patches in the beard

Patchy hair- don’t care

Ok  – so that’s a blatant lie. I do care  – but I’m adopting a much more relaxed approach to falling hair – when I see it on my laptop, desk or pillow I flick it off and try not to stress about it – most of the time.

What’s changed?

Nothing, I just know from past experience that stressing will not help me in the slightest. I am also trying out my ‘mini habits’ in an effort to curb stress and freak outs. They seem to be working.

The spots

O.K. so the hives/urticaria are still coming and going and I’m unsure if they are caused by emotional stress or intolerances but they remain a constant at the moment.

Is the hair loss following the same pattern as last time?

Nope. It is now coming away everywhere! Last time it was confined to my head – face and scalp. This time my chest hair is taking a beating. Have a gander at this:

The chest

Last time I lost hair on my scalp, I didn’t really lose any on my chest – apart from one wee dot – which as you can see has now spread and had lots of little spotty babies dotted in random places across my chest.

alopecia areata patches on my chest

Patchy Chest

My scalp

I keep looking at the patch on my left side whenever I get out of the shower – but the same apocalyptic feelings just aren’t there as much anymore – I give a wee shrug and feel a bit shit but so far I can pat hair over it and carry on with my day. When the day comes – or should I say – if – it comes, I have a handy pair of shears with my head’s name on them. I’ve done it before and have no issue with shaving it all off again.

I do have a few patches on my head but they seem to be minimal compared to the fast spreading ones on my chest. And like I said – I’m really not that bothered at the moment

The good news

My facial hair seems to be returning! Amidst all the shedding, my moustache is making a bit of a comeback. I am not going to rival Tom Selleck anytime soon but it’s coming back very, very slowly.

So I can now have a moustache! Ok it’s patchwork kind of moustache but it’s mine, I grew it and my face feels ‘normal’ again. It’s like I’m 14 again and trying to prove I NEED to shave. I forget it’s there but every time I see it, I have a wee smile.

So I was off work for a full week and didn’t shave. This is the result:

half moustache regrowth from alopecia

14 year old flashback

Those wee white hairs on my chin have been there since September 2012, when I hoped they would gradually turn black and grow like they used to. They haven’t so far – so I may rock a badger beard in the future – who knows.

Eyebrows

I’m pretty unsure what’s happening with these former caterpillars. I keep thinking that my left eyebrow is filling in a bit and then i notice wee spots of bald across both eyebrows and the panic sets in again. I can deal with no hair but would rather keep my eyebrows and eyelashes this time if possible.

eyebrows august 2016 close up

Eyebrows August 2016

The Future

God knows what’s to come with the hair anywhere on my body. I’m heading to Australia, Singapore and Thailand in December so who knows if I am going to be getting my bald head burnt or crossing continents with a decent head of black hair. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

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.

IMG_5670

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!

 

 

 

my scribble

Practice what I preach?

It’s time to take heed of my own advice – as some of you who follow this blog may know – I recently started growing my hair in as it has started to come back all of a sudden.

Not yet ‘full circle’ – damn it!
A strange thing is happening – some people who got to know me P.A. (Post Alopecia) now imagine me as always having a bald head or a fair complexion. Which is crazy to me as I have always had really dark black hair.

When the hair started to come back I thought “Ah this process is like a circle (cue ham fisted analogy…) I am coming back to a full head of hair – full circle – onwards and upwards. The circle analogy also worked when analysing my actual hair or lack thereof – the ever increasing/decreasing circles.

Here is where my circle analogy works – no really:

I conveniently forgot that a circle is the same shape on both sides – to get from one to the other  you follow the same shape and in my case – to go from no hair – to growing more – I am experiencing the same feelings. This isn’t great news.

Jesus that was laboured! 
Apologies – maybe my wee doodle will help explain what I’m not articulating that well…
my scribble

Circles! That appear as ‘missing patches’ and the trajectory of feelings you go through. From bad to better and back again

I now seem to have regressed to a state of embarrassment and acute paranoia as the remaining holes (or circles if I am to flog this damn ‘circle‘ related analogy) seem much more visible thanks to the abundance of reappearing black hair – highlighting the fleshy pink islands of baldy skin.
top of a head recpvering from alopecia areata

March 2015


Some recent comments from colleagues and folk I have met since having a shaved head:
  • “I can’t get over how dark your hair is”
  • “I could have sworn you were blonde”
  • “Ooh I am going to have to get used to the new you”
A couple of people haven’t actually recognised me or done the dreaded double take. Which happened ALL the time when I was losing my hair – especially when I had just shaved it off and had zero eyebrows.

My AA meetings
Some people I see regularly didn’t even know I had alopecia and (I hate to admit this) but I have started to revert to my old stock ritual of blurting out “I HAVE ALOPECIA” added as a tag on to any conversation with a person I suspect is wondering what the f*ck is going on with my hair.
My justification is that I am making people feel more comfortable but I know it is really down to low self esteem and panic that they may think I have mange! 🙂
How am I dealing with this?
I have gone back to my old faithful wardrobe of hats – detailed here and seem to freak out when I have to walk around sans hat! Which is every day at work 09.00 -17.30.
I walk to the shops at lunchtime with beanie pulled firmly over my head – not usually an issue with the bleak Scottish weather – though today was sunny, I had a wooly hat on – a sweaty head and decided -TAKE YOUR OWN EFFIN ADVICE!!!
As a result, I have been thinking about the advice I have given over this blog and to many people who have emailed me. I have just read through all of my correspondence from you amazing blog watchers and re-read all blog posts, to try and take heed of some of my own advice.

My advice – which I need to tackle ‘head’ on:
  • Walk tall and let people look – They can look and think what they like, their stares or opinions will not impact the growth of my hair BUT letting potential stares worry me COULD.
  • Stop worrying about the hair – Worrying is not a valuable past time – especially when worrying about an auto-immune condition that may or may not be triggered by stressful situations.
  • Stop running my hands through my ever increasing head fluff (and waiting to see hair come off in my hand) My hair is not falling out like it was so I need to STOP looking for something to be sad/worried about.
  • Stop staring in the mirror – My reflection isn’t going to change in an instant and staring at something for long periods of time leads to obsession and distortion. Try staring at your nose in the mirror for a long time and you will see what I mean!

 “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to turn it into a door”

Coco Chanel

Everyone has their setbacks and I feel I am now in a similar process (looks wise) as I was when I took the decision to shave my head. There are patches of missing hair and I am in two minds whether to shave it all of again or carry on growing it and seeing what happens.

shaved head with alopecia

My hair after I first clippered in 2012

March 2015

March 2015

What I am planning to do:
Having a shaved head is easier in a way as people just assumed – as above – that I was balding, blonde or they knew I had Alopecia.
Growing back the hair and the visual effects I see (or imagine others are seeing) are dredging up the same feelings I had pre head shave but as stated earlier – I am going to keep on trucking and see this through.
Last time the circles were expanding – this time they are slowly decreasing – so I figure that in a few weeks, the remaining patches will fill themselves in slowly over time.
Whatever happens I will keep you all posted! And accept my apologies for the circle analogy I tried to foist on all of you!
Thanks everyone for sharing your similar stories, words of encouragement, your images and best wishes.
Cheers
Reece

Addendum:
I am thinking of adding a forum to this blog so other people can share their stories and speak to whoever else they want to. It has been cathartic, extremely helpful and so unbelievably positive chatting to you all so far and I would like the many people who have emailed me to have an easy to use, open network of communication from which they can reach out to other people in a similar situation for advice or support.
Let me know what you think and I will get a WordPress plugin for forum functionality.

Here’s a video about ME…

I had to create a 2 minute intro video a while ago (for a Digital Marketing course I am doing with Google). I gave this blog a shout in the video but didn’t actually share here. Sorry folks.

Anyway – here it is…

As you can see – I am still ‘rocking the bald’ despite getting almost full regrowth – I am still shaving my head everyday until it all grows back – then I will attempt to regrow my receding hairline into an actual hairstyle!

It’s been a while – will be a novelty buying hair styling products again!

As usual  – feel free to ask any questions or send me a private message if you prefer.

Cheers

Reece

Me. November 2014

Well here I sit on the beach in Edinburgh with Kitty – my puppy. Almost a full head of hair (apart from a slow growing patch at the back and a few tiny wee holes dotted around).

Oh yeah and pretty much one and a half eyebrows and full set of eyelashes!

IMG_3722-0.JPG

IMG_3709-0.JPG

Photo update – my Alopecia and regrowth – 2.5 years on.

Howdy Blog watchers

I am so sorry for the delay in posting pictures. I have been pretty busy with the birth of our wee girls 7 Boston Terrier puppies. Check the cuties out here.

Back to the hair – enough puppy chat/excuses!

Here I am attempting to show you (in pictures) the spread, loss then regrowth of my hair over  a 2.5 year period. My Alopecia started as little spots on my chin back in November 2011. I thought it was just Alopecia Barbae and was still distressed- then it gradually spread and I shaved my head  in 2012- detailed here.

Where it all began – first ‘spotted’ in November 2011 and by the time it got this big – I was officially scared, depressed and stressed!! (March 2012):

two spots of nothing.

Two spots of nothing.

Comic Hitler tache

Comic Hitler ‘tache

looking scared

Chunk missing

 

 

 

 

 

The first image was taken in June 2012.

Once my facial hair began to disappear – so did my hair: The first spots appeared/ hair dissapeared in July 2012.

The big shave

So I shaved it all off on holiday in Spain in August 2012

Baldy Bald

Baldy Bald

And here is an above head shot from when I first shaved:

The solar system at the start

The solar system at the start

 

Is there any hope?

I started to notice thin white hairs growing back into my facial hair loss in September 2012

chin with alopecia regrowth

regrowth on my chin

September 2012 regrowth – Egypt

I was hoping that the blonde would go black straight away – it didn’t.

My hair kept disappearing, too: here is a peek from the front and top (both taken in October 2012).

My head with alopecia

From the front

My head with alopecia

From the top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2012

Alopecia head

My right side

man with alopecia areata

In the middle of my long alopecia episode

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 November 2012

November 2012

Right side

November 2012

Left side

 

 

My eyelashes and  eyebrows started to disappear in November 2012.

Alopecia Eyebrows and missing eyelashes

Eyebrows up close

alopecia on an eyebrow

Disappearing caterpillar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The eyebrows were a low ebb – but the loss of my eyelashes are what made me feel more alien – literally. It is a strange sensation not having eyelashes. People gave me a second look as they couldn’t quite put their finger on ‘what wasn’t right’.

I have detailed in another post my experiences trying to hide my missing eyebrows.

 

In case you can’t be bothered reading that post and want to see what my pencilled-in efforts looked like:

eyebrows alopecia

Pencilled-in eyebrow as of November 2012

I tried a number of  different ways to regrow my hair or at least hide the fact I had Alopecia, but found that a close shave (in the end) was best. At this point I was shaving my head daily and ignoring the ever-decreasing eyebrows and lashes.

My facial hair was also fast disappearing  – again taken in November 2012.

Facial hair disappearing alopecia

My chin

alopecia facial hair

From the side

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 2012

The patches started  to spread quicker – which made my Christmas elf hat less itchy as there wasn’t as much stubble to aggravate it.

As you can see from the images below most of the holes started to join up with each other especially the two big ones at the left hand side! I hate those two bad boys.

My Alopecia December 2012

My head from the back

My Alopecia December 2012

The left hand side of my head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year 2013

In 2013 it seemed to progress quicker. Here is the top of my head taken in January 2013.

Alopecia as of January 2013

 

February 2013

Alopecia hair February 2013

Alopecia hair February 2013

Alopecia hair February 2013

At this point I was still wearing beanie hats and pencilling in my missing chunks of eyebrow.

March 2013

This was when I started realising that my eyebrows were more or less drawn on and I saw a picture and realised it was time to get rid of them.

pencilled in eyebrows

Abi and the eyebrows 🙂

shaved eyebrows following alopecia

shaved eyebrows following alopecia

 

As you can see, they looked fake and I hadn’t realised until I saw the image above. So in March 2013 I shaved them off in the shower whilst shaving my head.

The middle image above makes me look strange and if you look closely you can see that it is because my right eye has hardly any top eyelashes and the left eye does. Not a great look but now I looked bald and possibly blonde?! Just another balding fair haired guy? That is what I told myself and started to walk about without hats – in certain places anyway.

May 2013

  • Then the hair loss started to snowball and this was when I thought “F*ck it!”
  • My alopecia was getting worse and worse.
  • I had become resigned to it and pretty much everyone had seen it and knew what it was.
  • I still got the odd comment but brushed it off because (finally) I was in a stronger place and didn’t actually care as much as I did at the start.

Now that’s progress!

The images below are from July 2013. As you can see there is hardly any hair left at all.

Alopecia hair May 2013 Alopecia hair May 2013 Alopecia hair May 2013 Alopecia hair May 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alopecia hair July 2013 Alopecia hair July 2013

Alopecia hair July 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

These images represent the worst my Alopecia got (It seems strange saying that but I don’t want to jinx anything). Then I stopped taking photos as much of my head as I actually forgot about it!

Forgetting about it

Here I am forgetting about it at a wedding in Valencia in September 2013.

Valencian wedding

Guests at a Valencian wedding

I decided to forget and what happened a month later??? The bastard started coming back!!! Exactly two years since I noticed it going!!!!! My previous post was correct! And there is hope for all you people out there who got this late and are hoping yours may come back in this famed two year period!!!

November 2013 THE RETURN OF MY HAIR!

Alopecia regrowth November 2013

Alopecia regrowth November 2013

Whaddya know –  it kept on growing through December. Merry Effing Christmas!!!!

 

2014 – The year of regrowth

The year started well for me.

Here I am in January…. More progress on my regrowth in my next post………

December 2013 Alopecia regrowth

Kisses from Coco

December 2013 Alopecia regrowth

Haaaaaappy Christmas

 

 

The treatments and coping mechanisms I tried and how they worked for me…

Well I am sure many of you reading this blog are here to find out what I am currently doing to encourage my hair to grow back!

If you haven’t already read my last post – aptly titled – My hair is coming back. Then you can read that first or after this one – it opens in a new window.

So – what have I tried?

Lots and I will tell you now that NONE really worked for me (in the sense of sprouting back lost hair I mean). Sorry if anyone read this and got their hopes up. However – what didn’t work for me – may work for you.

Hats

abfabfestival

  • As discussed in my lengthy post which details my hair shaving. I quickly became a fan of hats – all kind of hats.
  • They were good at hiding it initially – though the wind quickly became my enemy.
  • Not great for a posh dinner or a fancy restaurant. A cheeky old man even told me to take my hat off in one restaurant. I was tempted to play the “I have cancer card” but decided just to skulk away mumbling.

I digress, hats are OK at first but when your patches become too large and appear under the hat – or if it’s too hot outside and you are continually sweaty – I found it best to get rid. Once I had shaved however I do continue to wear hats in winter.

Professionals

  1. Doctors: My local GP was useless – told me I had male pattern baldness and after much pleading referred me to a dermatologist and gave me anti-depressants (keep reading – that bit is further down).
  2. Dermatologist: Confirmed I had Alopecia Areata (I already knew this) and said:

50% of my clients with Alopecia have had a trauma, stress, death of a loved one – the other 50% have had no such occurrence. It may all come back, some might, or it might never come back and progress to Alopecia Universalis.

His comments helped immensely as I thought – fine – there is no point getting false hope.

man showing half eyebrow

half an eyebrow with alopecia

  • This was my first kick up the arse. He also handed me a leaflet (usually reserved for burn victims and people who have been disfigured through injury). He informed me that “Your image is changing and you need to come to terms with it”.
  • My metaphorical kick up this arse smarted even more when he delivered that blow.
  • But now –  on reflection – I am so thankful he said it. Alopecia does change you and it’s how you deal with your constantly changing face that helps you overcome your fears!

       3. Trichologist: This woman was awful – in my desperate state at the start of my journey I paid her £90 a session to ‘analyse my hairs’ and give me              ‘special lotion’ to rub into my scalp.

  • She then upped the ante and gave me Reflexology – which was lovely – but not worth the extra £50 a session.
  • She was a charlatan and when I became wise to the fact I was paying this money and had zero results – she had no argument apart from stating that “Your hair won’t come back anyway” – Screw you love!!!

Pills – Anti-depressants – I have discussed that at my lowest ebb – they really helped me from dipping so low.

  • If you are in a very dark place and they are an option available to you – then from my personal experience  I would encourage it.
  • I am not trying to push my views and again they may not be agreeable to you but they did help me out of a dark hole.
  • However you should always discuss in detail with your doctor and partner/loved ones before making this choice.

Alopecia areata

Hair regrowth tablets: My doctor gave me a prescription for Propecia (which I had to pay for). I felt this worked at first but after a year  – no change.

Lotions and potions: I tried the lotion that the ‘trichologist’ gave me which as I stated – didn’t work. I toyed with minoxidil but after my propecia failure – decided not to.

Garlic and Onions! I tried this after reading that in India that rubbing one or the other on the head on the patches encourages hair growth.

  • This theory was solidified when my Indian neighbour noticed my patches and offered to bring me garlic into the house as it “really worked for me”.
  • I thanked him and said I was fine – then ran into the house and began rubbing it on my head. It didn’t work but did make me and my pillows STINK.

Mindfulness: This didn’t help my hair growth but it did really help my mental health and encourage me to deal with my feelings.

Diet and lifestyle: I cut out sugars, caffeine, carbs and alcohol – all at different times – some for over 6 months – again no change – apart from the fact I obviously felt a little healthier (and deprived).

Exercise: I tried to keep fit – which boosted my mood and energy levels but did nothing for my hair. I had read that endorphins and hanging upside down helped so I did a reverse bungee jump and an actual bungee jump. Nothing.

Cosmetics and stuff

  • I tried spray on hair – for two minutes to cover my patches and realised I looked like David Gest so immediately washed it off.

    Glasses

    Glasses to hide the eyebrows

  • I successfully used eyebrow pencil for my eyebrows for a good few months – detailed here.
  • I enquired about a hair transplant then realised all of that would also fall out
  • I used a sun-bed when I first shaved my head to make my newly bald napper look less milky white – served a purpose at the time but would rather be pale than have skin cancer!
  • Glasses – used to hide the fact I had no eyebrows – I kind of liked the hipster look but wasn’t ‘kewl’ enough to pull it off.

So what DOES work?

  • I haven’t a clue – nobody does. And all these people telling you they have a cure – are full of crap.
  • In my experience it all comes down to coming to terms with how you look, may look and accepting how people perceive you.
  • Don’t compare yourself to your past self as you wont look anything like that image. I had dark black hair and bushy eyebrows. Now I have no eyebrows and a patchy head.

Cookie – crumbled. Sometimes a dose of tough love to yourself and a reality check is all you need.

Grin

Cheese

Acceptance is key – as are a supportive network of people around you – cheers to mine!  And go seek out yours.

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