By Rebecca Drew
MEET the stunning student with alopecia who is fighting against unrealistic beauty standards by sharing pictures of her bald head with her 26.2K Instagram followers.
Lauren Neate (20) from Bridgend, South Wales, UK, started losing her hair when she was just 13-years-old. At first, Lauren was able to hide her bald patch but soon lost her eyelashes, eyebrows and the rest of her hair.
During her teenage years, a devastated Lauren wore wigs to hide alopecia from everyone apart from her family members as she was worried about fitting in with her peers. Now, she’s learnt to laugh about her baldness when the conversation turns to hair.
“My aim is to show the people who follow me that you don’t have to conform to the unrealistic beauty standards that the industry sets. I believe I show that by proudly posting photos of myself without my wig,” she said.
“My mum was the first one who noticed a small bald spot on the back of my head when I was about thirteen-years-old. At first it didn’t worry me as my hair was very thick and covered it.
“I never expected to lose all of my hair, eyelashes and eyebrows. My biggest concern was just fitting in at school, which seems so superficial now, but kids can be cruel.
“Finding out you’re losing hair at thirteen-years-old is truly heart breaking, it felt like the end of the world. I was watching all of the girls in school start to straighten their hair and play with makeup and I felt like a total outsider.
“I hid it from everyone I knew other than my family, all I wanted was to be like all the other girls.
“For a long time, I covered my alopecia and as time went by I think I got pretty good at hiding it. But that wasn’t healthy and it also wasn’t a long-term solution to dealing with my alopecia.
“I had wanted to post a photo with no wig for a really long time so when I finally did back in summer I was completely overwhelmed with the response.
“Every day I get to talk to people in the exact same position as me and that’s incredible.”
Sharing photos on Instagram of herself without her wig was a massive confidence booster for Lauren and she’s working towards being able to step outside the house without one.
Lauren credits her friends and family for being supportive of her and understanding her condition and wants to show other young sufferers that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
“I could never have imagined how empowering it is to take off my wig and genuinely not worry about the opinions of others,” she added.
“I spent so long hiding myself, constantly worried when a conversation turned to hair and now I don’t care, in fact I laugh about it.
“Although I’m fairly confident online without my wig. I still haven’t reached a position where I’m able to leave the house without it on, but I want to. At the moment I’m comfortable with the progress I’m making to fully embracing my alopecia, but I still have more to aim towards.
“I want to show younger people with the condition it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
“My family, friends and boyfriend have been nothing but supportive.
“I have super proud parents and I’m so lucky to have them there to talk to about anything.
“My boyfriend is also extremely proud of me and my alopecia has never been something that’s fazed him.
“My advice to anyone out there with alopecia, or any other insecurity, is make it your strength not your weakness.
“Use it to help and empower other people or show other people that you are happy in your own skin.
“I just want everyone to know that they are beautiful, no matter what anyone else or society may tell them.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/laurenneate