Losing your hair when you’re just in your teens isn’t exactly what you would call a fun ride. Plus, when the diagnosis goes by the name of alopecia areata, you soon realise that your condition may never improve. In those cases, it is worth your while to let go and move on, much as Christine did. "Shaving my head made my life easier."
A few plucks just won't do
When Christine (19) was fourteen years old, she started losing small strands of hair. "Next to the hair loss, I had developed some kind of allergy. It took us quite some time to find out what was going on exactly. My mother, who is a doctor, didn't have a clue what was going on at first. Only after a while did we find out that I was dealing with an immune disease: alopecia areata." Christine's hair fell out several times, almost completely, after which it grew back.
Two years ago, things got really bad and Christine chose to act radically. "Right there and then, I decided to shave my head. I admit it was a big step to take," Christine explains. "You cling so tightly to those few plucks of hair you have left. It is a big part of you after all." But trying to keep her bald spots hidden had become quite a job and Christine's fear of other people noticing proved too much of a strain.
Looking ahead, thanks to the right advice
"Being bald as a baby enabled me to fully explore my options. I live in Antwerp, but after some digging, I ended up in Ghent, where Jasmine runs her business Haardecor. She welcomed me with great warmth in a homelike environment. To me, Jasmine was exactly the right person at the right time: someone who listened, who offered me advice, and who knew her job inside out."
That very first wig was a relief, Christine recalls. "I remember I found myself thinking I was pretty again. My dermatologist also provided me with lots of information and candidly told me that there is no cure for my illness. That must have been the moment when I realised I had to turn the switch and let go. I now no longer expect my hair to grow back." Today, Christine has come to terms with her illness. She's a young, carefree science student with a zest for life.
A hat as a fashionable extra
“Wearing a wig made my life easier than before. Back in those days, I constantly worried about people noticing my bald spots. And watching entire chunks of hair go down the shower drain wasn’t much fun either.” Christine’s first wig closely resembled the way her own hair used to look. “I now also own a dark bob and even a long-haired blond wig. And yes, I do like to play around with my different wigs to poke a little fun at people." (laughs)
Nowadays, hats and scarves are just as much a part of Christine's daily routine. "They're simply much more comfortable than a wig and you can easily use them as a fashionable statement piece." At first, Christine wore them at home or to run an errand. Meanwhile, she casually wears her hats during lectures at university.
Cards on the table about her alopecia areata
How do Christine's friends deal with an unknown illness like alopecia areata? "During my high school years, only my best friends knew about my condition. Anxiously, I kept it secret from all the others. When I entered college, I decided to do things differently. I opened up about it right away. I didn’t exactly walk around screaming it through a megaphone. But if it suited the conversation, I simply put people up to speed and said: ‘By the way, I'm wearing a wig.’ By being cool about it myself, my friends don't freak out when the subject comes up either." Same goes for Christine's boyfriend who doesn't look at her as dealing with a disease. "He says he thinks I am beautiful regardless of what's on my head. To me, that means a great deal."
“It’s hair, nothing more”
Christine’s story just goes to show life gets better when you worry less. “You know what? In the end, it’s just hair. Other than my hair loss, I am a healthy young woman. Immune deceases can get so much worse, and I am glad I was able to keep my lashes and eyebrows.” Christine feels much more confident today than she did a few years ago. "I am now able to look at myself and say it aloud: Christine, you are pretty cute. People often compliment me about my wigs, too. Some of my friends even dream about such beautifully styled hair like mine." (laughs)
However, Christine doesn't feel the need to reach out to peers in similar situations. "My parents and friends always provided me with the support I needed. What I would like to say to other people dealing with alopecia is this: keep your loved ones really close and simply be you. Then things will work out. What makes you worthwhile is not the way you look and it sure as hell isn't your hair.”
Want to read more testimonials like this interview with Christine? You can find all of them in the 'Personal Stories' section of our blog.