Teenager reveals how a 5p-sized bald patch rapidly spread - leaving her body completely hairless5th Mar 18 | Real Life
Now thanks to a revolutionary system, Lucy has long flowing locks again.
A teenager has bravely spoken out about her living nightmare, when a bald patch the size of a 5p piece suddenly appeared and rapidly spread - leaving her without hair on her head, face or body.
Just 15 and studying for her GCSE's, Lucy Brown first noticed a tiny section of bare scalp, when she was fiddling with her hair in a geography class at school.
Showing her parents and her uncle, a doctor, at first no one was worried, but the patches soon spread, according to Lucy, now 19, of Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk, who said: "I had long, brown hair, which I straightened, or curled and took pride in. The thought of it falling out was really daunting.
"I had no idea that girls of my age could just start going bald. It was a horribly isolating experience."
Part-time waitress Lucy's problem began in September 2014, when she noticed her first bare patch.
By February 2015, there were several, so she saw her GP and was told it was probably a scalp condition - trying various creams, in a bid to stop it spreading.
Instead, it became worse and, when she saw a different doctor in early March, he thought she had alopecia areata - an autoimmune condition, whereby the immune system attacks hair follicles, causing hair loss – advising her to consider having a wig.
"My reaction was very emotional. I'd googled alopecia areata, fearing I might have it, but had tried to convince myself it wasn't that," she said.
"As a teenage girl, it was the last thing I wanted to hear.
"I hadn't considered wigs, as I hadn't thought I could possibly lose all my hair.
"I tried to find other women my age, going through the same thing, for support, but there weren't any. That's why I'm speaking out – hoping to help other people like me."
Sent to see a dermatologist, she was put on steroids.
"I think they addressed the autoimmune factor," she continued. "I'd just started GCSEs, so the specialist wondered if my alopecia had been triggered by stress, or by my hormones.
"Nothing really traumatic had happened, though, so they couldn't really get to the bottom of it."
On steroids for about eight weeks, they started with a stronger dose, which was effective.
"For the first few weeks they really worked," said Lucy, who has two sisters, Charlotte, 23, and Harriet, 21. "I got white, fluffy hair on my bald patches, but as the dose decreased, it started to get worse again.
"When I went back to see the dermatologist, bits of hair had regrown, but there were also new bald patches, which was a bit upsetting.
"I did go back on steroids - finishing them in about December 2015 - as the consultant realised it would be awful to lose all my hair, when I was doing my GCSEs."
Lucy's parents, nurse Angela, 48, and maltster Rodney, 64, even paid £300 for an appointment with a Harley Street specialist, but they only provided her with information she already had.
"It was a difficult time, as the main thing people say is not to get stressed, but, as a 15-year-old girl, losing all your hair is bound to make you worry. It's the only thing you can do," she said. "I was so stressy about it all."
Lucy also found it very difficult to talk about what she was going through.
"At the beginning, I told a few girls in my science class, before I knew it was alopecia," she explained. "I showed it to them and they all had a laugh at it, which really upset me.
"After that, I was more guarded about who I told. I obviously told my closest friends and family, who were very supportive."
Throughout 2015, Lucy disguised her bald patches, using various hair products.
But, as more hair fell out, she resorted to wearing caps and hats.
"I spent hours in the bathroom," she said. "I'd wake up an hour and a half before school and would try and plait my hair or style it in a way that would hide it.
"My sister Charlie would help me in the morning, trying to disguise all these bald patches, but I got used to it."
Then, in early 2016, it became impossible to cover-up her increased hair loss.
"The thought of wigs freaked me out, so I didn't know what to do," she said.
Then her mum, discovered the Lucinda Ellery Consultancy, created by a fellow alopecia sufferer to offer solutions for managing hair loss and hair thinning.
Visiting the London salon, Lucy soon found a hair system, built using a special mesh, applied to the wearer's skull and fitted individually, which suited her perfectly.
Despite costing around £2000, her parents were happy to invest in the hairpiece, which Lucy says has changed her life.
She recalled: "My hair system is taped to my head and only needs to be changed once a week. I can shower in it and everything. It feels like my own hair. The day it was put on, it changed my life.
— Alopecia_UK (@Alopecia_UK) February 14, 2018
"Before, I had a month off school, then I had to stop working for a bit, as I had no hair. I didn't feel comfortable going into school, as I was at the age where people can be judgemental, so I worked at home instead.
"After getting my hair system, I felt confident about going back. I also go to parties again now and socialise with friends. My routine has gone back to normal."
And, while Lucy - who has no eyebrows, eyelashes or body hair - said she would have felt too self-conscious to go to uni bald, she now plans to study food with nutrition at Bath Spa University in September.
Sadly, she has no idea whether or not her hair will grow back, but she is now determined not to let it hold her back.
She said: "I still really hope it will grow back, but, annoyingly, it's so unpredictable.
"I'm quite into make-up, which is lucky, so I use all sorts of products to do my brows and use false eyelashes. I have a routine now.
— Alopecia_UK (@Alopecia_UK) October 4, 2017
"Since this started, I have learned a lot.
"My advice to anyone experiencing hair loss is not to keep it a secret. It feels much better when you tell people what's happening.
"Not everyone needs to know, but once you've come out, it's a relief and you may be shocked by how supportive people can be."
For further information on Lucinda Ellery, please visit https://www.lucindaellery-hairloss.co.uk/
© Press Association 2018