Changing the conversation of alopecia

Alopecia is a condition where hair falls out over a period of time. This condition happens when the immune system attacks the hair follicles and can develop slowly or recur every few years. 


Some people can be perfectly healthy and develop alopecia however it can also be caused by other conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, thyroid disease and arthritis. People who have autoimmune diseases like alopecia tend to have a second autoimmune disease resulting in hair loss.  


An alopecia diagnosis can be a devastating blow for a person. For aspiring actress and model Amber Rowan, it could have stopped her from having the career she had been working for. It turned out to be the making of a magnificent young woman.  


Rowan was diagnosed with alopecia at the age of 15 and 11 years later, she embraced a wig free life to be true to herself and become a role model for those in a similar situation.  


Rowan credits having a good modelling agency for always making sure she had positive modelling experiences in the fashion industry. However, she said that acceptance took a long time. She told Tatler: “if they were to say, ‘Oooh we’ll do a shot without your wig’. I would have said, ‘Not in a million years.’ My confidence wasn’t there, I wasn’t ready to embrace that side…I didn’t think it was beautiful.” 


Rowan eventually accepted herself and wanted to change the conversation surrounding alopecia so that sufferers don’t feel alone. She set up a website called ‘Hair Free Life’ that aims to be a source of education, inspiration and information for the hair free community which has just launched.  


One social media post teases to a website that will soon launch, as a safe space for those dealing with Alopecia, to get advice about hair-loss and become a part of an empowered community. 


Stress can also be another cause of alopecia and Little Mix star, Jesy Nelson said that her hair began to fall out as a result of bullying in school. While there are topical medicines, injections, hair plugs and laser treatments available, some of which can be very effective in certain cases, these methods often cost a lot of money. The cost of a realistic human hair wig is around €300-€400.  


Alopecia Support Ireland was set up by a woman called Liz Shiel after discovering there were no support groups in Ireland. On the Alopecia Support website, many users post pictures with beautiful body paint and henna creations to play with their look, while Liz is a major advocate of semi-permanent make-up to shape her face. 


Alopecia is a condition that is not talked about enough in Ireland, however, thanks to people like Liz Shiel and Amber Rowan, sufferers can finally feel like they have someone to talk to.