What NOT to say to someone with Alopecia

gemmaHi, I’m Gemma. I’m 22 years old and I’m a registered nurse. I first lost my hair last year when I was 21 and working at a nursing home. I’d worked at this nursing home for 2 years already so I was well known by all the residents. However, I soon discovered that sometimes elderly people say whatever they want without really thinking about it, which, let’s face it, if I had lived a whole life censoring myself in society, I’d stop trying when I was old too.

One day I was having a particularly emotionally hard day at work, and I decided to write a response to every comment that had been said to me since I started losing my hair, and created this list of things not to say to someone with alopecia. 

  1. “Oh but your hair was so pretty!”

Yes it was. Thank you for reminding me of the ghost of hairstyles past. My hair will be pretty if it grows back, and my face is still pretty even if it doesn’t.

  1. “But I liked your hair before”

Congratulations, so did I. I LOVED my hair; it was long and bright pink and oh so pretty. So you can believe my devastation when it started to fall out. You can also trust me when I tell you that I didn’t shave it off just to spite you, or to take it away from your liking. I shaved my hair off because it was falling out in clumps the size of my fingers.

  1. “You looked better with hair”

Gosh darnit people. I know I looked pretty with hair. Most people do. But I don’t look not-pretty now, I just look different. Get that through your skull before you comment on mine.

  1. “It must be good to lose your hair in some places though, right?”

While I understand some people think it would be great to not have to shave their underarms, bikini line or legs, I still have to do all of the above. Dudes, I still have to pluck my moustache and random beard hairs that pop up every now and then like some sick reminder that I just can’t keep hair where I actually want it to be. So no, unfortunately, I take just as long landscaping my body as you do.

  1. As one of my residents kindly said to me: “Come back when you have hair”.

Well that’s just rude.

  1. “Did you shave it off for cancer research?”

While I admire the people who do, apparently shaving your hair off to raise money for cancer isn’t as impressive if you don’t really have hair to begin with.

  1. “My friend lost her hair and she did (insert various medication/treatment/voodoo here) and her hair came back!”

Congratulations to your friend I have never met. Maybe they didn’t have Alopecia, maybe they didn’t have my kind of Alopecia, maybe their Alopecia behaved differently. Alopecia is different for every person and while I am very happy for your friend, I really don’t need you to tell me about it. I’ve researched every treatment under the sun; I know what my options are.

  1. “But it will grow back, right?”

Maybe, maybe not. No one knows and if I sit around and hide and wait for it to grow back my life will suck so much there won’t be any use for it to grow back. It’s just hair.

  1. “Boys don’t like bald girls”

Who gives a flying fart? Anybody who has a problem with me being bald is not worth my time.

  1. “Well you know you can get a wig or something”

Waaaaaayyyyy ahead of you. I have 2, and they’re beautiful. But they are also hot, sometimes itchy, sometimes give me a headache and sometimes just do not cooperate with the weather. So if I want to wear them, I will. If I don’t, I won’t. But I’m not going to wear them all the time just because you don’t like seeing my scalp. Everyone has one, mine is just on display.

  1. “It must be so quick for you to get ready now!”

If I don’t shower, choose an outfit, deodorize, put on make up or do anything else, maybe. I still do everything you do, except instead of just putting on makeup and brushing my hair I have to stick fake hair on different parts of my skull/ take longer doing my make up to mimic hair and fight with a wig that takes 2 days to dry once washed and takes a long time to style before wearing.

Also, I would happily trade my alleged half an hour of sleep in for my hair back, any day.

  1. Unless you are family or a really close friend, do not say any kind of bald joke.

I will punch you in your perfectly hairy face.

  1. “It must be so much cooler for you”.

Surprisingly no. I still get just as hot and I actually look more gross because I have no hair to hide my shiny sweaty bald head.

  1. “You’re so brave, I don’t think I could pull off the bald look”

It doesn’t count as bravery when it’s not a choice. My options were to deal with it or curl up into a ball and cry. While I occasionally do the latter, for the most part I chose the former.

  1. “I’m jealous, it must be so easy for you”

Your perfectly hairy face is in danger of getting punched again…

  1. “You look like a chemo patient”

Maybe I do. But why does that matter? Who says looking like a chemo patient is a bad thing? I can’t help it, and FYI, people who go through chemo are damn badasses. Chemo is sucky and horrible and I would be lucky to be half as strong as these people.

  1. “Aren’t you afraid you’ll look like a boy?”

My giant busty chest would make me a very weird looking boy, and my mannerisms, face, voice and waist all point to me being a girl. And again, why does it matter? If it really makes you so uncomfortable that I don’t look like a feminine damsel, you’re living in the wrong century.

  1. “Are you sure you don’t want to keep trying the treatments”

I have had conversations with people much more informed than you. I have researched, talked to others who have done the treatments and talked to doctors. I am an informed, mature, adult young lady capable of making my own decisions. And it’s really none of your business anyway.

  1. “Your parents must be sad that you’re losing your hair”

Yes my parents have had to come to terms with seeing a different looking daughter to what they imagined they would. But my parents are awesome. They are loving, respectful and supportive of me and I couldn’t ask for anything more from them.

So if you bump into me on the street and you’re at a loss of what to say, here are some handy hints:

  • If you’re going to comment on something I can’t fix in 5 seconds, don’t say it.
  • Compliments are great. Compliments never fail.
  • I can already see in your eyes what you think about how I look. Just make sure something nice comes out of your mouth.
  • If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.



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