AMY Johnson remembers when her make-up routine was “a bit of lippy and mascara.” Then alopecia happened to Amy, and she realised that losing all her hair - including eyelashes and eyebrows - meant re-evaluating her lifestyle.

Amy was 27 when she woke up one day and noticed clumps of hair on her pillow. The back of her head felt cold and exposed and she soon realised her dark, shoulder-length hair was falling out in patches. The doctor confirmed her fear - it was alopecia.

“I felt scared and alone. I couldn’t believe it was happening,” says Amy. “I had no idea how to cope.”

Now Amy works for Alopecia UK and runs Yorkshire’s only support group for people with the condition. Next month she's holding a regional roadshow bringing together businesses supplying wigs, headwear, make-up and other products and services for people with hair loss.

Amy is organising the event, in Leeds on March 23, with Naomi Hall, who also has alopecia. The pair met through Alopecia UK and run the charity’s regional office in Shipley. “The roadshow will be a relaxed environment where people can feel comfortable, find out what’s out there and meet others with alopecia. There'll be talks, presentations and demonstrations as well as stalls to look at,” says Amy. “Many people with alopecia struggle to find the right wigs and headwear. We’ve got eight wig and headwear companies coming along, and demonstrations of henna crowns - beautiful henna designs for the scalp.

“We’ve also got presentations by make-up artists. Make-up can be a challenge when you’ve lost your eyebrows and eyelashes. The only option if you want lashes are fake ones, but a heavier eye-liner can define the eye a bit more. Before alopecia, my make-up skills were pretty slim. When I had eyebrows tattooed on it was a huge confidence boost.

“Demonstrators from the Boots No.7 male-up counter will be offering their expertise on things like giving eyes more definition and general tips about skincare.”

Amy, 35, lost all her hair within months of her alopecia diagnosis. “People think it’s just the hair on your head, but it’s all your hair,” she says. “When my eyelashes fell out, suddenly I couldn’t see in the rain, and grit blew into my eyes. And without nose hair your nose can drip.”

The roadshow is open to people across the North. “There have been roadshows in London and Dundee, but this is the first one in the North. There are alopecia support groups in Manchester, Hull, Newcastle and Sheffield - we’d like people from those cities to come along too,” says Amy, who has run the Yorkshire support group since 2012, after losing her hair in 2010. “You don’t have to belong to a support group to come along. The focus is on finding out about products and services in relaxed, comfortable surroundings.”

The opportunity to try on wigs in a supportive environment will be particularly welcome to people with alopecia. “I’m not someone who regularly wears wigs but they are crucially important to some people,” says Amy. “When I was first diagnosed I assumed wigs were only worn by older ladies. That has changed over the years and some celebrities are open about wearing wigs now, which has helped to reduce the stigma. There have been huge improvements in wig options available, and advances in wig technology, although NHS wig provision is still a challenge.”

Amy wore bandanas and headbands initially, but found they didn’t cover all the bald patches. Then she shaved her head to raise funds for a friend's charity campaign. “I felt quite relieved initially but I kept thinking my hair would grow back. When it didn’t I got depressed. There were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed,” says Amy.

The support of family and friends helped Amy cope and now she helps others at a monthly support group she runs in Leeds. “I’ve foundthe biggest comfort is being with other women the same age as me with alopecia. It helped knowing I wasn’t alone.” says Amy. “When it happens to you, you feel so isolated. I thought I was the only 27-year-old with alopecia - that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“I would have loved a roadshow like this, to meet other people with similar experiences and to find out what products and information are out there.”

Amy is keen to raise awareness of alopecia, a complex condition with no cure. While some people find their hair grows back, for others alopecia lasts forever. There are, she says, misconceptions about alopecia, even in the medical profession. One doctor told Amy: ‘It’s only hair’.

“Alopecia can be devastating. I know people who wouldn’t leave the house after being diagnosed,” says Amy. “There are different types of alopecia. Most people in touch with Alopecia UK have alopecia areata, an auto-immune condition. That’s what I have, and I think it was linked to pain. I first had hair loss patches after I’d been in hospital with a bad ear infection. When I had patches again a few years later I’d had a filling that went into the root, leaving me howling in pain.

“There's no known cure for alopecia and no treatment guaranteed to induce hair re-growth. Many people who experience hair loss struggle with their change in appearance, losing confidence and self esteem. Being in touch with others who've gone through it helps."

Adds Amy: “There’s not enough research into alopecia. It’s been linked to infection, virus, depression, stress, food intolerance and physical trauma. It can be hereditary, although I’m the only one in my family with it.

"One study suggests that two per cent of the population will experience alopecia at some point.”

While hair loss in men is more common, Amy says it can be just as traumatic. “I’ve heard of men walking into the shower with hair and walking out without hair,” she says. Alopecia also affects children, and Amy runs a support group for youngsters and parents. “Events are tailored for a younger age group. In May we have a day trip planned,” she says. “Older children are welcome at the roadshow and may benefit from meeting other people with alopecia, but there won’t be children's activities. Anyone under 17 must be accompanied by an over 18-year-old.”

Businesses at the roadshow include: Simply Wigs, Trendco, Aspire Hair, Masumi, HipHeadwear, MiMo Wigs, Fantastic Hair and Betty Brown Wigs. Henna crowns will be demonstrated on models by Created by Connie.

* The alopecia roadshow is at St George’s Centre, Great George Street, Leeds, on Saturday, March 23,2pm-5pm. Tickets must be booked first at

Call Alopecia UK on 0800 101 7025 or email

* The Yorkshire support group meets at Queens Hotel, Leeds. Visit