Due to its highly visible nature and sudden onset, dealing with hair loss from the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata
can be a struggle.
However, precisely because it is so noticeable, coming to terms with it is not only necessary but - for many - it can also be an empowering experience.
A video of teenager Josie Sanders, revealing her hair loss
to the audience as part of a dance performance, has gone viral for its inspiring message.
"Your differences are what make you strong"
In a Facebook post and video - which you can watch below - shared by the charity Alopecia UK
, Josie's mum, Jenny Sanders writes of her daughter:
"When Josie, my 16 year old daughter, lost her hair during her GCSEs this was the last thing I expected. Josie was 4 when first diagnosed with Alopecia - an auto immune condition that causes hair loss. As a small child she lost and gained hair regularly but we always managed to cover it. Then, earlier this year, she lost too much hair to cover. She reluctantly chose to wear a wig as she felt uncomfortable with the stares that patchy hair loss inevitably engenders. Wearing a wig meant giving up dance as the damn things just don't stay put under duress - a shame as last summer she managed to get through to the All England Finals with her dance school. I was waiting for the justifiable meltdown. It never came. Instead, as a surprise, she conspired with the lovely Amy from Charles Academy of Dance, and this is the result.
"When asked about it she simply said, "I have Alopecia whether I like it or not. I have two choices - live trying to hide it and pretend it doesn't exist, or do something about it. I have a chance to help people. I want to take it."
"Your differences are what make you strong. They are what make you who you are. Never be embarrassed to be true to yourself"."
Coping with Alopecia Areata
Alopecia Areata is both the umbrella term for the group of autoimmune diseases which cause varying degrees of hair loss in men, women and children, and the name of the mildest form of the disorder. This causes patchy hair loss to the scalp only and is the form Josie Sanders has. The more severe forms - Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis
- cause baldness of the head, including facial hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, and total hairless-ness from head to toe, respectively.
Whilst adults with the scalp-only phenotype can respond well to Alopecia Areata treatment
, this is not the case for the more expansive iterations, nor for children with any form of autoimmune alopecia. A number of potential treatments for all forms are currently in development, with an estimated release date of 2021/2022. For now though, in addition to hair specialists, doctors and dermatologists, those affected often find hair loss charities
, peer support, reputable information services
, and inspiring messages such as Josie's a source of comfort.