As the latest Celebrity Big Brother cast was revealed, popular TV presenter Gail Porter easily become the early lead in the battle between US and UK ‘celebs’. Gail has always been a firm favourite of the public since her naked behind was projected onto the House of Parliament all the way back in 1999 by lads mag FHM.

For her story as told in the Daily Mirror click here

However, it is her well-documented struggles with depression and straight-talking on the alopecia condition that caused total hair loss on her scalp, that had made William Hill put her as the early front runner in the Channel 5 show. However, the intensely combative atmosphere, exaggerated by the theme which sees the British and US residents pitched against one another, has taken its toll on Gail who has struggled to contain her emotions – of course how she is presented is in the hands of the shows editors, who understandably prefer to focus on the fireworks. As a consequence Gail has slid from an early 8/1 front runner to an unfancied 25/1 today.

Understanding alopecia totalis

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia totalis is a form of autoimmune hair loss – there are three main types of autoimmune alopecia; alopecia areata is the most common and is distinguished by small, often round patches of hair loss on the head. Alopecia totalis, which is the condition Gail Porter suffers from, is where all hair is lost from the scalp. Alopecia universalis is a thankfully rare condition whereby all hair is lost from the body.

Alopecia totalis is usually divided into two distinct types; one where all hair is lost in a relatively sudden episode and the other, more slower version that usually follows on from alopecia areata.

The causes of all these forms of alopecia is the action of the immune system mistakenly thinking the hair follicles are a foreign body. The reason why your immune system will suddenly behave in this way is not known, but the hair follicles are not usually destroyed so often sufferers will find their hair regrows. Unfortunately, they can then undergo subsequent periods of hair loss in the future.

Treatment for alopecia totalis

alopecia areata2

Just as the cause of autoimmune alopecia is not known, there is no cure. There are various treatment options although their long-term effectiveness is not guaranteed and some sufferers of alopecia areata or totalis do not respond at all.

The most common treatment option is steroid injections or creams, applied directly to the scalp, that work to depress the immune system. More severe cases of alopecia do not respond to this treatment and the injections are not suitable for sufferers of alopecia totalis. Other treatment options include hair loss medication minoxidil which again doesn’t work for everyone and is only really suitable for more mild cases of hair loss.

Another medication prescribed by dermatologists is diphyencyprone or DPCP. This is a topical solution applied to the scalp that causes an allergic reaction. It’s thought that the allergic reaction tricks the immune system to fight the inflammation of the hair follicles that it caused.

Often alopecia areata or alopecia totalis sufferers opt for the camouflage option. One cosmetic hair loss solution is scalp micropigmentation of SMP. Pigments are inserted into the scalp to mimic the effect of very short hair strands. For men it can create the impression of a closely-shaved head of hair and female sufferers of alopecia areata can find it can help disguise the smaller patches of hair loss. It doesn’t damage the hair follicles in any way so, if your hair grows back, then it will just be covered by your new hair growth.

Gail Porter and alopecia totalis


It was ten years ago that Gail first developed alopecia totalis, losing all the hair on her scalp. From very early on in her hair loss battle she decided to avoid trying to camouflage the condition with a hat or a wig to try and shed light on this distressing problem. As with many alopecia sufferers, her condition has had ups and downs; by 2010 she was showing hair growth on most of her scalp but very quickly it had started to fall out again. We hope there is still time for her experience inside the Celebrity Big Brother house to be a positive one.



By Ian Watson


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