Born with thick, dark hair, Jodie Phillips had the long, shiny locks many women dream of.

But just over a year ago her friend noticed a tiny bald patch near the crown of her head. Within six months the hair she had taken for granted was coming out in clumps.

At first she was devastated, feeling her femininity was under threat and trying her best to hide it.

But then she decided enough was enough – taking the bold decision to shave off all her hair, as if to regain control.

The 24-year-old Carlisle mum has now chosen to speak out about her battle with a very taboo condition – alopecia – in the hope it will give
others the confidence not to suffer in silence.

These days Jodie, of Finn Avenue, sees things very differently.

Laughing and joking with four-year-old son Oliver, she says it’s all about putting it into perspective – and realising there is more to life than hair.

She now wears a wig most of the time. But equally she is trying to get used to her new short-haired look and go without.

Looking back, Jodie said her hair loss started in March last year. “I didn’t notice it myself, my friend did. It was a tiny patch, about the size of a ten pence piece. I thought I’d maybe been brushing it too hard.

“I didn’t do anything at first. I left it for months and months. To be honest I just thought it would grow back. I was only young. It never even occurred to me I was going to go bald,” she said.

But the patch was gradually growing.

“It was on the crown of my head. Within about six months it was the size of a couple of fists. I just covered it up, tied it back so nobody would notice,” remembers Jodie.

Eventually she sought medical help. She had tests and was referred to a specialist at the Cumberland Infirmary.

“It can be caused by a lot of things - thyroid, hormones... but my blood tests all came back fine. They told me it was alopecia, unexplained, and that was that,” she said.

Jodie was prescribed a steroid cream which helped stimulate growth, but new patches were still forming.

It was around this time that Jodie took the plunge and shaved off all her remaining hair. “I remember it was just before bonfire night. I was waking up and finding new patches every day. I felt out of control, like there was nothing I could do,” she said.

“I just thought I will be the one who decides what happens to my hair, so I shaved it off. I was pretty scared doing it, I’d always had long hair, but afterwards I felt like a weight had been lifted. I felt good.”

Jodie didn’t tell partner Michael Loader what she was going to do. It was only afterwards that she revealed her new look.

“He was shocked, but he just said if it makes you feel better then do what you want,” she said.


Alopecia - what is it?

Simply meaning hair loss, there are different types of alopecia

  • Alopecia Areata is a hair loss disease that affects men, women and children. Onset is often sudden, random and frequently recurrent
  • Androgenetic Alopecia is most common in older men and women. It affects approximately half of men over 50 and women over 65
  • Although not damaging to physical health, it can have severe emotional effects, affecting confidence and self-esteem
  • There are various treatments used for alopecia, the most common including corticosteroid creams and injections. Dietary supplements, such as zinc, have also been reported to help

Son Oliver was also a bit surprised but it didn’t really faze him. “At one point he wanted to shave his own hair so he could look the same,” she laughed.

But Jodie said not everyone reacted that way. “My mum was a bit dubious. She thought it was a bit drastic but she was just worried about me.

“My friends were also really supportive.

“But I also had people shout horrible things in the street. That did really hurt.”

Jodie decided to buy a wig. Rather than shell out hundreds of pounds, she got one from a fancy dress shop and styled it herself.

But she found that when she wasn’t wearing it, people automatically thought she had cancer.

“I’ve been on nights out without my wig or taken it off because I was too hot. People would come up and ask if I was alright, if I was having cancer treatment.

“They could talk about cancer, but alopecia – people don’t really speak about it.”

With the cream having limited effects, she was prescribed steroid tablets. “They were amazing. All my hair was growing back,” she said.

But Jodie – who said it initially grew back white and fluffy, like baby hair – is worried about the long term use of steroids on her body, so has decided to stop taking them for a while.

Nowadays she has more good days than bad, and is trying to accept that alopecia is just something she has to live with.

Gail Porter photo

The most well known person to suffer from alopecia is probably TV presenter and model Gail Porter, whose hair fell out in 2005 at the peak of her career.

“My hair has grown back but is still quite short. Sometimes I wear my wig, sometimes I don’t. I’m trying to get used to my new look. I used to look quite feminine so it feels strange,” said Jodie.

“Even now I’m still grieving - grieving the loss of my hair. It changes the whole way you look. It doesn’t help that there is such a stigma. At its worst I just wanted to hide away. I didn’t want anyone to see. I felt pretty low. I was embarrassed... paranoid.

“Since I started talking about it I’ve had a few messages from people who also have it.

“There’s a woman who lives near me and a girl I went to school with. I think it helps to realise you aren’t the only one.”

She’s also found a good support group on Facebook. If anything she said she now feels quite lucky as there are people who have lost their eyebrows and eyelashes, or have no regrowth at all.

“There was a really bad stage when I didn’t want to go out but you can’t let it take over your life, otherwise it’s won.

“You just have to get on with it.

“I’m a mum. I have to focus on Oliver – and he doesn’t care if I have hair or not,” she added.

Support can be found at
Alopecia UK - or