Alopecia doesn’t have to be a slap in the face

West Australians with alopecia have welcomed recent publicity about the disease sparked by the controversial conflict between Will Smith and Chris Rock at the Oscars.

Searches on women’s hair loss and alopecia areata have spiked online after the 2022 Academy Awards, giving a voice to those who have previously felt the condition has been overlooked.

The discussion comes after actor Will Smith assaulted Chris Rock at the Oscars on Sunday night, after Rock made fun of wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss through the condition alopecia areata.

Alexandra Rees is a spokesperson for the Australian Alopecia Areata Foundation and has been living with alopecia areata for more than five years.

Alexandra Rees is happy to see an outgoing discussion on women’s hair loss. Image supplied by Alexandra Rees.

She says the attention alopecia is receiving will hopefully help educate people on the different kinds of women’s hair loss.

“The only time I do wear a wig is at work because people do find it strange to see a woman with no hair. I do have to deal with comments – quite a lot – that I must have cancer.

“Maybe when people see me in the street, they’ll ask me if I have the same condition as Jada Pinkett Smith, and not automatically assume that I have cancer,” she says.

AAAF Western Australian branch manager Greg O’Rourke says commentary online about alopecia in the past week is great but can also be damaging.

Mr O’Rourke says some comments made online that people suffering from hair loss should ‘toughen up because it’s only hair’ can be extremely dangerous.

“Well, alopecia can be life-threatening. People have taken their own lives or self-harmed because of bullying. It shouldn’t be made light of. It can have a very bad impact on people’s mental health,” he says.

Sue Ball of Curly Sue’s Wigs and Hairpieces wants to spread the message of inclusivity and community through her store. Photo: Holly Prentice.

Sue Ball has owned Curly Sue’s Wigs and Hairpieces in Morley for 25 years.

Her shop sells and styles wigs for those living with alopecia areata and other forms of women’s hair loss.

“We still do hairdressing on the wigs. We trim them, or cut a hairline, and make sure we take them in,” she says.

Ms Ball says she hopes spokespeople like Jada Pinkett Smith can help others get the confidence to find the community of those living with alopecia areata around them.

She says: “It is good that it did come out, even though it wasn’t nice what he did to him. A lot of girls are very timid when they come in. They think they’re maybe the only one, but there’s hundreds of girls with alopecia.”

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