Madisyn Babcock, 17, first began to notice that her hair was thinning earlier this year. "A couple months ago, I started getting very big, smooth bald spots on my head, and I just kept shaving the rest of my hair with it," she tells Health.
When senior portrait season rolled around, Babcock decided to use her session as an opportunity to celebrate her unique beauty and educate others about alopecia, an autoimmune condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles—and can eventually lead to hair loss.
After brainstorming designs with her mother (the two are both artists) the high school senior came up with the idea to adorn her head with painted flowers. "She had mentioned covering her head at one point, but then decided that wouldn't be an accurate portrayal of the type of person she is," Chelsea Taylor, the local photographer responsible for the stunning images, tells us. "Madisyn is a strong, confident, and kind-hearted girl who has taken the loss of her hair as an opportunity to show girls that our hair does not define our beauty."
The inspiring teen told Yahoo Lifestyle that she chose a floral design to convey how she has blossomed into a new person since developing the autoimmune condition, which affects an estimated 6.8 million people in the U.S., according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
Although losing her hair was extremely difficult, Babcock says the experience has given her a new perspective on life. "People will stare, and people will point—nothing is going to change that," she says. "My biggest advice is to surround yourself [with] people who help you feel beautiful."
Babcock hopes that her now-viral photos help others with the autoimmune condition feel more comfortable in their skin.
"Self-love has been something I’ve struggled with in the past, but ironically, losing my hair has boosted my confidence," she says. "I want people with alopecia to know that there is no void to be filled; there’s nothing missing from you. I see you, and you inspire me."
Beauty – Health.com