I began losing my hair due to alopecia when I was 7. It came out in small chunks at first, but then most of my hair fell out between the ages of 11 and 12.
Losing my hair made me feel self-conscious. I was nervous and scared that something was "wrong" with me and I didn't want to be so different. I dealt with bullying, and it made me withdraw a lot throughout elementary school and junior high. It wasn't until high school, when I started at a school with completely new classmates, that I was able to tell people I had alopecia and the friends I made there were so open and accepting.
I started wearing wigs when I was 12. Before that, I would just wear a headscarf or bandana, but my school didn't normally allow kids to wear hats or head-coverings, so my parents had to get a special exception (which just made me stand out more, which I hated).
When I was 19, I decided to shave off the remaining strands of my hair. You can read more about my decision here.
These days, I have the confidence to be open about my alopecia, but it was a long journey to get here. There are so many advertisements and images in the world about what makes someone feminine or beautiful, and so much of that gets tied back to the hair on our head. I've had to "unlearn" a lot of those messages over the years. Even in doing my makeup Instagram account, I try to emphasize that makeup is about art and expression, not about trying to "fit in" to what society has deemed "beautiful" or "acceptable." I choose not to draw on eyebrows. I wear different wigs. I have monolids and no eyelashes. Those are the things that make me beautiful, no matter how much hair I have (or don't have) on my head.
I "came out" about my alopecia very publicly last year (at age 29!) on social media and I'm so glad I did. Even though I still wear wigs every day, I know that that doesn't mean I'm hiding anything. It's just how I feel comfortable and how I choose to "wear" my alopecia. I've found such a great community of support online among fellow alopecians thanks to Instagram, and recently I volunteered at the Children's Alopecia Project's California camp where I got to be around other people with alopecia for the first time. It's inspiring to be a part of this community and I'm learning so much about what it means to really embrace having alopecia.
Traci is a journalist and writer in Los Angeles, and runs a super cool makeup account on Instagram. You can follow along with her at @alopeciamua and @traciglee.