The autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata, which leads to sudden, patchy hair loss, is second only to genetic baldness in term of how common it is, and when it strikes, it can be devastating – especially if your career is built on your looks.
The reality of adjusting to life after an Alopecia Areata diagnosis is slowly dawning on South African model Justin Hopwood, whose biggest clients have mostly been large all-American brands, including Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie & Fitch, for whom his rugged good looks were a perfect fit.
Everything changed, however, about two years ago.
Bald spot on chin
In a full and frank interview with GQ magazine, Hopwood explains he was talking to his dad on FaceTime, when his father noticed a small bald spot on his beard, just under his chin. Hopwood hadn’t noticed it until then and shrugged it off, thinking he would simply shave off his beard. But the last thing he needed, he figured, would be for it to spread to his head.
“Losing your hair is losing your income,” Hopwood tells GQ. “You can be in an office job and they want you to use your brain, and you’re still going to get your paycheck. Your boss isn’t going to be like, ‘Oh, you have alopecia – you’re out.’ And not to say that that’s the case with modelling, but it’s like, I get it. You have to follow a certain image, and that’s the way it is.”
Hopwood says that he was suffering from stress at the time his father first noticed his spotty beard, which is caused by a form of alopecia areata known as alopecia barbae and can be an initial sign of more autoimmune hair loss to come. The condition has a number of suspected “triggers”, and extreme stress is frequently cited. Other triggers include physical trauma, allergies and local skin injuries.
Unfortunately, the Alopecia did spread to Hopwood’s head. This doesn’t always happen, but it is typical of the pernicious nature of the disorder. It can come, it can go, it can spread – part of the problem for people with the condition is the not knowing, although what is reassuring to those with the patchy, scalp-only version is that it can be treated.
At Belgravia, clients following bespoke Alopecia Areata treatment courses often see significant regrowth results through consistent use of topical medication and additional boosters. The key component to these bespoke treatment programmes, each customised to the individual client’s needs, is high strength minoxidil.
Despite being clinically-proven for the treatment of female and male pattern baldness only, its efficacy in relation to other hair loss conditions is widely acknowledged. Belgravia specialists use high strength formulations, which are applied directly to the scalp where needed, in order to open the potassium channels and promote hair growth in these areas. This medication is often paired with appropriate hair growth boosters which include exclusive, highly-targeted hair growth food supplements, Hair Vitalics. It’s a non-invasive approach that has produced many Success Stories for Belgravia clients.
For his part, Hopwood was offered the prescription drug Xanax as a possible solution to his anxiety, but he was determined to control his stress levels by getting to grips with things in his head. He did, however, start using a product called Nutrafol and agree to hormone injections in the hope of regrowing his hair. The GQ article states that he has had more than 600 of these in his face and head during the past two years.
Wispy blond regrowth
Today, the model’s bald patches are steadily being replaced by wispy blonde hairs, which should hopefully darken with time. Hair that returns after Alopecia Areata is often very light compared to the surrounding hair, and can form distinct white or cream spots where the hair is devoid of pigmentation, usually temporarily. Former athlete Oscar Pistorius displayed what was suspected to be evidence of this during his murder trial, whilst actor Robert Pattinson was also seen with two small, rounded white patches, the type often seen in cases of alopecia areata regrowth.
Hopwood remains philosophical about his situation, even though it has led to most of his modelling work drying up. “For someone selling beauty, it’s like, ‘We understand he’s a handsome guy, but half his head is missing of hair.’ It’s not going to add up,” he says. But the fashion industry, he feels, might be waking up to a new type of model. He tells GQ: “I think everyone, over the last couple years, has really grown into this idea of accepting people for who they are, what they are.”
On the plus side, he says that he feels younger with his hair shorter, and that he maybe feels a little tougher, too. He’s also a fantastic role model for the many men, women and children dealing with the condition – which is the second most common type of hairloss – and his coming forward to share his story is a huge credit to him.
“Once you accept it,” he says of his situation, “you can learn from it, grow from it. Now I’ve got alopecia, but it’s no big deal. If it doesn’t (grow back), whatever, no one’s gonna hate me for it.”
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.