Unwanted hair loss is something nobody wants to go through; it can be stressful and confusing as to why it’s happening, not to mention it can take a toll on your confidence. Alopecia is one of the most common reasons for hair loss. You may have heard the word thrown around before, but aren’t sure what exactly it is.
We talked with expert trichologists so we could dig deep into alopecia. From triggers to symptoms to treatments, keep scrolling to learn more about this hair condition.
Everything You Need to Know About Alopecia
What is Alopecia?
It’s often misunderstood that alopecia is just having patches of hair loss. However, this actually isn’t true. Alopecia is a blanket clinical term for many different types of hair loss. You know the hair loss caused by chemotherapy, aging, and even patchy hair loss? You guessed it, that’s considered a type of alopecia too.
Symptoms of Alopecia
When you’re experiencing this hair condition, you may notice hair fall in certain areas that could develop into bald patches. It primarily affects the scalp, but it can also affect eyelashes, eyebrows, legs, and facial hair.
Is This Hair Condition Permanent?
Alopecia can be permanent and temporary. In some cases, it can be temporary, but in others, it can be progressive and irreversible.
Types of Alopecia
There are so many types of alopecia. However, a lot of people would be surprised to learn that only the rarest form results in total hair loss. Most people only experience patches of hair loss, which can grow back. Only a very small percentage of people lose all of their hair.
Alopecia Areata is the most common type of alopecia. This is categorized by round or oval patches of hair loss. Eva Proudman, MIT IAT from the Institute of Trichologists, explains, “1 person in 50 will suffer from this type of alopecia in their lifetime, which occurs when the body mistakes the hair follicle as a foreign body and attacks it from within.”
This type results in the complete loss of hair on the scalp.
Alopecia Universalis is the rarest and most advanced form of alopecia. Therefore, this type results in hair loss all over the scalp and body, including facial hair, chest hair, and pubic hair.
This type is a common hair loss condition, which affects both men and women. For men, this is known as Male Pattern Baldness (MPB), and causes a receding hairline and hair loss at the temples. This creates a recognizable “M” shape. Men may also experience a single bald spot at the crown.
For women, this is called Female Pattern Baldness and usually shows as hair thinning all over the head instead of a receding hairline. It doesn’t usually result in total baldness.
This type is a form of hair loss that occurs when the hair is repeatedly pulled in a specific area over a long period of time. Think too-tight ponytails and braids or hair extensions.
Causes of Alopecia
What Causes Alopecia?
The most common cause of this hair condition is genetics. However, there is a wide variety of triggers that may contribute to hair loss. These include “illness, aging, allergy, diet, stress and natural hormone changes like puberty, menopause or pregnancy,” explains Georgia Gardner, from the Australia Alopecia Areata Foundation, Inc.
Iain Sallis, MIT Trichologist at Hairmedic, further explains that hair loss caused by diet “may be due to an overwhelming inflammation, which may be helped by reducing inflammatory products from the diet (usually dairy), or if the person is low in Iron or Vitamin D.”
Is Alopecia Caused by Stress?
We’re sure you’ve heard the saying before—”you’re so stressed your hair will fall out.” People joke about it all the time, but have you ever wondered how much truth is there to this?
Jen Chambers, Charity Development Manager at Alopecia UK, explains, “We don’t actually know if psychological stress can cause hair loss, although there are suggestions that it could be linked to a specific type of hair loss, called telogen effluvium.”
While many people believe stress may have triggered their hair loss, there’s not enough evidence to confirm whether or not there’s a direct link.
Who is Most Likely to Get Alopecia?
Alopecia can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. However, having a close family member with this condition increases your likelihood of developing it too.
When it comes to age, “alopecia areata can happen at any age, but most people develop it before the age of 40. The average age that people develop the condition is between 25 and 36,” says Jen Chambers.
“Some other types of hair loss, like androgenetic alopecia, are more common in older people. Some specific types of hair loss, like frontal fibrosing alopecia, are more common in post-menopausal women.”
Is There a Cure for Alopecia?
There currently isn’t a complete cure. However, depending on the severity, there are treatments that can help the condition and promote regrowth.
The most common method of treatment is steroid injections. This is where a steroid is injected directly into your scalp, reducing inflammation and boosting the immune system. In other words, this allows the hair follicles to function normally and promote regrowth.
Alternative treatments include medication and topical treatments, like steroid creams.
To supplement these treatments, some people like looking into taking hair vitamins for daily hair growth support. Love Beauty and Planet Berry Extraordinary Vegan Hair & Nails Dietary Supplement includes biotin, folic acid, and vitamin D, which help promote stronger hair and nails (plus they’re delicious, so you’ll actually look forward to taking the recommended two each day!).
When picking a treatment, we always recommend consulting with your doctor for questions and concerns about hair loss.