Joy After Alopecia is identifying flare ups. When I started this journey it was due to a flare up that was causing extreme hair loss. Unfortunately, just because I shaved my locks off doesn’t mean the flare ups go away. So, what is a flare up? Imagine getting a bug bite or sun burn and your skin starts itching uncontrollably and flakes. Having this flare up occur on your arm or leg is one thing, but to have it happened in your scalp is quite disturbing.
The two instances of a flare up were once when I was completely bald and once when I let a little hair grow back. The first instance resulted from me having an allergic reaction to castor oil. Soon after shaving my head I began using castor oil daily as like “bald grease.” Initially I had no problems with the oil and then over the course of days I started having an itchy scalp followed by a white flaky scalp. I literally freaked out and started googling what it could be. Once I got tired of my non-medical diagnosis and I reached out to my Joy After Alopecia tribe, aka my dermatologist Dr. Osei Tutu of Osei Tutu Dermatology. Dr. Osei Tutu advised me that castor oil was the flare up culprit and I needed to discontinue it immediately. She prescribed two topical ointments, impoyz (clobetasol propionate) Cream, 0.025% and clobetasol in the lotion form.. Fortunate for me I only needed to use impose and within a week things were cleared up.
The second instance of a flare up occurred in November 2019. I let my hair grow back to see if my Alopecia Areata (patchy hair loss) would be gone or less visible and then I noticed an itchy patch in the back of my head. The persistent itch progressed to a burning sensation in the back of my head. The onset of it actually felt a little deja vu because I suffered with Psoriasis as teenager. I remember having to wash my hair several times a week which was a little disastrous since I had a relaxer and wasn’t gifted with hair stylist talent. For those who don’t know, Psoriasis is a condition in which skin cells build up and form scales, and itchy, dry patches. I went to see Dr. Osei-Tutu, she took photos and examined the patches and confirmed that the patches did look like Psoriasis or Dermatitis. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Dermatitis is a general term that describes skin irritation. It usually involves itchy, dry skin or a rash on swollen, reddened skin. It may also cause the skin to blister, ooze, crust or flake off.” She prescribed Fluocinolone Acetonide Topical Oil, 0,01% (Scalp Oil) and Ketoconazole Shampoo 2%. I applied the oil daily as a topical scalp oil and weekly slept with it on my head under a shower cap with a morning rinse out. I used the shampoo weekly only because it has the tendency to dry out the scalp. After a week the flare up cleared up and the itching stopped.
Not surprisingly similar to Alopecia and many other autoimmune diseases and health conditions, stress can be a trigger to flare ups. Inflammation is also a silent culprit that causes a lot of health problems. I had a terrible sinus infection during the same time of the second flare up. My Joy After Alopecia Journey continues to be a reminder to me that inflammation, control and stress management are as important as listening to my body.