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The women showing that alopecia can be beautiful

After the success of our Inspiring Britain series in 2017, ITV News has decided there is always time for good news - so we are continuing to bring you stories about people making a difference and inspiring others in their communities and beyond.

Beauty runs deeper than big hair and cheekbones - and no one knows it better than two women working to remove stigma around alopecia.

Brenda Finn and Carly Barratt both have alopecia, an umbrella term for hair loss that can be caused by stress, genetics, or which is simply unexplained.

They experienced first-hand how it can leave some women feeling like they have lost part of their feminine identity or even attract the attention of cruel bullies.

Now they are working together to show other women who have suffered hair loss that they are beautiful just as they are.

Carly (left) and Brenda are working to help women with alopecia feel comfortable in their own skin. Credit: ITV News

Brenda, who lost her hair as a teenager, says she struggled to deal with the sudden change in her appearance and the reaction from classmates.

"In the space of six weeks I went from a full head of hair to no hair anywhere whatsoever," she said.

"When I went school with a wig, that's when things really kicked off. I'd have my wig chucked everywhere, down the toilet, I'd be called sorts of names.

"And I hit a point where I just wouldn't acknowledge anyone, because I knew what I was going to get: I was going to get a bunch of abuse from [people] who I thought were my friends."

The women took part in a fashion shoot with noted photographer Rankin. Credit: ITV News

For Carly, hair loss came and went in cycles for years. Finally, sick of worrying and waiting to see if it would return, she asked her daughter to shave off the remaining strands and embrace the condition.

She said that it was motherhood that led to accept herself as she was.

"I did sort of think, you know, come one, you're not that 11-year-old girl any more," she said.

"You're a mum, you've got two children, I had to be that positive role model for them, to show them that these things do happen in our lives, but we have a choice over how you deal with it."

Brenda and Carly try on a few wigs for size. Credit: ITV News

Brenda and Carly first met at a photoshoot with the high-fashion photographer Rankin, and bonded over their shared experience.

They have since teamed up together to help other women with alopecia, whether they prefer to cover up with a stylish wig or simply leave their heads bare.

Brenda said: "If we even make one person not feel alone with how they look, we've done it."