Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that often results in hair loss both on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. Photographers such as Sigga Ella have shown that photos of people with alopecia can be a powerful way to raise awareness about the condition.
This kind of visibility helps not just to challenge social beauty norms but also helps remove the stigma associated with being bald. In a society that correlates femininity to long, flowing locks, women with alopecia especially challenge these gender norms and help create an alternative narrative. If you're already deeply entrenched in body positivity, it's important to remember that fighting for size acceptance is just one part of challenging beauty standards.
According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, more than 6.6 million Americans and 147 million individuals worldwide are living or will live with alopecia in their lifetimes. Even with so many individuals existing with the condition, though, there are still a lot of misconceptions out there about the disease.
September is Alopecia Awareness Month and individuals are taking to social media to spread awareness by sharing their stories, their selfies, and those of others living with alopecia — proving that bald is beautiful on everyone brave enough to embrace it.
Tomohawk is a YouTuber who has gained a massive following of more than 71,000 subscribers and doing mostly Minecraft and Xbox-related content. But he's also a proud alopecian. When he shared this selfie, it racked up more than 3,100 likes, subsequently raising awareness about the disease.
Though this caption isn't very long, the smile on her face really radiates happiness and definitely sends a message about living with alopecia and loving yourself just as you are.
This self-described badass unicorn doesn't just raise awareness for alopecia with her self love selfies, but also for living gluten free and with Type 1 Diabetes.
Jannica Olin is a Swedish-born actress living and working in Hollywood with alopecia. She describes alopecia on her website as a superpower of physical transformation. She just created the powerful iamperfekt project and she's also the co-creator of the Pretty Perfect empowerment workshops, which aims to "empower teenage and adult women to Stand In Their Very Own Perfection," according to the website.
Nadone Manoly's Instagram is full of not just alopecia celebration, but also seriously high fashion selfies.
This photo and the accompanying caption are an excellent reminder that bald isn't just beautiful: It's jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
This full caption is definitely one worth reading. Ramirez shares her story of bravery and ends it by saying, "Embrace who you are and what makes you different." I couldn't agree more.
Alexandra Coppola is a college student who shared this post on the one-year anniversary of when she first shaved her head. She doesn't just share her self love journey in this post, though. She also shares her story in a mini documentary on YouTube.
This image was shared on Danielle Rose's four-year anniversary of shaving her head. Social media can be so important for community building, as it creates an environment of support for those living with alopecia or any condition that can feel othering.
I first found out about plus size model Kat Buxom through body positive photographer Nonnie Ouchtaqalla. Buxom has alopecia and trichotillomania. This shoot showed Buxom both bald and with hair, and the contrast of the images shows how beautiful both can be.
Leyzle Martinez is another mother who shares images of her child to raise awareness about alopecia. The page Alopecia Areata Awareness features images like this one with the AA hand sign to help educate people about the disease and create visibility.
While searching the alopecia hashtag, I saw this image multiple times. The source is Kylie Bamberger, who shared it in on Facebook. She took the image herself using a tripod and remote back in 2008. The very bottom of her back contains this powerful message, "I am not sick! I am only stronger."
Artist Alice Frost is a self-described ceramics enthusiast. This photo doesn't just show how beautiful her work is, but also how deep her alopecian pride runs.
The first thing I noticed about this image of London-based CEO Annette Clark-Headley of Almocado was her smile, but the caption reeled me in too. She wrote, "Don't feel sorry for me, I don't want pity — I'm still out here living, learning, and loving."
If there's one thing these individuals prove, it's that different is beautiful. And more often than not, the things we're told are "flawed" are part of our intrinsic beauty.
Images: Courtesy Nonnie Ouchtaqalla, Kylie Bamburger