Alopecia Leads Extraordinary Woman To Find Her Inner - and Outer - Beauty
Hannah Horstmyer was 13 when she first started noticing large clumps of hair left behind in her hairbrush after a swim practice. It kept happening, and her hair grew thinner and thinner, scaring her and her family. She went to doctors, who inserted needles into her head, injecting her with steroids they hoped would stimulate hair growth.
Some of them "delicately offered contact information for the 'best' wig stores near me, specializing in hairpieces for those with hair loss resulting from radiation, chemotherapy, or alopecia areata," Hannah says. When she was officially diagnosed with alopecia, the term "felt like acid on the tongue. "
Before she had turned 14, Hannah had lost all of her hair, eyelashes and eyebrows. She felt like part of her had died. Hannah had grown up in a culture she says is "obsessed with painting femininity as long flowing hair and smooth skin with small delicate features. I really didn’t check any of the other boxes."
She wanted so badly to look like other people. "I wore bad wigs for about six years because they were all I had to fake a sense of normalcy."
But something clicked when she got to college. "I realized, in the best way, that absolutely no one cares what I look like." She has been completely bald for a dozen years, having long ago given up the notion of ever having hair again. "It gives me tremendous peace. I now wouldn't want to look like anyone else."
Hannah, who has been my son Adam's girlfriend ever since they started to hang together nearly 10 years ago, came full circle recently when Refinery29 invited Hannah to a photo shoot in New York City, where her beauty was put on full display and celebrated as it should be. Refinery29's website states that it tells "stories in our own words that enlighten, inspire, and drive change from the ground up."
"When I reflect on old photos, it makes me want to give young Han a hug," she says. "Because if only she knew the strength and self-assurance she possessed, she would never want to look like anyone else. I feel the most beautiful and like myself when I remember I am love. I have love, I give love to friends and my partner, and family. I receive love from them unconditionally. There was a time in my life I didn’t think I was worthy of that."
Worthy of that, and so much more. Inspired, I am.