My Journal with Alopecia

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I used to have very long, thick and curly hair. It was so long that I used to sit on it. Looking back, I shudder that I used to contemplate the idea of getting it thinned out at one point. In 2008, I was working at a salon as their office manager/front administrator. A client asked me if I was losing my hair. Confused, I asked her what made her ask that. She replied that since the last time she had been in the office, she could see my scalp more. I was taken aback, a little offended at her observation. I was young; I wouldn’t be worrying about that, I shouldn’t be. The client’s remark still lingered in my head which led me to do some of my own research. I searched through older pictures and asked family members if the noticed a change. Unfortunately, the client, whom I thought was obnoxious at the time, was correct. I realized that my hair was not as thick or long as it was before. My scalp was more visible.

I restlessly tried everything that claimed to thicken hair: Biotin supplements, prenatal vitamins, hair thickening shampoo, anything and everything that claimed to reverse my losing hair. Not seeing any results, I was left in despair. I went to my primary doctor where they ran several blood tests, which only revealed that I wasn’t deficient with my hormones at all. They referred me to a dermatologist who did a scalp biopsy in the office. I remember being awake for the procedure as they took out a chunk of my scalp. That one piece could determine what was happening to me and why it was happening so soon. I had stitches in my head and was told to come back for the results.

The results came a painstakingly long week later. The stitches in my head were being removed by the nurse when the doctor came in. With my mom by my side, I braced myself for the diagnosis.

“Androgenic Alopecia,” the doctor very bluntly said.

The diagnosis rang in my head. I was devastated. Only 20-years-old and being diagnosed with androgenic alopecia. I started to cry in the exam room. I don’t remember much of what the doctor said after that.

I learned that androgenic alopecia is a form of hair loss. It has no cure and I am stuck with this disease for life. I was so angry at the doctor for giving me the bad news, angry at this condition that plagues me, and just angry that the bad news will keep coming. The only ‘treatment’ was to apply a topical Minoxidil with Retin-A in it. I say treatment as this would only prevent my existing hair from falling out, but do nothing for future hair growth. I remember hearing about this before; it was a super-powered Rogaine, only for balding older men. They said nothing else would help my hair.

That day was so heartbreaking. I was 20-years-old with androgenic alopecia and had to take a topical that until recently I thought was for balding old men. For the next few years, I would cry hysterically when I had to talk openly about my alopecia. I was so insecure that I just avoided discussing it at all. That information was shared solely with people on a need-to-know basis.

Fast forward 8 years; I continue to use the topical Minoxidil prescribed by my dermatologist along with anything else that I thought would help. I’ve learned to accept my diagnosis and can now freely talk about my alopecia without crying. These past years were hard, but I have done many things to improve the appearance of my scalp and hair. While it may just be a dream to back my once-long locks, I’ve resorted to extensions. At the salon, they inspect my hair to make sure that I am not causing further damage. It’s a costly and tedious procedure as I have to purchase the extensions, and then make an appointment, and then get the extensions put on by a professional one at a time. My hair is my security blanket; it’s worth the time, money and effort I put in.

I’m living back in the east coast after working on the west coast. I’m now working at the Laser Center of Milford, a family-owned medical spa. Three months ago, we started offering PRP treatments from Eclipse. The treatments include micro-needling with PRP, as well as PRP injections for hair loss restoration. The PRP, or Platelet Rich Plasma, is full of the body’s natural growth factors that could beautify the skin, or help balding or thinning hair. I jumped in to the treatment chair and was the first to have this service performed in our office. Over the years I’ve learned to accept that results may take a while, if at all, but remained optimistic.

Following my first treatment, I was told that I might not see any visisble improvement until after the second treatment. It was a little sad to hear, but I remained hopeful. My second appointment came around a month later, and I could not wait. After my second treatment, I started to see baby hairs forming on my head. Baby Hairs! On MY head! It’s been years since anything has grown on my head, I’ve spent years trying to keep the hair I had at that point and now it was growing. After the third treatment, I continued to see improvement on my head. The baby hair that was there a month ago was growing pretty long, and hair on my crown has thickened.

If I could speak to the client who first pointed out my balding, I would like to thank her. I don’t know how long it would have taken me to notice. I appreciate her honesty (though at the time, I was very upset). What my alopecia has taught me is that no matter what insecurity a person may have, I hope over time they can learn to accept it and even embrace it. I believe there is a solution out there for anyone and I hope they remain persistent in finding one, just like I did.

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