Let’s get real, alopecia is

By Mollie Quirk

Is representation within the media, fashion, and beauty industries limited? Take alopecia for example. Have you ever seen a bald model on a mainstream beauty advert? Probably not. And why is that? Could it be because beauty brands see having no hair as an undesirable trait?

Rachael Hill is an Alopecia Universalis advocate and influencer, spreading positivity to those who suffer with alopecia and its different types of conditions. Rachael is a beacon of light to those who feel isolated within the fashion and beauty industries due to having one of the many forms of alopecia.

Alopecia Universalis has caused Rachael to lose all of her hair, leaving her feeling vulnerable and segregated. We spoke to Rachael about the representation within the fashion and beauty industries regarding alopecia and baldness in general.

 

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Rachael thinks that beauty brands should feature bald and patchy models. She said: “Hair is used as a thing of beauty in the media and that is basically saying those who don’t have a full head of hair aren’t beautiful – which is so far from the truth.”

She added that the beauty industry needs to: “Shy away from this vision of ‘perfection’ and be more inclusive of everyone!

“How we look doesn’t define us, and seeing photo shopped images of unreal people just gives everyone an unrealistic view of how we should look. Let’s get real, alopecia is.”

Alopecia, and Alopecia Universalis in particular, costs alopecians thousands of pounds each year. From brow products, to false eyelashes, head scarves, and wigs. The cost of having alopecia is extortionate, yet there is no mainstream drugstore cosmetics brand that specialises in alopecia or baldness.

Rachael spends over £1,000 each year on cosmetic products like those mentioned above, the average wig costs anywhere from £120 to £400 each, and they only last three to six months. Rachael thinks that there should be an affordable mainstream alopecia make up range as she uses a lot of makeup since losing her eyebrows and eyelashes.

She claims that if she had not lost her brows or lashes, she would not be using as much products. “I have wasted so much money on products that are not suitable for alopecians like me, as the results are rubbish. Alopecia is extremely expensive, so any help would be fantastic,” she said.

Watch a tutorial on how to re-create natural eyebrows from Rachael’s YouTube channel below:

Not only are the fashion and beauty industries causing alopecians to feel segregated, but the media does very little to include those who have conditions that cause baldness. Gail Porter is a very prominent figure within the realm of alopecia, she has constantly been open and honest about her struggles, yet she is really the only public figure that springs to mind when we start speaking about alopecia.

Gail Porter has publicly spoken about alopecia. Photo: Sarchi.

“The media could do so much more, nearly everyone has heard of Gail Porter and good on her for being so open. I know a lot of people I tell about my alopecia immediately refer to Gail, so she has been brilliant in the media,” Rachael said.

But other than Gail Porter, how many other bald women have you seen on TV? As far as we are aware, not one soap opera has covered anything to do with alopecia before.

“I had never really thought about soap operas, but an alopecia storyline would be fantastic. Not only for awareness to those who do not know about the condition but also to those who are suffering with hair loss and do not know how to reach out. Alopecia isn’t just hair loss, it’s a psychological battle as you look in the mirror and do not recognise who you are.”

Because of the lack of representation within the media, beauty and fashion industries, many people presume that because a person is bald, they must be going through chemotherapy.

 

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Rachael revealed that: “My biggest fear about leaving the house bald is that people will presume I have cancer and feel the need to comfort me or comment. I know this has happened regularly within the alopecia community and until it happens to me I have no idea how I would deal with it.”

“The media could do so much more to raise awareness of alopecia, being bald does not mean you have cancer,” she concluded.

For more information on alopecia, head to the Alopecia UK website. If you have the condition, they have a cardholder scheme which gives discounts to specialised alopecia cosmetics businesses.

Photographs courtesy of Rachael Hill.

Edited by Meganne Gerbeau and Maisie Thompson

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