A social media influencer with more than 95,000 Instagram followers has bravely revealed how his struggles with self-image because of male pattern hair loss left him avoiding mirrors and even made him agoraphobic.
Cosmin Cernica, 28, who divides his time between London and Dubai, working as a social media consultant and content creator – advising others on how to run their pages – admits there was a time when he avoided posting photos of himself after he started losing his hair four years ago.
Cosmin, who lives with his husband Robert, 51, owner of a project management consultancy, in Chelsea, west London, said: “I really felt my whole world turn upside down.”
He added: “I spent hours in the morning in the bathroom looking with a magnifying glass at my hair to see if more had come out overnight. It was like I was torturing myself.”
He even became agoraphobic – making him scared to go out – after lockdown restrictions began to ease, sparked by his fear that friends would notice a change in his hairline.
He said: “It was quite a shock when I noticed my hair loss for the first time, because I was only 24 and I hadn’t considered that I would go bald, especially as I was so young.”
He added: “For some people, especially men, they won’t be bothered about losing hair, but I couldn’t imagine myself going bald.
“I’m completely in love with my job and what I do. I have so much passion for social media and the influence world, but it really does come with a lot of pressure.
“In my industry, image is so important and plays a major part in everything I do, whether that is being active on social media or attending events.”
He added: “As part of my content creating, I have to post pictures of myself, and I definitely feel under pressure to look the best I can – even sometimes feeling I need to edit or crop pictures, as I fear a backlash and worry about what people would say if I didn’t look the part.”
And Cosmin says his issues began to seep into other aspects of his life – even ruining holidays with his husband.
He said: “Whenever we were travelling, my husband would want to take photos of us together while sightseeing, but I would never take my hat off. I couldn’t just switch off, I worried about my hair all the time.”
He added: “There was even a time where, we were going through airport security, and I was asked to remove my hat. I started crying in front of everyone. Even now it makes me emotional to think about it. I was just so insecure.”
Cosmin says his hair loss began to affect him to the point where he avoided leaving the house and considered having a hair transplant.
He said: “I was on the verge of going through with the procedure when Covid hit.”
He added: “I had hoped to get it done in Turkey or Romania but travelling was out of the question.
“On top of that, lockdown meant I barely left the house and when restrictions started to lift, I was still reluctant to be seen by people I knew.
“My hairline was constantly getting worse, and I was so self-conscious about it.”
The influencer admits he began to keep track of how much hair he was losing on a daily basis.
Cosmin said: “Because I was filled with so much dread, I couldn’t see anybody. I couldn’t see my friends and I couldn’t see my family.
“I even developed a high form of alopecia – a condition which makes your hair fall out often in clumps – and bald spots appeared. I was desperately sad. I knew it was down to stress, but it just made me feel even worse. It was a spiral.”
He added: “At my lowest, I avoided the mirrors in the house and each morning I would run a lint roller over my pillow to check how much hair had fallen out.
“After that, I would always cry.”
Cosmin says it was also hard for his husband, Robert, to see him at such a low point.
“My hair loss literally took over my life,” he confessed.
“The alopecia tipped me over the edge and as soon as it was safe and we were allowed to travel, my husband booked a trip away. We left the country and went on a three-month holiday to Greece and Spain, just to get away from social media and the industry pressure.
“Robert was supportive of me getting a hair transplant, because he didn’t want me to be unhappy anymore.”
While Cosmin did not have a hair transplant, he regularly takes pills to promote hair growth.
“It was getting to the point where I was scared to wash my hair because I didn’t want to put any added pressure on my scalp,” he said.
“I now take a daily pill which thickens the hair I still have, although it doesn’t help my receding hairline.”
He added: “I follow the treatment religiously and I also massage a special hair loss foam into my head twice a day and no longer blow dry my hair. After just three months, I noticed a big difference. There was no more shedding.
“The spots where I had alopecia aren’t completely back to normal yet, but they’ve started to grow back.”
But Cosmin says the most noticeable difference has been to his confidence.
He said: “Since the hair has started to regrow, I’ve been able to see people face to face again and get back to the job I fell in love with.
“These days, there are added pressures to look a certain way and keep up appearances because social media is a big part of everyone’s lives. For me that pressure is tenfold because it is also my job.
“I think for men to discuss struggling with hair loss is quite a taboo topic. Many men suffer in silence, because it’s expected of us not to worry about these things but, in reality, it can destroy our confidence.”
He added: “I want people to know that there is treatment out there, it doesn’t need to become such a negative experience in life.”
The Institute of Trichologists, the foremost professional association for trichologists – experts dealing with the hair and scalp – in the World, defines male pattern baldness as a condition more commonly inherited from the maternal grandfather.
They say: “Male pattern hair loss usually starts either with a recession to the temples or a diffuse thinning to the crown and can be followed in some cases by a gradual thinning, then a complete denuding of the top. Very rarely is the hair lost on the sides and back although men over seventy can lose hair in the neck area.
“At puberty, more of the male hormone testosterone circulates around the body causing hairs that are genetically programmed (in the pattern areas) to produce finer and shorter hairs with each new cycle of hair growth. Testosterone reaches the target organ, in this case the hair follicle, where the enzyme 5α-reductase changes testosterone into the highly potent hormone di-hydro testosterone, which causes the above affects.”
For Cosmin’s Instagram, visit www.instagram.com/cosmincernica