Brave Northern Ireland teenager speaks out about her hair loss battle
‘People are usually understanding but some can be cruel’
A Northern Ireland teenager who started losing her hair when she was six has become a champion for alopecia awareness.
Brave Kacey Quigley (16) has refused to let the condition define who she is.
Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that results in hair loss.
It usually causes small round patches of baldness on the scalp, but occasionally it can involve the whole scalp.
Hair is lost because it is affected by inflammation believed to be triggered when the immune system attacks the growing hair.
The risk of developing alopecia increases for people with a family history of the condition.
Kacey, from Armagh, has been nominated for a series of awards for her courageous campaign.
She is also a member of the Youth Council for Northern Ireland's body image team.
She told the Belfast Telegraph the pressure on young people to look a particular way was immense.
Kacey said: "When I was six years old, mummy and daddy noticed my hair falling out but, to be truthful, I don't remember much about that.
"Mummy asked the doctor about it and he told her it was alopecia.
"She already knew what that was because another member of the family had it.
"It started off with one circular patch at the front of my hair.
"Then, over six weeks, it fell out in patches and my hairline receded at the top of my head.
"I've always been a bubbly, talkative person and mummy said I handled it well.
"I think it took more out of them (her parents). They were worried about people staring at me and pointing at me.
"After trying all kinds of different remedies, none of which worked, all of my hair fell out when I was nine and has never grown back - it is unlikely it ever will now.
"My family are very supportive and my friends are very good to me and very supportive."
Kacey expresses her positive personality through her YouTube channel, which she uses to teach people about the condition.
"There are days when I wear a wig and days when I wear different wigs depending on how I feel," she said.
"There are days when I don't bother wearing a wig at all.
"One of the benefits of alopecia is I love changing my hair colour and I can do this any time I want.
"I have also lost my eyebrows, which was a big thing for me.
"My eyebrows fell out, then grew back in my second year, but they fell out again and haven't come back."
Kacey started a YouTube channel after a period when she was feeling down.
She said: "Last year I lost my confidence and I was wearing my wig all the time because I wanted to hide, but then I thought I shouldn't be doing that.
"I started my own YouTube channel, so I could spread awareness about alopecia. Through school I also did a video with the BBC Young Reporter project, which they were delighted about.
"Body image is a big issue and there is a lot of pressure on young people.
"I want to show that alopecia is a condition many people have, but it is not something that should define you."
Kacey also hopes to raise awareness.
"I wanted people who don't know about alopecia to be aware the conditions exists," she said.
"(I wanted them to know that) if they see someone in the street who has no hair, it doesn't mean that is someone who has cancer and who is going through chemotherapy.
"People are generally understanding, but some can be cruel.
"When I meet new people for the first time, I will always wear my wig and won't tell them I have alopecia.
"But once they get to know me, I am only too happy to tell them I have alopecia."