My life with...Alopecia by Gina Knight
Gina Knight is a 30 something almost mother of two. Baby Florence will make a grand entrance any day now!
A popular and still celebrated former black hair and beauty blogger, she is also the founder and brains behind the award winning wig making brand The Wig Witch. A brand with interesting beginnings, and wholly fuelled by Gina's personal experience with the hair loss condition - Alopecia.
Hair loss of any type is a condition we take very seriously at Black Skin Directory, especially in women of colour. With so many variants of Alopecia, it is a poorly understood condition that can sometimes be unfairly blamed on black cultural hair care practices and also our medical system (the NHS) isn't always equipped to deal with the complaint through a lack of knowledge and experience with the various sub types of the condition.
We are pleased that Gina has agreed to share her story with the BSD community, giving us all a chance to learn from her experiences.
What was your hair regime prior to hair loss?
I’ve kept my hair natural since 2008 and started to experience hair loss issues in 2012, so my hair practices were actually very good. I only used natural hair care products, rarely wore my hair in protective styles such as braids or twists and I maintained a relatively healthy scalp.
What was the hair loss trigger?
After I had my first baby in 2012, I suffered from Post Natal Depression and Post Traumatic Stress. Unbeknownst to me, I didn’t realise that this could trigger hair loss and I ignored my hair loss for a year thinking it was a natural pattern of post partum hair shedding. It was almost two years into my hair loss that I was finally diagnosed with Alopecia.
What was the emotional and physical impact of hair loss?
It was extremely stressful which made the hair loss even worse. The more I worried, the more patches I would find and the more thinning I’d encounter. It really knocked my confidence especially as I was a popular hair blogger at the time and worked in the salon industry so my hair was a big deal.
How soon did you visit a GP once you noticed the hair loss?
I visited my GP after a year as I was told the hair loss was normal.
What was your experience at the GP? Did they understand your concerns/show empathy?
My GP wasn’t very helpful or knowledgeable about hair especially black hair conditions. My GP tried to pass it off as a result of pregnancy, but by then I had huge bald patches all over my head.
Then my GP blamed my hair practices, though I’d been natural for years, rarely wore braids and never worn a weave. Finally the GP said it’s was a fungal infection and prescribed me a topical shampoo, and later suggested steroids and a possible biopsy which I declined as I didn’t see how pumping drugs into my body or cutting open my head was useful when they had already shown incompetence in diagnosis.
Were you referred to a dermatologist? Did you attend an appointment? If not, why? If you did, what was the outcome?
I was never referred I had to seek my help for myself. I finally saw a doctor, a black woman who said that perhaps the hair loss was linked to my PND she was the only one who spoke about alternatives as opposed to this culture of blaming the patient or diagnosing based on stereotypes. She suggested that the hair loss could be stress induced which could also be affecting my immune system.
What sort of hair loss were you diagnosed with?
I was diagnosed with Telegen Effluvium which can be triggered by child birth and illness."Telegen Effluvium is a hair and scalp disorder that can be caused by physical or emotional stress such as pregnancy or childbirth. Hair loss starts to be noticed approximately three months after the stressor." Black Skin Directory
What remedies where you given e.g drugs, creams?
I was offered over the counter topical ointments however I found these to not be as effective as changing my lifestyle.
Where you given any lifestyle advice. e.g lower stress levels, dietary changes?
I took it upon myself to change my lifestyle when I was diagnosed with PND as I didn’t want to be medicated in anyway. I looked into a lot of holistic remedies. Meditation really helped me with my stress level as well as a more balanced diet.
Were you advised to stop any hair regimes you had previously followed or currently practicing?
I made the decision to practice a very simple hair care regimen that I follow to this day. I only use natural products and I don’t style my hair with braids, twists or use heat. I wear wigs most of the time to avoid having to manipulate my hair.
Has the hair loss now ceased?
The hair loss has slowed, I still get flare ups and where the hair was most severely lost, it did not grow back.
What is your post hair loss hair care regime?
I follow a protective styling regime 90% of the time, using wigs which I learnt to make myself. I use natural products such as black soap to cleanse my hair and scalp; natural oils such as Castor Oil to seal in moisture.
I try not to do too much to my hair. When I wear it out I wear it in its natural state in a cropped style that masks the hair loss.
How has this experience changed your life?
The experience changed my life in many ways - I started a business selling my wigs filling a gap in the U.K. market for wigs that truly protect Afro hair with no glues and importantly they realistically mimic black women's hair texture.
It’s helped me gain a lot more knowledge of hair and scalp issues and see what’s lacking in the industry and healthcare system.
What are your top three tips to other people experiencing hair loss?
- Don’t be put off by doctors.
- Do your own research and trust your instincts. Get a second, third and forth opinion if need be.
- Stay positive!