A woman with alopecia faces judgement from dates after speaking about her condition – but says this helps her to dig out time-wasters.
Amy Burbage, from Newbury, West Berkshire, first started to experience hair loss when she was 17-years-old.
She felt a patch of hair, the size of a two pence coin, missing at the back of her head.
The asset management senior executive, now 31, remembers “freaking out” to her mum Sharon, 58.
But she breathed a sigh of relief after doctors said it was likely to be a result of iron deficiency.
Her hair grew back after nine months of treatment – but when she was taken off medication, the problem returned.
Amy was diagnosed with the most severe form of alopecia, called alopecia universalis, in which all hair on the head and body falls out.
In her late teens, her luscious blonde locks fell out completely.
This was devastating and made the schoolgirl retreat into her shell to avoid drawing attention to herself.
Amy said: "Your hair and the way you look is one of the most important things to you at age seventeen, so it was truly devastating to be losing it.
"It's not a person you've lost, but you still go through a grieving process for it.
"It's hard to admit it, but I was quite vain prior to my hair falling out.”
She added: "Once I had a spot in the middle of my forehead and I had a full-on breakdown and begged my mum not to send me to school.
"To go from that to having your hair falling out and realising there is nothing you can do to stop it, it definitely teaches you a bit of a lesson."
It wasn’t until her early 20s that Amy found the confidence to start dating.
She decided not to tell dates about her alopecia until the third or fourth meeting.
Most men were understanding and think she looks beautiful regardless – but it did lead to one match blanking her after they found out about the condition.
Amy said: "By the time I reached my mid-twenties I was single, but was determined to not let my alopecia affect my love life.
"Dating is all about confidence and feeling good and it can be hard to feel confident when you've lost your hair.
"I decided that I wouldn't tell guys about my alopecia until the third or fourth date, once I thought the relationship was potentially going somewhere.
"On pretty much all occasions, guys wouldn't mind about my alopecia when I told them which was great.
"There is one time that has stuck in my mind where I brought it up to one person and he seemed absolutely fine with it and even said that I looked beautiful in my wig.
"But, after the date, he completely ghosted me, even though we had met multiple times."
Instead of taking this experience to heart, Amy uses it to remember how her condition has been a great way to filter out people who aren't worth her time.
She’s in a happy relationship with boyfriend of three years, 32-year-old Charlie, who loves his girlfriend’s wide variety of wigs.
The executive gushed: “I know I have a really special person in my life.
"He even says that when I change my wig, it's like dating a different person but with my same personality.”
Amy hopes sharing her experiences will help others who are battling alopecia.
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She set up an Instagram account back in 2020, where she gives advice to other women.
Amy explained: "The pandemic allowed me the time to be able to share my story, with the hope that I can help others going through what I have been through.
"For those early in their alopecia journey in particular, hair loss can be incredibly traumatic, so being able to provide that support, even if you can always give solutions is invaluable.
"If I had the support of the alopecia community when I was seventeen or eighteen, I wouldn't have felt so alone.
"Sharing my journey has had a huge impact on my life and my confidence has shot up – it's amazingly powerful.”
Amy added: "I've had a couple of girls in the alopecia community message me saying that people have asked them how their chemo treatment is going, thinking that because they didn't have hair, they must have had cancer.
"There is clearly a lot more educating to be done and I hope my page can help.
"I get a lot of messages from girls and guys with alopecia saying how thankful they are that I started my page and that it has given them the courage to open up about their own journey.
"I even have had messages from mums and dad and partners of people with alopecia, asking about how they should approach the subject of alopecia and I'm always happy to provide my personal insight whenever I can."
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