Model Amber Jean Rowan says she was 'ashamed' of her hair loss

Model Amber Jean Rowan says she was ‘ashamed’ of her hair loss after being diagnosed with alopecia as a teenager and ‘shoddy’ wigs became her armour

  • Dublin-born Amber Jean Rowan was left feeling ‘ashamed’ of her hair loss
  • Model and actor, now based in London, lost her luscious locks at the age of 15
  • She detailed to The Sunday Times how her alopecia almost ended her career 

Model Amber Jean Rowan has described how she was left feeling ‘ashamed’ of her hair loss after losing her luscious locks at the age of 15.

The Dublin-born model and actor, who is now based in London and has modelled for John Lewis as well as appeared on American TV show Guilt, detailed to The Sunday Times how her alopecia almost ended her career.

She recalled relying on ‘shoddy’ wigs – which became her ‘armour’ – throughout her teenage years as she struggled with the hair loss and worked towards becoming a model.

Her dream was soon realised after being spotted by esteemed model scout Fiona Ellis during an appearance on Ireland’s The Model Agent, which searched for the next big name in modelling and saw Amber take second place.

Recalling Ellis’ encouragement, Amber, now 29, said: ‘Fiona saw me and said, “It doesn’t matter that you have hair loss. You can do this.”‘

Amber moved to London and started working as a model, but when, aged 19, her eyebrows started to fall out she was told by her agent at the time, ‘there’s nothing else we can do for you… go home and see if you can grow your brows back.’

It wasn’t until she started an online community for ‘bald women’ that she started to learn to ‘appreciate herself’ and model again. She has also created her eponymous brand Amber Jean, which offers stylish, ethically sourced wigs that cost from £1,100.

Model Amber Jean Rowan (pictured) has described how she was left feeling ‘ashamed’ of her hair loss after losing her luscious locks at the age of 15

The Dublin-born model and actor (pictured), who is now based in London and has modelled for John Lewis as well as appeared on American TV show Guilt, detailed to The Sunday Times how her alopecia almost ended her career

Amber (pictured) recalled relying on ‘shoddy’ wigs – which became her ‘armour’ – throughout her teenage years as she struggled with the hair loss and worked towards becoming a model

Amber first discovered her hair loss aged 15, when a friend who was looking at her freshly added highlights noticed a bald patch at the back of her head.

Within the year, all Amber’s locks had gone and when her mother took her to a doctor she was told it was alopecia and there is no cure.

‘I was a young woman trying to find her feet and have boyfriends and snog in bushes. But I was preoccupied with dealing with this hair loss. I just wanted to completely hide it – I was ashamed of it,’ admitted Amber.

She used wigs to hide her hair loss, explaining: ‘I was still a teenager, I really just wanted to fit in, so wigs became my armour, but the whole process of buying one was an absolute nightmare.’

The model recalled how a sales assistant who didn’t have alopecia or much knowledge about the condition would often be the one to help her find a wig, mostly made out of ‘shoddy’ hair.

Her dream was soon realised after being spotted by esteemed model scout Fiona Ellis during an appearance on Ireland’s The Model Agent, which searched for the next big name in modelling and saw Amber (pictured) take second place

Recalling Ellis’ encouragement, Amber (pictured), now 29, said: ‘Fiona saw me and said, “It doesn’t matter that you have hair loss. You can do this.”‘

Upon moving to the British capital to become a model, Amber still wore wigs until her eyebrows started to fall out – resulting in her agent at the time pushing her to leave the industry.

Amber returned to Dublin, but in 2018, she started Hair Free, an online community for women facing hair loss.

The model said meeting other ‘bald women’ helped her ‘appreciate’ herself and eventually she stopped treating her alopecia as a secret that needed to be kept.

She now delights her fans on Instagram with snaps of herself showing her without a hairpiece – and has started her own brand to help other people suffering with hair loss.

Her eponymous brand Amber Jean – launched this year and sold via her website amberjeanshop.com – offers a selection of ethically sourced wigs, priced from £1,100. She also offers online consultations via the website.

However, the model still has ‘hard days’, describing to the publication how ‘creeps’ staring is still ‘so challenging.’

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.

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