Woman embraces baldness after hiding hair loss with wigs since age 14
- Credit: CARINA IOANNOU
A woman from Capel St Mary who was diagnosed with alopecia at 14, and has worn a wig ever since, is sharing her story on Instagram to help others and find the courage to embrace being bald.
Laura Mathias, 29, has hidden her hair loss with wigs for more than 16 years, with only her close family seeing her without them. But now she is learning to accept herself and wants to help others with the condition.
At the age of 12, Laura who now lives in Manningtree, was told by her hairdresser that she had a bald patch the size of a 50 pence piece on the back of her head.
A doctor diagnosed her with alopecia at 14 and she began wearing hats to hide her hair loss, but she found it tiring trying to cover her head from people at school.
“It was totally unexpected,” said Laura, who works for the University of Essex. “I felt confused, scared and quite isolated, as no one I knew had ever experienced hair loss.”
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Laura’s hair loss progressed extremely quickly and she spent weeks off school overwhelmed with what she was going through, while also trying to process her parents divorce.
She was prescribed a steroid cream by her doctor, but nothing seemed to work and she realised she could no longer hide her hair loss. She then shaved what hair she had left and wore a wig every day, saying she would “treat it as her own”.
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“Looking back, I wish I had spoken to people about not relying on the wig,” said Laura, who suffers from alopecia universalis, which is the loss of all body hair.
“I didn’t leave the house without my wig until this summer. I have let my hair loss dominate my life for too long, but now I don’t want to. And it feels liberating.”
Laura has been working at home since March and has used her time in lockdown to reflect, describing it as her “lifetime project of self-love”.
Previously she would go to the office wearing the same wig everyday, but now her mindset has changed and she mixes it up for Zoom calls and is becoming more confident being bald and experimenting with different wigs.
Laura’s best friend of seven years saw her without a wig for the first time this summer, when the pair got together with one of Laura’s work colleagues to take her first bald photograph. Laura said it felt “amazing” to just be herself.
The 29-year-old has since been documenting her story on Instagram, connecting with others who have suffered from alopecia and proudly posting her first bald photo in June.
She said: “I follow so many beautiful, bald women on Instagram, so I thought why can’t I see the beauty in myself?
“I can go onto Instagram and be in this bubble of positivity where people share their individual beauty. I think it’s time we can be more honest about diversity in the fashion and media industry.”
Laura’s Instagram has now reached nearly 4,000 followers and she receives messages from other women with alopecia who ask her questions and discuss their personal challenges.
Last month, Laura was named an ambassador for Models of Diversity, a charity which encourages more diverse representation in the modelling industry. Her aim is to empower other people who feel they are ‘different’ or not represented in the media and fashion industry to step forward and celebrate their beauty.
“Recently, I realised if I start embracing myself for who I am then I don’t have to wear a wig in situations I don’t want to. I don’t have to wear it to ‘hide’ my alopecia at all. I can choose to wear whatever wig as and when I want to, but know I am beautiful without it too,” she said.
Laura will be hosting an Instagram live on the Models of Diversity page on Sunday, November 15 at 6pm, talking all things hair loss, dating disasters and wigs.