IT was while sitting in a hairdressing salon, staring at her reflection in the mirror, that Amy Johnson first saw herself as completely bald.
Amy was 26 when she started losing her hair in February, 2010. Large clumps appeared in the bath and on her pillow, and Amy knew something was very wrong.
Told by the doctor that she had hair loss condition alopecia and that her once long, black hair “might grow back”, Amy was devastated. “It was really distressing,” says Amy, of Baildon. “With no explanation of why it was happening and no treatment offered I was extremely frustrated”.
The hair loss became so severe that after five months of clearing hair from her pillow each morning and from her desk at work, Amy visited an old school friend, Jemma Cummings, owner of The Salon hairdressers in Ilkley for help. i. In July 2010 Amy made an after-hours appointment and asked Jemma to shave the remaining hair.
Jemma says: “I was surprised to hear from Amy with a request to shave her head. However, when she arrived at the salon it was easy to see how severe the hair loss had become. ”
Although Amy was upset she felt a “huge sense of relief” that having her head shaved meant she would no longer have to watch her hair fall out. “Little did I know that my eyelashes, eyebrows and body hair would fall out a couple of weeks later,” she adds. “Without eyelashes, I couldn’t see in the rain, and grit and flies blow into my eyes.”
From 2010 to the beginning of 2013, Amy was without any hair, suffering from alopecia areata.
“I really struggled with the total loss of my hair. I didn’t recognise the person staring back at me in the mirror and I became quite depressed,” she says.
Seeking support, Amy discovered Alopecia UK’s online forum and found speaking to others with similar experiences helped her.
“Immediately I felt supported, knowing I wasn’t the only one with alopecia. I felt like less of a freak, something I had been feeling as a bald woman in her twenties,” says Amy. “I saw there were other young women with hair loss.”
Amy wanted to help others with alopecia and began working with the charity. Now Amy, 31, works for Alopecia UK – and has bared all for a calendar raising funds for the charity. The Pretty Bald calendar, featuring women with alopecia, was the idea of Victoria Short, who has the condition.
Approached by Victoria to model for the nude calendar, Amy was initially reluctant but the others convinced me to take part and I put my reservations to one side.”
The 2015 calendar, which has a “Girls’ Country Weekend” theme, is in aid of Alopecia UK. Amy has asked hairdressing friend Jemma to sell copies in her salon.
“It’s impossible not to be inspired by the way Amy has coped with her hair loss,” says Jemma. “As I’m in the business of hair, I understand the effect of a “bad hair day”. I’m hoping my customers willbuy the Pretty Bald calendar and support this very worthy cause.”
In the past 18 months, Amy has experienced some spontaneous re-growth but it remains patchy.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition where body attacks the hair follicles, causing hair to fall out.
Amy had the support of husband, Gavin, and her family and friends, but she says other sufferers are left feeling isolated and unable to cope. “When you’re diagnosed with alopecia, you feel completely isolated. It’s not taken seriously enough by the medical profession,” she says. “ Some people with alopecia won’t leave the house. Your hair is part of your identity – it can shatter your confidence to lose it. It has been such a great support to meet others who have been through it.”
Pretty Bald calendars are available, priced £10, from The Salon, Church Street, Ilkley, or from prettybald.co.uk. All proceeds go to Alopecia UK.
For more about alopecia visit alopecia.org.uk.