When 27-year-old Kylie Bamberger got married last year, she didn't have to worry about finding a hair stylist: She lost all of her hair (eyelashes, eyebrows, and body hair, included) at age 15 to alopecia universalis, a rare and incurable autoimmune condition. And even though she spent much of her teen years feeling embarrassed, Bamberger eventually learned to love her baldness - and she totally rocked it at her Los Angeles wedding, where she made the most beautiful, confident bride.
It's been a long journey to find that self-confidence, though. In high school, Bamberger lost so much hair in a single week that she could no longer pull it up into a ponytail, so she attempted to hide her patchy scalp with short styles and hats - and when she finally decided to shave off what little hair she had left, she turned to wigs, Health reports. It's certainly understandable why she felt so self-conscious about her appearance.
Eventually, though, dealing with wigs became exhausting. So, when Bamberger forgot to put a wig on for class one day in college, she decided to strut into the room as she was - bald and beautiful.
As she made the transition to full-time baldness, Bamberger continued to struggle with her self-confidence. Other students at her college stared, asked her unwelcome questions, and sometimes even mistook her for a man in women's restrooms. But then she joined her school's soccer team, where her skills as a player were valued more than her appearance, and she made a decision to own her look, no matter what people said or did.
"If people were staring, I would stare back," Bamberger told Health. "If you're going to go out bald, you have to have the confidence to own it. You're not offending anyone."
Today, the 27-year-old raises awareness about alopecia by modeling and speaking out about self-love and what it's really like to live with the condition. The staring and awkward encounters haven't stopped, she says, but now she knows how to handle them with confidence and grace. Plus, she has hope that the stigma surrounding female baldness will someday disappear.
"Hair loss doesn't make you unhealthy, and it doesn't make you ugly," she told Health. "Those are two massive, massive misconceptions. I am not sick. I'm only stronger. If you're out there, bald, it just means you're becoming stronger. If you're out there embracing your bald, you're stronger. Period."