Health

Portraits empower women with alopecia

Updated 8:11 PM ET, Tue April 5, 2016
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Pammy is one of the women with alopecia who posed without a wig for photographer Christoph Soeder. His "Unfading" series gave them confidence, he said: "It really emphasizes people's individuality. It just increases their uniqueness." Christoph Soeder
Emily S. is a student studying in York, England. More than 147 million people worldwide have or will develop alopecia areata, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. For some, hair falls out in clumps, then grows back, only to fall out again. Others lose hair from their head, eyelashes and eyebrows. Christoph Soeder
Emily P. works as a nurse at a hospital in Swindon, England. She told Soeder that her work in intensive care helped her accept her condition and put it into context, he said. Christoph Soeder
Siobain works in a care home for the elderly. Hair loss can be especially difficult for women, Soeder said. A couple of his subjects said they never took their wigs off in front of others. Christoph Soeder
Gwennan runs an alopecia support group in Cardiff, Wales. "I tried wigs, and for a couple of years it was a confidence tonic to me," she told Soeder. "I felt happier and more able to face the world, because I was normal again. No one noticed me as I blended in with everyone else. Unfortunately for me, this was short-lived. I am not saying that this is necessarily true for others. Wigs work for so many people, but for me it led me to believe that I was hiding my identity." Christoph Soeder
Sarah is a fashion-design student in Wales. Soeder met her and photographed her at a wig shop. Christoph Soeder
Anne lost her hair in 2012 during a trip to Australia. Her husband, Simon, told Soeder that she left the UK with most of her hair and came back with none. Christoph Soeder
Gabrielle was diagnosed with alopecia when she was 4 years old. She hadn't met anyone else affected by the condition until this project, when she met Emily P. (from photo No. 3). Christoph Soeder
"In my 40s, I started to lose (my hair) -- just a small patch about the size of a 10p coin which grew back," Sally told Soeder. "Then another, then a bigger patch. The doctor and hairdresser said not to worry, worrying makes it worse. For 15 years, I spent a fortune on creams, shampoos and pills to make it grow -- but nothing worked for long. And when it did grow back, it was pure white. So hair dye became my best friend. Life became a constant struggle to hide the bald bits. I felt at war with my hair." Christoph Soeder
Victoria lost her hair when she was 21. She founded the PrettyBald organization to provide the support that she couldn't find. Christoph Soeder