This Male Model Who Lost His Hair Is Giving Men Hope & Confidence

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Speaking with model Justin Hopwood is like talking to someone who has been put through the wringer, inched and crawled his way through, and somehow came out stronger on the other end. Today, there’s a renewed sense of hope in his voice.

Rewind to just three years ago, and he was singing a different tune. Hopwood’s hair was falling out in clumps, and crippling anxiety was making it impossible for him to get through the day. A diagnosis of alopecia areata—an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks its own hair follicles—is devastating for anyone. But for a model known worldwide for having incredible hair, Hopwood says it was “like losing an arm.”

It was only after realizing that he needed to treat his anxiety firsthand and starting to take Nutrafol Men that Hopwood was able to start his journey back to wellness. Today, he’s just now over the hump, on the other side. He’s finally seeing that everything is going to be OK.

The call that would change everything

Hopwood’s modeling career can only be described as a bit of a whirlwind. He modeled as a young blonde kid in South Africa, gave it up for his “awkward” teen years, then went on to do a short-term modeling gig in Hong Kong. He returned to South Africa briefly, thinking he was done with the modeling industry.

But at 21 years old, he got the call that would change his life. He was being recruited to model for Abercrombie & Fitch in Miami, eventually leading him to Ralph Lauren. There, he became the face of the Polo brand and settled permanently in New York.

The success continued, and his fame grew until 2015. That’s when everything he’d worked toward was suddenly threatened. At the time, he was going through a transition, trying to figure out if he would keep modeling or would move on to something new. Unfortunately, that brought on added stress and a bit of an internal crisis.

“I believe every 10 to 15 years the body collects itself,” he says. “For me, I was going through a period where I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. But it brought on anxiety I’d never experienced before.” He started to suffer from a vicious cycle of crippling panic attacks. “Anxiety is scary if you don’t understand it,” he says. “I’d look around and see everyone else was normal and happy, thinking, why can’t I feel like that?”

Imagine getting hit by a semi-truck from the side

Despite everything he tried, the anxiety continued. Hopwood then noticed a patchy spot in his beard, thinking it wasn’t a big deal—he would just go clean-shaven on shoots. But when entire clumps of hair started falling out of his head, leaving bald patches, he knew something was wrong.

Working through it, he was still going to photo shoots at the time, having hair and makeup artists cut his remaining hair to disguise around the patches. “It was a bit of a nightmare,” he says.

He was eventually diagnosed with alopecia areata, which he says, “Was like being hit by a semi truck from the side.” He did one last shoot with Peter Miller Luxury Apparel before deciding he needed to take a break from modeling and focus on his health. “It was really taking a toll on me, because I felt like what I was doing was false advertising,” he says. “I’d show up and they’d expect a full head of hair, and I’d have patches. And having patches on my head was stressing me out even more than I already was. Eventually, I was done.”

It wasn’t until later when he’d find out what a strong connection to stress and anxiety the disorder has.

“Patients will often report alopecia areata coming on after a very stressful event,” explains Dr. Patti Farris, a board-certified dermatologist in Louisiana. “The mind-skin connection here hasn’t been fully defined, but we do know that many skin diseases flare with emotional stress and that stress affects our immune system in general.”

Farris says that genetics and environmental factors often play a role, too. But whether it was genetics or stress, or a combination of the two, bringing on Hopwood’s condition, conventional treatments weren’t cutting it.

Seeking and finding

In order to attempt to grow back his hair, Hopwood got around 400 cortisone injections—a common treatment for alopecia—in his scalp.

“Recent studies show that there are certain inflammatory mediators that play a role in alopecia areata, so we use cortisone because it is a very effective anti-inflammatory,” Farris says. “It isn’t a home run for every patient, but many times it can stimulate some regrowth.

In Hopwood’s case, it didn’t work. He then went on a bit of a journey, trying everything from Rogaine, to garlic shampoo, to spiritual acupuncture to regrow his hair—but no dice. His doctor recommended Prednisone and other corticosteroids, but Hopwood, who has always been more into organic treatments wasn’t interested in taking such strong medication.

He finally decided to shave his head, which he says felt freeing after trying to get his hair to grow in for so long. “That was like my come to Jesus moment,” he says. “Shaving my head represented setting myself free. In the modeling industry, I was very well known for my thick hair. I wouldn’t say my hair totally defined me, but it was a big part of my package. Once I shaved my head and freed myself of that, I no longer felt that additional pressure that I was receiving from modeling, from my job.”

Eventually, he heard about Nutrafol Men. Nutrafol supplements take a multi-targeted approach to hair growth, including help balance stress hormone, DHT, oxidative damage, and compromised nutrition with natural ingredients. Hopwood was drawn to the natural ingredient list, which includes ashwagandha, a clinically tested botanical that is shown to help relax the nervous center and improve the body’s ability to manage cortisol (stress hormones).

“Once I introduced Nutrafol and ashwagandha into my life, I was able to relax and control my anxiety,” he says. “I was able to feel like a normal human being again.”

He also credits the other nutrients in Nutrafol like marine collagen, saw palmetto, and bio-optimized curcumin (turmeric) for helping his hair slowly start to grow back. “The ingredients of Nutrafol are what’s key, including ashwagandha. It’s genius because you’re trying to help people with their hair growth, but then you add ashwagandha in there because that is what calms people down from stress.”

He credits it so much, in fact, that he supplements and takes three ashwagandha tablets, plus four Nutrafol pills, each day. “I feel happy as a clam,” he says. “I’m able to navigate my day, stress-free, no matter what’s thrown at me. Two or three years ago, I was crippled by anxiety, crippled by my hair loss, and probably at one of the lowest points of my life. In a lot of ways, Nutrafol kind of saved my life.”

In addition to taking Nutrafol every day, he started taking a probiotic and started to eat better and take care of himself mentally and physically, too.

“It wasn’t a quick turnaround, but I could start to see a little progress. First, I would see little white hairs growing and they would get longer and darker, stronger and thicker.”

Coming back to life

It’s been two years since Hopwood first noticed the patch on his beard. Today, the hair on his head is 100 percent back and his beard game is stronger than ever before.

“Most doctors just want to prescribe you some Band-Aid to take care of the issue, when you aren’t actually solving what’s underneath it,” he says. “But you have to treat the root of the issue. If the root of the issue is stress and anxiety, you’ve got to take something that can help fix that. Once you fix that, your hair will come back.”

Nowadays, Hopwood is back to modeling. He still takes Nutrafol Men every morning. He has also gone public to his 44,000 + followers on Instagram about his struggles with alopecia and his wellness transformation, becoming an advocate for others going through the same thing.

“There’s men, women, grandparents, and even seven- and eight-year-old kids out there who have alopecia who are really struggling,” he says. “I thought, I’m going to use my platform to get the message out to the world, not because I want any sympathy or a pity party, but I just want to help others who are struggling.”

Hopwood credits “winning the genetic lottery” for his modeling success and when it comes to others struggling with alopecia, he thinks he is in a unique position to help them. “I hope it makes you out there feel better that I’m a model and lost my modeling job, my career. I hope you realize it might suck more for me and that may make you feel better in a way.”

Since going public, he now gets messages every day from people all over the world who are living with alopecia who take comfort in his story. “It’s not a quick fix, but I want everyone to see that I’m back having hair again and if I did it, you can do it.”

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