Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley just posted a first bald selfie, and she says alopecia is at the root of her hair loss

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Ayanna Pressley alopecia

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  • Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) announced last week that she has alopecia, and is now completely bald as a result. 
  • In a tweet on Sunday morning, Pressley showed off her smooth head under a wide-brimmed hat.
  • She says she is still "making peace" with having no hair. 
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Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley first realized something odd was happening to her hair back in the fall of 2019.

"I had been waking up every morning to sinkfuls of hair, " the freshmen Democrat from Massachusetts told The Root.

She was dealing with the tell-tale signs of alopecia areata, a disease in which the body attacks its own hair follicles, prompting hair loss.

By the time President Trump was impeached in December, all of her hair was gone.

"Impeachment eve, the last little bit of my hair came out," she said. "I was completely bald." 

She has kept up her coiffed appearance since then by quietly wearing wigs until last Thursday, when she went public by showing off her smooth bald head in a 7-minute video posted on The Root.

On Sunday, Pressley also posted her first bald selfie on Twitter.

 

Her colleague, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded quickly in support of the wig-free look. 

"Ayanna leads the fight for justice and does it all walking backwards, in heels, with a matching lip AND makes space for others rocking a hat better than anyone you know. A queen," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

 

The hair-free look is a dramatic change from Pressley's previous Senegalese twists, which she said she first started wearing about five years ago. Those long, rope-like tresses made her feel like she'd "met" herself "fully for the first time," she said. 

Pressley is the first black congresswoman from Massachusetts, and she said it has become hard for her to separate her hair from her political identity.

Ayanna Pressley

Zach Gibson/Getty Images

"My twists have become such a synonymous and conflated part of — not only my personal identity and how I show up in the world — but my political brand," Pressley said in the video. "We receive letters from all over the globe of women who talk about their own emancipation, that they feel that I've given them permission [to do their hair differently]."  

Pressley said she's still "making peace" with having alopecia, but added she also doesn't feel like herself when she wears wigs. 

"People are well-meaning, and have been reminding me of the India Arie song, you know, 'I am not my hair,' she said. "You are not your hair, and that's true. But I still want it!"

There's no cure for alopecia

Alopecia areata is a condition that can crop up in women and men, both old and young. The National Alopecia Areata Foundation estimates that as many as 6.8 million people in the US have it. One 2019 study suggests the condition may be more common among African-Americans than other ethnic groups.

There's no cure for the baldness, but there are some treatments like Rogaine that try to stimulate hair follicles (they don't work for everybody, though). Sometimes a person's hair grows back on its own.

"In its most common form, alopecia areata causes small round or oval patches of baldness on the scalp," according to Harvard Health. "The area of bald skin looks smooth and normal."

Most people with alopecia are otherwise healthy, though some also develop brittle, ridgy, dented, or red nails. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, hairstyles that "pull your hair tight" can cause what's called "traction alopecia," and hot oil treatments and perms can inflame hair follicles, and eventually lead to hair loss. 

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