wig buying experience wasn’t as fun as I’d envisioned. I suppose I’d been ignorant to the fact that it was actually going to be a tough day, after all my only experience of wig buying before had been in a fancy dress shop for parties. The discussions I’d had with friends in the lead up had all been jovial and upbeat, I mean the options were endless, I could buy copious amounts of wigs, all different colours and styles, what wasn’t there to be excited about right?! Wrong.

I decided against taking a friend with me, an option suggested by dad…they might be able to help with more current and fashionable styles…this didn’t go down well with mum, she is more than up to date with fashion and current styling thank you very much! I did consider it but the closer it got to the time, I became nervous, mum and dad were my best critics on everything in life so why not on my new hair, they were the only people I needed.

I made an appointment with a shop called Trendco in London. It was recommended by a family friend who also suffers with alopecia. Dad drove us up there which I cannot explain how relieved I was about, in hindsight the thought of dealing with tubes and trains that day would have been too much. Before we left I had the onset of a panic attack which made me cross as I’d kept them so well controlled over the past few years but, a few sprays of Rescue Remedy, a polo, deep breaths and “I’m fine” on repeat, off we went. Actually, I should admit now…I channelled my inner Britney circa 2007, a quote which a brilliant friend put on a mug for me later that week!

image

I didn’t really take in my surroundings when we first got there as I dashed down to use their loo first (mum did after me and returned giggling with a story as per usual, she’d taken a wrong turn and ended up in the stock room full of heads and wigs!) but when I came back up I was astounded at the sheer amount of choice. The walls were floor to ceiling of shelves full of  polystyrene heads with every imaginable style and colour wig….a place we all commented on not wanting to be in the dark! We had looked at the website before coming and earmarked a few we liked and I would recommend doing this otherwise it’s all quite overwhelming.

When I booked my appointment I opted for a private fitting room which again, I’m so glad I did. Jane, my fitter was simply wonderful. So accommodating, calm and helpful. It was quite a small room with bright lights but we all squashed in and there I sat in front of the mirror. I took off my cap and Jane was then able to see my hair colour; if you are losing you hair they suggest taking a sample in so they can colour match for you which is a great idea. She brought in a wig just to try to get us started. On went the wig liner and then it hit me, this is a hint at what I will look like tomorrow when my hair is gone. “I’m fine.” Mum and dad were obviously slightly on edge and nervous too, but carried on smiling and saying all the right things. I didn’t like the first wig so suggested a different style and off Jane went in search. “I’m fine.” The second one was really nice, dad filmed how to put it on and adjust it by finding the two pieces at the front and giving it a wiggle, then place four fingers on your forehead to make sure it’s all in the right place.

I can’t really describe how that moment felt. I knew I preferred this wig to the first one, it was my colouring, from the back it was exactly the same shape as my own hair but, it wasn’t my hair and I felt so detached from it. I liked it but I also resented it. I had a moment where I thought about all the moments over the last few years when I’d been with my closest friends choosing and trying on wedding and bridesmaids dresses and yet here I was trying on wigs. It just didn’t feel fair. This time when Jane left to get a different wig, my lip went and I wasn’t fine. Mum and I had a little cry, dad gave my shoulder a squeeze and then it was ok. I really do think that we have to be strong and positive but you know what, it’s ok not to be fine and it’s ok to let other people know you’re not fine because if they know and love you, they’ll understand.

I realised that all the wigs looked abit odd because by this stage I had also lost my eyelashes so my eyes didn’t look defined. I haven’t been able to wear makeup for almost two months because I have constant pins and needles on my face where my nerve endings are being affected by the auto immune disease, so I just look wiped out and pale which is something new after living in Dubai for two years! The bright lighting didn’t help either so when Jane suggested looking in a mirror in the shop it was a relief to see that actually it didn’t look bad. Infact, it looked so real! The monofilament used on the wigs means it looks like your scalp underneath, it’s just incredible. We did look at other wigs – mum accidentally knocking a wig stand and apologising to it as if it were real woman in the process – but the second one just felt more me. So, that’s the wig I went for. We were talked through how to care for the wig, mine is synthetic not real hair so I have a conditioning spray to use after each outing and I can wash it with special shampoo and conditioner every few months. I was also told to be careful around outdoor heating, not to open an oven door with it on or be near open flames! I chose a collapsable wig stand so it would be easier to pack when travelling to Dubai but again, in hindsight, I’ve since bought a polystyrine head as I think it helps the wig keep its shape more…can’t wait to go through customs next!

I cannot praise the staff at Trendco highly enough. They were so sensitive, encouraging and helpful from the lady on the phone to everyone in the shop on the day. The website is also great, I’ve since bought new head scarves and an extra head! It’s useful to know that if you’re buying a wig for medical purposes – alopecia or cancer – you can fill in a form and get the VAT off your purchases which helps as the wigs are quite expensive.

We went for a drink and lunch after but I couldn’t eat, I actually felt physically sick. Reality was starting to sink in about the decision I’d made. I still didn’t have to go ahead with it as I could tuck my hair into the lining but I would still know what was underneath and I’d still need to see it when I took the wig off plus, Dubai gets hot…wig plus hair wouldn’t be a pretty sight. Talking of pretty sights, I should probably give you some ‘before’ pictures of what my hair looked like the morning of ‘the shave!’ I spent time straightening it which I hadn’t done for weeks as I was too scared to but also because I knew I wouldn’t get that opportunity for a while.

 

I’m glad I woke up the next day with yet more hair on my pillow as it spurred me on to go through with my decision. Dad was going to do it. I had originally asked Jacky: the conversation went like this:

“Jacky, do you think I can cut my hair shorter and then style it as it grows?”

“Do you want my honest opinion Hannah?  If it were me, I’d shave it off and start again.”

“Ok, fine. Lets’ do it. Can you do it now?”

“Now?! Oh, urm…maybe not today…!”

Like mum said, when someone knows and loves you, shaving off their hair is not an easy feat, especially for Jacky who has done my hair since I was five! And actually, I don’t blame her, I don’t think he’d say but I think he was nervous about doing it and rightly put me off until I had a wig to fall back on. Normally dad would do anything for me without hesitation but he had asked a few times if I was sure, if he wanted me to get his local barber to do it after closing time…but I wanted my dad to do it. I trust him implicitly and I wanted someone who loved me and knew how hard this was going to be to do it.

I’d got Jack to measure my remaining hair, 17cm is the minimum length to donate to a charity called ‘Little Princess Trust’ who take donations of human hair to make real hair wigs for children who are suffering from alopecia or cancer. Mine was way over so that’s where we began…with dad and Jack using elastic bands to tie my hair at the top and bottom and measuring each with a ruler…we did have a laugh at that!

image

And then it began, kitchen scissors to chop off the mini ponytails. Again, I hadn’t really thought about the process itself and I certainly hadn’t anticipated being so upset by the sound of the hair being cut. There was no point being accurate or neat, it needed to just come off but I will never forget that sound. Mum was on the iPad, Jack watching TV, all keeping busy, dealing with it in our own ways but as always, together. Once they were all chopped off, like in the shop, I wasn’t fine. I really, really cried. More cuddles, deep breaths and then on we went, I honestly did feel fine after that. We could see a few more patches that I hadn’t yet found but that was ok, they’d soon be invisible too.

image

Then dad set to work, he was indescribably brilliant. We had all sorts out, beard trimmers, shavers…my head was so smooth by the end Jacky would have been proud AND as luck would have it, I actually didn’t have a bad shaped head! Mum did her bit by applying the E45 cream so I didn’t get a shaving rash and that was that, relief. I felt like a wight had been lifted and the next morning I woke up, yes with a cold head (I quickly ordered a very fetching night cap from Trendco!) but with no hair on the pillow, no hair in the plug hole…it just felt amazing, I did cry but with relief. That’s such a fab word isn’t it…relief.

image

 

Now, again, don’t get me wrong, being bald isn’t all fun and games. I found it very difficult in the first few weeks to accept and still have those days now. Dad has to shave my head once a week as the re-growth on the rest of my head is very quick. We don’t ever touch the re-growth on the affected area and one day I know it will catch up. Yes, as people have said,  I will save money on shampoo, mascara etc etc  blah blah blah but all I will say is just bear in mind, I’m a woman. I like buying shampoo and conditioner, I like trying new beauty products, I enjoy washing my hair and going to the hairdresser’s and I can’t do that at the moment and I feel like part of my femininity has been snatched away from me. I think it’s important to remember that yes, “it’s only hair,” yes, “it will grow back,”and yes, I can now “put a wig or scarf on and get out there” but sometimes, like in many situations we find ourselves in, take a second to just imagine how you’d feel in that situation. It’s not always as easy as you’d think, don’t let someone’s smile and the words, “I’m fine,” deceive you, take a bit of time to dig deeper and see if they really could do with cuddle, a chat, a cry and a laugh…in any order!

Over the past few weeks I’ve felt more confident to wear my wig more. I’m getting used to how it feels, it can be uncomfortable, hot and itchy and the wind worries me much more than it ever did but I’m rolling with it.  I’ve never gone out just bald but that’s not to say I never will, it’s just blinking cold at the moment! Oh, and I should probably mention now…we don’t use the term ‘wig’ in our house, mum found it hard to say and as a joke Dad suggested giving it a name and then out of nowhere said, “something random…like Brian?!” I was opposed, surely it should have a female name, but as things tend to go in these situations, Brian stuck.

I did some more research and found a more local Brian shop in Lakeside Shopping Centre called Suzi’s. Mum and I went for a look and again, had such a positive experience. Jo was fantastic, I had another private room where I tried on loads on Brians, this time I could accept the situation more, have a laugh at how ridiculous I looked in a red crop and more importantly face the mirror. I chose a shorter, darker Brian so I have two totally different styles and colours. Mum named it Adams…get it?!… Brian Adams?! So it seems my collection is growing along with my confidence.

I’d like to finish this blog by posing a question…if you have really long hair, could you cope with cutting off 17cm? You know it’ll grow back and you know you’ll be doing it for a good cause. If you know a hairdresser, could you ask them to think about next time they cut a clients hair, why not tie it into 17cm ponytails or plaits and pop them in the post. It takes 6 people’s hair donations to make just one wig for a child, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could get the donations rolling in? If you do decide to do it, let me know so I can post it in my blog.

 

Hairless Hannah

xx