COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Alopecia, an autoimmune disease-causing hair loss and baldness, impacts people of any age and background. For two local women, onset of the condition at a later age completely changed the way they thought about themselves.

Margaret, 30, was diagnosed with alopecia at age 25. Recently married at the time, Margaret remembered going from feeling on top of the world to one of the lowest points in her life as her hair started falling out. She said it took time and a lot of self-work to regain her confidence.

“It took me a very, very, very long time to really just accept, you know, this is just the cards I have been dealt with. This doesn’t affect how much my husband loves me, doesn’t affect how worthy I am of anyone’s love or kindness,” said Margaret, a Columbus local.

While the woman said much of the change came from learning to accept her alopecia, she also said working with a local salon made a significant difference.

Lucretia, who lives in Auburn, has a family history of alopecia said that she started losing hair as she got older, which completely shook her sense of identity. She said the impact of the autoimmune disease felt incredibly personal.  

“This type of issue, for women, becomes very personal and it can make you depressed, it can make you feel like nobody wants to be around you,” Lucretia said, recalling, similarly to Margaret, it took a long before she accepted the hair loss and began to identify what would make her feel her best.

While she said this meant having natural-looking hair, even if it was a wig, she acknowledged this isn’t necessarily true for everyone.

“Be yourself and decide how you want to look … that’s the most important thing, learning to get in touch with who you are,” said Lucretia. She added there’s nothing wrong with the fact she has chosen wigs, just as there is nothing wrong with choosing not to wear one.

Both women are customers of locally-owned Her Glory, which specializes in providing haircare to women with hair loss due to alopecia, cancer or other causes.

 Owner Tiffany Combs said she opened the shop in 2016 after a customer with hair loss due to the autoimmune disease lupus approached her for help.

Combs said, “I was like, I don’t know what to do, but I know how to make wigs, so I’ll make you a weave.”

She recalled falling in love with the process of helping the woman. Soon, Combs became a hair loss specialist and opened her storefront, which also sells an exclusive line of products designed by Combs to help promote hair growth.

The hair stylist estimated 50% of her customers are women with hair loss who are looking for a wig or laser hair loss therapy.

“It feels amazing to give back, most of the time I probably cry with my clients. We cry all the time,” said Combs as she explained many clients come to her feeling like they will never have hair again. “It’s very emotional, but I love what I do, so I do it without hesitation.”

July marks International Women with Alopecia Month. The National Alopecia Areata Foundation estimates 700,000 United States citizens currently have alopecia, and research suggests the disease may be more common among women and minorities including Asians, Blacks and Hispanics.