A woman can’t leave home without her handbag but this Sunday 19th July 2009, women with hair loss will instead leave behind their wigs as they gather all over the world for National Bald Out Day to raise awareness of alopecia areata, and Britain’s own Gail Porter is in line to help spearhead the event.
Mary Marshall, a Californian member of Bald Girls Do Lunch, is organising a worldwide get together for women who suffer from alopecia areata in an effort to promote public awareness and the acceptance of bald women.
“If you’re a woman with alopecia areata who’s struggling with self image because of hair loss, who doesn’t like wearing a wig or scarf all the time, but who hasn’t yet taken the step of going out in public uncovered, the National Bald Out Day is for you,” says Mary. “Who knows, one day may turn into more days for you.”
Edinburgh-born TV presenter and model Gail Porter developed alopecia areata in 2005 following her divorce from rock star Dan Hipgrave. In an effort to raise awareness of hair loss in women, rather than opt for a wig Gail shaved all her hair and said she was “bald but not afraid”.
It is believed Gail will be helping to organise an Edinburgh-based group for Sunday’s National Bald Out Day. “It would be amazing if Ms Porter agreed to help out in any way she could,” says Mary.
Hair loss affects 1 in 3 women at some stage of their lives. Most experience a substantial degree of thinning hairby the time they reach menopause but baldness is not unheard of either. Alopecia areata, which looks like patchy bald spots, can affect healthy men and women of any age when for some reason, the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles on the scalp or any area of hair-bearing skin, causing them to shut down.
In as many as 70% of cases, alopecia areata can clear up on its own within a year. Hair loss treatments can also produce good results but sometimes, alopecia areata can develop into alopecia totalis (complete baldness of the scalp) or alopecia universalis (total body hair loss). Wigs are a good way of dealing with the physical effect, but support groups are helpful for women with hair loss to deal with self-acceptance and the emotional ramifications.
The exact cause of alopecia areata is unknown but it is thought that stress can contribute to the autoimmune condition. Gail Porter suffers from bipolar disorder, has battled her way through a drug addiction, anorexia, a thyroid condition and post-natal depression. When she lost her hair at 35, she said she thought it was a “wind-up”.
Like Gail, Mary said she shunned wigs long ago: “I go out bald all the time, for me it’s the most comfortable, cool, and natural way to be. I’ve tried wigs but I just can’t wear them.”
She encourages women’s groups from all over the world to organise their own events where they live so women with hair loss can meet other alopecia areata sufferers.
“Where ever you live, on Sunday July 19th 2009 come out of the wig closet. It might change your life and it might change the way people see bald women,” Mary says.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve got no hair, bald spots or patches of hair – for one day please take it off. It’s incredibly liberating.”