39 year-old, mother of three, Jo Tucker lost 90% of her hair in two weeks after her third pregnancy. What followed was a journey of self-acceptance, a love affair with wigs, and a redefinition of what it means to be ‘beautiful’. Ahead of Alopecia Awareness Month, she’s sharing her hair loss story.*
It was just before Christmas. I had just returned to work after my third child and I wasn’t sleeping. Without any warning, I noticed that a small area of hair loss was turning into rapid hair shedding and whole clumps began falling out in the shower.
I booked an appointment at the doctor and I was diagnosed with alopecia areata and sent on my way with a leaflet. I was devastated and confused as my blood tests were healthy. It’s incredibly frustrating to know you’re broken, but not sure which bit or how to fix it.
Christmas came and went and by the time I went back to the doctors I had lost 90% of the hair from my head in only two weeks. I bought shampoos, hair growth serums, treatments – but nothing slowed the loss. By April, I had lost all hair on my head and my body. A dermatologist told me that the more you lose, statistically the less likely you are to get it back. I had reached the most extreme Alopecia Universalis and my odds didn’t look good.
I knew I’d need to return to work after the Christmas holidays but I wasn’t ready to be bald. Suddenly I felt like a wig was my only option. My mum knew of a hairdressers which made wigs and I booked an appointment. I was taken through all the different types of wigs, the construction, materials etc. I had no idea it was so complicated – or so expensive!
Before losing my hair, I was always in that awkward growing-out stage between a pixie and a bob and the wigs looked much better than my actual hair ever was.
I instantly loved the confidence that wigs gave me and I soon became obsessed. I enjoyed the different looks you could achieve so effortlessly. And the more I bought, the more styles and colours I tried! I wasn’t shy about wearing a pixie one day and then long hair the next. I embraced this as one of the positives. Before losing my hair, I was always in that awkward growing-out stage between a pixie and a bob and the wigs looked much better than my actual hair ever was!
I own a lot of different wigs now but I have three favourites that are my go-to: a classic long bob, a pixie cut and long, beachy waves. I never had long hair before, so it’s still a novelty and I like being able to wear it back in a plait or up in a messy bun. When I first started wearing wigs, they were really itchy but there are bamboo and fine mesh caps that put a barrier between your scalp and the material the wig is made from to prevent any itch.
Alopecia has been a huge learning curve. Learning to look at myself in the mirror and appreciate what I see. When it first happened, as it was so sudden, I felt incredibly lost. I dreaded seeing people I hadn’t bumped into for a long time and them seeing the difference in my appearance.
I don’t feel less beautiful. I feel like I’ve gained so much.
But now I’ve learned not to place as much value on appearance and looks. It doesn’t change who you are inside. Beauty really does come in all different shapes and sizes, and I don’t feel less beautiful. I feel like I’ve gained so much. If anything, it makes you a stronger character.
Since starting my Instagram @baldmothertucker, I get lots of messages from other alopecia sufferers. It’s so lovely to have found a community where you have that common ground and there are charities like Alopecia UK which offer support and advice and private Facebook groups and wig chat forums which act as a safe space to share concerns, worries and ask questions.
For me, it’s all been about self-acceptance. Once you have cracked that – even 75% – things just fall into place. I’m probably around 80% acceptance these days. I’ve stopped searching for a solution to my hair loss. I’d rather focus my time on how I can improve my health and general wellness and if this happens to have a knock-on effect on how hairy I am, then that’s just a bonus!
How to Care for a Wig: Jo’s Top 5 Wig Care Tips
1. Store them safely when you’re not using them to keep them in good condition.
2. Don’t rub conditioning products directly onto the wig cap as this can detangle the wefts of hair and cause fall out.
3. Use a steamer to refresh and shape your wigs.
4. Make sure to use specialist products that are designed for the type of wig you have (synthetic or human hair).
5. Don’t use fabric conditioner on your wigs – it causes build-up and can damage the hair fibres.
All Things Hair’s Top Oils & Serums
Dove Advanced Hair Series Shine Revived Treatment
With its blend of nourishing oils, the Dove Advanced Hair Series Shine Revived Treatment helps to nourish dry ends and minimise frizz.
TRESemmé Colour Shineplex Serum
If your wig is looking a little dull, the camellia oil-enriched TRESemmé Colour Shineplex Serum adds a healthy-looking shine and vibrancy to keep it looking radiant.
VO5 Heat Protect Serum
Providing protection from heat damage from straighteners and curling wands, theVO5 Heat Protect Serum also smoothes unruly flyaways instantly.
For more advice on using hair serums, from who can use them to which ones to try for dry and damaged hair, read more here.
* As told to Beth Strong