Joy Blenman: Loving Every Inch of Me with Alopecia.

Joy Blenman is a self-care and beauty content creator with alopecia universalis. She describes how the condition has evolved her into the resilient woman that she is today.

“When you have alopecia, an autoimmune disease that attacks your hair follicles, you have to think about a lot of different things. I use my instagram to talk about the feelings I have about my alopecia and to make answers about beauty questions more accessible to people with hair loss. Makeup can be a different experience when you have alopecia. For example, you have to make extra sure that your eyebrow makeup doesn’t rub off, and you have to know the right brands. We use different techniques too. Before I got microblading, which is like a semi-permanent tattooing technique for eyebrows, it used to take me like 20 minutes to do my eyebrows right and to draw on the strands.” 

“Also, if you’re someone with alopecia who wears wigs, you have to make sure that the foundation matches with the lace of the wig that you’re wearing. You may have to learn how to paint the lace of the wig with your foundation too. For me though, I never felt pressure to wear a wig. It always just felt really scratchy and unnatural. I also was uncomfortable with the thought of it coming off and then having to explain everything. I’ve wondered if my life would be easier with hair, but this is me. I’ve had alopecia ever since I was a baby, and so I’ve learned to accept myself. However, when I used to go out in public, church, or go hang out with other kids, it was really hard. Some kids couldn’t see past it, and they were unkind so I had to develop a really strong sense of resilience. My family also moved around a lot so I had to understand how to get by whithout having friends sometimes. With that, I learned to enjoy my own company. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy other people’s company, but those experiences taught me to be less dependent on people, and over time, I became really independent. I had to come to terms with the fact that I would get stares, but I also learned to recognize that those stares were only moments in time. Having alopecia has really shaped who I am. If I didn’t have alopecia, I don’t know if I would be as resilient.”

This picture is in white and brown or sepia. Joy wears a beret and a beige trench coat. She gives a pose and smiles sweetly.

Joy describes how alopecia has opened her eyes to many things about society as well. “For women, so much of our identity is associated with our looks. So, if a woman feels like she is ugly, or if she feels that people won’t be attracted to her, hair loss can definitely detriment her self-esteem. Because so much emphasis is placed on women’s appearance by society, hair loss can even hinder opportunities and possibly lead to gender discrimination. Also, when people don’t know what alopecia is, they occasionally think that you’re ill. And then, you have to live through the negative consequences because there is a natural stigma around illness. Because of that, there are huge emotional effects that come with hair loss. Whether it’s deep-seated anger and resentment towards people who didn’t help you or talk to you about your condition, the emotions will come out in some way or another. And if you don’t make time for self-care, your body will make time, and that goes for everyone.”

Joy tilts her head to the right, and she has brown skin. She wears a dark brown, silk spaghetti strap tank top and she appears as if she is daydreaming.

Joy goes on to describe the importance of self-care. “Self-care doesn’t have to be like an hour-long thing. Everyone takes at least 15 minutes to go on social media, but self-care could just be the act of taking those 15 minutes to do some breathing or to journal instead. Some days, I don’t take time because I’m so overwhelmed, but then I feel super moody. I used to wake up and spend about 20 minutes in bed on social media, but instead, I get on my yoga mat, and I do a few stretches now. On some days, I’ll just do something as simple as going outside and getting some vitamin D. If I have a call during work, sometimes I go outside and do it. If I can, I’ll even go walking during it. Taking the time to do my skincare helps too. I don’t have time to do a 1-hour session with all of these serums, but just taking the time to wash my face and to layer on my sunscreen makes me feel good, and it feels like self-care. We need to understand that self-care can be very simple things. In essence,  I originally created my instagram to show that, and I wanted to provide people with an image of alopecia, confidence, self-care, and self-love. I just want to provide for people what I didn’t have as a child.”