alopecia barbae

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.

Smudging

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

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:

Unpredictability:

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

Helplessness:

  • 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.

Reece

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?