Our hair colour goes far beyond beauty trends—it reflects who we are. From fresh starts to power moves, we often turn to our hair as a way to express what we want to put out to the world. For Amber Jean Rowan, a model, actress, business owner and Schwarzkopf LIVE Colour pack talent, wearing a red wig has helped her feel more like herself after developing alopecia areata at the age of 15.
When Amber walks around the beauty aisles of high street shops and sees her face on LIVE Colour boxes (wearing Tangerine Twist), she reminds herself that nothing is impossible. "Who would have thought that a hair-free girl would be on a hair colour box?! For LIVE to say we like Amber and we like what she stands for is big. It shows difference and versatility [in the product], that it’s not just for hair that’s growing out of one’s head but that you can use it for hairpieces and wigs," she says.
As she approaches 30, Amber reflects on the fact that she has now spent more of her life without hair than with hair. "When I had hair, it was never something I was proud of. It was limp, a bit thin, and I always went for a full head of blonde highlights, even though my natural colour was strawberry blonde," she says. Having said that, her connection with her hair went far deeper than the way it looked. "One of my main relaxers was having someone comb and plait my hair. After I experienced the trauma of splitting my head open at 3 years old, I attached a security blanket to my hair through twirling it."
Nowadays, Amber still finds a sense of security and power in her hair, even when it’s through wearing a wig. "I love wearing wigs. They’re an accessory, an armour, and they’re fun — they’re a part of me. When I’m having a bad day, they give me a lift. You do get more stares when you’re not wearing a hairpiece so in that sense wearing one allows you to go under the radar. I think there’s two ways to look at wearing wigs, there’s a need and a want, and I’m so glad I’m in a place where I don’t need my wigs, I choose them," says Amber.
After a friend spotted a small bald patch in Amber's hair when she was just 15, doctors diagnosed her with the hair-loss condition alopecia areata and told her it was probably nothing to be concerned about. "They sent me on my way with some steroid creams, horrible stuff that burnt your scalp, but if anything they just irritated my skin and elevated the problem," she says. During this time, Amber managed her hair loss in a number of ways, including the use of weaves and cover-up sprays. "I’d be on my way to a disco and I’d be running around trying to find some brown eyeshadow to fill in the gaps. It was funny because when it started to rain, [it] would drip down to my eyes," she laughs.
It wasn’t until she went to a salon to have her weave tightened, around eight months later, that she saw herself bald for the first time. "It was a real blow. I had been getting on, but that was a moment when I couldn’t push it down. It was challenging and it was then that I got a full wig," she reveals. Her second major blow occurred years later, when she was dropped by her agent in the midst of a successful modelling career. "I modelled internationally with my wigs on, never off. Back then, diversity wasn’t a thing in the modelling industry. It was around the age of 21 when I landed a major campaign that my agent dropped me. My eyebrows had started to fall and they said they could deal with the wigs but not the eyebrows. It was a gut-wrenching moment," she says. This was when Amber trained in screen acting. "It was great because the world of wigs within TV and film is so accepted and it was never an issue."
After meeting her fiancé, Ben, at 25, and "really finding love", she wanted to start expressing herself in a hair-free way. "I found how to love and be comfortable with myself. I got to a place where I felt I was ready to start opening the door to see what the hair-free world had in store for me," she says. This meant posting her first picture to social media, bald. "I was terrified. But I had so many women asking questions, like: how do I do my eyebrows/lashes/wigs? I’m going to kiss a boy, what do I do if he touches my hair? I’m having sex, is my wig going to fall off? I created an online community called Hair-Free Life because when I was going through hair loss, I had to learn everything myself. I had all of this information to give to someone that’s just [like I was at 15] and for her to know she’s not alone." In a full-circle moment, after Amber posted that initial photo the modelling industry came knocking once more.
Now, Amber is happy to embrace being hair-free. "With alopecia, it’s all about baby steps — each year you get more comfortable. The first time I took my headscarf off in a spin class gave me a huge sense of liberation. It’s tiny things but they make a big difference to your self-esteem," she says.
But embracing a hair-free life doesn’t eliminate the feeling of empowerment when wearing wigs. Amber actually owns a wig company, the Amber Jean Shop. For around 10 years, Amber wore blonde wigs. "My idea of beauty was blonde. It was when I was doing a TV show and they put me in a bright red wig that I realised it was gorgeous. Now, it’s those auburns and reds that suit me most — when I put that wig on, I feel like Amber," she says, although she finds power in playing with colour as well. "Any other wig is fun, like I’m playing a character. Different colours make you feel different and I play up to stereotypes a bit, too," she jokes. "When I’m wearing a dark, sultry wig, I 100% feel more mysterious and sexy. When I wear a short bob, I feel a lot quirkier. If I go out in a blonde wig, I feel people’s perception of me changes. It’s why I love them so much and they’re such a great asset to my life; they add different experiences and [bring out] different versions of people."
Whether she’s hair-free, wearing a red wig, a blonde wig or even a scarf, Amber wants people to know that she wouldn’t change her experience. "My life’s purpose is to take what I’ve learned, give it to people and hope they can live happier and healthier lives with it," she says. "We talk about hair loss but it’s actually just about loss in general, and that’s something I think everyone can relate to. As much as alopecia is challenging, I wouldn’t change it. It’s made me who I am today. Feeling like you’re making a difference is the best thing in the world. I’m so delighted I’m able to do that."