Julie was in a rock band with me not so long ago, and she’d often wear a hat when we rocked out. We thought she was just cool, but it turns out she has the equivalent of male pattern baldness – a disorder called androgenetic alopecia.
So while she was (and is) indeed cool, it was just easier to cover it than have a bunch of drunk would-be rock stars asking about her hair. But, you can only dodge that bullet so long. Sooner or later, one of them catches you out on a blog.
When did you first notice your hair falling out?
When I was around 11 or 12. Nothing major at first, but then I realized that it was falling out more than just the normal 100-a-day or so and my parents took me to the doctor, who then sent me to lots and lots of other doctors, who all told me that there was nothing physically wrong with me, so therefore there was nothing else much to do, which kinda sucked.
What was your emotional reaction?
I was pretty devastated. I started cutting most of my hair off and never looked back. I’ve had short hair ever since.
You kept it quiet for the most part?
I did keep it quiet for a really long time. My family and best and oldest friends were the only ones who knew about it, and anyone that I’ve met in the last 10 years or so basically didn’t get the inside scoop. I only started going public for a couple of reasons: It was not as concealable anymore so I basically expected people to be able to tell, and I realized that a lot of women deal with varying degrees of this condition and I wanted to reach out to let them know that they’re not alone. If I had more support when I was younger I don’t think I would have felt so isolated and vulnerable.
How have you kept it hidden?
I’ve been wearing a topical colored powder that adheres to the scalp and basically minimizes shiny and noticeable scalpage. Like, remember those commercials for the spray on hair for men? It’s sort of like that, but in a powdered form. Cool, right? Well, sort of but not so much. It actually worked really well for a while, but it was messy and unreliable and got on everything. So, I’ve been looking into hair pieces and stuff. There are a lot of options, like things called toppers and integrated hair pieces that you can wear in addition to your own hair.
You went to television school and put together a documentary about the condition. What was it like to meet women with the same problem?
I wanted to reach as many people as I could on one platform. I think that the topic deserves lots of attention and when I was interviewed by a major morning news show (that didn’t air the piece) I realized that it’s an issue that is gaining some attention, but not enough. I guess I’m sort of a special case because it started happening to me at such a young age, but I met some other women and girls who are experiencing it at many different stages in life, and for many different reasons. I found a fantastic support forum that pretty much changed my life. It’s an incredible place for women and girls to come together and experience a very special sense of community and support unlike what your friends and family can offer you. Finding the site further highlighted for me that the general public know that it isn’t just men who experience thinning or balding, and women who have thin or shedding hair should know that they’re not alone and they’re definitely and absolutely still valuable and beautiful. Hair is just an accessory, albeit a pretty awesome one.
What would you tell others facing the same thing?
I’d really just urge women and girls to talk to someone about their worries or fears about hair loss. It’s a pretty crappy situation, but it’s certainly not the most horrible thing, so the sooner you can consider all your options and deal with the crappiness, the sooner you can move forward with your life. I’ve only recently discovered support from other women who are experiencing the same thing and I’ve found a whole community of hair loss support and products. There are people out there who know how to help, so you just have to reach out and let them.