(Text only clips) Laurel has had alopecia areata for 2 and a half years. Alopecia impacted on her confidence as she feels less pretty. Laurel recently shaved her head to fundraise for alopecia. This received local publicity which has taken the pressure off her to hide her hair loss.
Laurel has had alopecia areata for 2 and a half years. She also has eczema and has had acne for about 5 years. Laurel’s alopecia mainly affects her scalp, although she says that her eyelashes are thinner and she has pitting on her nails. Laurel noticed her first patch of alopecia during the summer holidays when she was 15. Within a matter of weeks, the whole of the right side of her head hair had fallen out. Laurel used clip-in extensions to cover the bald areas but this would tug and make her scalp very sore. Her hair regrew but then began to fall out again. She started wearing her hair up high when a bald patch developed on the crown of her scalp, before moving on to headscarves/bandanas. Laurel’s hair then regrew over 6 months; however, because stress is a major trigger for Laurel’s alopecia, her hair rapidly fell out again during a particularly difficult time with friendships and school.
Laurel remembers being told at the first dermatology appointment that there was no cure for alopecia and that no-one knew exactly why it occurred. She says that this was scary and very hard for a 15 year old to take in. She uses a steroid cream which her mum helps apply to her scalp at night. Laurel found that it would make her remaining hair very greasy, although it’s easier to use since she shaved her hair quite recently. She adds that she has not yet been prescribed a treatment for acne that works in the long term either.
Before developing alopecia, Laurel used to enjoy dyeing her hair. She was worried that people would blame this for her hair loss and she was relieved when the dermatologist said this wasn’t the cause. Laurel continued dyeing her hair whilst it was falling out so that she could still feel like me. It was difficult having little choice with hair styles whilst trying to cover the bald patches. She felt less pretty and didn’t want to go out as much. Laurel says that make-up, ear piercings and wearing a wig all helped her to feel pretty again. She currently has two synthetic hair wigs similar to her natural hair colour. She doesn’t like the lace fronted one though because she thinks it looks fake. Laurel doesn’t wash her wig often because it takes 24 hours to dry and she doesn’t like to go a day without wearing it. Laurel feels comfortable taking off her wig when with her family, boyfriend and friends. She had shied away from telling her boyfriend about her alopecia but found it was a really big weight off your shoulders when she did.
There have been times when alopecia has got Laurel really down, though she says she copes better now that she’s older. Laurel recently shaved her head to fundraise for an alopecia charity. This received a lot of publicity in the local media which Laurel is very pleased about. She says it helped raise awareness about alopecia generally and it has made things better for her now that people know. She found that many people were unaware about her alopecia previously because she had hid it so well. Laurel feels that the pressure has been taken off her to hide her hair loss. She says that now that they all know, it’s not that big a deal.
Laurel thinks that other young people with alopecia shouldn’t hide it. Her own experience has been of receiving a great deal of supportive following the fundraising publicity and she feels much better about it now. Laurel thinks it’s important for people to understand what the condition is and to know that saying it’s just hair loss doesn’t acknowledge the fact that alopecia can have a massive impact on confidence.