Learning to live with alopecia: Yasmin's story
The British Skin Foundation has been chatting with Yasmin Taylor, 24, from West Sussex.
Yasmin who currently lives in Abu Dhabi, suffers from alopecia but she doesn’t let that get in the way of life! Diagnosed in 2007, she was initially embarrassed by her condition and wore a wig. Whilst working in Australia in 2015, Yasmin found the courage to take off her wig so she could learn to surf in Byron Bay with her friends and her confidence built from there.
Yasmin in Byron Bay, Australia
Yasmin, what did it feel like that first time swimming in the sea without a wig, were you still a bit nervous, or was it liberating?
The first time being in the sea without my wig on felt so unusual but so great at the same time, I couldn’t believe I’d actually taken it off - it was a massive step for me and something I honestly thought I’d never be able to do. I wouldn’t even take my wig off in front of my family, friends or my then boyfriend. But there I was in the sea in public without it on! It was a surreal moment for me and I’ve never looked back.
Yasmin in her wig
Were you scared about how people would react to seeing you without a wig?
Yes I was! I was worried that people would stare and make comments, which some did and still do but I’ve learnt to turn a blind eye now. It was nice meeting people without my wig on because they only knew me bald; they never knew me with hair so for them it was ‘normal’. I was more worried about seeing people I knew back in the UK.
Before I flew home I nearly put the wig back on, I’d left the UK with the wig on and I was coming back one year later without it on. Although there were loads of pictures on Facebook and Instagram of me without the wig it’s different seeing me in real life without hair. I remember when I got back to the UK and I went to my old work and gym - driving up the driveways feeling so nervous, seeing people for the first time in a year and not having hair, it was just so scary to me.
One of Yasmin’s selfies
You post lots of selfies on your Instagram account which inspire others to be themselves; do you think this has helped you cope with your alopecia?
I think in a way it has helped me cope with my alopecia. Knowing that some of my pictures and what I write with the pictures help others it makes me so happy. I don’t post the pictures for compliments, I post them because I want others to know that they aren’t alone, it’s okay to be different and to embrace your uniqueness.
What is the most annoying thing people ask or say to you about your alopecia?
Do you have cancer? But isn’t it a type of cancer? Can I touch your head? Is it contagious? You know you can get wigs and hats to cover your head?
You look like Amber Rose.
You’re lucky you have a nice shaped head.
At least you have a pretty face.
It’s a shame god took your hair because you’re so beautiful.
Yasmin when her hair first started to fall out
You seem very upbeat about your condition, what would you say to someone who has just been diagnosed?
The best advice I would give someone who has just been diagnosed is: be strong, be bold and don’t let alopecia get the better of you. If you don’t make it a big deal, people won’t see it as a big deal. There is more to life than hair, don't let alopecia stop YOU from being YOU. Don't worry about what others think of you, focus on yourself and love yourself. Life is tough, but so are you. Beauty fades, personality doesn't, let your personality shine through. Don't worry about your hair, worry about being the best possible person you can be, not only will that make you feel better, but it will attract people to you a lot more than hair will! Think of how lucky you are in other aspects of your life – look at the bigger picture. Yes, it is hard losing your hair but it’s not half as hard as losing someone you love.
If the person is thinking about wearing a wig, I’d advise them to make sure they are comfortable being bald first, comfortable enough to go out in public without the wig. I say this because when I got a wig I wasn’t comfortable with being bald at all and I hid behind the wig for 3 years not letting anyone see me without it and it made me so miserable. I think it would have been a very different story if I had learnt to love and accept myself being bald first and then using a wig when I wanted too, instead of a necessity.
In general, do you find that most people are supportive of you and your decision to go wig-free?
100% yes. My family and friends just want me to be happy – people admire my courage.
Do you think that your alopecia has ever held you back?
I would say it only held me back when I wore a wig and wanted to do certain activities such as, going swimming, going to theme parks, going in the sea, etc. I just didn’t want to do anything that could potentially make my wig come off!
Socially, when wearing a wig I wouldn’t let it hold me back but I’d get nervous going out with friends. I used to get worried people would know it was a wig and say something in front of everyone. I just used to over think things I guess... Any conversations about hair I would try and change the subject, I used to hate getting compliments because all I wanted to say was ‘I don’t look like this, I’m bald’. Even though I was covering up my head I was still constantly thinking about it. It was just so hard mentally pretending the hair on my head was mine and that I actually looked like that. It drove me crazy.
Socially, without the wig, the only thing I can think of is dating; it doesn’t hold me back per se... I mean if a guy comes up to me and starts chatting to me and asks for my number then obviously he doesn’t see alopecia / baldness as a problem which is great. But, honestly even though I’m fine with my alopecia I sometimes think why would guys want to go for me when they could go for someone with hair? Why would they want to go out with me and have to put up with the stares and the comments that I sometimes get? I am confident when going on dates and obviously I don’t see it as a problem but that is something I do think about very occasionally.
Yasmin & her friend Nadine who also has alopecia
Do you have any friends with alopecia and if so, how does that help?
Yes, I have a really good friend Nadine, who I met through Instagram, she lives in Australia and I met up with her whilst I was over there and again back in the UK. We get on so well, she’s like a sister to me! We chat all the time and share a lot of the same interests’ not just alopecia. Whenever one of us is feeling down about our hair, the other person will be positive and will give advice – it’s nice to have someone close to me who can relate.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us and sharing your story.