Meet the County Durham TikTok influencer raising awareness about alopecia

Danielle Gilbert started her TikTok to raise awareness about the condition and spread positivity. Credit: Danielle Gilbert

An influencer has been raising awareness about alopecia with TikTok videos sharing her experience.

Danielle Gilbert, who started losing her hair as a baby, began sharing make-up videos on Instagram when she was a teenager.

The 24-year-old from County Durham now has over 600,000 followers on TikTok and hopes her account, @danigmakeup1, will spread positivity around the hair-loss condition.

Danielle Gilbert started losing her hair as a baby. Credit: Handout

Ms Gilbert said: "My alopecia first started when I was one-and-a-half years old.

"My mum first noticed my hairline was really high at the back of my head, and she also noticed a tiny patch on the top of my head as well.

"We went to the doctors and they kind of dismissed it at first and said ‘It’s baby alopecia, it will go away’ but it didn’t go away."

Danielle Gilbert was diagnosed with Alopecia Totalis aged six-years-old. Credit: Danielle Gilbert

Ms Gilbert was referred to a dermatologist aged two and that is when she was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata.

She said when she was around six years old all of the patches on her head joined into one and she took the plunge to shave her head.

She added: "At that point and that's when I had Alopecia Totalis, which is basically scalp hair loss but I still had eyelashes and body hair.

"Then when I was around 14 or 15, that’s when it developed later into Alopecia Universalis which is when I lost my eyelashes, eyebrows, any remaining hair that I did have.

"I've been like that ever since and that's Alopecia Universalis, it's the worst form of alopecia."

The TikTok star first started to notice she was different while at primary school. Credit: Danielle Gilbert

Although the TikTok star was not bullied at school it was not long before Ms Gilbert noticed she was different to her peers.

She said: "I’ve had it [alopecia] from being so young I didn't really know any difference, but since I started to get into social situations, that's when it started to affect me a little bit.

"I would be the one who was getting stared at and not my friends, so it was kind of just realising that I was different to other people. Or visibly different."

The 24-year-old now has over 600,000 followers on TikTok. Credit: Danielle Gilbert

Ms Gilbert said university was the first time she struggled with her condition.

She said: "When I was in high school it wasn’t too bad because I was in an all girls school, but it was more like the transition from high school into university that I really struggled with.

"It was just a totally new group of people all together and it was that new environment but also I think the mix of girls and boys as well, that was part of it.

"I sort of limited myself and held myself back a little bit and I kind of thought ‘no one will really want to be my friend’ even though part of me knew that totally wasn’t the case at all and people wouldn’t care.

"I couldn’t bring myself to be outgoing and extroverted. Basically I was very in on myself at the time.

"That was a time that kind of highlighted to me that although I was so fine with who I was I was also struggling a bit inside even if I didn't realise it."

The make-up artist said during her time at Durham University, she found it hard to decide how to introduce herself as people would not recognise her with and without her wig.

Danielle Gilbert receives message from people with alopecia telling her she has inspired them to go out without their wig on. Credit: Handout

She added: "Do I go completely with no hair, no make up and then let it be out there but then sometimes people don't recognise me when I do have my wig on so it's a bit awkward.

"I think I struggled more with making friends in a way because of it."

Ms Gilbert said she first started her make-up Instagram page whilst at sixth form college, because she would get so many compliments on her beauty skills.

She then went over to TikTok when the social media platform first started to become popular, and during lockdown she saw a significant rise in her online following.

Danielle Gilbert noticed her following online increased significantly over lockdown. Credit: TikTok @danigmakeup1

She said: "Everything just exploded from there, it's been a bit of a wild journey. 

"It was attracting people who had alopecia, it was kind of an accident as well, that wasn't my aim when starting the page.

"I think just because of the way I was just so open about it on social media I think that's maybe why people appreciated it and also I think because of the fact I do look a bit different.

"I get DMs [direct messages] all of the time saying I'm inspiring them and encouraging them to go outside without their wigs.

"It's all amazing stuff and that's a massive part as to why I do it and I can see the impact I'm actually having on people. That's kind of the biggest reward."

The law graduate now hopes to inspire young people with alopecia to be themselves.

The 24-year-old now hoped to raise awareness about the alopecia and spread positivity. Credit: Handout

Ms Gilbert said: "I would say to people struggling with Alopecia, definitely surround yourself with people who look like you, whether that be on your social media or like people you love around you.

"I think the more you look at images online and stuff like that of people who inspire you and again people who look like you, you're going to think it's a positive thing, rather than a negative one. 

"It’s going to reinforce that fact of you're not alone, so just if you ever need to speak to someone or need any advice there's plenty of people like myself who have alopecia who are there to give help and plenty of advice."

It was one of the biggest news stories of our time - and it's still not over. So what did Boris Johnson know about Downing Street’s notorious parties? With fresh revelations from our Number 10 sources, in their own words, listen to the inside story.