Alopecia: What’s Behind the Veil

When I look in the mirror, I see my brother.

Now, nothing wrong with that - he’s quite a good looking guy.

But he’s a guy!

None of the men in my family have hair. Nothing on the head, no eyebrows, eyelashes; nothing on the, arms, legs or other unmentionable places. My dad lost all at the age of 8 after two successive bouts of scarlet and rheumatic fever. My oldest brother lost his also at the tender age of 8. Although they both went to Mayo Clinic, the alopecia in both was diagnosed as merely oddly coincidental. This was well before the discovery and our preoccupation with autoimmune diseases.

At 41, and pregnant with my one and only child, a hairdresser friend noticed a small, shiny bald spot and suspected alopecia  aereta. After the birth of my son the alopecia was confirmed. At that time, it was only the areata version that snakes around the head in a zig-zag pattern. I also lost one eyebrow, making me look a bit lopsided. With steroid injections the eyebrow came back in but I surely was not up to those painful injections all around my head.

Fortunately with areata, one can artfully cover up the bald pattern and no one is the wiser. Not to mention my Muslim head covering concealing all.

A few years later, my nephew, aged 30, who most resembles our side of the family, lost everything in just one month’s time.  Mine would grow in, fall out over the years but eventually, mine too, all fell out. It’s not so attractive to look in the mirror and see your very male brother staring back at you. Honestly though, from the neck down it’s a blessing from God! No shaving – anything!

I’ve had well-meaning doctors and friends blame the loss of hair due to my hijaab but it’s obvious we have some DNA issues in our family. Perhaps the TB that my father’s mom contracted later in life passed down some weakness in the genes to us all. What I know of alopecia, like most autoimmune diseases, is that the good cells are mistaken for the bad ones and attacked.

But what a blessing my scarf is! And if alopecia is a test from my merciful Creator, is it surely a small one.  Sure, I’d love to look like my former self once I doff my scarf around family and friends. My lovely son has never known his mom with ‘nice’ hair but loves me still and is highly biased when it comes down to his mother’s good looks.

I find similarities, too, in my hijaab and alopecia in that it gives us all a sort of uniformity. If you ever see a pic of those without hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, etc., we look remarkably the same until you get close. (You can’t imagine how much character eyebrows give you!)  One of the purposes of hijaab is not to stand out and attract undo attention. It lessens some of that competitiveness and envy among womenfolk when there is a bit less hair to show off. And we all know our lovely hair is at its base, genetic and as in most of good looks, we can’t take all that much credit for it.

I found an amazing picture of a woman whose entire head was tattooed with a gorgeous henna design. I saved that picture for quite some time until I had the courage to try it. With the loving push of my bestie friend, I took the plunge! Ooh la la, I was suddenly an exotic fashion statement!  I heartily encourage other alope-cites and our dear sisters suffering hair loss from chemo treatments to give it a try.  You'll look and feel fantastic!

For anyone interested…I would highly recommend to google ‘henna’ in your area or on Facebook. The Indo/Pakistani women are masterful at this art.Alopecia%20henna.png

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