Question: My daughter Gracie is 3 ½. She doesn’t quite realize yet that she has alopecia, but I am worried about her self-esteem. She is getting older and I know any day now she might look in the mirror and start wanting to know why she is missing patches of hair. I believe she is starting to know something about her hair isn’t right. She’s been making comments like, “I want long pretty hair like mommy’s,” “I don’t like my hair,” and “Why can’t my hair be put in a ponytail?” She is extremely smart and loves getting ready for school, doing all the girly things. I’m doing everything for her as if she doesn’t have a hair loss problem, but I really want to be prepared for the day when she starts asking questions. Once the day comes to actually tell her she has alopecia areata, if she takes it badly, I was thinking about bringing up the subject of a wig. Is she too young to wear a wig? Or should I wait on the wig and try another way to help her? If you think I should wait and try a different solution, what would you suggest?
Ashley, Buffalo, NY
Answer: There are many varying opinions about the subject of wigs and hair systems, but I definitely think that Gracie is a little bit young for a wig. Maddie was 5 when she first started to lose her hair. My husband and I were so worried about Maddie being bullied or teased that in addition to wanting to try every treatment we could get our hands on, we also encouraged her (naively) to wear hats and bandanas in the beginning. Unfortunately, we now think we caused her to feel like she needed to cover up. But then one day it all came to a head because she was playing an indian in a play and didn’t want to wear a hat or bandana under her head-dress. So my husband suggested going in to school and talking to her kindergarten class. He ended up talking to the whole school, and the response was incredible. She received and still receives (9 years later) much support from her school, classmates, and parents.
When she was younger, she had a few wigs, which she enjoyed playing with, but she goes “bald” everywhere and holds her head high. People respond well to her sense of self-confidence. When asked about her wigs a few years ago, she responded, “Sometimes I use them as accessories, like hats and scarves and jewelry.” And today, she wears lots of accessories, but she chooses not to wear wigs.
The most important advice I can give you (and I can tell that you know this already) is to remind your daughter every day that she is beautiful with or without hair. We all have different limits as to what we need to do to feel certain that we have turned over every stone. I often say that when there is a cure, we will be first in line, but in the meantime, we want Maddie to know that she is beautiful with or without hair. I am not against treatments or wigs or even covering up, but I fear that sometimes they get in the way of acceptance. There may come a time when your daughter asks you about a wig, but until then I would not suggest it. Let it be her idea or she might get the idea that you want her to wear a wig.
Keep your chin up, and please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.