My 'normal' life with alopecia

It's normal to regularly lose around 100 hairs a day, but alopecia is a more extreme form of hair loss which is defined as a partial or complete hair loss on the area of the body where it normally grows, and is usually quite visible. This type of hair loss can occur at any stage of anyone's life and for a number of different reasons, such as physical or emotional stress, or sometimes, genetics. However, it isn't always obvious what has triggered the hair loss.

Here, two teens blog about their experiences with alopecia and how it has impacted their lives.

Alopecia can be traumatic and difficult to deal with, but there are places where you can reach out for help if you or someone you know has been affected. We've included some useful links at the bottom of this page.

I remember as a kid my mum would take me and my three sisters to the hairdressers, we would all argue about who went first, who went last and what we were getting done. Most of the time, my twin sister and I would get matching bobs with fringes - I admit now it was cute but I hated it at the time. I never appreciated those ugly, embarrassing haircuts, I took my hair for granted. I realised this after Alopecia Areata became a part of my life.

On the 17th of September 2017 I woke up and it was a usual sunday morning, the sun was out and I had woken up at around 11am, grabbed a towel and stepped into the shower. This is the moment I will remember for the rest of my life. I began to shampoo, but as I traced my fingers through my wet, soapy hair I could instantly tell something was wrong - the hair felt loose. As I pulled my hands down, it wasn't only the shampoo that came with it. Big locks of hair, wrapped around my fingers stared up at me and my uncontrollably shaky hands.

I won't go into much detail on the next part as you can probably guess what it consisted of - crying and a whole lot of fear. I thought to myself, with this bald patch on the front of my head, that I was now ugly and unattractive, but let me tell you now, this was most definitely not true.

Alopecia Areata is a funny thing. One day I could have a full head of hair, and the next, it could be patchy and thin. The main patch that always keeps coming back is on the front of my head and is very hard to hide, so when this happens I choose to shave my head. Being a 16-year-old in the middle of her GCSEs, going to school with a shaved head wasn't exactly on my bucket list of things to do. But you bet I did it. That day I practically held my twin sister's hand to school, I was so terrified of what people were going to think of me, but what I imagined was the complete opposite of what I got.

The support shown by my whole year group and my head of year is something I will cherish forever. Who knew a bunch of 15-16 year olds could be so kind. Even one of the boys shaved his head so that I "wouldn't be the only one”. My head of year is possibly the most kind hearted woman ever, offering me a daily hug. You bet I took her up on that! These people boosted my morale and kept me going when I was at my lowest.

Advice I would give to any girl or boy going through this situation is to just be confident and love yourself for who you are, and anyone who chooses to support you, value them, but anyone who chooses to only see you for what you look like, laugh at them and know that you don't have to spend as much money on shampoo as they do :)

- Nicole Bowler

Nicole on what 'normal' means to her...

I believe that 'normal' is whatever you want it to be. For me, it's losing some hair every month; for others, it's going to get their hair done. Whatever your normal is, don't let anyone tell you that it shouldn't be. Accept their view of normal, and keep on living yours.

At the age of 15 I have found myself dealing with GCSE’s, moving house, going to college and one entirely unexpected thing; learning to wear a wig with pride.

I have alopecia, a condition that causes me to lose my hair in patches all over my head. I’ve had it since I was 4 ½ years old and it has not got any easier to deal with since then. If you have the same thing, or have ever experienced anything similar, you’ll know what I mean. The constant awareness and worry that a patch is showing, the feeling of bitter disappointment as other people take part in carefree activities while you don’t know if you can, and the worst thing (at least for me) - the feeling that you really shouldn’t be so upset because after all, it’s only hair, right?

Well, I don’t think so. Take it from a girl who had such long hair from the age of 12, that it grew past her bum; a girl who used to be stopped by small kids asking if she was actually Rapunzel - it's not only hair. Your hair can really make or break your confidence and I know how hard it is going from your own hair, no matter how fine or patchy, to an itchy, hot, uncomfortable wig that usually looks too big and fake on your head anyway... Side Note: Why do wig companies feel the need to put in the entire world’s supply of hair into their wigs? Is that just me?! They seem to want to tie in extra to make sure you get your money’s worth and you end up looking like you’ve just auditioned to be part of some cheap L’Oreal advert with stiff ringlet curls and a curtain fringe!

Anyway my point is, normal hair is something I've always wished for and always dreamt of and nothing in the world can stop that little negative voice inside my head which says the most unhelpful things, no matter what positive comments people tell me.

But let's for a moment forget the negatives and look at the positives. I know what you're thinking; what could possibly be positive about losing your hair? Well, let's start with the fact you have been given the golden opportunity to crack out the best hair-related jokes, puns and references that only you can make; but even if you're not ready to laugh about it yet (and trust me, one day you will be) you have been given freedom in the most unusual way. You can try anything! Do you want to be blonde, brunette, ginger, auburn? Do you want to have long hair, short hair, that little bob that always looks so good in magazines? Do you want it to be curly, straight, frizzy, or anything else you can think of? The world is handing you the perfect chance to try something new and this is your time to take it. I know it’s scary and that this is never going to be something you wished you had, but you can’t change your situation so you might as well go with it, or, to use my favourite phrase, you might as well go big or go home!

I know it’s tough to accept and you might want to hide yourself away and not show anyone (I know I did) but that's doing nothing but hurting you. Today, I encourage you to take a big, bold step and do something brave for you. Whether that might be trying on your wig, showing your alopecia to a friend, or writing a blog for Channel 4 - well done, me! - we can all benefit from stepping outside our comfort zone and embracing a little more of who we are.

- Josie Sanders

Josie on what 'normal' means to her...

‘Normal’ is definitely not a word I would chose to describe me, but it’s also not a word I would want to describe me. The truth is I am happy with who I am and even with what I’ve got and while that might seem strange, I know a lot of you will understand. No one in this day and age is ‘normal’; we all have our demons and little quirks and oddities that make us special, some people are just better at hiding how they truly feel.

So, this is me, completely and utterly, 100% not normal and I can honestly say I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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