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Women 2day: Women and hair loss

Alopecia can affect all ages and genders

Nadia Sawalha has experienced hair loss

Last month, Loose Women presenter Nadia Sawalha broke down in tears in an emotional Facebook video as she revealed that she was losing her hair.

The 52-year-old who was told by doctors that she had ‘the balding gene’, sobbed as she said she felt defined by her hair and felt devastated her hair was coming out and not growing back.

Nadia is not alone. Although it is typically considered to be a male affliction, an estimated eight million women in the UK are affected by hair loss, yet in spite of how common it is, it remains a largely taboo subject for many women who suffer in silence, feeling too ‘embarrassed’ to seek help.

Hair is a ‘crowning glory’ and it can badly affect confidence when it starts to shed – in fact, it can be a thoroughly traumatic experience for anyone to go through, regardless of gender.

Research by the late renowned trichologist Philip Kingsley believed the prevalence of hair loss is higher than thought because women often suffer in silence.

Gail Porter was diagnosed with alopecia in 2005

“Lots of women – and men – find that if they’re unhappy with their hair then they’re unhappy people,” he said. “Sadly, a third of those suffering hair thinning said that they haven’t done anything to address the problem, perhaps as they feel too embarrassed to seek help,” he said.

The wider term for all kinds of unpredictable hair loss is alopecia – and in some cases it’s not just the hair on our head that can be affected – many people with alopecia can lose eyebrows, eyelashes and even arm and leg hair too.

Androgenetic alopecia (as it is known as) can affect anyone, regardless of age and gender and it’s hard to specifically pinpoint why it occurs, although it’s likely down to genetics.

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But with so much pressure on women to look good in today’s society, it can be especially hard for women to cope with losing their hair.

If you saw a bald man walk past, it’s unlikely you’d give him a second glance, but seeing a bald woman is somehow more surprising.

Hair loss can be devastating for a woman, Alopecia UK spokesperson and nursing sister at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, Jackie McKillop, says: “For women, there is a social stigma attached to going bald.

Nadia Sawalha

“Hair loss can affect your sensuality and how you perceive yourself. There are usually emotional trials and tribulations when it happens.”

She added: “Some women question whether their partner will still love them.

“I’ve known others become socially reclusive and give up enjoyable activities like swimming and going to the gym, because they can’t bear using the communal changing rooms for fear of their hair loss being discovered.”

One woman who has faced a difficult battle with hair loss is TV presenter and model Gail Porter. Her life was turned upside down in 2005 when she was diagnosed with alopecia and was left completely bald.

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She has spoken candidly about feeling ‘ugly’ and insecure about the condition that has made her feel ‘different’, and battle depression.

Gail’s alopecia was said to have been triggered by stress following the breakdown of her marriage, but she refused to wear a wig and is now probably best known for being bald.

She said: “I feel proud that I accepted what’s happened. I feel strong and I feel privileged... but also I feel very ugly.”

Gail has since used her hair loss battle to become an ambassador for the Little Princess Trust, a charity which provides wigs to children who have lost their hair.

  • For more information on alopecia, visit the Alopecia UK website at www.alopeciaonline.org.uk, where you can find the latest news, local support groups, buy alopecia awareness wristbands, treatments and wigs and much more.
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