‘Neither of us was particularly alarmed,’ says Aimee, now 26 and living in Manchester. ‘I just presumed some hair had come out when I pulled out a hair tie.’
But over the next few months, more bald patches appeared. Soon there were six of them - and twice the size of the first.
‘I couldn’t cover them with a headband any more,’ says Aimee. ‘And I had to wear a hat to school to save my embarrassment.’
The diagnosis from the family GP was clear: Aimee was suffering from alopecia areata - for which there is no cure.
For the past 14 years, she has battled to come to terms with the diagnosis. Now, she has posed for this picture in the hope that it will help other girls with the condition accept the way it makes them look.
Stress is believed to be a trigger, as is a weakened immune system. There is a genetic predisposition to the condition.
‘People with alopecia lose their hair because it is rejected by their immune system, which one day decides it doesn’t recognise the hair follicles as part of the body, but sees it as something that is foreign,’ says Dr Nick Lowe, consultant dermatologist with the British Skin Foundation.
Aimee, now a product coordinator for a sportswear company, enjoyed a full head of hair for a year before it started to fall out again - this time in a far more dramatic fashion.
In the space of just two months, Aimee lost not just the hair on her head, but also every hair on her body - right down to her eyelashes.
Until three years ago, that is, when her then boyfriend Neil - now her husband - asked her to take it off. ‘I didn’t want to do it at first - it felt like a huge step - and when I did, I felt horribly exposed. ‘But then Neil looked me straight in the eyes, gently stroked my head and told me that I was beautiful. It was an incredibly moving moment.’
Though she admits that she wouldn’t walk down the street without her wig on any more than she would stride down it naked, she hopes that her bravery in having this picture taken will inspire other women with her condition.
‘This will be the first time some members of my own family have seen me like this, let alone countless strangers,’ she says. ‘But learning to live with alopecia has been a long and difficult journey for me - and one I finally feel I’ve come to the end of.
‘I’ve wept so many tears. But now I want any girl starting out on the same journey to look at the pictures of me and feel hope that eventually she will feel happy in her own skin again - just as I do.’