Michael has had alopecia since age 13. Since then, his hair loss has occurred in cycles and particularly when he is stressed about exams. Michael says he is now much more comfortable with alopecia and that he has become a more accepting person.
Michael has had alopecia since he was 13. His hairdresser found a small bald patch on his scalp; Michael didn’t know what alopecia was at the time and he remembers worrying about it for the rest of his haircut. On the way home, Michael’s mum explained and he remembers being very upset. Since the age of 13, Michael has had cycles of hair loss and regrowth. When he was 17, he decided to shave his head and he has kept it shaven for the past year and a half. Michael has also lost some arm hair and facial hair, such as from his eyebrows. He has learnt to use make-up to fill in some of the missing eyebrows with help from his mum and female friends. Michael finds that stress is a trigger for his alopecia, particularly around exams. He thinks that his first bald patch developed from the upset of an attempted break-in at his house when he was age 13.
Michael’s first appointment with his GP was not very helpful. He felt that he learnt more by looking online than his GP knew about alopecia. Michael feels that doctors don’t always take alopecia very seriously. Michael’s mum took him to see a private dermatologist as the NHS waiting times were very long but it seemed there was little they could do for him. Michael has tried steroid creams and tablets but finds that the only thing that works are steroid injections in his eyebrows. He stopped taking steroid tablets as his friends and family noticed that his personality had changed, making him a bit moody and hyper. Michael has also tried some alternative therapies, some of which he found out about online, including Indian hair oil and coconut oil. He says they made his scalp smoother but did not stimulate regrowth of his hair. Michael has read online about some research for new alopecia treatments. He is hopeful about the new treatments being developed but worries that it might be very expensive and have severe side effects.
Michael was initially very self-conscious about his hair loss, though he feels much more comfortable about it now. He says that he used to be constantly worried that people were looking at him and preferred to wear hats most of the time. It was hard to concentrate at school and he remembers his hair falling out onto the pages of his exam paper on one occasion. Michael’s mum gives him a lot of support and helped him go to a counsellor. He says that talking to the counsellor made him feel calmer after a few weeks. Michael says that he also has some good friends who have been there for him and one particular teacher at school who boosted his self-esteem, helped him get early study leave during exams and let him sit at the back of the exam room if Michael wanted. Since shaving his head, Michael feels more comfortable and in control of his hair loss, although he says that some people might perceive shaved heads to look rough. He has recently started playing Gaelic football again and has also joined an alopecia Facebook group. He tries to help other people on the group, including parents who are affected by their child having alopecia.
Michael’s advice to doctors is to be aware of the emotional impacts of alopecia and to acknowledge that young people may be struggling with it. His advice to other young people with alopecia is to maintain confidence and be positive. He says that alopecia isn’t the end of the world, even though it can feel like it at times. Michael is proud of the things he has achieved and learnt through his experiences. For example, Michael says his friendships are stronger and that he has grown as a person to be more accepting.