The focus of World Alopecia Community, Inc. is to enhance the overall well-being of those affected by all forms of alopecia, through evidence-based education, wellness activities, and community support. We want to teach people to not just live with alopecia but how to thrive. One of the best stories I’ve heard over the past few years is the story of Bridgid Dunn Weber. Diagnosed with androgenetic alopecia (AGA), Bridgid struggled for years to reverse or hide her hair loss… until one day she decided to let go and learn to thrive!
Q. At what age did you start noticing your hair loss?
I was in my early thirties. My ex husband joked that I looked like I was going bald. He thought it was funny but as the hair loss on the top of my scalp became more diffuse no one was laughing. It progressed over the course of 20 years gradually. The Ludwig scale illustration perfectly depicts how my loss progressed. I don’t have pictures of my early hair loss because I would not allow myself to be seen in public without having Toppik or Dermatch or some other concealer on my scalp. My pattern of hair loss now mirrors the illustration entitled “Type III.”
Q. What treatments did you try to stop the hair loss?
I used biotin, hair vitamins, tried Paleo and gluten-free diet (lost weight and felt great but it didn’t do a damn thing for my hair.). I tried Nioxin products, Rogaine, and spironolactone. I visited medical doctors, dermatologists, and even an endocrinologist. They all had the same diagnosis — female pattern baldness aka androgenic alopecia. Nothing worked. Not even a little bit. I began using a concealing spray on my scalp called Fullmore. It was very messy to work with. It left stains everywhere! It stained my shower stall, the head rest on my car, plenty of clothes. I had some very embarrassing times when I would sweat and the stuff would start rolling down my face and people would ask if I was bleeding. I had red hair at the time. The most drastic thing I tried to conceal my scalp was going to a aesthetician who tattooed permanent makeup. For $400 she “tattooed” my scalp. It was horribly painful during the procedure and for at least 24 hours afterward. Worst of all, the tattoo didn’t take. I still have a few stray markings to this day on my bald scalp so in retrospect I’ll say it was a blessing that it didn’t take. Otherwise I’d have a big black mark covering my scalp!
Q. What made you decide to stop treating and begin moving forward with wearing wigs?No treatments worked! I also decided I wanted to stop hiding. For me it wasn’t as much about treating my alopecia because the treatment options were fairly limited. I spent so much time and emotional energy trying to conceal my hair loss. I lived in perpetual fear of someone finding out. I was afraid of bright light. I thought if someone shined a bright light on my scalp they might be able to tell that I had concealer spray on my scalp.
Q. What do you like best about being bald?
Wow… I can’t say I ‘like’ being bald… but I’ve learned to live with it. I would change it in a heartbeat. I do enjoy that I can very easily change my look with different wigs, but I’d enjoy having my old (pre-alopecia hair) back even more. A good friend of mine said, “Bridgid, you’re so lucky! You get to have a different look every day!” I responded that luck had nothing to do with it and that she too could be as “lucky” as me. She could buy a bunch of wigs and wear a different one every day.
Q. What lessons have you learned about ‘wig wearing’ that you wish you knew at the beginning of your journey?
The best wig lesson or tip I ever heard was this: “Wear your wig with confidence.” I also find online alopecia groups to be helpful because I buy my wigs online. I like to see what a wig looks like on a “regular” person, someone who is not a model, and it’s an extra bonus if they are in my age range. I wash my wigs with a mild wig shampoo and soak them in lukewarm water with fabric softener. That keeps my synthetics in good shape. I do have a few human hair wigs that I prefer to save for special occasions. I actually miss styling my hair and when I wear my Follea wig I get the opportunity to blow dry and curl it… and no one can tell it’s a wig.
Another thing that has helped is that I’ve stop caring if anyone knows I’m wearing a wig. I wear my wigs just like I wear a new item of clothing. I’m not worried about anyone finding out and that helps me have more fun. For example, for the 4th of July this year I took an older wig that I’d stopped wearing and had my daughter put some blue in it. I used a pic of me in this blonde and blue wig as my Facebook profile picture and an acquaintance at work asked who dyed my hair. I laughed and told her it was a wig without hesitation. Whenever someone asks me where I get my hair done or who my stylist is, I simply say thank you and tell them it’s a wig. I am a big fan of Dolly Parton and I try to emulate her attitude. I have no idea what her biological hair looks like. I spent a day at Dollywood last year and saw hundreds of pictures and videos of Dolly — she wears a different wig or hairpiece every day and no one cares. They just love her for her talent but mostly for her warmth and her positive attitude. So I will expand on my initial wig tip… “Wear your wig with the confidence of Dolly Parton!”
Q. What are your top three tips for women/men struggling with the emotional and social impacts of hair loss?
- Don’t expect people who haven’t personally lived with alopecia to ever be able to fully understand. My husband is very supportive but in spite of this there are times that he still doesn’t quite “get it,” and I don’t fault him for that. He can’t get it. When you need to vent go to an alopecia support group or an online alopecia community. There you will find people who understand.
- Strive to come to a point of self-acceptance. I am not bald by choice but I try to see some good come out of my experience. I have had many opportunities to help others because of my experience.
- Being “out” about my alopecia is the only way to go for me. I don’t spend any mental energy hiding it anymore. I wish I had gotten to this point a lot sooner. It’s been a long 20 years and only about a year now that I’ve become open about it.
In October of 2015, Bridgid had the opportunity to speak publicly about her hair loss journey at a “Women Who Inspire” event.Social tagging: aga > alopecia > alopecia support > androgenetic > androgenic > inspiring stories > mindset > support > thrive