Losing your hair to the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata is often difficult especially when you’re a child and every school day is another reminder of your hair loss and how different you look.
For several years now, Mattel, the makers of Barbie, have been making a “bald and beautiful” version of their popular doll named Ella and as one heart-warming Facebook video shared by America’s National Areata Foundation (NAAF) showed recently, it continues to put a smile on people’s faces.
The video, posted to NAAF’s Facebook page, features a young girl with Alopecia Areata named Martina, from Italy. Her mother sent in the video, which shows Martina carefully unboxing her Ella and after a few moments of slight bewilderment her delight at finding that the doll’s wig comes off.
Martina’s hair loss is a classic example of Alopecia Areata, with patches dotted around her scalp, and like many people with the condition, she has cut her hair very short to take the emphasis away from the bald spots. Her bald Ella doll is like a miniature version of herself. Continues below...
The doll was originally produced after a social media campaign that generated more than 100,000 likes on Facebook, and today the dolls are given out at children’s hospitals in the US, as well as by the NAAF - one of only three organisations through whom the unique toys are distributed. Each doll comes with a set of accessories, such as a headband and a wig.
The brilliant thing about Ella is that she helps to normalise Alopecia Areata for children, and in a very simple way helps them to see that they are not alone during what is always a very trying time. Worry, in fact, often forms a significant part of a child’s Alopecia Areata journey, as doctors are unable to say whether it will clear itself up, spread or return.
Also, whilst Alopecia Areata treatment for those aged 16 and over is available, and success rates can be extremely encouraging, options for children are more limited. For parents of a child with the condition it can be an extremely stressful time.
Stress is actually one of several suspected triggers for this quite widespread autoimmune disorder (around three per cent of people will be affected in their lifetime); shock and sudden extreme stress, as well as physical trauma are among the factors that are often identified as the likely reason why the body is attacking itself, leading to hair falling out.
Anything that parents can use to help their little ones get through Alopecia Areata is to be welcomed, and a new book from award-winning author J.M. Forster is no exception. Her new book, Bad Hair Days, was launched to mark the start of Alopecia Awareness Month in September 2017.
It is based around a girl called Mallow who has patchy hairloss from Alopecia Areata, and starts wearing a wig to try and conceal it. The author told her local news website Gloucestershire Live: “I’m excited to celebrate the release of Bad Hair Days in Alopecia Awareness month. Hair loss can be an embarrassing and distressing condition for young people, but if we were more accepting of people’s differences, it doesn't need to be that way.”
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