All The Rage

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Miss Delaware's hair problem shines a light on our complicated feelings about our coifs

January 22, 2011 | 10:00 am

KaylaIn last weekend's Miss America pageant, one fan favorite broke the usual beauty-queen mold. Miss Delaware, Kayla Martell, is certainly beautiful, but she is also bald. That this became a running story in numerous publications in the days leading up to the contest shows how important society thinks hair is when judging a woman's looks. 

Martell usually — but not always — competes for titles wearing a wig, but far from trying to hide her baldness, she uses her beauty queen status to raise awareness about alopecia areata, the autoimmune disease that caused her to lose her hair as a child. The disease affects only about 2% of the population, but there are many other reasons women can -- and do -- lose hair. And when they do, it can cause a panic. Women I know have sworn off hair dye when they notice a few extra hairs in the brush, or taken any number of vitamin supplements to try to coax more luxurious growth. Friends who've lost hair temporarily due to chemo have either hidden the fact with wigs or earned the term "defiant" by going au naturel from the neck up. "Defiant?" As in going against the normal cultural mores.

In any event, it's been cause for concern.

There are many reasons for hair loss, and in many cases there are steps you can take to minimize the problem, as writer Alene Dawson reports.  

Meanwhile, we say kudos to Martell for showing that true beauty really can defy expectations.

--Susan Denley

Photo: Kayla Martell, wearing a wig, dances in the talent competition during the 2011 Miss America Pageant at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on Saturday in Las Vegas. Credit: Ethan Miller /Getty Images.