I’m a black woman with alopecia, like Jada Pinkett Smith. It is not easy

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The day after the Oscars, when the world was still revolving around Will Smith’s slap in the face and Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head, I shared a series of tweets of my history of alopecia and then I cried. A single clichéd tear. I brushed it off carefree and continued to prepare for another 12 hour work day as a graduate teaching associate, taking classes and taking classes. However, as the day progressed, I found myself checking my social media notifications more than usual. The hangover of vulnerability was beginning. It was the first time I had spoken publicly about my alopecia in such detail, and I was unexpectedly nervous. There was a pang of fear. Twitter can be extremely mean, and I wondered why I would open myself up to scrutiny.

When the first whisper of alopecia

escape the mouth of your aspiring loctician

Walk in shame to your car…

This is the first line of one of many poems I wrote to address my diagnosis of alopecia. The coin came to me in the shower one day, and somehow when I came out I remembered every word. It’s the only poem I wrote in one sitting. This is the only poem that I have not scrutinized. It was the first time I had trusted my words in their rawest form. That evening, I shared the poem as part of my feature film to an open mic.

I have central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia. It is a form of cicatricial alopecia that starts at the top of the scalp and spreads outward. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, the cause of ACCC is shrouded in ambiguity, but supposed causes include intense hair care practices (eg, tight hairstyles, chemical relaxers) as well as genetic factors.

“Who will love me if I’m bald?” the writer once wondered.Already Goode

I didn’t wake up with clumps of hair on my pillow and I won’t lose my eyebrows. Instead, I woke up one morning and prepped my hair for my local consultation later that day. After blow-drying, I noticed that my middle part was wider than usual. After a brief investigation, I buried my concern. But I couldn’t ignore the doctor’s refusal. She explained that she only installs locs on healthy scalps. When she said I might have alopecia, it spawned denial that I harbored for weeks.

when the diagnosis of alopecia

roars from the mouth of your new dermatologist

resist the urge to cover your ears…

I was officially diagnosed with CCCA two months after the initial whisper from the optician. The diagnosis sent me into a spiral of fear, grief and regret. My first thought was, “How did this happen?” At this point in my life, I had been wearing my hair natural for eight years. I went into a cycle of rumination, trying to pinpoint the exact moment my body had decided to betray me. Was it the dorm relaxer I got in sophomore year of college? As a black woman, I have spent most of my life between the legs of my mother, aunts, cousins, sisters and friends, while my hair has endured countless hours of washing, drying, deep conditioning, braiding, flat ironing, rolling and twisting.

Jalisha Lancaster is still crying out for her hair but has come to terms with her diagnosis.
Jalisha Lancaster is still crying out for her hair but has come to terms with her diagnosis.Matthew Pitts/ @Mattywiththecam Photography

It took months of mentally going over my hair history in staff meetings and grocery shopping before I remembered the itchiness. For an indefinite period in high school, I had this incessant itch in the crown of my scalp. When I consulted my beautician, she recommended me a medicated shampoo. It didn’t work, but the itching eventually stopped.



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