Irish mum, Anne Harkin, has set up a popular blog - adopting the online moniker Ms. Amazebald - where she discusses her heartfelt experiences with both depression and hair loss
, the latter of which she has lived with for the best part of 20 years.
Harkin's hair loss
When Harkin was 17, a hairdresser spotted a bald patch on the side of her head and more continued to appear. When the patches began to merge into each other, and when the hair did not grow back, she "freaked out".
Following a consultation with a dermatologist, she discovered that she had the autoimmune condition Alopecia Areata
, which manifests as rapidly-forming, patches of hairloss on the scalp only.
She continued to shed hair even as she was approaching her wedding day, a situation also faced by London-based Keremi Gawade
Recalling this moment in the Derry Journal
, she noted, "As the patches grew into each other, I refused to shave it off. But, I didn't want to go up the aisle a half-bald bride. So, I travelled to Belfast, got a wig and that evening I shaved my head".
Harkin later developed Alopecia Universalis
, a more severe form of Alopecia Areata which causes complete head and bodily hair loss as well: "It's strange, but I don't remember the rest of it falling out and I don't remember my eyebrows falling out".
Living with Alopecia
For Anne and others like her, living with hair loss has its tough moments, particularly considering her separate battles with mental health.
When discussing her depression, Harkin urged people with the same condition to “Exercise, practise self care and take medication if you need it".
These pieces of advice can also apply when approaching hair loss. Exercising regularly
- without over-doing it - helps to minimise stress, a suspected trigger of various conditions which cause thinning hair. Whilst its cause is currently unknown, triggers for all forms of Alopecia Areata are believed to include sudden shock or trauma, allergies and even perhaps genetic elements.
Self-care is also immensely important: wigs have been a "massive benefit"
to the blogger's self-esteem and offer those experiencing hair loss more control over their image. In 2015, Vogue Magazine
published an article which explored how nine women who have lost their hair experimented with hats, wigs, and scarves, proving that women can look incredibly stylish with or without hair.
However, Harkin has begun to embrace her baldness more openly. Speaking about her decision, the Irish blogger noted, "If I'm out and about I don't like going without my wig, as sometimes I do feel naked without it. It does take time to adjust... I'm not as brave as some people - but I am getting there".
Fellow Alopecia blogger Ruth McPherson
went 'wig-free' for a week to raise money for Autoimmune Alopecia Research UK, a charity which has since merged
with Alopecia UK.
Understandably, embracing hair loss remains an incredibly difficult process for some people. For those with the scalp-only form of Alopecia Areata, treatment options
do exist for those aged 16 years+, and can be hugely beneficial for some. Its two more extreme phenotypes - Alopecia Totalis and Universalis
- however, currently have no effective treatment options.
Harkin proves that there are many ways of dealing with her condition though, and she has evidently emerged from these experiences as a stronger and more confident woman. Furthermore, many charities
, including the aforementioned Alopecia UK, can help people to deal with the effects of hair loss, ensuring those affected - as well as their friends and relatives, where appropriate - receive any support they might need.