growing up with severe hair lossHaving severe hair loss from childhood is tough and Chloe Ellen, now 19, has been on her hair loss journey since the age of seven.

When a bald patch appeared on the right side of her scalp, she thought it was caused by the heat of the hairdryer she was using, but it never grew back. More hair started to fall out, followed by her eyebrows and eyelashes, leaving her family concerned and heading to specialists for advice.

Severe hair loss

Healthcare professionals soon diagnosed Chloe with alopecia areata, a rare disease whereby the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles causing severe hair loss. The exact causes are unknown but are sometimes caused by trauma or stress, two things Chloe said she didn’t suffer from in her happy childhood.

As Chloe turned into a teen, the baldness caused her to lack self-confidence and envy the hair of her friends. She was lucky to have a good support groups and not experience bullying, but she mourned for the hair she didn’t have.

She turned to counsellors and started wearing wigs to fit in, as well as learning how to style other people’s hair and fill that gap missing in her adolescent years.

What is alopecia areata?

Alopecia is not usually permanent, but for some people it can be. It is more common in children, although it can strike at any age, for both men and women.

The process of hair loss and the extent of the hair loss differs from person to person, but it usually starts with a small clump of hair falling out, leaving a smooth hair-free patch. In some people, it can be a general thinning of the hair and in others it includes total baldness all over the body, though this is rare.

Some people choose not to treat their severe hair loss, as it may grow again, but for those who wish to cover it up there is the option to wear a hairpiece, head scarf or try scalp micropigmentation. The most common way to treat hair loss in patches is by corticosteroid injection and others try Psoralen with ultraviolet A light (PUVA) therapy.

More research is being carried out into the causes of alopecia areata, but for people like Chloe, it can be something they learn to live with and a part of their identity, however difficult it might be.