Alopecia Awareness - Alopecia Areata
Black Venus Beauty is more than an online beauty store. It is a space where we want to have conversations around hair and skin knowing that some topics are more difficult to talk about. Hair loss is one of them and we want to break the taboo around alopecia.
Our founder’s sister, Patricia, has had alopecia for over a decade. It took her a while before opening up to Carole (our founder) and the rest of her family. Seeing how difficult it was for her to talk about her alopecia and how it had an impact on her confidence was heartbreaking. You can read Patricia's portrait's here.
We believe more awareness should be raised, so anyone suffering from alopecia does not feel ashamed and knows that help and various solutions are available.
As part of Alopecia Awareness Month in September, we will cover the various causes and different forms of alopecia. We will be discussing how they are diagnosed and how they can be treated in each blog post. As we are not professional experts, we would advise you to contact your GP if you are experiencing any symptoms. Your GP may refer you to a dermatologist or a Trichologist (specialist of hair and scalp).
WHAT IS ALOPECIA?
Alopecia refers to the partial or total loss of hair on different parts of your body. Alopecia is an auto immune disease with various strands that affect people differently; each strand has varying causes, side effects and treatment options. We will cover the main forms of alopecia.
Alopecia Areata is the most common cause of non-scarring hair loss affecting men, women, and children of any age.
How does it look like?
The main sign is small, coin-sized bald patch on the scalp. In most cases there are no symptoms, but some people can experience tingling, itching, burning, headaches or even pain in the skin.
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosis is confirmed through a hair and scalp examination or sometimes a skin biopsy.
How is it treated?
Alopecia Areata is mainly treated using steroids, this can be in the form of tablets, injections or creams applied on the scalp.
Minoxidil is a lotion that is applied to the bald patches to stimulate hair regrowth.
Is it reversible?
Regrowth usually starts at the centre of the bald patch with fine white hairs. Over time the white hairs thicken and regain to your natural hair colour. Hair regrowth can take anywhere between several months and years depending on the severity.
Alopecia Story: Jo’s experience with Alopecia AreataJo, 48, mother of two daughters, experienced hair loss three and half years ago. She was at the hair salon when her hairdresser noticed a small, coin-sized, bald patch on the crown of her head.
She did not worry much at first, but on her next visit to the salon, her stylist showed her that the patch had actually grown in size.
“I just assumed that my hair would grow back as quickly as it disappeared. It did not.”
Jo started using shampoo and conditioner for people experiencing hair loss but also some daily lotion containing Minoxidil. As the hair loss continued after a year, she went to see a doctor but was advised it was probably down to stress.
Her doctor prescribed some topical steroids but there was no improvement.
“On my next visit, I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata. I was told that there is no cure, and nobody knows why it occurs. I felt helpless.”
“The patch was growing, and it was having a detrimental effect on my life. I remember feeling really embarrassed.”For a long time, Jo was able to disguise her bald patch with her curly hair. But gradually her hair loss became so severe that she could no longer hide it. She chose to wear a wig but was nervous about it but got support from her family, friends and colleagues.
Jo was finally referred to a dermatologist after several distressing visits to her GP. The dermatologist reassured her that there were many options available. She tried topical creams and discovered some great cover-up products that she was not aware of. Her dermatologist suggested trying steroid injections. However, after three rounds over the space of 12 months, he gently told her it was not working, leaving her devastated.
“I was so self- conscious. I do not think I slept the night before going into work with my wig for the first time. But my friends, family and work colleagues were all so supportive.”
But Jo had still hopes and asked if she could have one more try and luckily her hair grew back after that final try.
“The hair growth was slow at first, very fine like baby hair, and it was pure white. But I was just so grateful to have hair.”
Other Types of Alopecia Areata
Alopecia Areata may take on different forms depending on which part of the body is affected. For instance, when all hair on the scalp is completely lost, but eyebrows and eyelashes remain intact this is characterised as Alopecia Totalis.
If the hair is completely lost from the scalp (including eyebrows and eyelashes), and the rest of the body this is characterised at Alopecia Universalis.
For both these strands of alopecia hair regrowth is very unlikely.
Alopecia Story: Kaya’s experience with Alopecia Areata & Universalis
Kaya, 22, behavioural therapist, was diagnosed with alopecia areata when she was 8 years old. It progressed into alopecia universalis when she lost all of eyelashes, eyebrows and body hair. However, when she was 12, her eyelashes, brows and body hair started to grow back so she was diagnosed back to alopecia areata.
She tried many treatments: topical steroid, acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeopathic treatment, needling, red-light therapy, oil blends, iron increase, anaemia treatment.
“All I remember is seeing my hair fall out on my pillow in patches everyday and just being confused that this was my new reality.”
The only treatments that worked were the iron increase and anaemia treatment as her hair reached full regrowth. Unfortunately, a year after, all her hair fell out again and she had to go through the journey of trying different treatments.
Kaya is now focusing on her physical and mental wellbeing, turning to holistic treatments, using essential oil blends as well as eating healthy.
Living with alopecia is a rollercoaster experience where you go through various phases and emotions.
“It just makes sense to do things that will help me to nourish my body and my mind.”
“Alopecia is honestly such a journey. Sometimes you feel like you’ve got a grip of it and other times you feel completely defeated. My point is – is that there are definitely different phases you go through but all of them are okay.”
In 2018, Kaya started her blog, called An Alopecian Story, after her mum advised her to open an online platform to share her struggles and the tactics she learned to manage her alopecia.
“I am honoured that my words matter to some people and will continue to do as much as I can do to break these stigma’s surrounding the definition of beauty today.”
It is a form of hair loss affecting men’s beard and moustache area, often due to psychological or physical stress.
How does it look like?
Hair loss starts with coin-sized circle patches. As more hair falls out this can overlap and forming larger circles on the face. Hair around the edge of the bald patches can sometimes turn white. Redness, irritation, and inflammation in the bald spots may be experienced. Alopecia Barbae can also develop on the scalp.
How is it diagnosed?
A doctor or dermatologist can diagnose alopecia barbae.
How is it treated?
Steroid creams or Minoxidil may be prescribed to treat the hair loss.
Is it reversible?
There is no easy prediction for how alopecia barbae will develop or how long the hair loss will take. In some cases, hair loss can happen suddenly within a few days or over a few weeks.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, we recommend contacting your GP straight away. Please note we are not professional experts so there may be additional symptoms which are not listed above.
If you are interested in learning more about alopecia check our daily blogs this week.
Here at Black Venus Beauty we pride ourselves on providing the best quality products for curly and afro hair. We want to unlock the potential of your hair and provide products specific to the needs of your hair, including preventing types of alopecia.