A Glengormley beautician who’s living with hair loss is using her expertise to help other women facing the same challenge.

By Mandi Millar  

Newtownabbey woman Janine McCoppin (32) has never exactly had it easy.

A teenage pregnancy, a life-threatening blood clot and alopecia – any one would be challenge enough but this Carnmoney businesswoman has experienced all three.

Now, though, she wants to help other women facing similar situations and is using her beauty business to do so.

“I was 15 when I fell pregnant. Jamie arrived right in the middle of my GCSEs but I managed to go back and sit them before I felt school the following year,” says Janine who’s now also mum to Zelena (6) and Savanna (4).

“My parents were really supportive so I was able to study for my level two and three beauty therapy diplomas as well as a range of other qualifications including massage and aromatherapy, though my passion’s always been for brow aesthetics.

“It was tough for at times I was juggling a couple of jobs, but I was driven and Jamie and I got our own place when I was just 17.

“I’d been lifted and laid at home so I had to grow up fast. But I love being a young mum. My girls and me are like wee best friends at this stage. I have two brothers so with not having a sister I feel like I’m getting the sister experience with them!”

However, it was after Savanna’s birth that Janine first noticed an issue with her when she experienced shortness of breath.

Busy running her own business, the Brow Craft Academy and opening the Brow Craft Aesthetics Institute in Glengormley, she struggled on.

“You put up with things don’t you because life takes over but one day I was so breathless I was blacking out and had chest pains too,” she continues.

Rushed to hospital tests revealed Janine had developed a clot on her lungs which, it transpired, had been caused by her contraceptive pill

“You’ve a 5/10,000 chance of developing a clot from this hormone – I just turned out to be one of the statistics,” she says.

Blood thinners though worked to disperse the clot but the experience left its mark on the young mum and businesswoman.

“It was terrifying because once you’ve had a clot you’re more likely to have another one. I became increasingly anxious about having a heart attack or stroke and the breathlessness carried on.

 “Ironically it was that anxiety that was probably leading to panic attacks and the breathlessness so it was like a vicious circle.

“I was in and out of hospital where they carried out repeated tests in case anything else was going on. I’ve had CT scans, tests for asthma and heart traces. One day I was only out of hospital when I was rushed back just hours later after my breathing became critical,” continues Janine, who’d always been proud of her long blonde hair until then.

That, however, is when she noticed it was coming out in alarming clumps.

“I was afraid to brush it! It would just keep coming out, all around my ears and at the back of my head. For a woman it’s a huge thing to suffer hair loss. My hair was like my comfort blanket.

“That fuelled my anxiety and I’d Iost about 50% of my hair when the doctor diagnosed alopecia, which again, can be caused by stress.”

Janine used every treatment she could find to nourish her hair and even considered hair transplants but thankfully her own is growing back.                                  

“I’ve cut my hair shorter too and taken out the extensions so roots aren’t under any stress. But alopecia affects different people different ways. Some people lose all their hair but it grows back, others are left with permanent hair loss, so it’s a bit of a lottery,” says Janine who, despite her own challenges decided she wanted to help other women facing the same experiences.

“I know the pain of living with hair loss so I wanted to use my expertise and my passion for brow aesthetics to support other women because the difference it can make to them is remarkable.

“Once you lose your eyebrows, for instance, every time you look in the mirror it’s a constant reminder of your condition, whether that’s alopecia or as a result of cancer treatment.

“Your brows are so important for they frame your eyes, your whole face, they balance your face. We take about an hour just working out exactly where to place the brow before we even start – we call it brow mapping,” says Janine who finds it cathartic to share her story with clients affected by hair loss.

“Because it’s such a personal thing you’re doing for people they tend to open up. I’ve heard so many stories from women and girls facing down these challenges. I find it so rewarding and it helps me cope with my own experiences.

“Clients tend to talk to me about things they don’t even share with friends or family – I’m that bit more removed so they feel they can open up without being afraid of upsetting me, though it can be tough to hear their stories too,” says Janine who’s still living with her own alopecia.

“As far as my own condition is concerned I’m learning to live with it and manage it. You get creative with your hair to hide the bald patches! But it’s about trying to monitor my stress too and in fact my work with these special clients helps that.

“If I can make things easier for even one woman at least that’s something positive to come from all this.”

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