A man who lost his hair and eyebrows due to an autoimmune condition said he "didn't recognise the person looking back at him" in the mirror.
Dean Boyle, 33, from Huyton, first started losing patches of hair at the age of ten and after visiting a GP with his mum was diagnosed with alopecia areata, a condition in which cells in your immune system surround and attack your hair follicles.
The NHS worker said throughout his life patches have gone and reappeared, but in 2019 the "hair loss didn't stop," which left Dean feeling like he had also "lost his identity."
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Dean said the experience "sent him down a dark path" and that at one point he became "paranoid" that people were staring at him and commenting on his appearance.
Dean told the ECHO: "I was ten years old when I had my first experience with alopecia, but being that young it was not something that I paid much attention to.
"By the time I was 13 the experience of alopecia was somewhat different and I became a lot more withdrawn at that age.
"I was already struggling to make friends at the time and having alopecia on top of that made things much more difficult for me. It was tough at that age having all these emotions but mainly feeling I couldn't talk about them.
"After a couple of months had passed the alopecia disappeared, my hair grew back and it was at this point I started to realise that it was something that could happen again.
"Once I went to Asda to buy a new CD with some friends and I remember the security guard wouldn't let me in because I had a cap on.
"I explained I wasn't wearing it for a fashion statement, but he was adamant that I had to remove it. I felt people were looking at me like I was misbehaving. I ended up leaving the store and going home and that really upset me."
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In 2019, Dean said more patches began to appear and he started to lose distinct features that he never realised were important to him.
He said: "More patches started to appear and I felt that 'here we go again' – but this time the hair loss didn't stop.
"I was losing hair across my body like my eyebrows and that's when things became much more difficult. I think it sent me down a dark path.
"I didn't realise how important features are when they're not there and I was looking in the mirror without my eyebrows and I became really sad about it at that time. I didn't recognise the person looking back at me."
Over time, Dean said he became more accepting of his appearance after joining an Alopecia UK Facebook group and speaking to others with similar experiences.
He said it helped rebuild his confidence and that "he didn't feel like he was alone," which inspired him to blog his own journey on Instagram and share informal information and experiences he wished he had access to in his youth.
Dean said: "It’s helped me gain a lot more confidence now. I’m in a much better place.
"I’ve got a little bit of eyebrow hair left and I had a thought of whether to shave it, but now I don't worry to change it. If it falls out fine and if it grows back that's fine.
"I feel really confident right now and for me reading so many people’s journeys and talking to so many people made me realise that there are so many other people going through a similar thing.
"When I was 13 there wasn't any Facebook or groups like there is now and I feel the information you can get is so important. Even if it just helps one person that's good enough for me.
"I just wanted to raise awareness and spend my time doing something productive and good."
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Dean said his blog, called patchproblems, isn't only for those with alopecia, but that he hopes to raise more awareness to the general public about the condition.
Actor and comedian Matt Lucas also commented on one of Dean's Instagram posts, which led to him hosting a Q&A on his page.
Dean said his family and friends are extremely proud of him and that the blog has also helped them understand and learn more about alopecia.
Dean said: "My wife has also been so supportive. We got married in 2019, I had patches then and I was really worried.
"I asked my wife do you want me to shave my head?, and she said do what makes you comfortable, I'm going to marry you regardless of how your head looks.
"I just want people to feel they can be open about it."
To follow Dean's personal blog, click here. To find out more from Alopecia UK, click here.