An influencer who has lost 80 per cent of her hair in five years has claimed the alopecia community is facing backlash online following Will Smith’s explosive Oscars scandal.
Procurement administrator Chloe Sheehan, 29, from Cork, Ireland, first noticed something was wrong while getting her hair done in February 2017 when her hairdresser spotted a small coin-sized bald patch at the back of her head.
Since then her condition worsened until she eventually lost 80 per cent of her hair, and she has become an advocate for those with alopecia.
The condition was brought into the spotlight this week when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock after he made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, despite the fact she suffers from alopecia.
Chloe said: ‘I have seen some of the nastiest comments online from people mocking alopecia after this incident. One man even said, “A woman without hair is not a woman”.
Chloe Sheehan, from Cork, has claimed the alopecia community is facing backlash online following Will Smith’s explosive Oscars scandal
Chloe’s own hair loss journey started in 2017, when bald patches began to form on the back of her head (pictured, in December 2017)
Chloe said she had seen ‘some of the nastiest comments online’ from people mocking alopecia after the incident on Sunday night
After struggling to come to terms with her condition, Chloe began sharing snapshots online and built a community for those with alopecia
Chloe, who was working as a dental nurse when she began losing her locks, immediately felt embarrassed and was worried about how many people had seen the patch at work whilst she had her hair tied up all day.
The 29-year-old has Alopecia Areata – an autoimmune disorder that usually results in unpredictable, patchy hair loss.
Whilst it is not ever clear what causes alopecia, Chloe suspects that the stress she underwent waiting for a smear test and subsequent medical tests and procedures at the time could have contributed to her hair loss.
By January 2018, Chloe could no longer recognise herself in the mirror as she had lost around 80 per cent of her hair.
Chloe first noticed something was wrong while getting her hair done in February 2017 when her hairdresser spotted a small coin-sized bald patch at the back of her head (pictured, with her fiance)
Chloe’s family and fiancé, Declan, have been her rock throughout her alopecia journey.
Writing a blog about her journey was her turning point to acceptance and her catalyst for her growth in confidence.
She said: ‘I wrote a short story about my journey for a blog because I knew no one I knew would be reading a hair loss blog but when it came out, I felt so empowered.’
‘This was a huge turning point for me as I felt I have gained some control of the situation.
After Chloe initially noticed she was losing a patch of hair in 2017, her condition quickly worsened (pictured left and right)
Chloe’s alopecia first started with a small coin-sized bald patch that grew at the back of her head before she began to lose hair elsewhere
‘I wanted to help other people going through the same thing but I had to make sure I was ready myself so after three years, I felt it was time to stop hiding and to start my own Instagram page just simply to help others and allow my voice and story to be heard.’
She went on to start her own Instagram page, which has since grown into a community for those who have alopecia.
She explained: ‘It was very daunting as I was unsure of the reaction I would receive but people have been so overwhelmingly kind and accepting.
‘Nobody judged me for not having hair or looked at me any different for the new person I was on the outside so why should I judge myself for it or look at myself any different.
WHAT IS ALOPECIA?
Alopecia, which causes baldness, is thought to be an autoimmune disorder. The immune system – the body’s defense system – turns on itself.
What are the symptoms?
‘Typically, one or more small bald patches, about the size of a 50p piece, appear on the scalp. The hair can start to regrow at one site, while another bald patch develops. Hair may also begin to thin all over the head,’ says Marilyn Sherlock, chairman of the Institute of Trichologists.
What causes it?
‘For some reason, the body’s immune system begins to attack its own hair follicles. Special white blood cells in the body, known as T-lymphocytes, cause the hair to stop growing,’ she adds.
Can worry make it worse?
Stress has been shown to prolong the problem.
Is it an inherited condition?
There is strong evidence to suggest that alopecia, like other auto-immune diseases, runs in families. About 25 per cent of patients have a family history of the disorder.
Who gets it?
Alopecia areata usually affects teenagers and young adults, but it can affect people of any age. It is just as common among men as women.
Is there a cure?
There is no known cure, although there are various treatments which may be effective for some people.
The 29-year-old’s hair loss quickly spread from the back of her head, resulting in her losing 80 per cent of her hair
‘[Being able to help other people is] amazing I can’t even begin to explain. It proves that putting my vulnerable self on social media for anyone to see has been worth every second.
‘My heart bursts when I receive amazing messages from people and I always say they help me as much as I help them.
‘We’re a community and there for each other whether you put it on Instagram or live with hair loss in secret.’
However in recent days, Chloe said her community has faced tougher abuse than ever.
Chloe said her ‘heart now bursts’ when she receives ‘amazing messages’ from people from around the world in the alopecia community
She explained: ‘I do not condone violence in any form.
‘I understand the difficult emotions that come with Alopecia for not only the sufferer but the whole support system.
‘In the five years that I have had Alopecia I’ve heard of numerous people taking their own lives because they cannot cope with the physical and mental challenges Alopecia brings.
‘So to hear the ‘joke’ the other night I thought of all the beautiful Alopecians out there struggling and barely hanging on and I fear something like that could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
After years of hiding her alopecia, Chloe is open about her condition and embraces her new look
‘I can see why Will Smith did it even though I don’t agree with physical violence or condone his actions and I wish he used his words to educate on hair loss instead. I can see both sides.
‘What worries me is not Chris Rock’s actual comment (even though I did not like it) but more so the backlash online.’
‘It’s heart-wrenching, I spend so much of my life on my Instagram page @ChloesHairAffair trying to be a support system for those who need it and to help educate people.
The influencer said her boyfriend Declan has been a huge support to her during her struggle with the alopecia (pictured)
‘One comment like that on a world stage has added fuel to a fire that myself and the whole Alopecia community try so very hard to put out.’
Finally, Chloe shared an important message about beauty and acceptance.
‘Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes,’ she said.
‘We grew up in a world that has convinced us that beauty is only exterior and this could not be further from the truth.
‘Also, scream, shout, cry, do whatever you need to do don’t push your feelings away from the situation because it will eventually consume you.
‘Face the reality of the situation and in your own time, when you are ready, let it go.’
Will Smith quickly became the talking point of Sunday night’s Oscars when he slapped Chris Rock on stage for making a joke about his wife’s hair
Chloe’s comments come after Chris Rock told an audience at his sold-out comedy show in Boston that he was ‘still processing’ being slapped on stage by Will Smith at the Oscars, in his first public response to Sunday’s shocking incident.
The Fresh Prince star quickly became the talking point of Sunday night’s Oscars when he slapped Chris Rock on stage for making a joke about his wife’s hair.
Jada Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia and Chris laughed at her expense, joking that she was ready for a role in G.I. Jane.
Shortly after, Smith was announced as the winner of the best actor award and went up to collect his statuette to a standing ovation from many of his peers.