Hair loss can cause great distress – and yet there are still so many misunderstandings about its causes and treatment.
September is ‘Alopecia Awareness Month’ and as such, throughout this campaign, the Institute of Trichologists is proud to highlight the brilliant work championed by Alopecia UK.
Alopecia UK is a small but focused national charity (although it’s the largest alopecia charity in the UK) working to improve the lives of those affected by alopecia through its core aims of Support, Awareness and Research.
For this year’s Awareness Month, Alopecia UK, will be using the theme and campaign hashtag #AlopeciaMyWay. The ‘month’ itself is an opportunity to raise awareness about the condition and for those in the alopecia community to share what having alopecia means to them whether it be through their thoughts, feelings or experiences.
Sue Schilling is leading the way as Alopecia UK’s Chief Executive Officer.
Discussing the condition, Sue (who before joining the charity as an employee, volunteered and fundraised for Alopecia UK for many years) comments that: “Alopecia is a little-understood condition. It can be dismissed as ‘cosmetic’ and something people just need to ‘live with’ and sadly some patients can still be dismissed or sent away with little or no support. A quick scan of options available online shows a whole raft of treatments available – but there is no cure for alopecia and that reality can make it even more distressing for someone losing their hair.”
“It’s easy to underestimate how big a part of our bodies and our lives hair is. It affects the way we want to look and be seen. It becomes part of our identity. So suddenly, living without hair is a shock. Hair loss can bring a whole host of emotions, from fear to shame or embarrassment.”
“And it’s not just cosmetic – living with alopecia can seriously affect confidence and mental health. It can be hard to go out in the street with people pointing or staring, or even worse making cruel comments such as ‘baldie’ or ‘egg head’. It can make people scared to go out or leave them feeling the need to cover their heads with hats, scarves or wigs when they do.”
“At Alopecia UK, we work really hard to improve the lives of people affected by alopecia. Whether that’s through raising awareness among the general public or medical professionals about alopecia and its psychological impacts or providing support in the form of online discussion forums, events or meet ups.”
Speaking about her own alopecia journey, Sue says: “I was first diagnosed with alopecia areata in primary school. My teenage years were tough, but I especially recall my 20s, fearing that my patchy hair loss would show and somehow impact how I was regarded at work – it didn’t!
“I found Alopecia UK when I lost all my hair in my 40s. I recall being signposted to our supportive private Facebook group and it was such a relief to know I was not alone. I am in no doubt that meeting other people with alopecia face to face and online was the game-changer for my mindset, and my confidence grew.”
The Institute of Trichologists always recommends if you are experiencing hair loss of any form, to seek professional advice of a reputable Trichologist. Trichologists are highly trained in understanding and empathising with the psychological impact of hair loss and are equipped to offer expert guidance and support.
Chair of the Institute, Eva Proudman MIT IAT, adds;
“I see people suffering from various types of Alopecia on a daily basis. There are some types of the condition that we can treat, meaning that the hair will recover to some extent, whereas other types are permanent. So, it very much becomes our role to reassure and manage the expectations of our patients, whilst also seeking positive outcomes.
“As the team at Alopecia UK communicate so compassionately, hair loss isn’t just about the visual changes to your appearance – the psychological impact of losing your hair can run very deep into how an individual feels about their hair and themselves, so it affects their confidence, personality and perceived attractiveness.”
“Many people dealing with hair conditions such as alopecia become what we call “hair aware”. They focus on their hair and scalp in minute detail and notice any small change, which can cause anxiety and can lead to them feeling isolated.
“Creating a supportive network is key, as is seeing a Trichologist. Without a doubt, the first step to coping with the mental trauma of hair loss is to get a confirmed diagnosis of exactly what the problem is and what the options are for treating it; managing it or learning how to cover it – as well embracing how to live with the condition confidently.
“Once you are in control of the situation and you know and understand what is happening to you and your hair, you can begin to feel so much better, mentally. The fear that grips so many people is gone.”
“As an organisation which represents clinical trichologists across the UK we are delighted to be standing together with our colleagues at Alopecia UK and will be lending our support to their empowering campaign during Alopecia Awareness Week this September. We’re behind you and your work every step of the way. #AlopeciaMyWay.
For further information on Alopecia UK visit their website or find them on social media this month: www.alopecia.org.uk @AlopeciaUK (Twitter) @alopeciauk (Instagram)