Some of the young people were currently working or had experience of part-time jobs. Most people said alopecia didn’t have a big impact on their work, although some people talked about how their alopecia and work life could affect one another. This includes work as a possible trigger and Becky felt that the stress of starting a new job made her alopecia come back.
Some people worried about what their employers and other people at work would know about alopecia. Meghan would like to become a lawyer and thinks it would look “unprofessional” if she wore a bandana. People mostly talked about their experiences of work in relation to alopecia on their heads (scalp, eyebrows and eye lashes).
Some people described the importance of paid work in giving them a degree of financial independence so that they could afford things, including for their alopecia, and rely less on other people for money. Often, parents covered costs associated with alopecia, as Annie Y described for her wigs and Annie X for alternative therapies. Although they were very grateful for this support, both said they would like to be able to cover these costs themselves in the future.
Deciding what to wear on their head while at work, and whether to tell people about their alopecia at an interview or when starting a new job, was a problem for some young people. Grace said she wore a wig to a job interview because she didn’t want to look different to other people.
Most people thought it best to tell people at work about their alopecia. However, raising the topic of having alopecia could be difficult in practice. Kayla said it can be hard to bring up her alopecia in conversation. Grace put information about her alopecia on her Facebook page which helped her to explain her condition to people at work. Emma, who works as a physiotherapist, told her colleagues when she started her job. She now feels confident enough to wear a bandana rather than a wig at work. Annie Y was working in her first job since finishing university and hadn’t told her work co-workers. She had always thought that when she got her first job, she would tell people but she wears a wig of real hair and says she wants to “fit in”.
Some kinds of jobs ask their workers to have their hair styled in a particular way. Kitchen work can require the person to tie their hair up or wear a hair net for food safety. Jobs which involve serving customers in hospitality and retail often also require staff to tie their hair up or have it covered. Some people whose head hair loss was patchy or who couldn’t tie their wig back were worried about how they would manage this.
For some jobs, wearing wigs or hair extensions was uncomfortable or not possible. Beth worked in a cocktail bar and says it was very hot wearing a wig. Meghan worked as a part-time lifeguard while she was a student. She found it daunting to get in the pool without her hair extensions in but felt strongly that alopecia shouldn’t affect her work choices.
A few people worked with children. When Arti started to develop alopecia, she was working as a classroom assistant and she sometimes took days off because she was feeling very anxious. Elizabeth works with young people and says she sometimes worries about how they might react to her alopecia.
The emotional side of alopecia could affect some people’s career choices and work experiences. Laurel says it could be hard working at a beauty store when she felt insecure about her appearance. Annie X and Imogen were unsure about careers in dance and drama because anxiety about their alopecia affected their confidence and how they felt about themselves. However, both were taking steps to overcome their worries: Annie X had started private dance classes and Imogen is hoping to follow an acting and modelling career.