The hair loss
process can be tough for those going through it, particularly for young people who may feel alienated and 'othered'.
In spite of these pressures, 15-year-old student Elisha Appleby has become a brand ambassador for Sunderland-based wig producer Pdollpalace after being recruited by its owner, Jolene Casey.
A line of high-quality synthetic wigs, eponymously named Elisha's Wigs, is being released in collaboration with the company, and promoted across social media using the hashtag #IAMELISHA.
Cause of hair loss
Hairloss has been a recent phenomenon for Appleby. She spoke to her local North-East newspaper, The Chronicle, about noticing clumps of hair falling from her head around her last birthday.
It continued to shed, taking a heavy emotional toll on the teenager: “As a 15 year old girl, my hair was a priority. I was getting bullied and I locked myself in my bedroom and wouldn’t go to school"
In a video on the newspaper's website
Appleby explains how she saw a dermatologist who diagnosed her with Alopecia Areata
, an autoimmune disorder which causes sudden, patchy hair loss to the scalp.
Medics who assessed her condition believe it was caused by stress
as she also experiences severe nose bleeds: Alopecia Areata can be triggered
by long-term, chronic psychological stress.
Judging by her pictures, Appleby still appears to have her eyebrow hair and eyelashes, which suggests she may have the scalp-only form of the condition rather than its two more extreme phenotypes - Alopecia Totalis and Universalis
. These cause baldness of the entire head, and from head-to-toe, respectively. Though, of course, Elisha may be wearing false lashes and micro-pigmentation eyebrow tattoos
As a means of coping with her hair loss, the schoolgirl shaved her head and posted the results on Facebook to raise alopecia awareness. She received a lot of support, particularly from Jolene Casey who messaged her afterwards asking her to become a Pdollpalace brand ambassador.
The teenager has been recruiting women with medical hair loss to model her range of wigs and has been inundated with volunteers. She told The Chronicle beforehand, "They can be any age, size, anyone who has suffered hair loss through alopecia, cancer, chemotherapy or hair loss after pregnancy".
"We want to do a photoshoot, we can all model the Elisha Wigs which will go on the Pdollpalace website... They’ll get a makeover and we will have fun and model all sorts of colours and styles. We want to give the girls the confidence they need. We want people to know bald is beautiful".
Wigs for children and young people
Unfortunately scalp-only Alopecia Areata treatment
is unavailable for those under the age of 16: additionally there are currently no safe and effective treatments for Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis
, though options are in development.
Despite this, Appleby demonstrates that wigs are an excellent source of confidence for young people experiencing hair loss.
In the UK, Little Princess Trust
offers free real-hair wigs to girls and young women up to 24 years of age who have medical hair loss, usually from autoimmune alopecia or as a result of cancer treatment. Celebrity endorsements include One Direction star Harry Styles
and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who have both donated their hair to the charity.
The charity's male division, Hero by LPT
was set up in 2017 to offer the same service to young men and boys, also up to 24 years of age. The 2017-18 Premier League champions Manchester City
are proud supporters and recently auctioned a signed Sergio Aguero kit to raise money for the charity.
Not everyone who loses their hair wants to wear a wig though, and for those who simply want support in dealing with their condition, hair loss charities
such as Alopecia UK can prove invaluable. As Appleby reiterates, "Bald is beautiful and I want everyone to know it".