Fiona was 19 when her hair fell out ā but the experience opened some exciting new doorsā¦
āIt all started when I was 19 years old. My mum was doing my hair and she found a bald spot the size of a 50p piece. We immediately assumed that it was damage caused by dyeing my hair so often. However, a trip to the hairdresser proved me wrong - they discovered that my whole hairline was disappearing. It was horrible. I went straight to the hospitalās skin clinic where they decided to monitor the bald patches. Because I still had my eyelashes and eyebrows, the medical specialists assumed I was suffering from Alopecia Areata. So I tried different treatment creams but nothing worked and my hair kept falling out. By my 20th birthday, I decided to shave my head. In order to avoid people asking me why, I organised a big charity event and got sponsors. I couldnāt face telling friends and colleagues the truth. The only people who knew why I was really shaving my head were my parents, my boyfriend at the time, my best friend and boss. After shaving my head, I was devastated and hid in my home for two weeksā¦. I soon got fitted with an acrylic wig but I didnāt like the feel of it at all and my confidence was rapidly crumbling.
In time, the worst happened: I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes. My boyfriend assured me he loved me for who I was but I didnāt believe him. I felt ugly and unattractive. Why would he still think I was beautiful? When I was diagnosed with Alopecia Totalis, I thought it was the end of the world. Eventually, the strain on my relationship proved too much and we broke up. I developed other illnesses, withdrew socially, signed off sick from college and gave up all the things I loved ā teaching fitness, horse riding, going clubbing ā everything a normal young person should do. I felt robbed of my youth.
My mum and dad were amazing through all my struggles. By the time I reached 21, I was ordered to move back home so they could look after me. Before long, my dad found a high-profile London clinic that claimed to be able to help. After two trips to London and several fittings which amounted to Ā£3,000, I had my new hairpiece which was literally glued to my head. Unfortunately the wig only last a few months before it fell to pieces. Just when I thought things were going right, it all went wrong. Devastated, I had to start all over again.
During this time, I met someone a new guy. He was a friend and already knew a bit about my hair loss. Unfortunately his mum, Lee, had been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Treatment caused all her hair to fall out but seeing me without my wig helped her. It was then I realised my condition could help othersā¦
I decided to go back to acrylic wigs. My dad sought advice and found out about A&A Studios. I was so nervous about seeing them but so desperate to lead a normal life. The staff at A&A couldnāt have been nicer. After three or four visits, they told me about the Freedom wig ā a new, real hair wig fitted with a kind of suction technology to stick to your scalp. After getting ripped off before, I was wary but with my parentsā support I decided to go for it. When the product was finally ready to be fitted, I was crying and shaking with nerves. However, after putting it on, I couldnāt believe how amazing it was ā and I literally cried some more with relief.
Since then, the boost to my confidence has been unbelievable. Working with A&A and wearing a Freedom wig changed my life. I can do anything I like ā wear it swimming, shampoo it while Iām in the shower, crash in a tent at music festivals ā all the things I want to do. The best part is, because of the wigās staying power, Iām never faced with the need to tell anyone if I donāt want to!
When Lee sadly died, it gave me a new perspective. Losing my hair first made me wonder āwhy me? Iām not a bad person; I try to be kind to others ā what have I done thatās so wrong?ā But now I realise that this was meant to happen to me so that I could support Lee and other peopleā¦
Itās taken me 5 years to get here but I now lead such a fantastic life! Iāve signed up to a modelling agency as a bald model which has given me loads of confidence. Iām planning to start my own business and Iām meeting some great people. I have fantastic parents and my best friend has stuck by me whatever the weather. Losing my hair and finding the new wig have opened some amazing new doors. I honestly believe that lifeās too short to worry any more. Iām healthy, fit and active. Itās only hair, after allā¦ā
Stuart found a hair loss solution that he hadnāt considered beforeā¦
āI was in the middle of a haircut, at the age of 19, when my hairdresser pointed out hair thinning at the back of my head. I hadnāt noticed anything at all. Even then, I didnāt think there was a problem ā I was too young, my hair wasnāt going to fall out...
But the thinning didnāt stop. I started styling my hair in a certain way to try and hide the loss. There was no way I was going to shave my head ā I was too young not to have hair! So I got into wearing hats. I wore them so often, I became known for wearing hats but there was one problem: I couldnāt wear hats at work. It wasnāt long before I started losing my confidence ā folk my own age were staring at me. Unable to hide my hair loss completely, I stopped going out at weekends. I felt pretty low.
By the time I reached 21, I was convinced a hair transplant was the answer. Iād done about a year of research and even put down a deposit for the surgery. Despite everything Iād read that I might not be an ideal candidate, I was determined to go ahead with the operation. However, something inside me made me realise it wasnāt going to work and, at the last minute, I pulled out.
Desperate, I went to a clinic in Glasgow but within minutes of walking in the door, they pressured me to set up a direct debit for a hair loss cream treatment, Rogaine. I walked out in disbelief and disappointment.
I wasnāt living at home at the time so only a close friend knew about my hair problems and he was really supportive. Finally, at the age of 23, I shaved off all my hair. I knew it probably looked so much better and that I wouldnāt have to worry about styling it so much but I still felt I was far too young not to have hair.
I was looking up āhair lossā on the net when I found some images of something called Cyberhair. Itās a hair system that looks and acts just like real hair. The āBeforeā and āAfterā pics were incredible - I literally could not believe how realistic Cyberhair looked. Seeing those pictures were a turning point for me. I stumbled across A&A Studios by accident and made an appointment. I was so nervous during the first call that I pretended to enquire about extensionsā¦!
My first consultation was with Mark Theurer who explained how Cyberhair worked. I knew instantly I wanted the hair system - and I even tried to put down a payment there and then - but Mark wanted me to go away and have a think about it. I felt so comfortable that I thought about it for a nanosecond and came back to A&A Studios with my answer: I wanted to go ahead.
Making that decision completely and utterly changed my life. I mean literally. Within six months of getting Cyberhair, I had found a new job, my salary had doubled and I was living in a new flat. My confidence was back and it was like I was living a different life.
With Cyberhair, I can do anything I like: I go swimming, hit the gym four times a week, go on holiday ā you name it! I donāt make a big deal out of my hair loss. I work with 18 women who know my hair isnāt real and even they forget. For example, last summer, when I decided to wear my hair a bit longer with highlights, the compliments came flooding in. I have to remind others that my hair isnāt real which is great! Itās been three years since I first got Cyberhair - and Iāve never, ever looked backā¦ā
Jane, a Brand Manager, reveals how losing her hair and finding a new kind of wig changed her lifeā¦
āAt the age of 26, I started noticing hair loss in patches. I went to see my GP but frankly I was none the wiser. I didnāt think there was a major problem. Then smaller bald patches started to appear on my scalp followed by hair re-growth - so I was still able to conceal the hair loss. However, it soon got to the stage where I couldnāt cover up the patches. My father is a doctor and he recommended going to see a specialist. Without much support or information, I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata. At this point my self-esteem was pretty low, there were no role models like Gail Porter around, but I always assumed my hair would grow backā¦
By the time I turned 27, I was desperate to try anything. Steroid treatment was an option but unfortunately this didnāt seem available to me on the NHS. In the hope that my hair would re-grow, I spent Ā£4,000 on private treatment. It didnāt work. In fact, nothing did. Following a recommendation by my father, I made an appointment with A&A Studios. I must say, they were absolutely fantastic. I tried various acrylic wigs and my consultant Linda cut and styled each to suit me. At this point, I still thought there was hope of my hair returning but my condition was Alopecia Totalis (total hair loss). My hair wasnāt going to grow back. However, nobody told me that.
In my opinion, Linda at A&A Studios was the equivalent of a counsellor. She was absolutely amazing. My lifestyle had drastically changed ā I couldnāt even go to the hairdresser for some pampering and I stopped going to the gym. Linda helped me deal with the acceptance that there would be no hair re-growth. She never once judged me. Linda simply offered me advice on how to deal with my hair problem so that I could lead a normal life. Iāve been working with A&A Studios for seven years now. The team there is incredibly understanding (without being patronising!) towards me.
About a year ago, Linda introduced me to the Freedom wig. I implicitly trusted her so I agreed to try it. The Freedom is a new, natural hair, suction wig that wonāt accidentally dislodge. It absolutely transformed my life. I used to worry about my wig falling off and the little things such as giving nieces and nephews a hug, someone putting their arm around me were difficult. I lived in constant fear of being exposed. Now itās a different story. The wig is extremely secure and very realistic. Prior to wearing the Freedom, going on holiday was a nightmare because I always felt so uncomfortable. However, I can now do anything I like and style my new wig however I like. I recently went to a wedding and attracted various compliments on my hairstyle - I looked and felt great!
With the help of my family, great friends and A&Aās guidance through every stage of my hair loss, I lead a perfectly happy, normal life. I have a new boyfriend who knows about my hair loss and it doesnāt faze him.
That said, I still think thereās a lack of awareness surrounding alopecia ā it isnāt a freakish, psychological illness caused by not being able to cope with life. Itās an auto-immune condition that can happen to anyone. My colleagues donāt know about my alopecia because I donāt want anyone thinking Iām in some way incapacitated ā physically or mentally.
The truth is I just get up in the morning and deal with my hair loss. It isnāt something you āsufferā from ā itās not a deadly illness or disease. Worse things happen to people. Iām very lucky that I lead a full life with a caring boyfriend, a supportive family and great friends. I canāt change my hair loss so thereās no reason why I would choose to dwell on it!ā
DID YOU KNOW?
1 in every 1,000 people will suffer from Alopecia Areata at some point in their lives...