Alopecia – we recognise your journey
Here at Roches, not all our clients are dealing with hair loss due to cancer treatment. We have many clients that come to us for hair loss solutions for alopecia too.
While hair loss due to cancer treatment is well recognised and now well supported, hair loss due to alopecia can still remain a closely guarded secret and a poorly supported condition for many people who experience it.
What is alopecia?
Alopecia is the general medical term for hair loss. There are many types of hair loss with different causes. Some types of hair loss are permanent, like male and female pattern baldness. This type of hair loss usually runs in the family.
Other types of hair loss may be temporary. They can be caused by an illness, stress, weight loss or an iron deficiency.
Hair loss is a much more common problem than people think. Pattern hair loss by age 50 affects about half of males and a quarter of females. Nothing to be frightened or embarrassed about, but something that can be managed. About 2% of people develop alopecia areata at some point in time.
Alopecia areata, also known as spot baldness, is a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body. Often it results in a few bald spots on the scalp, each about the size of a coin. Psychological stress often results. People are generally otherwise healthy. In a few, all the hair on the scalp or all body hair is lost and loss can be permanent.
Treatment of alopecia
Treatment of pattern hair loss may simply involve accepting the condition. Interventions that can be tried include the medications minoxidil (or finasteride) and hair transplant surgery. Alopecia areata may be treated by steroid injections in the affected area, but generally these need to be frequently repeated to be effective.
Losing hair, for whatever reason, is often very upsetting for the person involved. For many people, hair is an important part of who they are, and when they start to see their hair coming out in clumps in the shower or building up in their hairbrush, it can create feelings of panic and anxiety. For those on cancer treatment they are expecting this hair loss and are somewhat prepared. For those with alopecia, this experience often happens in isolation and many people fear they are ill and seek help from their GPs. Not all GPs are as understanding of the impact or knowledgable about the solutions as we would like them to be. Some can even be quite dismissive of hair loss and don’t acknowledge the psychological side of what is happening.
Unpredictability is stressful
While hair regrowth for the cancer patient is assured and predicted so many weeks following treatment, for those with alopecia they have no such guidelines. This uncertainty and unpredictability is another very stressful aspect of alopecia. Furthermore hair can regrow after a period of loss and then suddenly start to fall from a different part of the head.
Many cancer patients choose to shave their head before their hair starts to fall on chemo. They say it gives them a sense of control because they are determining when their hair falls out and not their cancer. People with alopecia cannot assert this choice or feel this sense of control around their hair loss and regrowth.
Support is available
Here at Roches, we have met many alopecia clients over the years. It is not easy for them and we meet amazingly resilient people in the course of our work. Many have dealt with their alopecia in complete isolation for very long periods of time before they eventually sought our help, when they felt they absolutely could no longer keep disguising what they were going through on their own. Some were spending up to two hours a day styling their hair in such a particular way as to hide either thinning hair or bald patches. Very creative, but also very stressful, especially when outdoors in Irish weather where all their hard work could be blown away in one gust.
We have clients who never show their bald heads to husbands and have never met another person with alopecia except at our Alopecia Days. We have clients that travel from the country to see us in Dublin for their wig or hair piece because they don’t want to be spotted locally.
Alopecia Support Ireland is a support group for people experiencing alopecia in Ireland. Their mission is to provide support, raise awareness and educate people with all types of Alopecia and their families. You can find out more about Alopecia Support Ireland on their website here.
Hair loss solutions at Roches
We can find the right hair loss solution for men, women and children experiencing alopecia.
Our solutions include:
— Camouflage powders and creams that can fill in bald patches
— Coloured hair fibres that can be sprinkled onto the head for diffuse alopecia where hair is uniformly thinning and the scalp is peeking through
— Hair pieces of all shapes and sizes from fine parting pieces, to toppers, crown pieces and receding hairline pieces too. We have hundreds of different types of hairpieces to suit wherever you hair loss is, that can be fully integrated with your own hair. The hairpiece is cut and blended into your own hair so that it is undetectable. Made from human hair, synthetic hair or heat resistant hair, we have off the shelf and custom made pieces for any part of the head
— Wigs or hair replacement systems are the best option for more extensive hair loss such as alopecia totalis or universalis
— We can also make hair loss solutions for burns or surgery scars and hairpieces as small as a 2 euro coin
The hair loss solutions we have available at Roches are also constantly evolving – wigs are becoming more and more sophisticated and suited to modern living. Wigs that you can sleep in, shower in and that fit like a glove.
The extra mile
At Roches we go the extra mile to find the exact right solution for every client. We stay with that client through the years, advising and adjusting their hair solutions along the way – we maintain and cut their wigs or hair pieces to suit different seasons or styles, we replace them as people get older and hair naturally gets thinner and a lighter in colour.
Picking up the phone to us is probably one of the hardest steps on the hair loss journey. People put this off, sometimes for years, hoping their hair situation will improve. When they finally take the plunge, they are pleasantly surprised at all the options and relieved. The next big step is the first time they wear the piece. After that, its plain sailing and they wonder how they managed before wearing a hair piece.
Our alopecia clients often teach us a thing or two, too. As expert wig and hair piece wearers, they know all the best tips and tricks for wearing their wigs, styling their hair and doing their eyebrows and eyelashes.
A client’s story
One of our clients was happy for us to share her experience of alopecia.
My alopecia started at the sides of my hair – it felt like my hair was cut too short. After it continued to worsen, I went to see a dermatologist, who carried out some tests and a biopsy. She then diagnosed alopecia and said it was quite a severe form and that it was likely I would lose all of my hair.
It all came as a complete shock to me. The reasons for it were put down to a possible genetic link and stress.
I felt my diagnosis was badly handled by the dermatologist – I wasn’t offered any treatment or psychological support but rather just directed to start searching for a wig. I found it all very difficult.
I managed for as long as I could on my own before finally getting a hair piece made. I went to many places and had many hair pieces before I came to Roches.
After awhile, I changed from hair pieces to wigs. It’s very hard to find the right wig. You really need two a year and even though I have private health insurance, they do not provide any assistance or reimbursement for hair pieces or wigs for alopecia.
Having alopecia is very stressful. If I had it all to do again, I would just tell people from the get go. It’s so hard to try to continually disguise it and it can be exhausting.
‘Like’ our new Alopecia Facebook Page for updates
We will be running more events for our clients with alopecia as well as those on cancer treatment and beyond, once our new workshop space is complete. Stay tuned or log on to our new alopecia-focused Facebook Page.