Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack hair follicles, leading to hair loss. Some individuals afflicted by the disease experience complete hair loss on the scalp.
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) reports that alopecia areata, which often begins in childhood, affects nearly 2 percent of all Americans. There is no known cure or drugs approved for treatment.
Although neither life-threatening nor contagious, the NIAMS says that the emotional and social aspects of living with alopecia areata can be challenging.
Penn students, faculty, and staff can help children suffering from the disease by donating their hair to the national Locks of Love organization, which provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada suffering from long-term medical hair loss. Most of the children helped by the organization have lost their hair due to alopecia areata.
The student-run event will be held on Sunday, April 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Penn Newman Center, 3720 Chestnut St.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to be involved in charity work,” says Jeff Klein, assistant director of the Newman Center.
Student organizers approached hair stylists from the surrounding Penn community to volunteer their time and talents to give free haircuts to anyone who is interested in donating six inches of hair or more.
Registration is suggested for the event, but walk-ins are welcome. To register, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’ll run a little more smoothly if people register ahead of time so we can schedule people with a stylist,” says Klein. “As with any walk-ins, you might have to sit and wait for a while for a stylist to be available.”
The entire haircutting process will take only a few minutes.
Klein says more than 80 people have already registered to donate their hair.
Locks of Love says the prostheses will help restore self-esteem and confidence to children with alopecia areata, enabling them to face the world and their peers.
Originally published on April 4, 2013