Emma, aka Lady Alopecia, is a yoga and meditation teacher living in Hoi An, Vietnam. She’s also a long-term alopecian and has had alopecia areata (an autoimmune condition, which involves patchy hair loss) since the age of 11. Now 34, Emma works to inform, inspire and empower people with all forms of hair loss. Because she knows there’s far more to a person than the hair on their head. And in the wise words of Terry Savalas (aka Kojak): “we’re all born bald, baby!”
We asked Emma to test and review a range of nude products, you can find the link to her findings at the bottom of the article. Before we get to that, lets find out more about Lady Alopecia...
Let’s start right at the top. What is alopecia?
Sure! So alopecia is the medical term for hair loss. Now, we all shed hair from time to time...in fact, people can lose up to 100 hairs a day! But alopecia is an autoimmune condition – meaning that the immune system attacks itself in response to some perceived threat. In the case of alopecia, the immune system sees perfectly healthy hair follicles as unknown invaders – and launches an attack. The hair follicles shrink to protect themselves, which leads to breakage and shedding. It also means new hair can’t grow.
So what are the factors that can cause alopecia?
Unfortunately, lots and lots of things – which is why it’s so hard to treat! There are different types of alopecia, ranging from small bald patches to complete hair loss on the body and head. And they can be triggered by various factors...but the most common ones are hormonal imbalance, genetics, nutrition and stress. Stress is probably the biggest cause, whether it’s in response to a traumatic event like a bereavement or it comes on in a more chronic fashion, like in the wake of COVID-19.
Any common misconceptions about alopecia?
It’s not so much the case nowadays (thankfully) but people used to think it was quite rare – when in fact, it’s really common. 147 million people worldwide are affected by alopecia areata alone. 40% of women will experience visible hair loss by the age of 40. While two-thirds of American men see notable hair loss by 35. So it shouldn’t be this shameful, secret thing. Luckily, nowadays, more and more public figures are opening up about their own hair loss issues – from congresswomen to actresses to sports heroes – and that helps people to feel less alone.
What is the story of Lady Alopecia and what are you working towards?
I set up Lady Alopecia back in 2018 to be the resource I never had! When I was growing up with the condition, I was scared, frustrated and confused. Doctors couldn’t give me answers: they just said: “it’s not life-threatening so don’t worry”. Easy for them to say! There weren’t many resources available – anything I could find was boring medical jargon that I couldn’t understand. Most of all, I had no idea how many people were affected by hair loss – I thought I was doing it to myself, that I was “broken” in some way and I felt so ashamed. With Lady Alopecia, I want to show people they’re not alone. That there’s a whole community of us baldies out there, happy to support each other and share our experiences. And that talking about the condition, being open, makes it much easier to bear. In my case, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been...even without much hair! That’s because I’ve learned to accept my hair loss, to be happy with who I am and to work towards helping others get to that place, too.
I do talk about different treatments that can boost hair growth, and I sell head scarves on my site...plus I’ve recently launched a Yoga for Alopecia online course to help alopecians manage stress on an ongoing basis. But the main goal of my site isn’t to help people “fix” their alopecia – it’s to help them find acceptance, just as they are.
You have tested a lot of products that could potentially help with hair loss. What are you looking for in those products?
That’s right, I have! Some of them have worked for me, temporarily...although if I’m honest, I haven’t stuck to any one product for longer than maybe 4 months! Still, what I look for now are natural ingredients that are kind to the skin and that won’t have negative short or long-term effects. I’m massively opposed to topical steroid creams and corticosteroid injections for that reason...I had both when I was in my teens and wound up with dizziness and headaches in the short-term, plus ongoing gut and immune problems years later.
I’d recommend natural ingredients that support a healthy scalp and hair: my favourite ones include aloe vera, ginger, turmeric, coconut oil (plus several other vegetable/seed oils), essential oils like peppermint and rosemary...oh, and green tea/coffee!
Are there products or ingredients that people should actively avoid using?
Most popular shampoos and conditioners include sulfates (like sodium lauryl sulfate) and parabens to create a lathering effect. They’re pretty harsh chemicals that sure, cleanse the scalp but a little too deeply – they strip it of its natural oils while they’re at it. The result can be a dry, itchy scalp and a flaky build-up – which leads to damaged, brittle hair and not exactly the optimal environment for growth! I also don’t like minoxidil (the popular ingredient known as Rogaine.) It’s one of those toxic steroid treatments I mentioned before, which can have adverse side effects.
How was your experience of testing the nude beauty products range?
It was great! I was pleasantly surprised to see the soaps contained most of my favourite hair ingredients, plus a few more goodies (like shea butter, charcoal and tea tree oil). They smelled great, they created a proper foamy lather – but in a natural way – and they lasted for ages. I’ve used soap on my hair when travelling before and even with so-called shampoo bars, my hair was always dry and in need of a conditioner afterwards. Not so with nude soaps – they were super-moisturising and I really noticed a difference in texture and shine. I love the brand’s ethos, too – and it’s nice to find a product that’s genuinely organic, vegan and cruelty-free.
What is your favourite nude product?
Tricky one...can I say two?? I love the ginger spice exfoliating bar because it contains most of my top ingredients, and it smells like Christmas! But I’ve been using the hypoallergenic shampoo bar recently and highly recommend it, too – especially for anyone with sensitive scalps, which many alopecians will have.
To cover up or bare all?
That is totally up to the person. In my experience, I’m much happier since coming clean about my alopecia and ditching the wig that I wore for years. I just never felt like myself in it, like I was constantly hiding something. But some people adore wigs; they give them the confidence they need to face the world, and that’s awesome. And even now, I don’t feel like ‘baring all’ every single day – which is why I turn to my trusty collection of headscarves (my favourite are made from hypoallergenic, 100% bamboo material). They’re handy if I don’t feel like getting stared at, or if I need to cover up in the sun!
Anything else to add?
I’d just like to say, if you’re experiencing hair loss, try not to stress about it. I know it’s easier said than done – but in many cases, your hair will return without any treatment at all. Alopecia isn’t always permanent, so try not to give it too much control by making it the centrepoint of your life. Remember, you are strong and beautiful – with or without hair – and you can get through this! I’ve been there. I know how tough it is. So please reach out, whether it’s to family, friends, or me, and talk about your condition. Because we all have our insecurities...and by bringing these insecurities into the light, you give them less power.Find out what Lady Alopecia thought of the nude beauty products range in her full review article. www.ladyalopecia.com/nude-beauty-review/