Hannah had rapid hair loss when she was 16. Alopecia knocked her confidence a great deal and she struggled to cope with it at first. She found alopecia support online and has since helped others through making her own inspiring videos.
Hannah first noticed some bald patches on her scalp when she was 14. She wasn’t concerned at first and thought it was due to over-straightening her hair. However, at age 16, she rapidly lost much of the hair on her head. It was very shocking and because it all happened in the space of just 10 days, she didn’t have much time to process the GP’s diagnosis of alopecia areata. Hannah and her parents travelled some distance away to see a dermatologist as she otherwise would have had to wait several months. It wasn’t a very helpful appointment; for example, the dermatologist gave no information about wigs and signposted her to some outdated websites. Hannah has since asked other doctors and was once told that she would have to buy her own wigs, so it was several years before she discovered that she was actually entitled to them on the NHS. Hannah has tried prescribed steroid creams, shampoos and steroid injections. Some of these help hair regrow at the time but it would then fall out again as soon as treatment stopped. She was advised to stop the steroid injections after a year and a half because the skin on her scalp was becoming very thin. It was at this point that Hannah decided to suspend treatment.
Hannah gathered information about wigs over time. She feels she missed out on the prime tim of her teenage years when many people are experimenting with different hair styles. This is something that Hannah’s keen to do now when possible – for instance, she has turned upsetting situations when regrowth hair begins to fall out into opportunities to play with exciting styles. She’s dyed her hair all sorts of bright colours and tried out a Mohican. She currently has about 20 wigs as she likes to change her look often, matching outfits and make-up. Hannah had her eyebrows tattooed on as she found it very time-consuming and limiting to have to draw them on with make-up. She had a really positive experience with the tattooist and loves the outcome.
Having alopecia has been a rollercoaste of emotions for Hannah. She found it very tough to cope with having no control over what was happening with her hair loss. She began to focus a great deal on her appearance and struggled with eating for a while. She also took to wearing hats at all times when first diagnosed with alopecia, including when she slept, using these as a kind of comfort blanke. She now sees these things as part of her acceptance journey. Online support has been incredibly important in building up Hannah’s confidence. She started making her own videos to share online about her experiences. She has since received messages of support and gratitude from people all over the world in response. She adds that it’s important for people with alopecia to have in-person support as well as that available online. She described it being a positive experience to meet and socialise with other people who have alopecia, including those her age and who live in the same area.
Her advice to other young people is to know that they are not alone with alopecia and to do what’s right for them, whether this be wearing wigs and scarves or not. Hannah also thinks that doctors should offer mental health support but cautions that this must be done carefully because of lingering stigma. For example, she says that people with alopecia may reject offers of mental support at first but then wish they had taken it up at a later date, so it’s important that doctors keep offering.