Oscars Night 2022: Raising Awareness for Female Hair Loss
The controversy at the 94th annual Academy Awards shed light on an incredibly poignant and important conversation that is very dear to our hearts at MONPURE. That is, the stigmatisation and emotional toll of alopecia and female hair loss that confronts most women throughout their lifetime.
Moments before accepting his ‘Best Actor’ Oscar for the film King Richard, actor Will Smith stormed on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock in defence of his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The incident ignited after Chris Rock joked about the actress’ shaved head, quipping: “Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see you.”
Pinkett Smith, host of the Red Table Talk, who has spoken bravely and candidly about her hair loss from alopecia for years, was seen disappointed and insulted by Rock’s comment and mockery, rolling her eyes and looking very upset by his words.
The incident, while extremely unfortunate and unwarranted, has shed light on the extremely personal and seemingly taboo experience of alopecia and other forms of female hair loss. The conversation around female hair loss is often overlooked, stigmatised and even ridiculed, despite the fact that experiencing hair loss or thinning over the lifetime is completely normal.
To learn more about female hair loss read the MONPURE guide here.
Did you know that 80% of women experience some form of hair loss before they are 60, and that 87% of women feel that their hair is a reflection of their identity. MONPURE is the first hair and scalp science brand trying to spotlight the experience of female hair loss, erasing the social taboo that surrounds it and raising awareness by supporting and educating women.
What is Alopecia?
Jada Pinkett Smith experiences a form of hair loss called alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its own hair follicles, causing hair to fall out in small patches. In extreme cases, it may result in complete hair loss across the scalp and throughout the body. While the specific cause of alopecia areata is still unknown, genetics and family history appear to play a significant role.
Pinkett Smith has bravely opened up about her hair loss journey, reflecting that she first noticed losing “handfuls of hair” in the shower and that the experience was “terrifying when it first started.”
“It was one of those times in my life when I was literally shaking with fear.” - Jada Pinkett Smith
The Emotional Toll of Hair Loss
Research has shown that beyond the physical symptoms of alopecia, the condition is associated with high levels of anxiety and depression and that it carries a significant emotional burden (2). This is because hair is more than meets the eye. It is intrinsically intertwined in our identity and self-esteem.
Particularly for women, hair is integral to our identity. Hair is strongly related to our sense of attractiveness, our confidence, is a symbol of social inclusion, allows us to exercise a degree of control over our self-image and relays messages about who we are to those around us. Therefore, it follows that losing one’s hair provokes anxiety and distress and challenges our self-esteem and sense of identity.
In recent years, Jada Pinkett Smith has often sported short hair or attended events wearing head wraps and turbans. However, in July 2021, she revealed her completely shaved head in a picture with her daughter, Willow, on Instagram:
Posting an update about her journey with alopecia in December 2021, Pinkett Smith proudly confessed she was coming to terms with her condition, stating that “me and this alopecia are going to be friends ... period!" She added that she was going to use rhinestones to “make a little crown.” We would like to commend the actress’ bravery and vulnerability in discussing her condition publicly, as well as being an inspirational force for women experiencing hair loss globally.
Although Pinkett Smith has embraced her condition and been vocal about her experience, being ridiculed or mocked for a condition that is so deeply linked to one’s self-esteem is incredibly taxing. Jada herself has expressed that her hair loss was not an “easy” topic to discuss, recounting that her hair has been “a big part of me.” She followed by explaining that “having the choice to have hair or not, and then one day to be like ‘Oh my God, I might not have the choice.’” It is clear that the actress’ experience of losing her hair was extremely emotionally and physically difficult for her, compounded by her position in the limelight. This is only further exacerbated by comedians such as Chris Rock choosing to make the actress the focus of their jokes.
It's Not Just Hair
At MONPURE, we understand that being the butt of jokes and dealing with unwelcome and ignorant remarks is unfortunately a reality for many women with alopecia, which only augments the distress and challenges that people with this condition face. As a result, a central part of the MONPURE ethos is a commitment to erase the stigma, break the silence and raise awareness for female hair loss, a topic that is often overlooked and tabooed, despite the fact that so many women go through it during key moments in their lives.
Last year, we launched our #ItsNotJustHair campaign, which explored the impact of female hair loss through the eyes of five women undergoing it. The campaign delved into deeply personal accounts of their hair loss journeys, as well as their perspectives on the social stigma and ostracization they are confronted with as they navigate their conditions.
“For women, their hair is their identity. Alopecia was never something that was spoken about. So I kind of dealt with it internally, bottled up all those emotions and suffered in silence” - Christala Fletcher
“Losing [my hair] made me feel not as feminine. It’s you, it’s who you are and your hair is part of what makes you, you” - Rima Theisen
“It’s so hard to have it taken away if you don’t choose for it to go” - Beth Finlay
“Even now, I’ll be in a room and I still feel self-conscious. There’s hardly any representation for hair loss, particularly women. It’s just not talked about” - Mimi Drew
“Female hair loss is not widely represented in our culture today. I think it’s a massive shame because there are so many people that experience hair loss. I never felt like I had my own hair identity” - Hattie Gilford
Many women experiencing hair loss or thinning are told “it’s just just”, but as we know, hair is a deep-rooted part of our identity, self-esteem and confidence. At MONPURE, we have built a support community where anyone with hair loss is welcome. In our content hub, you’ll find a comprehensive guide to female hair loss, from its causes and treatments, to how to speak to your GP and how to deal with its emotional repercussions.