Hair loss affects people in different ways, with many people deeply troubled by losing their locks and desperate to find a cure. In some cases, however, people say they actually feel empowered by their new look, or that going bald has been positive in other ways.
For actor/director/writer Arnab Chanda, whose CV includes writing credits for Never Mind The Buzzcocks and How Not To Live Your Life, suddenly going bald was a terrifying point in his life that came with something of a happy ending.
Alopecia Awareness Month
Writing in The Guardian to coincide with September being Alopecia Awareness Month, Chanda explains how his hair started falling out in October 2015. “My skin felt numb, and I could literally pluck hairs out of my scalp like blades of grass,” he writes. “Then, in November, I was told I had Alopecia Universalis, a rare disorder in which the immune system mysteriously attacks the body’s hair follicles.”
Alopecia Universalis is a sister condition of Alopecia Areata, which is more common – though still far from an “everyday” occurrence. It is thought to affect two per cent of people worldwide at some point during their lifetime and manifests itself as sudden patchy hair loss.
Classified as an autoimmune disorder, Alopecia Areata and particularly its more severe iterations, is currently the result of multiple studies into possible new treatments. This is of particular interest to people with Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis as these disorders which both cause total baldness cannot currently be treated effectively.
The moderate form can already respond well in many cases to applications of high strength minoxidil which, despite being clinically-proven for genetic hair loss, has been seen to produce siginficant regrowth results for other hair loss conditions too. This is the approach Belgravia uses as part of its alopecia areata treatment courses, examples of the results from which can be seen in our Success Stories gallery.
Chanda explains that by January of 2016 he had lost all of the hair on his head and his whole body. The experience coincided with a difficult period of his life where he felt that he needed to do something different. Cutting himself off from his family – “the major cause of my anxiety” – and quitting his job as a radio comedy producer, he set out on a journey of “self-discovery.”
Alternative therapy and immunosuppressants
While Chanda makes no mention of what doctors told him about why he had suddenly lost his hair as a result of Alopecia Universalis, it is worth pointing out that extreme stress or trauma are common triggers for Alopecia Areata and its related conditions.
Chanda’s solution to his problems was to fly off to Peru to stay for eight days at an ayahuasca retreat, where people go to drink infusions of the ayahuasca plant in the hope of “finding themselves” and also exorcising their demons. Actress Lindsay Lohan once tried it and said it helped her deal with “the wreckage of her past life.”
Unfortunately for Chanda, the retreat turned out to be something of a damp squib: “Eight days, four ceremonies, and many hours of vomiting and pooping later, and I hadn’t experienced a thing,” he said. The journey wasn’t a total waste of time, however; Chanda enjoyed backpacking around South America, he discovered some therapy that did help with his difficult childhood memories, and he bought a bike upon his return to London.
Additionally, he says he started using immunosuppressants to try and deal with his hair loss. Last month his eyebrows grew back. In cases of Alopecia Universalis, immunosuppressants are sometimes used to try and reduce the strength of the body’s immune system in the hope that it will stop attacking hair follicles. Downsides include the fact that the treatment is only effective about 40 per cent of the time and that it usually needs to be ongoing to provide continued benefits.
While Chanda might wish that all of his hair would grow back, he does say that the past few years have helped him realise some important truths about life.
“I realised that as long as you have your mind, you should really try to use it,” he says. “Write crap songs. Write crap jokes. Do crap acting. It doesn’t matter. The scary thing is that our bodies do not serve us, but you don’t need hair or legs or sight or hearing to create.”
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.