Alopecia Areata Awareness: Tip of the Day 9-14-22
Just as everything seemed to be going right, this low-life named “Alopecia” hit me right upside the head. I didn’t see it coming, but fortunately, I see it finally going away.
I’m writing this article because I’ve seen far too many women (particularly black women) accept alopeciawithout putting up a fight. A lot of us just cover it up as best we can with weaves and wigs - assuming the hair loss is hereditary. I’ve worked in a salon setting, and have seen the uncomfortable looks in the sweetest women’s eyes as their condition was laid bare before everyone in the salon until her stylist finished her install. A lot of women are dealing with this kind of hair loss. I assume these women have a form of the condition that isn’t treatable, or they just don’t know certain kinds of alopecia are totally reversible if treated soon enough. Here’s my story.
Waking up to a bald spot --- center front --- felt like a punch in the gut. A hard one. There I was, a beauty brand founder, with this dime-sized bald spot right on top of my head. I thought, “Come on God. You can’t be serious.” It didn’t help that a few people brought it up like I didn’t know it was there. My hair is super short so it’s not something I could hide well. I’ll admit, I first noticed it the day after a haircut and I thought maybe my barber “knicked” me a little bit. I thought it would grow back by the time I needed another haircut. It did not. I did my little gel-down comb-overs as best as I could to hide it. My barber is actually the one who recommended that I see a dermatologist about it. By the time I finally called - the bald spot was the size of a half-dollar. It was growing and heading straight for my center hairline. In my heart, I told myself I would just find a pretty wig. I didn’t think there was hope for my hair. I accepted it. Until that dermatologist visit.
My dermatologist came in, looked at my head – and knew instantly that I had some sort of autoimmune condition. She was right. She let me know that many cases of alopecia (not all) are a result of an underlying autoimmune condition. Autoimmune diseases range from more common ones like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, type-1 diabetes, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease and hasthimoto’s thyroiditis. But, there are many more autoimmune conditions – and women are affected by autoimmune disease more than ever. My dermatologist says she knew I had an autoimmune condition because of the shape of the bald spot. It was almost a perfect circle that grew in size while maintaining the circular shape. Then she gave me the best news. She said, “We can fix this.”
Autoimmune disease sends signals to your immune system to attack your own tissues, and in many cases – hair follicles. To treat this, I started a series of steroid shots in my scalp. Before you hit the exit button, just know – the needle is very tiny and I barely felt it. I honestly would have endured the shot even if it were painful to get my hair back – but it didn’t hurt. Apparently, the steroids send signals to your immune system to stop attacking the hair follicles. I was scheduled once a month to get a new round of shots in the affected area. You cannot double up on shots to speed up the process. Yes, I asked. This might cause the skin to thin out in your scalp and sink, causing dents in your head. No thanks, I’ll wait.
So, after one month – I saw peach fuzzy hair growing in the spot that had seemingly been dead for nearly 6 months. After two months, I saw actual hair (in patches within the affected area). In my case, 4 months of treatment was needed to fill me in. I can now say to Alopecia, “It’s Over. BYE!”
I write this so that you will make an appointment with a dermatologist if alopecia shows up front and center for you. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition -- see a dermatologist. That inflammation that comes and goes (as in my case) could be a sign of a common autoimmune condition. Make time to take care of yourself. You’re worth that. The key in many alopecia cases is not waiting too late. We don’t have to lie down in defeat to this cruel condition. Even if you’ve dealt with alopecia for a while – see a dermatologist. I honestly don’t know how late is too late. But it’s worth checking into.
Wishing you many years of beauty and wellness, my friends.