Some time ago, my lovely (but annoying) 11-year-old sister, Khushbu, started rapidly losing hair from the top of her head. We were all pretty worried and went to the GP multiple times, but they just said every time that ‘it will grow back’—even though we were doubtful as the hair would not stop falling.
Anyway, it turns out that we finally found out that she has alopecia areata. After consulting Dr Google yet again, I found out that this is when ‘Hair is lost because it is affected by inflammation. The cause of this inflammation is unknown but it is thought that the immune system, the natural defence which normally protects the body from infections and other diseases, may attack the growing hair.’
Medical treatments and a multitude of home remedies given to us by friends in the UK failed to make any significant impact on the regrowth. When on holiday in India, we decided to try our luck by consulting our family GP, who also turns out to be a homoeopathic doctor, and she prescribed some homoeopathic tablets. These had some temporary effect in that the hair was re-growing, but it was falling out after a couple of weeks again.
Khushbu is now stuck in this frustrating cycle, where the hair re-grows, but then falls again at the same rate it is re-growing. Meanwhile, I am stuck in the frustrating position where I have to meticulously vacuum all the fallen hair which gets trapped in the carpet.
I thought it would be a nice idea if I could talk to Khushbu and find out how having alopecia truly makes her feel, so I interviewed her (while she was high on Lucozade so it seems). Here are 10 questions: someone with alopecia areata:
Q: What is alopecia?
A: I don’t know actually. Is it something in your immune system that affects your head? I’m not sure.
Q: How has having alopecia changed you?
A: I’m not sure really. I guess It has made me feel more conscious about the way I look.
Q: How do you feel having alopecia?
A: I feel different to the others [at school] because I have shorter hair than others on the top of my head. It makes me feel worried when I see my hair falling out so much. I miss my old hair sometimes, but other times, I don’t bother about it. it frustrates me when my hair grows back then starts falling all out again.
Q: Have you ever been bullied for the way you look?
A: No, I haven’t. People in my school usually support me and are really supportive towards me. Sometimes though, I hear about people who have been talking about my hair behind my back, which makes me feel quite upset, but I have my friends who always make me feel better.
Q: What’s the best thing that’s happened to you because of your alopecia?
A: People want to talk to me more to find out more about alopecia or why my hair is like this. They are more interested in talking to me about it. Also, I am very grateful to my friend. She makes me feel happy about the way I look. She is also really funny, so we have a lot of fun with each other. My hairdresser is also really nice. She made me feel really happy—recommending more products and telling me that my hair is still beautiful.
Q: What’s the worst/most annoying thing that’s happened to you because of your alopecia?
A: People keep on thinking it’s a weird haircut and think that I wanted it to look like this on purpose.
Q: Do you miss the way you used to look?
A: I miss the way I used to look a lot, but not that much at the same time because I know my hair is going to grow back. If it doesn’t grow back, then I would change my whole hair [instead of only the top] to make me feel happier with the way I look. I really miss my old hair when I remember how silky it used to be and because it was all even out. Also, people never really bothered me that much i.e. they didn’t think that I was trying to do some strange styles with my hair.
Q: Do you feel that you receive enough help for your alopecia?
A: In the UK I got hair cream from the doctors and shampoo. When we went on holiday to India, I got a homoeopathic medicine from there.
Did any of them work? Not really.
Q: any friends give you advice?
A: Yeah. I received a lot of different home remedies from a lot of friends (and their parents). I found it very helpful and felt very supported, but none of them really worked. I appreciated it though.
Q: What’s something you would say to someone who is suffering from alopecia the way you are?
A: Think on the positive side. People that you didn’t really talk to would maybe be more supportive. Stay happy and comfortable with the way you are.
As you can see, Khushbu has been affected by alopecia in many ways, but she is very lucky to have quite minimal hair loss: only on the top of her hair. There are people out there who suffer from alopecia totalis, which is when there is a complete loss of hair on the scalp. Unfortunately, there is no cure as of yet, and if a lot of hair is lost initially, then even treatments that are available offer only a 1 in 10 chance of full recovery.
Khushbu’s story with alopecia areata has made me realise that even the seemingly smallest complications, like losing parts of your hair, can change one’s life in ways that we could never expect.
I would just like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who spread positivity to people with alopecia—and any other body issues that cause low self-esteem. It is so important for us to remind each other that we are beautiful as we are!
By Muskaan Jonathan