Raising Kids with Alopecia (from ex-kid with Alopecia)

When young kids and teenagers first present with Alopecia Areata, it affects the entire family.

It’s usually a highly emotional, stressful and even scary time. There are so many unknowns with this condition – why it happens, how it might develop, will treatments even work?

That’s why AAAF exists. I’ve spent the last few years involved with the largest Alopecia focused organisation in this country, first as a Youth Ambassador, then Support Ambassador and currently as Secretary. I’ve spoken with dozens of parents and kids trying to come to grips with this new diagnoses, and they’re all asking the same question: What do we do now?

A full disclaimer on this before I get started: I’ve never been a parent and I’ve never raised a child, alopecian or otherwise. I maintain strongly that I still am a child myself – a perspective which grows more concerning with each passing year. But I have had alopecia myself since I was very small and have gone through almost every form since.

I can’t tell you what it feels like to raise a kid that’s going through this, but I do know what it feels like to be a kid trying to understand AA and negotiate its’ effects on my life. If you’re going through something similar, then it’s my hope that maybe these four pieces of advice can help.

-Georgia, AAAF Secretary

 

  1. Keep Calm.

As you well know, receiving a diagnosis of AA can be a really scary period for yourself, your child and your whole family. The lack of conclusive information makes it hard to plan for the future and you can feel like you’re making decisions in the dark.

But I promise you, it will be okay.

Hard as it is, you’ve got to stay calm.

Most kids, and especially the very young, will take their reaction cues to the condition from you. If you’re upset, distraught, fearful of the condition, they will be too. I know that sounds like a lot of pressure to put on you, and I’m really sorry. But it’s not actually as hard as it seems. In fact, there are only two things you need to do.

Firstly, try not to focus too much on the hair loss. You might want to check the patches every day, or keep the hair, or measure the patches. My advice? Don’t. Alopecia is frustrating because it will do what it will do, and there isn’t a lot you can do about it. Cataloguing the changes will just become a source of stress, for both you and your kid.

Secondly, try your best to remember the facts of alopecia. The vast majority of people with AA don’t experience full hair loss. Most people have their hair grow back. And for those who, like me, do experience full time full size baldness?

We still have a 100% chance to live full, happy, healthy, active, engaging, and fulfilling lives, the exact same as everybody else.

It’s going to be okay.

 

  1. Keep Doing Stuff.

It’s a common response for people diagnosed with AA to withdraw from activities they once loved. This happens most with teenagers. Physical withdrawal from hobbies and activities and is often paired with emotional withdrawal from relationships and interests.

Encouraging your kid to stay engaged in the things they enjoy is vital for two major reasons.

Firstly, the rapid changes to one’s physical appearance during AA can have a huge effect on self-image and identity. If a child or teen is feeling upheaval about who they are as a person due to the emotional impact of AA, having interests and hobbies to fall back on can be extremely affirming. Not only does succeeding in activities and interests give us a sense of achievement and confidence, it also helps us to define who we are. Sure, we might be bald now, but we’re no different. We’re still a soccer player, artist, gymnast, girl guide, musician, photographer…

Secondly, staying engaged in hobbies and activities, particularly ones with a  team or social component, help to build our child a supportive network to rely on. Having alopecia can feel very isolating, especially if you don’t know anyone else with the condition. Building strong social connections through participation in sports or the arts or schooling can really help to combat any feelings of isolation.

 

  1. Social and Emotional Support.

Research has shown that receiving emotional and social support can improve quality of life for people with AA more than receiving medical treatment and intervention.

As a parent, you do your best to prepare you kid for the world around them. To help smooth the way for kids with AA, I would recommend three things – discuss, explain, and practice.

Speaking about alopecia in the home in a way that’s open, honest, and casual will have a large impact on the way your child, and your whole family, feel about the condition. How you treat the condition as a family will build the foundation for how your child experiences alopecia. If just talking about alopecia is something that is private and always serious or sad, actually having the condition will feel like something that is isolating or shameful. If it’s something which is discussed in an open and casual way, this will help your child and your family feel more comfortable and more confident about the condition. Remember always that this is normal.

Making sure you explain to your child what is going on is also vital. Not only does it help them to feel more in control and less frightened of what’s going on, but understanding the condition will make it easier for them when other people ask about it.

And they will ask about it. Oh boy, will they ask.

So what can you do about that? Practice how they might respond if people as about it. This will help them feel prepared and, again, more confident. It’s completely up to you and your child how you respond to people in relation to AA. If your child want to explain the condition, practice that. If they want to tell them it’s not their business, that’s totally fine to. Get yourself a script that feels comfortable for how you want to deal with it. (Pro tip: Siblings should also be included in practice how they’d like respond to people, because they will be asked about it too.)

Another hugely useful form of social support is other alopecians. Getting in contact with other people and families who are in the exact same boat as you is one of the best things you can do to normalize and stabilize the experience of AA. Not only do you get to share feelings with people who have been there and get it, you can build a network with which to ask questions and rely on other people’s expertise. I really recommend trying to attend alopecia related events if you can, or interacting via online resources.

 

  1. Remember always that kids are just small adults.

My best friend works in a preschool. She has this saying that has really changed the way I interact with the kids I come into contact with through my work with alopecia support.

“Kids are just adults with less life experience.”

It’s easy to think that young kids don’t experience alopecia in the same way as teenagers or adults. I think personally that that’s a mistake. The very young might not have the vocabulary to explain their feelings of the condition, but I think the emotions themselves are very similar.

I mentioned earlier how important it is to make sure kids understand their condition as it helps them be comfortable and confident with it. But more than that, it’s absolutely vital to help kids understand their condition because it’s their condition. Children have the same right to aware of their medical state as adults do, even if the process of explaining it is vastly different.

I also think it’s important for children to have some input into the decision about treating their alopecia. Obviously, age appropriateness is a strong consideration here, but if you’re looking into treatments for alopecia which may be physically painful or have side effects, the child has a right to be part of that discussion.

Obviously I’m not advocating that children should be their own guardians or have the final say in their care – kids don’t always know what’s best for them and the parents role in these decisions is vital. I don’t want to diminish that. But for situations like alopecia, where the condition doesn’t do physical harm and treatment is elective, it’s important for the child to have a say in what happens to their body.

The most important thing in all of this is to talk to your kids. Ask them how they feel about their alopecia and if they want to try treatments. Discuss why they want treatments and unpack those feelings. Make sure they understand that no treatment for alopecia is guaranteed success.

It’s not always easy to talk to young kids (or for that matter, teenagers) about these kind of topics, but it is vastly important. The more you communicate openly and honestly, the more trust you place in their ability to make decisions, the stronger the person they’re going to grow up to be.

 

Raising kids with alopecia areata isn’t always easy. Parents do their absolute best and can still have a difficult path. But always remember you aren’t alone with this condition and there are many people who can help ease the way. AAAF is currently working on a Parents Pack, a resource to help families like yours navigate these murky waters and have a positive journey. You can keep updated with the process (and get involved as well) by checking out our facebook.

In the end, this is all just one persons thoughts on a very complicated topic. What have you found works for you and your family? What experiences have you had that we haven’t covered here? Let us know in the comments – or get in touch with us at lovealopecia@gmail.com to start writing your very own article to share your thoughts with our whole community.

 

As for kids with alopecia themselves? I’ve met an awful lot of them over the years and I’ve got to say, though they all come from different backgrounds and have very different stories to tell, they all have one thing in common. They’re all pretty damn amazing.

Love, Alopecia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways to Increase Confidence and Self Esteem

For people living with Alopecia Areata, confidence and self-esteem can be severely impacted by their condition. AAAF’s Support Ambassador extraordinaire Stef is here to help, with her five tips to increase confidence and self-esteem.

  1. Pretend to be Wonder Woman

Did you know, pretending to be Wonder Woman can actually make you feel more powerful? Now, I’m not giving you permission to hit the streets in a leotard prepared to fight crime. Cue sighs of disappointment. Standing like Wonder Woman, with your feet shoulder width a part and your fists on your hips, actually changes your body chemistry so that you feel more confident. No wonder she kicked so much ass.

‘The Wonder Woman’ is one of five ‘Power Positions’ introduced by Amy Cuddy in her TedTalk, ‘your body language shapes who you are.’ Posing for just two minutes in one of these positions can lead to big changes in your life. When Dr Cuddy (is anyone have a House flashback?) and her team were researching this concept, they conducted an experiment where participants would pose in either a high or low power position and then go into a stressful job interview. At the end of the process, the interviewers, who had no idea which applicants did what pose, were asked who they would hire. They wanted the high power posers.

It seems that Amy Cuddy has stumbled upon a secret super power.

You really can fake it until you make it. The next time you feel like you need a bit of a confidence boost, try one of these positions. Maybe then you’ll feel like a super hero too.

  1. Treat yourself like your best friend

So one of my friends called me up and was like, ‘Stef, I feel fat, useless and unattractive today.’ Do you know what I told her? ‘You are fat, useless and unattractive, so it’s no wonder you feel like that.’ Did I actually? No! Of course not.

When your friend is having a bad day you comfort them and remind them of all the reasons why they’re amazing. So instead of kicking yourself when you’re down, imagine what you’d say to a friend in the same situation.

  1. Emotional First Aid

Sometimes we need to put ointment and bandages on our psychological wounds before they metastasize into something which oozes and smells. That’s basically the contention of Guy Winch’s book, ‘Emotional First Aid.’ Instead of me doing a sneaky copy and paste of the self-esteem section and then getting sued for plagiarism, I’ll share my favourite strategy. It’s kind of like putting a princess band-aid on a scraped knee. Seeing Snow White’s face smiling up at you just makes you feel better.

On one sheet of paper, write down all of your important achievements, attributes and qualities. I want you to write down at least 10 and before you tell me that’s too many, imagine the princess band-aid. Snow White believes in you. You got this. Inevitably our brains are going to be a huge killjoy and remind us of all the reasons why we suck. Write these things on another piece of paper. Choose one thing from the positive list and write a paragraph on why it’s important to you and what role you hope it will play in your life. Now for the really fun part. Take the piece of paper with all the negative things on it and bin it, shred it, burn it or turn it into a make shift basketball. You don’t need to focus on these things. Every couple of days, repeat this process until all the items have been checked off.

  1. Understand that your thoughts aren’t reality

Erkhart Tolle once said, ‘life isn’t as serious as your mind makes it out to be.’ Our brains can be like that person who goes to a comedy festival and doesn’t laugh once. What we need to understand is that our thoughts aren’t always true or an accurate representation of reality. When something enters your head, it’s is not God whispering in your ear. You can tell it to eff off or just laugh at the ridiculousness of the thought. Or better yet, sing the unhelpful thought. It’s a lot harder to take something seriously when it’s being sung to the playschool theme song.

  1. Do something you’ve been putting off for a while

When jobs I haven’t done start following me around like a line of little ducklings, I do the adult, mature thing- convince myself that if I ignore them long enough, they will eventually go away. They don’t. Worse still, I start berating myself for being lazy, unmotivated, unorganised etc every time I put them off another day. As time passes, the prospect of completing these tasks seems more and more awful, until you’d rather clean the bathroom with your tongue than complete that overdue assignment. Not really, but still. Give one of the ducklings you’ve been avoiding some love and I promise you’ll feel better.

 

Taking the Plunge: Telling people about your Alopecia

There was a time in my life where I would’ve preferred to run 10 km in spandex through Melbourne CBD than tell any of my friends about having Alopecia. Luckily, as I got older, I realised that people probably wouldn’t act like I’d committed a mortal sin for having the audacity to get a chronic illness. It was a process. That being said, I’ve had some amazing experiences and some not as good experiences when telling friends about this condition. Whether you want to tell your whole school, someone at work, or a new friend or partner about your alopecia, it can feel pretty scary. But with the right preparation and the proper tools, it doesn’t have to be. Learn from my mistakes Young Padawan and stock up your arsenal of awareness weapons.

-Stef, AAAF Support Ambassador

 

The Key Information about Alopecia Areata

You know that moment when you think you’ve been coherent and then you realise all you’ve done is mumbled at the floor, yelled ALOPECIA and then looked at the other person expectantly? No, just me? Well, there are a few things we can do to avoid that ‘huh?!’ facial expression we get when nerves got the better of us. It’s all about getting the facts straight and doing a bit of preparation before you take the plunge. Here are some things to cover.

  • What is Alopecia?

Alopecia is a condition where your hair falls out. There are three main kinds: Alopecia Areata, which is where you get patches of hair loss on your head, Alopecia Totalis, where all the hair on the head falls out and Alopecia Universalis where you lose all your hair on your entire body, including your eyelashes and eyebrows. Hair loss is the only symptom. I have …

  • Is it contagious?

It is our hope to infect as many people as humanly possible so that the whole world will one day be egg heads like us Alopecians. KIDDING. You can yank their chain for a bit, but eventually tell them that they won’t be able to catch it from you.

  • What causes the hair to fall out?

Everyone has an army of soldiers in their bodies called the immune system. It’s supposed to protect us from nasty things like coughs and colds. Unfortunately, our immune systems are a bit overzealous and attack our hair as well. That’s why it falls out.

  • Is there a cure?

There is no cure and few treatments. However, there is this fabulous charity who is trying to change that, so you can head to their website and find out how you can help (hint, hint.)

  • Will it ever grow back?

We don’t know if our hair will ever grow back. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. If the world is feeling particularly mean it can grow back and fall out many times.

 

Everyone is Different

There isn’t a foolproof ‘how to tell you friends formula.’ If there was, I would probably be selling it instead. Try a couple of different ways of doing it and see what works for you. You can reflect on your experiences by asking yourself these questions:

  • What went well?
  • What didn’t go as well?
  • What could I do differently so that what went wrong doesn’t happen next time?

You can do it one on one or just rip off the band-aid and do it in a group. Do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. You’re already taking a massive step so you don’t need to make it harder for yourself by doing what you think is the ‘right’ thing to do.

I know it sucks, but you’ll probably get a variety of different reactions from people. Just recently someone thought me having Alopecia was wicked and that I looked stunning in my headscarf. Another looked at me and said ‘nahh not a fan of the ‘bandana thing’. I’ve found telling people an awesome way to filter out the good friends from the ones that give you grief down the track. I just want to make the really clear:

It should not matter to your friends that you don’t have hair.

The aim of being honest about your experiences is getting to a place where you can say to someone, ‘I’m going out in a headscarf today and I’m feeling really nervous’ or ‘I’m having a bad time right now and need your support.’  The worst thing in the world is feeling like you have to go through this alone. You don’t. There are people out there who will have your back. You’re awesome, and worthy of love and friendship.

The Telling Friends Toolbox

Here are the things I need when telling someone I have Alopecia.

  • A stable base of support so that there isn’t just one person supporting you (vital)
  • A plan of what you’re going to say so your nerves don’t get the better of you
  • A safe and neutral place to do it.
  • A good segue from normal conversation. I can’t even tell you the number of times I didn’t tell someone because I ‘hadn’t found the right moment’ in the conversation.
  • Make it clear that they can ask you questions and that you are more than happy to talk about it. I didn’t make that clear to one of my friends and she went about 5 months thinking that my wig was sewn onto my head. My bad.
  • You might have to bring it up a couple of times before friends are comfortable discussing Alopecia with you. I like to crack a joke about how boring it would be to be stuck with a hairstyle or how I never have bad hair days. Humour is a great way of lightening the mood.
  • A list of people you can call who know about your condition, just in case it doesn’t go well.
  • Create a little action plan of what you’ll do just in case the worst case scenario whizzing through your head actually happens. It’s could look a little something like this:
    • Call a friend or family member who knows about your condition so you can talk about it.
    • Do something nice for yourself. Watch that episode of Game of Thrones you’ve been saving. Read the book that’s been collecting dust on your bedside table. Do something which makes you feel good about yourself.
    • Reflect on what happened. Did you not give them the tool they needed to properly support you or are they a good person to have in your life?

You’re a badass

Now repeat after me: ‘I am a badass.’

And once more. ‘I am a badass.’

You got this covered, but just in case I’m going to give you one last tip to take away.

Be mindful of what your body is doing during these tough conversations. Your posture actually affects how confident and powerful you feel. Every time you want to hunch over and cross your arms say, ‘no!’ Square your shoulders, lift your chin and straighten your back – within reason of course. You don’t want to suddenly look like a drill sergeant.

That’s all from me, so be bold. Be bald. Be you.

Love, Alopecia

 

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.

gemma2

Beyond Brows – A Guide to Universalis

Alopecia Areata is never a smooth ride, but for those living with total or near total hair loss to the whole body (called Alopecia Areata Universalis) the condition can have extra hurdles. The loss of brows and lashes can be a blow to self-image and greatly effect self-esteem and confidence. Fortunately, there are many guides out there for how to manage these appearance issues with through makeup.   But body hair has a range of functions beyond appearance, and many alopecians find themselves surprised and unprepared for the ways universalis can affect them.

Never fear, my friends. Love, Alopecia has got your back. Drawing on many years of experience managing the weird, wonderful and oft overlooked side effects of all over hairlessness, we’ve created this super convenient list to help you, whether you’re new to the AU experience or an experienced veteran.

*Featured image titled ‘Sue’, from Daniel Regan’s The Alopecia Project. View the collection here.

Hair on the Head

What’s it for?: So why do humans have so much more hair on their head than the rest of their body anyway? There are a lot of theories on the subject, but the most popular is heat regulation. You’ve probably heard the fact that humans loose most of their body heat through their heads. That’s not entirely true , but we do feel very sensitive to changes in temperature our heads and faces, hands, and feet. This is likely due to the concentration of nerves in these areas and the fact that they’re further away from the bulk of the body.

So hair on the head doesn’t do a lot to keep you warm, but surprisingly actually, it does a lot to keep you cool. Humans do a lot of their sweating via the head, because brains really don’t like overheating. Human hair takes part in this cooling system by being extremely absorbent which allows the person to sweat enough to keep their head cool on a hot day without constantly dripping.  Fun fact: human hair is so absorbent it’s sometimes even used to help clean up oil spills .

The final function of head hair is probably some UV protection. Back in the days when humans spent a lot of time outside, the tops of our heads would get a lot of direct sunlight. Though a full head of hair won’t protect you from sunburn, it can slow down the effects.

Universalis Guide:

sunscreen

Instagram: sunsense_aus

If you’re going to get anywhere with AU, you’re going to need a beanie and a sunhat. Unless you live in the lovely warm north, in which case I recommend two sunhats. A full wide brim will give the best protection.

Sunscreen is also a must. Australia is the skin cancer world capital and just take my word for it that a sunburnt scalp is not fun. I find the best sunscreens for my head are ones designed for the face or under makeup, as these tend to be a bit lighter and don’t feel gluggy or oily. SPF 50+. You know how this works.

On hot days or when exercising there are a few things you can do to combat the sweat-tacular experience of lacking that wonderfully wicking head of hair. For wig wearers, I highly recommend keeping a packet of tissues on your person at all times. Some wigs can be worn while exercising but if you find it uncomfortable or overly warm, consider opting to for a hat or scarf or going au natural (if you’re inside). Scarves made from cotton or natural fibres like bamboo will breathe the best. I’m also a big supporter of sweatbands for AU gym junkies. It’s a bit 80’s, but it does stop you from dripping all over the yoga mat. You can find them in the tennis section of most sporting stores.

laura-hathaway

Check out the fabulous @laurahathaway_alopeciafit for inspiration!

 

Lashes

What are they for?: Eyebrows primarily function is to aid communication so I’m not going to write much on them. Lashes however are a different story. The help shade your sun from your eyes, they keep sweat out of your eyes, and they help defend against particulates and dust. They also help your eyes stay moist by directing air currents away from your eyeball.

Universalis Guide: If you, like me, happen to have glasses as well as universalis, you are in luck my friend. Universalis can do a real number on the eyes, and the extra protection from a pair of specs can be a huge help. But no need to worry, my 20/20 visioned friends, there are other things that can help to.

book-and-sunglasses

Summer essentials: Sunnies and a book.

Sunglasses are a good idea to reduce damage from glare, while looking snazzy at the same time. Eye drops and eye gels can also help to moisten dry eyes and shift grit or particulates which can cause damage to the surface of the eye. Always best to talk to your optometrist first about what kind of drops might work best for you.

When applying makeup, the lash-less should always take extra care. The particles and dust from powder makeup (like eyeshadow, pressed powder foundation or setting powders) can easily get into the eyes when you don’t have lashes. Even liquid makeup like foundation or eyeliner can get into the eyes without lashes as a barrier, even long after applying if the makeup shifts with sweating. Once again, eye drops can help rinse the eyes of these particulates, but discuss with your optometrist.

 

Nose hair

What’s it for?: Nose hair has got to be ranked Number 1 on list of things you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone. Much like eyelashes, its function is pretty much to keep out the things that should be out and keep in the things that should be in. Wait, things should be in my nose?

Yep, the reason we have a nose at all is to warm and moisten air before it gets to our lungs. The moistening part is done by a mucous membranes, and if you don’t have nose hairs to help keep that mucus where it’s meant to be, it’s, well, not so pretty. Your first head cold as member of the universalis family is very memorable. Bring tissues.

Universalis Guide:

All jokes aside, lacking nose hair puts people with universalis at greater risk of sinus infections, allergic rhinitis, colds and other airborn infections, and hay fever. There are some things you can do to help.

hay-fever

Me, every pollen season. Source: Flickr

Sterile saline nasal sprays can be used regularly to help prevent particulates and allergens being inhaled. These are usually un-medicated (sterile saline being clean salt water) and can be used as much times as needed, which is particularly useful during pollen season or when you have a cold.

Medicated nasal sprays can help to alleviate severely runny noses, but use with caution. Many of these have very strict dosage limits, shouldn’t be used with certain other medications and can dry out the nose uncomfortably.

You may also find that your nose also feels very dry and may even bleed during hot months or after spending long periods of time in dry air conditioning. The saline nasal sprays may provide some relief, as will a humidifier. There are also nasal gels which can help, but again, try to find un-medicated ones if you can.

 

Ear hair

What’s it for?: Can you guess what ear hair does? That’s right! It does try to keep particulates and dust out of your ears! You’re good at this.

Universalis guide: Don’t use Q-tips! This goes for anyone, not just our AU family. Don’t stick things in your ears.

Ear wax exists for the same reason as ear hair – it keeps things out of your ear that shouldn’t be there. And it’s usually self-maintaining. Using Q-tips actually pushes wax further into your ear and can do some real damage to your hearing. If you feel like your ears are blocked or stuffy, go see your doctor. They can most likely help with ear drops or by syringing the wax.

Aren’t human bodies just super fun and not at all gross?

 

Arm pit hair:

What’s it for?: Like head hair, the function of having hair in arm pits is still being fairly hotly debated. Like head hair though, most people think the major purpose is to wick sweat and aid in ventilation.

Universalis Guide: I lost the hair on my head over a decade before I started losing it on my body, and let me tell you, the day my armpit hair finally abandoned ship was a celebration. Literally. I bought champagne.

However, as with so many parts of the universalis experience it wasn’t quite as simple as expected. As armpit hair is mainly for sweat wicking, you might find yourself needing more deodorant than usual. Popping a backup into your purse or workbag can be a good idea, and I especially recommend it in summer. Some people find that long acting stick or soft solid antiperspirants can help, but you may also find that the skin in your armpit is more sensitive than usual, especially if you’re also prone to eczema, and these long acting products can dry your skin. Look at buying sensitive or hypoallergenic versions and go for soap free body washes.

 

There you have it, my dear friends. While this isn’t a comprehensive guide by any means, we hope that it will cover some of the basics of flow on effects of AU that may not have come up in your dermatologist visits. If you have any great advice that we’ve missed in this column, or things you’d like to see us write about in the future, let us know in the comments.

Love, Alopecia.