“It’s really hard to be vulnerable, but I’ve realized other people have alopecia areata too and have probably struggled with this like I did. So, I asked myself, ‘Why am I not talking about this?’ I should probably share what I've learned through my own journey.”

It’s been just over a year since actress, singer, and entrepreneur Ashley Tisdale first opened up publicly about her experience with severe alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that can cause hair loss on the scalp, face, and other parts of the body.

Ashley says she has received tremendous support from her friends, family, and followers. The sense of community she’s found and the deep conversations she’s had with them have helped her feel less alone. Now she’s sharing more of her story in the hope that she can help others as they navigate this disease.

Trusting her inner circle

Ashley, now 38, first noticed a bald patch at the front of her hairline when she was in her early 20s. At the time, she was trying to hide it by changing her part or styling it differently, but due to the nature of her work, she was around people who paid close attention to her hair. Ashley’s makeup artist pointed out a spot of hair loss in her eyebrows, and her hairstylist thought the bald patch on her hairline looked like it could be alopecia. Both suggested she see a doctor to learn more about what might be happening. After that conversation, she made an appointment with a dermatologist who officially diagnosed her with alopecia areata.

Ashley believes that whether it’s a hairstylist or another friend, everyone can lean on those close to them. “It was helpful just to know that other people were seeing what I was seeing,” she said.

Ashley’s takeaway: Look out for signs of alopecia areata, like small round patches of hair loss, and don’t be afraid to check in with people about what you’re experiencing.

Learning from her dermatologist

When her dermatologist told her she had alopecia areata, Ashley felt a mix of emotions. She was relieved to know there's a root cause for her hair loss. However, she was still uncertain about what it would mean for the future.

“I’m someone who likes to be in control, so it can be challenging to accept that alopecia areata is so unpredictable and different for everyone. When my alopecia areata progressed to severe alopecia areata, it was really difficult for me to process. But that’s why it’s been so helpful to have conversations with my dermatologist.”

Ashley's takeaway: Talk to a dermatologist about your hair loss. If you’ve taken any photos, be sure to share those, too.

Leaning on her loved ones

“My husband is my rock,” Ashley said. “Whenever I’m stressing out—whether it’s about hair loss or anything else going on—he really grounds me.”

While her favorite wellness rituals like meditation and journaling are usually done solo, Ashley also finds that opening up to her loved ones can be a source of self-care, too. She says these conversations help her get out of her own head and provide much-needed emotional support.

Ashley's takeaway: Practice self-care and talk to your loved ones about your experience. It’s OK to ask for help when you need it.

Building community

There was a time when Ashley only wanted to talk about her alopecia areata with a tight group of loved ones, but she realized she had an opportunity to bring more attention to the challenges of this disease. She’d had her own experience of going down internet rabbit holes and hoped by sharing her story she could help others understand the real impact of alopecia areata.

"Opening up about my journey with this disease has helped me connect with people who have faced similar things, and start a dialogue," Ashley said.

Ashley's takeaway: Keep the alopecia areata conversation going. Find the way that’s right for you to share your experience with people in your life and the broader alopecia areata community.

One way Ashley is continuing the conversation is by reflecting on her personal journey. Watch as she shares photos from different times in her life and opens up about what she’s learned along the way.