4 Real-Life Dating Tips for People Living With Alopecia

Dating is tough for anyone, especially if you have hair loss. Here’s how to approach the dating scene with greater confidence and stay true to yourself.

Dating Tips for People Living With Alopecia

Navigate dating with alopecia confidently with these simple tips.
Dating Tips for People Living With Alopecia

Although there’s a lot that goes into finding the right partner, many find that a primary focal point in dating — particularly in the early stages — involves physical appearance. So when you have a condition that can visibly affect your outward appearance, like alopecia, it can affect your self-esteem and confidence in the dating world.

Alopecia is the medical name for an everyday condition: "Alopecia is a general term to describe hair thinning or hair loss," says?Ken L. Williams Jr., DO, a surgeon and founder of Orange County Hair Restoration in Irvine, California. "The most common form of hair loss is due to genetics." Other causes of alopecia include thyroid issues, autoimmune problems (known as alopecia areata), or in women, menopause. Men who use hormone replacement therapy may also experience hair loss.

geting ready for date thinning hair
Don’t let fear about hair loss affect your dating life.Getty Images

Hair Loss Statistics

Although hair loss can make you feel self-conscious about dating, the truth is, it’s incredibly common.

"Up to 50 percent of the adult male population has some type of hair loss," Dr. Williams says. But it's not just men who are affected: According to the Cleveland Clinic, more than 50 percent of women will experience noticeable hair loss as well.

Of course, the amount of hair loss or hair thinning you experience can also factor into your self-image. Some men (and women) have advanced balding to the point where they prefer to shave their heads. But as we age, hair thinning becomes more common, making it less of a stigma.

"Men and women in their fifties and sixties will not have the same type of hair density or frontal hairline as they did in their twenties or even their teenage years,“ says Williams. "So there is a natural appearance of hair loss as we age."

How Alopecia Can Affect Self-Confidence

Even if it’s common, hair loss can still affect your self-confidence, especially if you’re a younger person who is dealing with hair loss earlier than many of your peers. Further, if you’re at a stage in your life where you’re interested in dating or a starting a relationship, low self-image can become a barrier.

"Someone who is suffering from hair loss may have low self-esteem and might not have the self-confidence to ask an individual on a date,“ says Williams. It can also be challenging to style your hair or camouflage the hair loss, which can impact your overall confidence.

These issues can also potentially lead to mood disorders. "There‘s a known association between hair loss and anxiety and depression, as well as self-esteem and confidence; however, the subtle nuances have yet to be fully defined in medical literature," says Shani Francis, MD, a dermatologist and hair loss specialist based in Los Angeles. Dr. Francis has alopecia herself and experienced hair loss as a child. "Alopecia’s impact on self-esteem and confidence is real, diverse, and uniquely personal," she says.

Alopecia can be especially hard on women, who often face greater scrutiny and pressure about their physical appearance.

"There was a time I didn’t want to go out of the house. I didn’t want to wear a wig either," says Smriti Tuteja, a content writer in India who lives with alopecia. "Especially with women, when people want you to adhere to a certain standard, you assess your worth with that lens and end up being unkind to yourself," she says.

Top Dating Tips for People Who Have Alopecia

Hair loss doesn’t have to derail your dating life — in fact, it can be an opportunity to fully embrace every part of yourself and approach the scene with more confidence. Consider these tips:

  1. Put it in perspective. Yes, alopecia is a medical condition, but it doesn’t pose any serious danger to your health. "It's not a life-threatening diagnosis," says Williams. You don’t need to disclose it to a potential sexual partner the way you would a sexually transmitted infection, he says. While it doesn’t always help to compare situations, it can be beneficial to keep a well-rounded perspective when times are tough.
  2. Say as much (or little) as you want. In the early stages of dating, when you’re just getting to know someone, you don’t need to bring up alopecia unless you want to. If the relationship progresses, you can share more, says Williams. You own your own experience, and therefore your own story, around your condition.
  3. Know how to explain alopecia. A potential partner may not know much about hair loss, or may have misconceptions about it. "I believe the way you present hair loss to someone is the way they accept it," says Amy Gibson, an actress and alopecia advocate based in Los Angeles. Gibson also wrote the book Sex, Wigs and Whispers; Love and Life With Hair Loss about her experiences with dating, intimacy, and being a working actress with alopecia. "Learn enough about alopecia to explain it correctly, and have an 'elevator pitch' of how you'd describe it to someone," she suggests.
  4. Open up when you feel ready. When you’re feeling comfortable in a relationship, you can bring up your alopecia. "In my opinion, being truthful about your condition and owning it with confidence is the key," says Tuteja. "It is also a good idea to express how you feel about the condition. This can help save you from a lot of heartache later." A potential mate should be understanding and supportive about what you share and, if they aren’t in any way, they may not be the right partner.

If your hair loss bothers you or you want to camouflage it for whatever reason, you can talk to a hair loss specialist, such as a dermatologist, about options. "For some, that could include medical treatment or involve a wig, toupee, or new hairstyle, but for others — both men and women — it could also mean embracing a new image," says Francis.

If you’re interested in exploring surgical options like a hair transplant, Williams recommends visiting the American Board of Hair Restoration Surgeons to find a qualified surgeon.

Above all, remember that you’re not alone. "Hair loss affects millions of men and women, and there are countless support groups and professional organizations that advocate, research and support those who have alopecia," says Francis. These include the American Academy of Dermatology and the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

Your hair loss is unique to you, and so is the way you want to handle it. But keep in mind that hair loss is only one aspect of who you are.

"Just because you've lost your hair doesn't mean you've lost who you are," says Gibson. "No one can duplicate your sensuality and sexuality — that comes from within."