A brave mum with alopecia who was devastated when her daughter developed the same condition is proving to the toddler that ‘bald is beautiful’ – by showing off their hairless heads in striking snaps.
Kiri Atkinson, from Redditch, Worcestershire spent seven years wearing wigs, but decided to share the bare-headed selfies with two-year-old daughter Paiva Hughes to educate and empower her ahead of starting nursery.
Mum-of-one Kiri, 23, whipped off her wig, started dancing in the mirror with Paiva ‘like total goofs’ shouting ‘no hair? Don’t care!’ before posing for the joyful snaps and sharing them on Facebook.
Full-time mum Kiri, who considered suicide after losing all of her hair to Alopecia Universalis, also describes the post as her version of ‘coming out’, and says she feels a ‘real weight’ has been lifted from her shoulders.
Kiri Atkinson, from Redditch, Worcestershire, who has alopecia, has worn wigs for seven years, but decided to share bare-headed selfies with her two-year-old daughter Paiva Hughes to educate and empower her ahead of starting nursery
Kiri has always been attached to her wigs, and it’s only recently that she’s felt confident enough to go in her own garden without one
The viral post has racked up more than 1,600 likes, shares and comments since being posted earlier this month.
Kiri said: ‘Seeing Paiva having fun like that and posing for those pictures made me want to pop, I was beaming with pride.
‘She loves having her picture taken – she’s a real show off and I love her for it.
‘I’d been trying to educate her about it earlier in the week as we just got the confirmation for nursery through.
‘My partner and I are aware kids say things and she’s probably going to come home asking questions, such as “Why aren’t I like other people? Why haven’t I got hair?”.
‘We’ve been trying to concentrate on talking to her about it, but she started withdrawing from me so I stopped trying to tell her about it.
Kiri Atkinson, 23, wearing a wig and posing for a photo with daughter Paiva Hughes. The mother-of-one wanted to educate her daughter about alopecia, but initially struggled to find a way to talk to her about it
Paiva Hughes, two, loves to dress up and accessorise with bows. She has alopecia, the same condition that affects her mother, Kiri
Paiva Hughes, now two, as a newborn with a full head of hair
‘Instead I took my wig off and said “No hair? Don’t care”, and started dancing in front of the mirror.
‘She found it hilarious and watched me for a few minutes. She then got my wig, put it on her head and threw it off and shouted “No hair? Don’t care!”.
‘We were just dancing in the mirror being total goofs, she loved it.
‘Sharing that post, I imagine it’s a similar feeling as when someone comes out gay or transgender because you feel “Oh god I can be myself”.
‘It’s like a real weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’ve been beaming from ear to ear, and crying, because I’m just overwhelmed with everyone’s messages.
‘To receive messages from people with alopecia saying they love I’ve shared it and that it’s inspirational is so empowering.
‘It’s so empowering for Paiva too to grow up knowing that bald is beautiful.’
Kiri’s post read: ‘Okay…. so here it goes. This has taken me forever to do.
Kiri Atkinson at the age of 15 (lefto and right) before her hair started falling out. She admits that losing her hair made her consider suicide
‘I am literally full of anxiety typing this. For seven years I have been on the journey of losing my hair due to alopecia then in 2017 I had my beautiful baby girl.
‘After she turned one she started losing her hair in patches too, then in November 2019 she lost all of her eyebrows, eyelashes and slowly she lost what was left of her head hair.
‘I’ve been struggling with this internally for what feels like the longest time.
‘I started to blame myself for Paiva’s hair loss and felt utter guilt and heartache for her, it was like losing my own all over again times 100.
Paiva Hughes’ hair started to thin and appear in sparse tufts at the age of one (pictured)
‘If I’m honest the past year has been a total low for me, I just felt the worst. Some days I still do, but that’s okay.
‘I’m now entering the journey of fully accepting [that] bald is beautiful.
‘I’m not going to lie, my little lady losing her hair has been the thing that has completely pushed me into this.
‘I wasn’t brave enough to fight for myself but I am a brave mummy. I am doing this because I never want Paiva to feel how I have in the past.
Bald is beautiful! Kiri said that before taking the selfies she threw off her wig and started singing ‘No hair, don’t care’. Her daughter joined in chanting ‘No hair, don’t care’, before the pair posed for a series of snaps
Kiri pictured with her daughter Paiva, two, and partner Adrian, 31, She said that they’re both aware Paiva may experience negative comments as she grows up and wanted to prepare her
‘I have even contemplated suicide on several occasions due to something as superficial as hair.
‘I’m not saying it’s easy at all, I want to show my beautiful princess that it doesn’t matter what you look like, as long as you try your best to be a good person who cares.
‘Anyone who feels the need to say something mean or nasty must have such a boring life or were never taught better.
‘With her starting nursery in September it’s going to maybe start affecting her differently, becaue at the minute she doesn’t have a care in the world.
The doting mother was devastated when her daughter developed the same condition, but wants to prove to the toddler that ‘bald is beautiful’
Paiva, pictured on a family day out, started to experience thinning hair when she was around a year old
‘But unfortunately all it takes is one person to say something negative.
‘I have been through so much in my life and suffered with mental health for as long as I can remember.
‘My life has been put on hold for too long because of alopecia. But now it’s time to take it back and show my lady that she can be anyone, and do anything, and nothing and no-one can stop her.’
Kiri first started to lose her hair in 2013 at the age of 16, and believes it was triggered by emotional upheaval caused by her parents splitting up and an abusive relationship.
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.
Self-conscious desperately Kiri tried to preserve her locks by swapping her long hair for a shorter ‘do.
But as time went by the patches on her head got bigger and the remaining hair became thin and straggly, leaving her looking like a ‘Walking Dead zombie’ – prompting her to shave it off in August 2015.
Kiri, who lives with 31-year-old ultrasonic technician partner Adrian Hughes, said: ‘I had really nice long, thick hair, I had a bit of a crazy lion’s mane going on.
‘I liked my hair but I always used to say how much of a burden it was. Now I look back and I think “Why did I say something so stupid?”.
‘We got joke awards at the end of year and at prom a teacher gave me “The most beautiful ridiculous hair” award because I used to dye it crazy colours – it was my crowning glory.
Paiva pictured on her first birthday, around the time her hair started thinning. Evidence suggests that there is a genetic link and that the condition can run in families
Kiri revaled that a stranger once asked her if Paiva was having chemotherapy when they noticed her bald head
‘When my hair [really] started coming out in January 2015 I went to a specialist alopecia hairdresser, she cut it into the most amazing inverted bob.
‘She saved my hair for another good six months by cutting it like that, and I felt really confident again beccause I didn’t have to worry about massive clumps coming out.
‘I held onto my hair for sweet life, [in the end] I looked like one of those zombies out of The Walking Dead when their hair goes all sparse and scraggly.
‘I turned around one day because I’d just had enough and thought “Right, I’m shaving it”.
‘I’ve now been diagnosed with Alopecia universalis (AU). It means you lose all body hair – eyebrows, eyelashes, arm hair, leg hair, pubic hair, all of it.’
Kiri, pictured with her partner Adrian and daughter Paiva, admits that she kept her alopecia a secret from all but close family and friends
The proud mother, showing off her bald head with her daughter, said she would love to open her own salon making affordable wigs, especially for children
The hair loss not only affected Kiri’s mental health, but she said it was a physical trauma too.
Kiri said: ‘It doesn’t just fall out, it hurts. It’s like when you have your hair tied up all day and it feels bruised – it’s like that all over your head.
‘When you lose your eyelashes it hurts on your eyelids too.
‘When I lost my hair I got so depressed [and it] was the thing that nearly tipped me over the edge.
‘I didn’t want to go to my work in nightclub promotion, I didn’t want to see anybody, I didn’t want a social life – it ruined who I was.
Kiri, 23, admits that alopecia completely changed her and that she was scared to go to her nightclub promotion job in case anyone noticed she was wearing a wig
‘I was always thinking “Why would Adrian want to be with me?”.
‘I was so ashamed and worried that people would be able to tell I was wearing a wig, it’s still a bit of an anxiety now.’
Kiri had her daughter Paiva in July 2017, with the tot emerging into the world with a full head of hair.
Kiri said: ‘Paiva was born with a big head of black hair, she was like a little werewolf.
‘Her dad’s super hairy – we’re complete polar opposites. Adrian has a crazy amount of body hair, and then there’s me with none, so it’s quite funny really.
‘I noticed two little patches on her head when she was about 11 months old, it worried me. But another part of me was holding onto the hope that it was just baby hair loss caused by rubbing.
Kiri said she felt proud of sharing selfies with her daughter after years of trying to hide her alopecia
‘It came out in big patches, it was getting thinner and thinner and then she was left with one little tuft on the side of her head.
‘In November last year she lost all of her eyelashes and her eyebrows as well.
‘It was much worse seeing it happening to her than it happening to me, it was truly heart-breaking and I felt guilty.
‘Just before Christmas last year a lovely man in a cafe asked if she’d had chemotherapy, we explained that it was alopecia.
‘After listening about the condition he said “She’s beautiful regardless”.’
Kiri said she shared the post to show Paiva she shouldn’t feel held back by her condition.
Kiri said: ‘I’ve been open about having alopecia, a lot of my circle know but I’ve never shown anybody outside of close family.
‘I’ve made a couple of mum friends since having Paiva but I’ve kept them at arm’s length, putting myself out there has been a no-go and I don’t want her to feel like that.
‘Sharing the post was an easy way to put it out there, tell everybody and feel proud about it.
‘It’s only this summer that I’ve started going outside in my garden with a wig on.
‘I’m still working on feeling confident enough to go out in public without a wig on, but I’d love to.
‘My ten-year plan is to go to wig school, learn how to make wigs and hopefully have my own salon to help others get affordable wigs – especially for children.’