About 2,000 people who suffer from baldness could benefit from a €500 grant towards the cost of a hairpiece or wig.
The government grant will go to people who suffer hair loss due to illness, and will include hair loss resulting from cancer and forms of alopecia.
People with alopecia can spend upwards of €1,000 a year on hairpieces and wigs.
Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys said the €500 grants would go some way to helping people buy hairpieces.
Paddy Pender of Alopecia Ireland said wearing wigs helped people with alopecia mix with others in “a more normal way”.
“I would go through at least one wig a year. Most people go through many more, because they wear them when they go out,” said Ms Pender.
“It helps us to get out and about, and helps us mix and mingle with others in a more normal way – because our normal is bald, which can sometimes be fashionable, but most of the time it is not.
“Being bald is very uncomfortable, it brings lots of other problems with it.
“There are many taboos around it, and we would like people to come forward and acknowledge it, and share what it is like. We have support groups around the country.
“It’s not just about the person, it’s about the family as well. We saw the furore around Will Smith [at the Academy Awards].
"Alopecia can have a knock-on effect on family life – and that may have driven him to do what he did. It wasn’t right, but at the same time I can see why families would be upset with unwanted comments and ridicule.
“The wigs help us go out and feel normal – but it is an extra expense.”
Ms Humphreys said people needed financial relief to help them buy wigs.
“I always said we needed to change this. We need to recognise alopecia is a life-long condition and we should be doing something about it – so we looked at extending the benefits scheme that we have,” she said.
“We will provide a grant of €500 for people who have alopecia, to help them towards the purchase of a hairpiece, or a head covering.
“They will be treated the same as those who get benefits for dental treatment, hearing aids, or eye tests.
“It’s an important step for us to recognise this life-long condition. And there is also a certain taboo around alopecia as well – some people are afraid to talk about it, or afraid to say they have this condition.
“So, we want to give them more support.”