My Invisible Enemy: Mike’s alopecia story

As I explained a few posts ago. I want to share other’s stories with you. This one comes from Mike, from the USA, who wanted to share his alopecia journey and how he found his trigger. I’m sure you will enjoy reading it as much as I did. Over to Mike.

The beginning

Life was finally going the way that I wanted it to go. After many years of dating and casual relationships, I got engaged to the love of my life on February 17th, 2018.
In late March, we closed on our first house.  I can easily remember my last weekend as a “normal” person. On Friday April 13th, we saw Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden. That Saturday, we walked for miles in order to explore our new town and had brunch at a nice outdoor cafe. We then went out for dinner later that night at a Peruvian restaurant before we picked up drinks and cigars. We then went back to our home and listened to music in our living room before retiring for the night.  That Sunday, we ran around a track in town before spending the rest of our quiet Sunday in our new home.
I always take a week vacation in April and I was looking forward to getting a lot done that week while my fiancee was working. That Monday, like any other Monday, I was shaving with my electric trimmer and thought I nicked myself. There was a small bald spot by the right side of my mouth/goatee area. I thought nothing of it until Tuesday night. Looking in the mirror, it was like the spot had grown bigger and there was a second spot forming around the right side of the jaw line. This was less than three weeks after moving in to the home.
I had heard of alopecia, but I didn’t know it wasn’t curable and I didn’t know that treatments were hit or miss. Everything that I read that night on the internet scared the crap out of me and my many months of constant mirror checking started that night. I felt a little better when I was able to book an appointment with the dermatologist that Thursday. In my head I was saved. I was going to go to the doctor and I was going to get the help I needed. Soon, this would all be a distant memory. I could not have been more wrong.
The dermatologist I went to see was really a Nurse practitioner. But she initially  seemed like she knew her stuff. Of course she wanted to blame stress for my hair loss, gave me steroid injections in my face and told me to come back in a month. She was pretty direct and explained to me the disease could travel to my scalp and eyebrows. I asked several other questions which she couldn’t answer. For whatever condition I went to the doctor for,  this was the first time I couldn’t get any answers.

Stress and anxiety

I began to think about how stress may have played a role in this and it made sense.  I had recently switched schedules, so I wasn’t sleeping anywhere near as much as I used to.  I was dealing with a lot of annoying micro managing at work which was pissing me off nearly every day for the past few months.  My father had several medical issues and needed a lot of care. However, no matter what stresses I may have had prior, once the hair started falling out, the real anxiety began.
It was absolutely consuming me.  I was scared all the time. I gave up Protein shakes because I thought that was contributing to my illness. I also stopped drinking alcohol and gave up sweets. I was gobbling down anything considered anti inflammatory. I was miserable. My personality was drastically changing. I became very withdrawn.  I felt like I could no longer enjoy things in life which I had previously enjoyed my previous 32 years.

Further symptoms

I tried to maintain a routine and continued to work out. A week after my first dermatologist appointment, I started to calm down a little until one day after working out in the basement, where I had set up my home gym, my entire scalp broke out in rashes. I had also been getting other strange symptoms like twitches and burning sensations throughout my body. I broke down and cried for the first time. I had no idea what was happening to me. I went to an urgent care center that night only for them to tell me to follow-up with my dermatologist.
The next day,  I took off from work and visited my dermatologist again. She pulled on the hair around my rashes and the hair stayed where it should.  She gave me a prescription for a topical steroid but instructed me not to put it on where I had previously been injected.  I then went to my Primary doctor and got a blood test in hope they would find something wrong with me which would be treatable. I cried at each appointment and of course my blood work came back fine. I was also advised from my primary care provider that I must be stressed and because of this I was told to give up caffeine and offered a prescription for Xanax which I refused.
I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. It felt like a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. I tried giving up coffee which made me even more miserable.  Life as I knew it up until that point was over. After a month,
I went back to my dermatologist for my 2nd round of steroid shots. I felt a little better that day since I was told I had white hair growing in my bald spots. I then went back home and tried to continue my positive attitude. I tried using my basement gym again,  I went upstairs a couple of hours later to shave and to my horror noticed a brand knew bald spot on the left side of my chin. My positive attitude lasted a whole 2 hours.

Part 2: Downward spiral and depression

From this point, it was a downward spiral. After countless hours researching web md I convinced myself that I had sleep apnea. This theory was supported one night when I constantly woke up from hypnotic jerks. That night and morning were torturous. Every time I would wake up with a hypnotic jerk, I felt like I was making my alopecia worse and would get stressed on top of it.
By June, I was the walking dead. Alopecia had completely overtaken my personality. At work, people knew I was acting different and something was wrong. They all told me not to stress and that my slowly disappearing beard wasn’t even noticeable.  By this point I had no use for my electric razor and had to clean shave every morning. I talked to several other people that have had bouts of alopecia, but everyone seemed to get relief after a couple of appointments with the dermatologist.
At this point I had lost weight and muscle tone which really depressed me.  My relationship was suffering, because I was depressed all the time. I wasn’t enjoying the things I used to enjoy. I no longer felt attractive to which I was constantly told I was vain. I started seeing an actual dermatologist by now and he gave me steroid shots and cream to put on twice a day. Unlike the nurse practitioner he insisted I put the cream on the injected spots. Of course he told me to try to lower my stress levels. After all, alopecia is brought on by stress right?

My nemesis…

After many dead ends, and more doctors visits I finally found something which gave me a glimmer of hope and became my new nemesis. I discovered mold in my basement ! Lots of it. I had been working out in the basement and breathing all the mold spores in directly. I had researched mold quite heavily after this and read how mold can make people lose hair through histamine or inflammation. One common word that would always come up while researching alopecia was inflammation. There didn’t seem to be any article directly linking alopecia to mold but I did come across many hypothesis about mold possibly triggering an auto immune reaction in some people if they’re genetically predisposed to it.
I immediately scheduled a mold inspection at my home. After several days the results of my inspection came back and remediation was scheduled. The air quality test informed me that the counts of penicillum aspergillus mold in my basement was 2,500. On the 1st floor it was 1,100 and on the top floor was 850. I was told by the inspector that mold count indoors should normally be less than outdoors. Although there is no set standard on the indoor levels, he did explain that the counts start to get problematic if they’re over 1000. However every person is different on how they will react. Mold spores are microscopic and cannot be seen by the naked eye. When I asked about my hair loss, he replied that it was probably stress.
I was convinced mold inhalation was the source of all my problems and finally felt like this nightmare was starting to end. I started seeing a few thin white hairs where the spots on my beard had disappeared. In July my fiancee and I took a trip to Lake George. When we arrived home, I noticed the first bald spot on the top right portion of my head. I was officially depressed again. I  hated my house and felt like there was no where I could go without risking other aspects of my life. I blamed the house for everything and constantly wished that I never moved out of my previous apartment.
The rest of July, August and the first half of September were low points in my life. Most of the frontal portion of my beard was gone. I was still able to comb over the bald spot on the top of my head and found out I was very artistic with Toppik, a hair fiber filler. I also had about 6 spots on my neck and beard which were coming together. I was still going for steroid injections every 3 weeks and rubbing steroid creams on my face. I wasn’t going down without a fight. I was predicting that I would be shaving my head by November. I kept asking my fiance to assure me she would still love me. It seemed like a silly question but my confidence was completely gone by this point.
 I tried to get a prescription for xeljanz , a promising new medication not yet FDA approved for alopecia, but my primary doctor refused and started yelling at me that I was doing a horrible job managing my stress and that stress was why I had alopecia. My response to him was asking him if he told his blind patient that he pleasures himself too much. I would  mention to my doctors and family members that I believed mold exposure was causing this and that I also felt like there was still something in the house I was having a reaction to. I was largely brushed off and was given many suggestions to see a professional psychologist or to give in and take Xanax….Once again I refused.

Part 3 : Escape and Vindication

In early September 2018, I had spoken to my original home inspector who felt really bad that he had missed the mold the first time. I told him I still felt that there was something in the home that I was having a reaction to. He agreed to check out my house…this time for free. Upon his arrival he discovered a shit load of mold in the crawl space area which most likely was forming while the other mold behind the sheet rock was being re mediated. Within a half hour I was packed and out the door. We made arrangements to stay at my fiance’s mom’s house in Jersey City until we figured out the situation. I remember the first day of entering my future mother in laws house. I sat down on her couch and exhaled. I didn’t know what the future held but I knew at least at this point I had a chance of getting better. After a second inspection and remediation of my house, the penicillum/aspergillus mold count were as follows:
  • 94,000 in the basement
  • 55,000 on the 1st floor
  • 5,800 in the bedroom.
We made the decision to sell the house and start to look for an apartment. Within two weeks I noticed a lot of thin white hair in my beard. The hair continued to grow but at a slow pace. After 2 months I was able to cut off my comb over. In a long and exhausting war, this was the first major victory for me. All the hair on my scalp had returned and my beard was still progressing to the point where I was able to go a day or two without shaving. Everything was looking great until we left my mother in law’s house.

Part 4: The return and current situation

To make a long story short, I started getting some of the same symptoms in my new apartment that I was getting in my house. They were not to the same degree as before and I initially just thought I was making myself crazy. After a few weeks, the left side of my beard started getting thin again. I paid for my own inspection and of course – mold was discovered in the basement.
The spore levels were around 1000 in my apartment which is probably just enough to screw with me. I’ve had 2 new spots which filled in after a few weeks of steroid injections which I’m still going for to this day. I decided to temporarily stay with my parents but noticed I was getting some of the same symptoms while sleeping on the 2nd floor.
At this point I decided to buy my own air testing machine. My parents 1st floor level was fine but their 2nd floor was 1,200 of penicillum/Asp mold. They are currently going through their own mold remediation and hopefully will have a safe home by the end of the week. Just to prove my point even further, I tested my mother in law’s house which had a nice low mold spore count of 400.

February 2019

My landlord cut out the moldy sheet rock but did not have the building professionally remediated. They still have a 3,000 count in their basement and as of now my first floor scored a 300.
For now I’m undecided if we should stay and have been exploring other options. My belief is that the mold spores will continually travel throughout the home and will probably get worse as soon as it rains or gets humid. We are currently still trying to get them to go forward with remediation but there are currently no laws or legislation on to how mold has to be removed. If the health department can’t see it, then it’s not considered a problem.

The future

Worst case scenario, I’ll go back to my parents until we figure out a new living situation. I’m not sure what other kind of damage this mold could be doing to my body and realize I need to do my best to avoid it at all costs. I know going forward I’m going to be very limited as to the places where I can live.
I’ve come to realize that the craze of flipping houses in America is causing much of the mold problem. These amateur contractors just looking to make a quick profit, buy old leaky houses and throw sheet rock up over dirty walls which just provides a breeding ground for mold.
If you have alopecia or other auto immune diseases, consider getting your home or workplace inspected. Maybe it’s a place you frequent normally like a coffee shop or a gym. Mold might not be everybody’s trigger but it is definitely mine.
A friend of mine once told me a story of a relative of his that had alopecia totalis for four years. She eventually switched jobs and had to move out of her apartment. Shortly after moving, her hair grew back….Of course everyone told her that her current job must definitely be a lot less stressful than her previous one.

Regrowth, regrowth, regrowth

Yes you read it right from my triple title above – my hair is back – thicker and fuller that it’s been in ages. In my last post, I was heading in a downward spiral – in terms of mood and also hair loss – the dreaded patches were emerging again. Well  – they’ve all gone from my head and I finally have 100% regrowth. I don’t have to avoid triple mirrors in dressing rooms anymore!

dressing room

Here’s how I maybe managed it

I’d love to say ‘it just happened’ and grew back like last time – but it never. The truth is I don’t know what’s helped the most as I’ve tried to make so many different positive steps.

I made a conscious effort not to head down the same sad, obsessive path I was on way back when this all started. Instead I took affirmative action. I may have started too many things  – which is an issue as now I don’t know which (if any) are helping – so I’m carrying on with all of them – as long as my bank balance will allow.

Here’s a list of things I think may have contributed to the regrowth – in no particular order:

1. Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)

I am still taking the LDN every night – 4.5 mg. I have never really had side effects  – I talked about starting to use it here. This costs me £30 ish for every prescription.

2. A mystery potion from the Middle East

When I was in Australia in December 2016, I met someone who told me their regrowth was helped by using a lotion they bought over the internet from a Middle Eastern country. Immediately my thoughts turned to snake oil salesman and the charlatans that I was very critical of in an earlier post which focused on the treatments I’d tried.

Nevertheless I agreed to purchase said lotion – which is pretty expensive. The cost of the treatment is also the reason I’m not name-checking or linking to it here as I feel it’s not ethical to do so. I don’t really know if it honestly works and I don’t want anyone to get in debt because of me, then be upset if it doesn’t work.

If you really want to know the details please message me privately. Though I am in no way endorsing or supporting this product. It is one of the many things I have been doing.

You can private message me via the social media pages that I have created for this blog:

Even if you don’t want to message me – you might like to follow the social media pages anyway 🙂

I paid £400 for a three month supply of this lotion which I was instructed to rub into my scalp every night and wash off the next day. I honestly don’t know if it’s this that’s helping but I’m still rubbing it in every night like a drone anyway.

I have been doing this for around 3 months.

3. Yoga & relaxation

I have tried to make time for yoga as it allows me time to relax and get in tune with my body and mind at the same time. I’ve been practising Forrest Yoga with an amazing tutor in Edinburgh for a while now and it really helps me feel better at the end of a sweaty session!


Striking a yoga pose on my 39th birthday in Singapore – December 2016

It’s also really handy as it’s near my work. If any of you ever get the chance – swing by Leith Yoga studio for a class with Janet.

4. Therapy

I think as a result of the years of stressing about being stressed, worrying about hair loss and analysing my thoughts – I’m finally pretty in-tune with myself and tend to realise when my body and mind are stressed, manic and winding out of control.

I can usually feel tenseness in my body or hear the internal chatter building to a crescendo and either loosen up or quieten down to try and combat the feelings that used to spin me out of control.

To help with this – earlier in the year I started talking therapy. I have done this once previously  – 6 sessions recommended by my doctor when my hair first started falling out. This time it’s different – I’m paying for this therapist and can talk about whatever I like.

It’s rare that we get a chance to openly talk about our lives and what has contributed to make us the people we are. From family to work and relationships – everything has an effect and impact on your current view of the world and yourself. I have found it really helpful to be able to discuss all of the above with my therapist. I am going to keep going in the future – but not as regular.

5. Vitamins

I’ve been gobbling a handful of pills every morning on top of the LDN. As I mentioned a few posts ago – the concotion I’m self-medicating with includes the following capsules:

  • Vitamin D
  • Turmeric
  • Vitamin C
  • Acidophilus
hair tonic with phytofol

Hair Tonic

I’m still taking the Chinese medicine – in the form of a capsule with Phytofol -this herb is used to nourish the liver and replenish Kidney energy (Jing) to promote healthy hair follicle function.

So what’s next?

I’m too scared to stop using anything right now. I think I’ll wait until my ‘big birthday’ is over in December and wean myself off the LDN and mystery lotion. Am going to keep up the yoga, therapy and vitamins as they are fairly low cost compared to the other two.

I’m currently really happy – loving life and quite chilled out. As I’ve always said in this blog – I think my happiness and contentment is contributing towards my regrowth more than anything I’ve listed above – however:

  • my mood may not have been so happy had I not had regrowth
  • regrowth might not have happened had I not proactively taken all the steps above

I haven’t a clue what’s working but I stand by every decision I’ve made as at least I’m doing something and I’m so glad I don’t feel the need to obsess about falling hair at the moment.

I move house in September so we shall see if I can maintain this low stress lifestyle.

I’ll keep you posted.


It’s happening again

Well my hair is officially coming out again – after months of denial – I popped into H&M today and unfortunately caught the three way view of the back, front and side of my head.

It’s looking holey, threadbare and generally a bit shit. Here are some photos taken this week:

Bald patch at the front - January 2017

Patch at the front – January 2017


Back of the head January 2017

The back of my head January 2017

Back of the heed January 2017


I’ve still got a way to go before it gets as bad as it did the first time but a small part of my brain can’t stop worrying that THIS is going to happen again:


My hair when I first shaved it off back in 2012 – look those eyebrows! Strong eyebrow game.

Partial loss all over

2012 – Patchy McPatcherson

Where else am I shedding?

My chest has a few patches  – though there is a lot of white hair growing back in each patch.

Is there any regrowth?

I think so -there are the white hairs mentioned above and  my moustache seems to be filling out – but I’ve thought that for a while now. I don’t actually  know. I will need to compare old and new pics and look a little closer.

Trying to keep my shit together

Being a natural pessimist and a bit of a worrier – my inner voice keeps repeating  the following type of statements on a nasty, insidious loop:

  • It’s all coming out AGAIN

  • It’s going to happen the same as last time

  • I’m going to have to wear hats all the time again

  • I wonder if it’s because I’m stressed

  • Why am I so stressed? If I wasn’t so stressed my hair might grow back

It’s pretty annoying to say the least but I am trying to be mindful and relax. I know from past experience that worrying, freaking out and being sad does NOTHING to improve mood, regrow hair or make you a nice person to be around.

It’s hard to maintain a chipper outlook when you wake up and your pillow looks like a barbershop floor or you’re stood in front of a stranger and wondering if they’re staring at your hair.

What am I doing differently?

I’m not taking any anti depressants or smoking cigarettes anymore. Though that annoying inner voice keeps reminding me – Your hair came back when you started smoking again last time.

I’m taking a drug as explained in my last post – called Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN). I have been taking it since 5 November 2016 and so far – NOTHING. I am paying for a private prescription and my hair seems to be getting worse. Apparently it takes a while to kick in. I’m giving it 6 months and then knocking it on the head – pun intended.

I’ve started wolfing down vitamins like they’re haribo – I’m currently taking:

  • Vitamin D
  • Turmeric
  • Vitamin C
  • Acidophilus

I am also taking Chinese medicine – in the form of a capsule with Phytofol – this herb is used to nourish the liver and replenish Kidney energy (Jing) to promote healthy hair follicle function.

hair tonic with phytofol

Hair Tonic

This Chinese medicine was given to me as a present on my recent holiday to Australia. I met up with a fellow AA sufferer – Johannes, who has been following my blog for a few years. We met up for dinner and drinks when I was in Melbourne in December. We chatted about lots – including AA coping strategies and different things we have tried to regrow hair.

Johannes and me

Me and Johannes

Johannes advice

It was amazing for me to meet Johannes. he was a very positive person and someone who I am glad now to call my friend. He gave me this piece of sage advice -which I am trying to reflect on whenever I get down:

Remember, yes AA while not life threatening, is certainly life altering but you are not your hair, my friend – You are so much more, and hair while of course aesthetically nice does not define you.
I think we could all learn a lot from the above quote. It’s very hard to shift that awful voice that sometimes submerges your waking thoughts.
Instead of listening to the negative internal monologue – actually listen to another objective human point of view – preferably someone who knows you or someone you trust.
Actually listen to what they say.

LDN and Alopecia

No I’m not talking about the capital of the UK or quoting a Lily Allen song, I’m on about Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) – a drug that I’ve just started taking.

Apparently naltrexone, in a low dose (the LD in the LDN), can normalise the immune system — helping those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and central nervous system disorders. A lot to live up to.

The drugs

Naltrexone’s normal use is for treating addiction to opiate drugs such as heroin or morphine. The dose used for this purpose is usually between 50 and 300mg daily. The one I am taking is way, way lower. I am starting at 1mg and going up steadily to a max of 4.5 mg.

You need to get it on private prescription which is what I have done. For  more info on LDN – go to the LDN research trust.

The alopecia

Well – it’s back with a vengeance on my chest.

There has also been a general thinning on the top of my head and a few small patches have been threatening to make a more formal appearance for ages now.

Logging my results

I started taking it on 5 November 2016 and started on a 1mg dose of the liquid. After a few weeks I am now up to 4.5.

I am off to Australia today for 5 weeks so will try and blog while I am there and keep you up to date with my progress.




Hello Darkness, my old friend…The return of Alopecia and departure of hair (again).

No, this post isn’t an homage to Simon & Garfunkel, as lovely as they are. I’m merely borrowing lyrics to highlight my current mood. It’s getting darker – which is the inverse of my hair – which is getting lighter. By lighter I mean patchier. By patchier – I mean – the always lurking alopecia areata is making a comeback 😦

One year on

It’s been precisely a year since I started to grow my hair back in. I shouldn’t whine – I had a full head of regrowth for summer (no sweaty cap or burnt scalp for me) and for my sister’s wedding. In the back of my mind I always knew it would come back (or go – whichever way you look at it).

When people asked me or saw an old photo of me and were puzzled – I’d explain that I have Alopecia – not had. I would never trust them when they said “Really, I would never know”. Such is my paranoia when it comes my hair.


Paris, March 2016

Never really went away

I never had full regrowth, below is a list of the stuff that didn’t properly grow back when my luscious mane did:

  • My eyebrows never fully grew back to the Brooke Shields/Cara Delevigne caterpillars that they were  – but at least I had some – even if it did look like I’d over-plucked
  • A patch on my chest and trunk – which started when my head hair came back.
  • I had one patch of (no) hair – above a newly returned grey spot which never came back in (see below)

grey bit


What am I going to do this time?

You may remember last time I tried a few things? This time I don’t want to radically overhaul my diet (as I’ve been steadily eating healthier foods and upping my fitness levels for the past few months). I gave up smoking – in January and am drinking less alcohol than I ever have.

I seriously believe that my alopecia is either:

  • a cyclical thing  – that I have no control over
  • it’s triggered by stress – which I do have control over
  • both

Point is, if I remove or react to stress better, it’s a win-win. I know how mini stressful episodes affect me – I get a racing mind, laboured breath and a tightness of  muscle. Whether these mini episodes have contributed to my alopecia or not – I don’t want them. So…

This time, the only things I’m going to do are:

  • Try (and I do mean try really hard) to calm the f*ck down
  • Try not to stare at the ever increasing patches of pink skin
  • Remember to breathe – seriously, I’m making a conscious effort to take big long lung-bucket-fulls of breath – it’s not only good for the soul – focussing on my breath will stop my mind racing about impending baldness

I just need to remember that I’ve been through all this shit before. The ‘worst’ that can happen is actually more of an inconvenience – having to shave my head, facial hair and patchy eyebrows off on a daily basis. It isn’t life threatening and lots of people are going through much worse than me.

I’m away to snort some oxygen and (not) look at my hair in the mirror!




The eyes have it

This is a combo post – updating a draft I have had since MAY 2012 – sorry folks….. I have updated the post with monthly headings which brings things up to date. This post focuses (as the title suggests) mainly on my eyebrows…

May 2012

Well I am approaching the later?? stages of my first ever Alopecia Areata episode and things are getting sparse.

my disappearing hairline

slowly slowly

And in a complete reversal of feelings – I am happy about it! Summer is approaching, it’s getting too hot to wear a hat all of the time – and I would rather be full on bald than patchy and scratchy.

In the past few months I have decided to embrace the bald. Totally.

As my Alopecia has progressed I have continually lost further hair and the holes/patches/crop circles have gradually increased in size and joined up with each other.

man showing half eyebrow

half an eyebrow with alopecia

The above ‘joined up approach’ has also been true of my eyebrows. Starting with a  rather fashionable looking scar shape on one eyebrow (image at the left) and then gradually turning into the usual ‘dog with mange’ look that the top of my head has.

I hadn’t said earlier – but during this time – my eyebrows really got to me! As they are a really noticeable facial feature – used to show emotion and be expressive. My set used to be pretty impressive. Think caterpillar, think the Gallagher brothers from  Oasis.

My cousin Becky’s wedding in October 2012

It wasn’t until the wedding and I was visiting home (The Lake District – if anyone is interested) that my Mam suggested “Use a dod of eyebrow pencil and nobody will notice!” “I couldn’t do that – I would look like a drunk transvestite who had lost their wig” was my immediate response. Undettered  – my Mam bought me said pencil – in actual fact it was a Kohl black eyeliner pencil. She handed me it, smiled and continued getting ready for the wedding.

The Wedding

So – brush in hand and egged on by my family and partner – I daubed away and VOILA:

Mother and son at wedding

At my cousins wedding

I had never thought of life as a make up artist but I didn’t do a bad job (if I do say so myself)! I felt really comfortable with my ‘restored eyebrows and they managed to stay put for quite a while. However – water/rain/sweat are not a good mix and they do come off if you rub your face regularly!

I carried on painting my face like a Geisha for a wee while. But it didn’t come without it’s issues. If you have a small eyebrow space and want to hide it. Then I say do it. However be prepared for some hurdles along the way that come hand in hand with covering up your eyebrow bald patches:

Here are my tips for pencilled eyebrow survival:

Water – including rain!

Rain will now be your enemy – always carry a hat or umbrella! I had a pencilled eyebrow over Xmas 2012 when i travelled to Los Angeles. It wasn’t much fun going on rides at Universal Studios that sprayed you with water! All of the photos taken on rides show me with a hood round my face, body cramped in fear that I would come off the ride looking like Alice Cooper! Funny looking back but kind of a literal ‘wet blanket’ at the time.


I never realised until I started pencilling that I rubbed my face so much. It was especially embarrassing during one 2 hour work meeting. I came out – went to the loo and saw a black smear right across my face and a patchy eyebrow! I shuddered then laughed – Thanks colleagues for just staring and ignoring!!

Knowing when to stop

There comes a time when the patches you are pencilling outweigh what is left of your actual eyebrows. I would suggest stopping then – or possibly before.  I toyed with the idea of stopping but then panicked bout my eyebrows! Argh – what would I do.

pencilled in eyebrows

Abi and the eyebrows 🙂

This picture of me taken on a night out – with big shiny eyebrows was my deciding factor. I didn’t realise how obvious they had become. When you out feminize a feminine creature like Abi – it’s time to man up and get rid. So I did. The next day I buzzed them right off.

Before I did that I took a comedy picture of myself after I had washed my face:

washed off alopecia eyebrows

smudged to hell

Here is the finished result – excuse the maniacal face:

No eyebrows

annnnnnd they’re off.

Spectacles and making a spectacle. . . . .

Immediately after shaving off my balding slugs,  I tried to hide my lack of eyebrows with thick framed glasses. My thought was that I would rather blend in with a large part of society and become a glasses wearer. Hiding my eyebrows behind a vision problem? Seemed the perfect solution at the time.


Glasses to hide the eyebrows

I did this for about a week or two with a fair bit of success.

Then I attended a job interview and became really nervous as I thought they were looking through my (non precription) glasses and judging me. I fluffed the interview when she said “the next, practical session takes place upstairs“. This (filled me with dread – I will explain why in a second). “Is it back through the floor we just walked” was my rather odd reply. “Why does it matter where it is?” was her puzzled response. It mattered to me because I didn’t want to shuffle past potential new workmates with my fake glasses. Paranoia overload.

This didn’t work for me but may for some – especially if you are already a glasses wearer  – or can swagger away with the best of them and pull off the look. Maybe if I hadn’t gone for hipster glasses I would have gotten away with it?! What do you all think?

December 2013

So – flash forward and I have been eyebrow free for a long time now – and I am used to it – my friends, family and partner are used to it. The initial “I look like an alien” dread has long, long gone and I actually no longer think about it (not even when I have to shave the bloody things off every morning!)

shaving foam across face and eyebrows

Just an ordinary day..

Finally taking the plunge and chopping the locks.

Before My Alopecia started I had a nice thick head of dark hair.

Before the loss

Facial hear AND head hair- ah the memories!

In November 2011 – two tiny little dots where hair didn’t grow appeared on my chin. .

Obviously like any other person who cared about their looks I was worried – in fact I was majorly freaked out if truth be told. Bordering on daily obsession! To read more about the start of my journey and how I began to cope- view my previous post on the start of my facial hair loss. This will give you the background info in relation to how I felt in the run up to the ‘big shave’.

Following on from my facial hair loss. . .

I had gotten used to the ever decreasing amount of facial hair and was coping fairly well. From November 2011 until the middle of 2012 – I had started to cheer up and ‘make it work’ for me (to quote Tim Gunn).

I had been told by my dermatologist (re: my facial hair) that “It may come back, it may not, all your hair may fall out – be prepared”. I thought I was – but i wasn’t..

It was during July 2012 that I had started to chill out and get used to this whole thing. However – as I have previously said – this Alopecia is an unpredictable ar5ehole and had a surprise in store for me.

I was getting my haircut (ah, a fond memory) and having a chat to my hairdresser Anne when I heard her say those dreaded words “have you always had this wee patch?”. The words echoed seemingly forever as I tried to scratch around for a distant memory – a knock I had as a child, falling off a swing – anything to explain why I may now have a patch of hair missing from the back of my head. In reality – of course I knew what it was, and if I had a sense of humour about it – (which I didn’t at the time) I would have glared in the hairdressers mirror, stroked my imaginary white cat and said (in my best Bond villain voice):

Ah, we have been expecting you“.

In reality, I sat agog and unresponsive to her question, trying to work out what to say. Ann saw my face and guessed what was happening, I think I began to well up a little. It was something I had expected and prayed wouldn’t come – but it had, rather quickly- the first patch of alopecia on my scalp. She then started to fill up and was actually quite cut up about losing a customer and gossip partner.

first patch of hair loss

And so it begins

I went home and washed my hair after the ‘final cut’ and had a little sob in the shower. Rather dramatic and self-indulgent but I think I needed it.

It’s about to get dark. . .

From that day on I started compulsively checking my hair and tugging on bits to decide where it might start to disappear from next. I didn’t crumble emotionally this time, I took a few steps backwards and once again hair loss became my favourite topic of discussion – my apologies to anyone that had to listen to me during that time!

I started to notice more and more patches – I think I had three when I first started toying with the idea of shaving my head. I say toying but in actual fact it was an emotional wrestle I had on a daily basis – in the shower, touching the soft skin of the bald bit, asking anyone who would listen what they think and ignoring their response.

My fringe

My Fringe spot – one of my first 3

However – on a brighter note…

Coping was easier in a sense this time as I had a slight indication and expectation of what to expect – and sorry to tell you this anyone who may be reading this and experiencing the same things – the only two emotions and feelings I knew I could expect were unpredictability and a sense of helplessness:


  • Of where it might strike next.
  • Of the speed of hair loss and potential recovery times.


  • Permeates your feelings towards your body image, appearance, place in society and self-confidence – “Why bloody me?, is it because I am stressed, unhealthy, because I use these hair products??”
  • A general sense of helplessness felt by you and those closest to you.

As the two elements above are standard themes in my personal experience of Alopecia, I knew accepting both were the only way I would stop myself from going mad. I tried numerous creams, potions, lotions and crazy cures. These will be detailed and discussed in a later post – none worked for me.

The 3 greedy spots got fatter

The 3 initial spots spread fairly quickly and started to have an impact on my life pretty much straight away – the elements were my enemy! Wind and rain filled me with dread if they were lurking behind curtains each morning – a surprise flash of my newly balding bonce was always a possibility. I panicked and constantly thought – what will people think if they see a flash of scalp during a gust of wind? “Will they think I have a disease or am just going bald and not able to get the balls to shave it off?”

The almost mad hatters pity party

To combat these negative feelings – from the moment my scalp started to show more skin – I became an avid hat collector – I collected over 20 different pieces of headwear in an array of colours – including:

  • peaked
  • baseball caps
  • trucker caps
  • baker boy style
  • beanies
  • wooly hats
  • skiing hats
  • bandanas
Hat at Madonna

Hiding a secret?

A multitude of the above became part of my outfit de rigueur. The only times i didn’t have a hat glued to my noggin were when I was at work or ironically if I needed to look smart! I figured that a trucker cap/beanie wouldn’t look appropriate in an office environment or with a dinner suit! In these cases I was forced to embrace the natural look and pray for calm weather.

It was during this time of half hiding/covering that I started thinking about next steps. I knew I couldn’t keep relying on hats to hide what was going on & my tired wee brain couldn’t cope with constant trips to the bathroom to check my bald bits weren’t showing.

If they were I got flustered and immediately scraped some hair over the offending pink patch while silently feeling disgusted with myself.

looking scared

chunk missing

This was a pretty shit time and most people probably couldn’t see very much wrong on the outside but I felt low, ugly and odd. I had to do something. This was when I maniacally typed – “shave or not to shave” & looked for tips on what to do. Hoping someone would answer for me or inspire me into making a decision. In reality I knew what I was going to do – I made my mind up early on that if the patches became obvious – I would rather shave it off than have a massive comb over.

Easier said than done..

As you can see by the picture above – July was a bad time and it quickly progressed.

I took photos all of the time and as previously mentioned was not a fun guy to speak to around these months. One of the final straws came when I was attending a conference in Glasgow – I got caught in a downpour (with no hat or hood) and caught sight of myself in a shop window. I glanced at the hollow ghost with the panicked face, scared, alarmed eyes and patchy head. Fuck – it was me! I don’t know if any of you have ever not recognised/been shocked by your own appearance? It’s painful and surreal. I had been kidding myself that my alopecia patches were small and inconspicuous. They weren’t.   I felt awful. I had an impending holiday to a villa in Spain and decided I would do the deed  then. I marked it in my imaginary calendar with a cartoon black mark and nervously waited..

The chop

I had been on holiday for one day when I decided enough was enough…

hair pre shave

hair today. .

I decided to take one last picture from the pool for posterity and to see how much my face and general look would be changing. I also took loadsa photos as I was chopping the locks…

_DSC0193 _DSC0192 _DSC0191 Partial loss all over

missing hair on my head

Patchy McPatcherton

As you can see – It was getting harder to hide – the first shave pictures below was after using the clippers at number 1:

The first locks drop

The first locks drop

More hairIMG_2483 _DSC0201 _DSC0199

The first chop

The first chop

I was shocked by how many other wee holes had appeared which I could now see once I had shaved my head. I decided it needed to be closer shaved – so I took the plunge and used a wet razor and shaved my head as I wanted it to be as smooth and less obvious as possible.

Baldy Bald

Baldy Bald

CheersThis is me now – bald, with some wee blonde bits of regrowth. Its getting worse but also maybe getting better?

It’s actually amazing how odd but sometimes pretty the alopecia patterns can be – ‘oh the irony!’ I will post a few ‘patch photos’ next time and show how they have gotten bigger over each month. I am glad that I am cool with the alopecia and not caring what happens next. This I feel is what needs to happen – whatever comes next. I’m ready – and actually not that bothered!

Cheers for reading.


Losing (and regaining) my facial hair during 2012

Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin was a rhyme repeated during the “Billy Goat’s Gruff” fairytale and one that actually applied to the state of my facial hair during 2012.

My Alopecia started on my chin in November 2011 – two tiny little dots which I thought were just that – wee dots where hair didn’t grow. Until they started to spread. Obviously like any other person who cared about their looks I was worried – in fact I was majorly freaked out if truth be told. Bordering on daily obsession!

As The ‘wee dots’ graduated into ‘big dots’ I tried to remain calm  – while simultaneously obsessively checking the reaction of people I bumped into and whether they thought I had some human form of mange!

“You can hardly notice” was the familiar war-cry from my pals – god bless them I thought and smiled, “you lying bastards” were the words dancing in my head behind my grin.

Here is an image of my chin taken in March 2012, when the wee spots got bigger – excuse the up nose shot!

Reece with alopecia barbae, missing patches of his beard

Losing hair of the chinny chin chin

As you can see I naturally have very dark hair and if I didn’t shave everyday then it was more obvious (as I later discovered when shaving my head). I chose to shave everyday to make it less obvious and stop me from getting as paranoid.

I never really sported facial hair anyway, but as soon as the choice to have a goatee or a full on beard were taken away  – I started looking at passing bearded guys with seething jealousy!  “Why you” I thought. And what a waste of facial hair some of them were. “If I was rocking a beard right now it would be much better than his”. For the time being I persevered and shaved daily.

I waited for it to get worse and it did – further spots appeared and started to bleed into each other, by June I was getting used to the weekly expanse of smooth skin appearing on my face. I still cared if a passing person made comment or a work colleague had a vacant, lingering stare.

It was also the first thing I told new people “Are you looking at my beard? Ah its a form of alopecia I think” I managed to mumble out in my strange yet sad paranoia. I must have been a joy to meet, I think most people assumed I was on the bus to Crazytown! It was what it was. But it was getting worse…

Updated loss of facial hair in June

starting to save on shaving gel..

The image above was taken in June 2012 and you can see from the dark rings under my eyes that I wasn’t sleeping and it was getting to me. It had become my obsession – I was rather like a patchy-chinned Gollum. Craving regrowth, an answer or a cure as he craved the mysterious ring. None of the things I craved came. As soon as I accepted it was going to continue, I started to realise I had to live with this the best way I could.

How I began to cope and cheer up!!

  • The best way I thought I could live with this – after all the tears and upset and obsessing was simply to let go. Let go of the stress, paranoia and endless discussion of my hair loss.
  • I tried anti-depressants – which really helped at that time. Not advising anyone else should follow this route, but speak to a doctor and see what they say.
  • At this time I also got referred to a dermatologist who simply said – “It may come back, it may not, all your hair may fall out – be prepared”. Words I thought harsh at the time but am glad I got a dose of tough love.

Once with a mixture of the above and the ongoing constant support from my partner (amazing and understanding), family and friends (ditto) – I started to get used to it and when the thoughts (less regular now) entered my head – I gave an imaginary 2 fingered salute to them! A huge F*ck You to the pain that had been a constant thorn in my side for the first 6 months of 2012.

By July it had got worse but I started to laugh at it – The wee section left of my moustache now resembled Hitler‘s to top everything else off! Instead of crying, worrying or hiding – I embraced that stupid little stretch of ‘tache and laughed at myself when I saw it. Take a gander for yourself..

July 2012

July 2012

On the plus side a wee thin sliver of beard under my bottom lip looked pretty cool and I let this one grow for a few days. Taking control back! Of sorts.

In July I noticed the first patch on my head and this lead me to eventually shaving my head (in September) and watching as that took the same course as my beard. I have posted my story and images of that parallel journey separate to this. Suffice to say I saw the head hair loss coming and dealt with it better as I had been through the gamut of emotions with this now ever decreasing beard o’ mine.

February 2013  beard update

As of right now (21 Feb) All I have left is the strip of hair directly under my bottom lip (Kind of cool) and a few hairs on each cheek (not so cool).

BUT when on holiday in Egypt in September 2012 I did notice some regrowth. Blonde, white thick hairs which are still growing and being shaved off. They have appeared on the place where I first lost hair. I see this as a good sign but nearly 6 months later and the ‘regrowth’ only remains in that area, and blonde.

Alopecia eh? What an unpredictable ba5tard it is!

Regrowth of hair

September 2012 in Egypt – wee white hairs – regrowth?

One year on – one year to go??

I have convinced myself after frantic searching and googling, worrying and reassuring – that my Alopecia is going to last 2 years. I have read this and heard (someone who knew someone who knew someone) and their’s “only lasted 2 years” –  give or take…. Even Miles Boyer the photographer only had full blown Alopecia for roughy two years.

I know Alopecia can be a cruel mistress and am unsure why I am transfixed with 2 years (I had convinced myself it would clear up after 3 months when i started visiting a trichologist over a year and a half ago). But I have realised that it doesn’t matter if it doesnt come back in two years – as for now, right now – that is what is helping healing me. Stopping me going crazy, breaking down or getting frantic. I have told myself it will last circa 2 years. And it better f*cking had!

Again I am joking – to myself. F*ck knows if it will have healed by then – but if there is anything I have learnt from this ongoing experience – its that you have to stay positive as negativity only makes you feel worse and isn’t it always better to look on the bright side?