One of the most crushing effects of being diagnosed with Alopecia Areata is that it can dent someone’s confidence so deeply that they start to avoid going out.
The condition, which is characterised by a sudden and patchy loss of hair, often appears with little warning, and for many the sudden change in appearance is hard to bear. Children in particular find coping with their new look especially difficult because of playground teasing.
As a result, confidence-building can play a surprisingly large part of the recovery process for many people who have been diagnosed.
Recognising this, and having Alopecia Areata himself, American surf camp owner Rick Civelli has been inviting children with alopecia to a free, one-day surf camp at Topsail Beach in North Carolina for the past five years.
Since Rick's 'Aloha For Alopecia' camps began in 2011, attendance figures have grown from around 40 to an expected 300 for this year’s event on 14th August.
On his website Rick explains how he suddenly lost his hair within a week when he was 17, and has shaved his head almost every day since then because “as a surfer, I had to get into the ocean to surf.”
He says that by focusing on his life’s true passion surfing he was able to cope with his hair loss. “If I was not a surfer, I’m not sure how I would have dealt with it,” he says. Continues below video.
Rick's camps have been a runaway success, with children from across the east coast of America and beyond descending on the attractive coastal city of Wilmington and its surrounding beaches. Rick says that being amongst other people with alopecia hairloss helps them regain some of the confidence they may have lost in everyday life.
Talking to to North Carolina’s Lumina News, he explained that because many children with various types of alopecia - including Alopecia Totalis, which causes hair loss of the head rather than just the scalp, and Alopecia Universalis, which leaves the whole body completely hairless from head to toe - wear wigs, they avoid the ocean. By getting together with others with similar hair loss experiences and focusing on the surfing tuition he and his team provide, Rick says they can forget about their condition for a while.
Interestingly, Rick thinks that a day at the seaside comes with another benefit: the healing powers of the ocean.
Alopecia Areata affects almost 5 million people in the States and around 15% of the UK population. In simple terms, it is the result of multiple hair follicles prematurely entering, and getting stuck in the telogen (resting) phase of the hair growth cycle. Categorised as an autoimmune disorder, its causes are unknown, but among the things known to promote the onset of this type of hair loss are stress, shock and certain allergies as well as genetics.
New research findings, recently released by the University of Virginia's School of Medicine, it may be possible to pinpoint the precise cause of autoimmune conditions, including alopecia. This would potentially allow scientists to develop treatments for all the different kinds of alopecia areata.
Treatment for Alopecia Areata is possible in the mild-to-moderate stages and has seen notable regrowth successes. While Belgravia does not treat children, our hair loss experts are able to provide information and recommend bespoke treatment courses to those aged 16 years and over.
The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.
View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world's largest gallery of hair growth photos and demonstrates the level of success that so many of Belgravia's patients achieve.