HAIR is one’s crowning glory and is often linked to one’s identity. For others, hair loss can have complicated consequences.
One of the causes of hair loss is Alopecia Areata (AA) which is an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the hair follicles instead of defending it.
AA took the spotlight In the recent episode of GMA Network’s “Royal Blood,” a murder mystery that revolves around the death of an ultra-rich family patriarch and how his heirs, including his newly found bastard son, emerge as the prime suspects.
Napoy Royales ( Dingdong Dantes) is the illegitimate child of business tycoon Gustavo Royales (Tirso Cruz III). His half-siblings — Kristoff (Mikael Daez), Margaret (Rhian Ramos), and Beatrice (Lianne Valentin) — view their half-brother as a threat to their share of their father’s fortune.
In a recent episode, an altercation scene due to the illicit love affair between Margaret’s husband and Beatrice revealed Margaret’s thinning hair due to alopecia as her wig was accidentally pulled by Beatrice. She then attempted to commit suicide due to depression.
There are three main types of AA, namely Patchy, Totalis, and Universalis.
In Patchy Alopecia Areata, hair loss happens in one or more round coin-sized patches on the scalp or other parts of the body which over time can get bigger. It is also commonly known as “poknat”.
In Alopecia Totalis, the person loses all or nearly all of the hair on their scalp.
In Alopecia Universalis, there is a complete or nearly complete loss of hair on the scalp, face, and rest of the body.
The cause of AA is not fully understood, but it may arise from a combination of genetic and environmental influences. Anecdotally, a new cycle of hair loss occurs after one goes through a period of stress.
The degree of hair loss associated with AA varies in severity and can affect persons of any age. It is a condition that has substantial and wide-ranging implications, affecting a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health.
A study noted that AA hair loss may be seen in terms of abnormality and as a failure to conform to the norms of physical appearance in society.
Due to the link between hair and identity, especially for women, the AA experience may be psychologically damaging, cause intense emotional suffering, and lead to personal, social, and work-related problems.
A person with AA has to deal with a roller coaster of emotions, which includes loneliness, isolation, grief, social phobia, embarrassment, anger, self-blame, self-pity, guilt, and lower self-esteem.
In severe cases, AA persons are at higher risk for developing serious depressive episodes and chronic anxiety or paranoid disorders that may lead to suicidal tendencies.
I myself had patchy AA for three cycles in almost five years, which started with a patch as big as a 25 centavo-coin. The last cycle occurred in 2009 with two patches that almost combined. At one point, I had to wear the “Muslim cap” to hide the bald spot that resembled a monk’s tonsure.
AA has no cure. However, I addressed AA through several means to help hair regrowth. I applied topical ointment ( Dermovate) although there were suggestions that I should try steroid injection. I also had weekly head massages for better blood circulation.
I tried to avoid stress-causing activities which were somewhat difficult because of my work as a lawyer.
I even visited a folk healer in Antique called Sorhano who performed a ritual. He whispered in my ears and extracted something that resembled tiny worms. He then instructed me to use a local oil made from coconut and luya (ginger) every night with prayers.
The Royal Blood episode coincided with the celebration of Alopecia Areata Awareness Month this September.
Established in 2013, Alopecia Philippines is a non-profit organization that holds special campaigns and events to spread AA information.
With awareness comes understanding, compassion, and empowerment, Alopecia Philippines hopes that through their consistent efforts, more and more Filipinos with the condition would know that they are not alone, that they are supported, and that it is indeed possible to rise above Alopecia.
“It helps to have a family that you could go through the ups and downs of your journey with. On the other hand, awareness helps those without the condition understand what alopecia entails – physically, emotionally, and psychologically – so that they would be more kind, sensitive, and considerate of those with it,” says Abby Asistio, Alopecia Philippines founder and president, who has had alopecia since she was just four years old.
The organization will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a gathering on September 23, 2023, dubbed “HAIRstory: A Decade of Alopecia Philippines.”
(Peyups is the moniker of the University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.)