On the morning of June 11, 2017, Fernanda de Freitas, 26, put an end to a fight she had fought with since her youth. She asked her husband to shave the wires in her head. She turned completely bald and looked at herself in the mirror and smiled.
"It was a release for me, not just the hair, but all the weight that I have worn throughout my life," he says.
In childhood, at the age of three, Fernanda was diagnosed with alopecia areata, a disease that causes hair loss and loss of body hair. From that moment on he started using medicines and products to care for the wires. Over the course of time he took six capsules of corticosteroids daily. The drugs only reduced the intensity of the hair loss, but did not prevent the hair from falling.
"When I noticed it, they (wires) disappeared and suddenly there was a new error in my scalp," he says. Her hair was one of the first things she thought about when she woke up. "I always went to the mirror to see if there was hair on my head."
The emotional factor intensified the problem. "If I were very happy, I would fall in. The situation was repeated when I was very sad, I had nothing to do."
Alopecia is one of the reasons that are most associated with hair problems. It affects men and women and represents the loss of hair on every part of the body. The problem can be caused by genetic influences, local inflammatory processes or systemic diseases.
One of the most common forms of alopecia is the areata, an autoimmune disease – when cells attack the body itself. It affects about 2% of the world's population at different levels – it can affect small parts of the scalp until it causes the complete absence of threads throughout the body.
Another common type of alopecia is androgenetic, which is also autoimmune and causes progressive thinning of the wires. More recurring in men, it is estimated that it reaches 5% of women.
According to experts from BBC News Brazil there are other reasons that also cause hair loss, such as stress, excessive use of chemical processes in the hair, diets, medicine use and diseases that affect other parts of the body, such as hypothyroidism.
According to the Brazilian Hair Society, 50% of women have some complaints about hair loss.
According to the trichologist Ademir Carvalho Leite, president of the Brazilian Academy of Trichology – an area dedicated to hair studies – the number of women with hair problems has increased. "At present, at least 70% of the patients I care for are women, and that's not how I started, they lose more hair."
Leite gives women the assignment to call in medical help as soon as they notice the first signs of scalp breakdown.
In the Unified Health System (SUS) there is no treatment for patients with hair loss.
Battle for decades
Fernanda wanted to hide the disease from childhood on from colleagues and acquaintances. "Only my family and close friends knew it, it was unacceptable for me to comment on this with other people," he says.
She had trouble telling her about alopecia to her husband, with whom she has lived together for ten years. "We were at the beginning of the courtship and I reluctantly, but I've talked about it." He asked me if alopecia kills or harms every organ and I said no, so he said I should not give so much importance.
Before deciding to be bald, Fernanda had to deal with the low self-esteem daily, caused by the difficulty of accepting hair loss. "For me it was an inadmissible bald woman," he says. She spent hours in front of the mirror before she left, concealing the defects in the scalp. "Nevertheless, I never stopped painting or making it bigger, I had a normal life in that respect."
The psychologist Rosane Granzotto explains that the difficulty of accepting the loss of the locks is due to the relevance that women usually attribute to her. "It is part of the image, of the aesthetic model that perpetuates the culture for the woman. The loss of the wires is like the absence of a female body part and this fact requires a reconfiguration of the self image."
Fernanda changed her habits three years ago and began to take a routine that she considered healthier. He immersed himself in nutrition studies and began to post videos on YouTube.
"I read about the subject and realized how harmful the remedies were for my body, I did not eat processed foods, but I was clogged with medication and decided to stop consuming more than a year ago," he says.
But without the remedies and stress of university exams – she goes on nutrition – the threads started to fall and new shortcomings came. The hair became increasingly scarce.
"I could not disguise anymore, but I had to record videos and serve my customers," says Fernanda, who works as life coach. She bought a wig tailor-made with human threads. "The problem is that it would take three months to arrive, because it would come from China, so I did not have many options left, but I did not think about going back to the drugs."
Faced with a lack of options, shaving the wires became the best alternative. "I cried a lot, but there was no way out," he says. The man supported the decision of the woman. "He saw my suffering and encouraged me to become bald."
But when she looked into the mirror, after shaving the strings, Fernanda had the greatest sense of freedom in her life. "I really looked at myself for the first time, it looks like my hair was hidden," he says. On the same day the girl placed a picture with the new look on her social networks. "I told my whole story about alopecia-areata, and many people praised and supported me.
The girl was never allowed to use the wig bought in China. "When she arrived, I used to use it a few times as a joke, but never to go out on the street or something like that, now I feel more bald."
Already before the advertising agency Carla Lambert, 36, the wigs were constantly companions during part of their lives. "I did not want people to see that I did not have hair, because that was the end for me, I thought I was an alien and I would rather hide it," he told BBC News Brazil.
Carla has had problems with her problems since she was fifteen, when she noticed a small abnormality in her neck. At the age of 22, shortly after the birth of her son, she separated, was confronted with a period of depression and the fall of the strings became intense, although recorded with a treatment with drugs that did so up to 31 years.
"But there was a time when I fell more than when I was growing up and that caused me to make my self-confidence worse, and this situation cost me and made me unsafe in all aspects of life," he recalls.
At the age of 32 she was diagnosed with alopecia areata. "The treatments had no effect, the fall was very intense and I decided to shave," says the publicity. She went to wear wigs all day, but lost the will to leave the house. "I was dead with shame, I was never healthy and nothing was a reason to celebrate."
With therapy she started to deal better with the disease and even without feeling beautiful. But he would not leave without a wig. Until the day he had to pick up dinner at the entrance of the building and there was no way to lock the wig in the bathroom.
"My friend was in the shower with the door locked, for a moment he did not know what to do," he says. Faced with the impasse, she decided to be bald for the first time. "After I had received the food when I went to my apartment, I had an incredible sense of freedom." The next day I left the house bare. "
The wigs were only accessories and were no longer an obligation for advertising. "Today I use it when I feel like it, I never thought I would feel pretty bald, but I did it."
On the street, Carla says she has never heard any offensive comments. "People usually ask me about my bald head and they think I'm in style."
Overcome the negative comments
Illustrator Lolla Angellucci, 38, once walked across the street when a car with several men came by and one of the boys insulted her. "He asked if I was picked up by Febem (a foundation that looked after children who were reeducated)," he recalls.
The illustrator, who knows alata, says that negative comments are part of her routine. "It is what I listen most to in my life." People always pointed out. "I once walked past a little lady's house and she said I looked really ugly with shaved hair," he says. Another situation that bothers her is the constant embrace of strangers. "They think I have cancer and come to cuddle, the last thing I want is that I'm being held by someone I do not know."
Setbacks do not usually affect Lolla today. She claims to have learned to deal with the situation.
"It took me a lot of time to accept myself, it was a long and difficult process, I do not know how long it took, it's years ago." Today I've become accustomed to attract attention when I go to a place and nobody looks at me, I think it's weird. "
Lolla is divorced and has made a profile in Tinder, in which she usually evaluates possible suitors in the way they see her balding. "I get approaches like," I like you, despite this mistake. "I think that's great, because I immediately throw away the boy."
"There are also men who say:" Look, I took it. "I always thank and reply that their approval was everything I had been waiting for in my life."
The illustrator's confidence was overcome after many difficulties she faced because of alopecia, which was observed when she was in her life for several months. "My mother says that since birth I had a lot of hair splitting, so she went to a doctor and found the disease."
As a child, she suffered from various shortcomings in her hair. "I remember my mother having a medical certificate when we went out to prove to others that it was not contagious," she says.
During childhood and adulthood, Lolla has made treatments to try to reverse the hair loss. "My hair would grow for a while, but then it would get thinner," he says. Half of her hair had fallen at school. "I cried a lot more in the bathroom than I wanted to admit, I could not hide my lack of hair", he recalls.
For years she wore a wig to conceal her hair problems. After a while, Lolla blemished her hair and decided to take on baldness. "It was like a way out of the closet, today I notice that leaving a bare house is a way to inspire other women who also go through it."
Life after hair loss
For Fernanda de Freitas, self-acceptance was the most important step after calendering. "I changed my way of looking at things when I accepted them, and I realized that the world is changing when I see myself," he says.
The trichologist Ademir Leite says that there are several hair treatments that can help with diseases that cause hair loss. "But it depends on a number of factors, it is important to first eliminate the cause of this hair loss, and then the patient must have the discipline to follow the treatment," he explains.
Milk notes that cases of women who have come to accept baldness and have given up treatments have become common. "Many people understand that we must go further and that it is part of identity, but it does not represent all that it is."
For Fernanda it is necessary to consider whether it is worth looking for alternatives to keep the wires. "Nowadays there are many treatments and it is always important for people to seek specialists in the subject, but it is also essential to analyze to what extent it is necessary to use many remedies.
Lolla considers it important that women talk about problems related to hair loss. "Today I see that my job is to tell my story so that bald women can restore their lost self-esteem, whether through cancer, alopecia or some other reason," he says.
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