HOUSTON - Your hair is often the first thing others notice, so imagine how tough it would be if your hair suddenly started falling out. Millions of people don't have to imagine.
Alopecia, sudden hair loss, doesn't discriminate. It plagues about 3 million men and women of all races and even little boys and girls.
We caught up with Houston hair Stylist Christal Mercier, with Hair Dreams By Christal, giving gorgeous 12-year-old Amiyah Coleman far more than a new look.
"She kind of changed my whole life forever,” smiles Amiyah.
Mercier made a wig specifically for the middle schooler who suddenly lost her hair.
“It started to come out, like all of it. Then it started with the lashes and eyebrows," explains Amiyah’s mom Teferra Fritz.
"I looked in the mirror I said 'What? I look like a boy. What's going on?'" adds the 12-year-old. Amiyah was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata. '
”This is an immune-mediated disorder where the hair often falls out in small circles or large circles. The cause is not fully understood,” explains UTHealth Memorial Hermann Dermatologist Dr. Adelaide Hebert.
She says Alopecia is currently treated with topicals and scalp injections. However, Dr. Hebert is leading research on a groundbreaking Alopecia drug.
"This indeed would be the first FDA approved medication for the treatment of Alopecia Areata in the world,” says Dr. Hebert.
One patient in the study who the doctor followed up with today is now re-growing hair.
"He was totally without body hair, including scalp hair,” the doctor explains.
The condition can come with diminished quality of life.
"Humiliation, they are embarrassed. They are angry,” says Mercier and they are often bullied.
”It was to the point I wanted to take her out of school,” says Amiyah’s mom.
"I also have women that are bullied on their job. They come in here and they break down,” adds Mercier.
Massachusetts State Representative Ayanna Pressley recently announced she's bald and battling Alopecia.
Mercier makes wigs for women and girls that look like real hair. She's been giving them away for more than a decade to those in need.
“She’s our superwoman,” smiles Amiyah’s mom.
“I feel like I'm not sad anymore but happy,” adds Amiyah.
The 'Hair Dreams by Christal' wigs last up to a year. She has also started a support group. Mercier began doing this after seeing her sister's self-esteem drop while fighting a losing battle to breast cancer. You can reach Christal Mercier at 281-499-9737 or on her website.
As for the Alopecia drug, Dr. Hebert says it's still likely years from being FDA approved.