Most people who had a treatment for alopecia areata tried topical steroids. These can come in different forms including gels, creams and ointments.
Becky remembers one which was a “really watery solution” and Grace also had one which felt like “splashing water onto my head”. Rochelle had a steroid topical with a nozzle to help her apply it directly to bald parts of her scalp. Grace remembers using a steroid topical treatment with a sponge to dab it onto patches of hair loss.
Topical steroids are usually applied every day. Becky says it becomes “a habit after a while and you’re so used to it, you just do it all the time”. Laurel put hers on everyday night before bed. Arti and Elizabeth used theirs twice a day: once in the morning after showering and once before going to sleep. Others were told by their doctors to use theirs more often. Emma remembers putting topical steroids on three times a day when she first developed alopecia areata. Becky finds that two bottles of topical steroids is usually enough to last her a few months, but others found they got through lots very quickly and had to go back to the doctors for more.
There were some other downsides of topical steroids mentioned, such as:
- Being difficult to apply;
Some people struggled to reach bald patches or found it too upsetting to touch them. Often they had help with this from a family member, usually their mum.
- Making the surrounding hair greasy or sticky;
Hair clumping together could make bald patches more visible to other people.
- Having an unpleasant smell;
Arti said the smell was “odd” and she tried to mask it with perfumes so other people wouldn’t notice it.
- Forgetting to use the treatments as often as suggested;
Grace found she became “lazy” about using hers as she “could tell that it wasn’t really working.”
- Side effects and risks;
Skin thinning was another side effect some people were worried about.