A Cumbrian teen who suffers from alopecia has spoken about what life is like living with the disease.
Egremont teen Ashton Telford is determined to inspire, support and create awareness for a disease that affects two in every 1,000 people in the UK.
The disease causes bald patches on the scalp, which are about the size of a large coin, with some people going on to develop more severe forms of hair loss.
“Alopecia has stripped away who I thought I was. My hair was everything and it was how I made myself feel better and how I made myself feel beautiful daily,” said Ashton.
“Losing my hair has been one of the worst experiences of my life and sharing this journey with others will hopefully help people understand all the positives and negatives to alopecia.”
Ashton has taken to social media to raise awareness about the disease, already raking in hundreds of thousands of views on TikTok.
“Although it is a struggle, I have joined an incredible community and we all have social media accounts where we share our advice and tips,” she added.
“It has really helped me along the way with information on wigs and different products I can use for eyebrows and if I could do the same thing for other people it would make this journey a lot more worth it.”
There are two main types of Alopecia, the first is alopecia areata, which is caused by an overactive immune system. The immune system targets the cells in your skin where your hair grows, making it weaker and causing your hair to fall out in patches.
This type of alopecia is most common in women under the age of 30. The second type of alopecia is referred to as ‘female pattern hair loss’.
Female pattern hair loss
This usually affects women at the same time or after menopause, which is typically at about 50 years old.
Ashton was initially diagnosed with alopecia areata in September last year and since then she has been diagnosed with alopecia universalis.
This is a type of the disease that causes hair loss across the entire scalp, face (including eyebrows and eyelashes) and the rest of the body (including pubic hair).
The brave 17-year-old said many people see hair loss and immediately think of chemotherapy, but she wants others to know there are many other diseases people could be struggling with.
“It breaks my heart when I walk down the street or walk in the hospital for treatment and people look at me like I’m in pain and they feel sorry for me. The last thing I want is sympathy, I just want support and for people to help me spread awareness,” explained Ashton.
“I would like people to realise losing hair isn’t always physically painful and it just happens randomly, it is mentally painful to watch my identity be stripped away every day but with the support of family, friends and my boyfriend who I’m extremely grateful for, I have become a new person and built a stronger version of myself and this is why I want to spread awareness.
“I want people to realise no matter what you are or who you are, hair or no hair, that we are all human, and I think this is something many people need to be reminded about.”
Ashton hopes by speaking out about the disease that others will feel educated on the subject and provide some support and confidence to anyone who may be struggling.