My name is Laura. I am 25 years old and live in Cheshire. I have alopecia universalis and was first diagnosed with alopecia at the age of 13.
My hair started falling out in huge clumps whilst washing my hair in the shower. At first, I ignored it until it became noticeable and I told my mum.
I don’t think I realised at the time how severe the hair loss was and what could, and eventually would, happen. I was very shy at that age and I didn’t really acknowledge the situation.
We had to go to our GP numerous time in order to be taken seriously. We were first told my hair was being tied too tight and that was causing the hair loss. We took steps to ensure my hair was loose at all times and no strain was put on my hair. My hair then clumped up so bad in the shower that when my mum and sister were trying to brush the knots out, it literally just all fell out into their hands. I remember my mum taking all this hair in a sandwich bag to our GP to finally make them take us seriously! By this point prominent bald patches had started to appear on the top of my scalp.
We were referred to a dermatologist and I was given a steroid lotion to apply to my scalp. By this point, my hair was falling out rapidly and it only took a further two months of all my hair to completely fall out. In total, my hair loss had been about 5 months.
My biggest struggle with my alopecia has been my lack of confidence. My alopecia struck at such an important age for me. I don’t suppose there is ever a good time for alopecia to strike but 13 years of age did not seem ideal! As a teenager, I ignored the fact that I had alopecia. I would hide my head away under wigs and hats. I wouldn’t even let my mum or sister see me without anything on. I was in complete denial and as such never actually dealt with the enormity of losing my hair.
My confidence eventually grew and I am incredibly lucky to have an amazing family and friends around me who accepted me as I was. Accepting I was ‘different’ was something I wasn’t willing to do and as such I couldn’t really acknowledge or accept my alopecia.
But acceptance from my peers is the main thing that has eventually allowed me to come to terms with my alopecia. Being a young adult in an office environment surrounded by other adults made me realise that it’s actually ok and most people are not mean. My alopecia doesn’t define who I am as a person. I don’t think I would have the confidence I have today regarding my alopecia if it wasn’t for my husband. He doesn’t see me as being bald or wearing a wig. He just sees me and that’s all anyone wants – to be loved unconditionally.
My advice to anyone struggling with their alopecia, especially if they are young, is to keep family close. My biggest regret in my experience was not letting my family in. I shut them out and pretended it wasn’t happening. I was in such denial that I couldn’t see that they were my support system and that my struggles were also their struggles.
I wish I could go back in time and help my younger self out of that denial stage. I’d like to tell her to ‘own it’ – own the fact that you have no hair and recognise that it doesn’t matter that you don’t look the same as everyone else, you are still fabulous!
I love the work that Alopecia UK does to raise awareness of the condition and help people come to terms with their hair loss.