What is Alopecia?
What would be your reaction if you noticed a bald patch or excessive hair shedding?
Most people would be shocked and frightened. Some people will leave it alone a while to see what happens in the hopes that it will regrow on its own. Some people will think nothing of it and initially aren’t worried about it. Some think the bald patch they feel on their scalp is an old scar. Some people thought they accidentally burned their hair out. However, If the patch doesn’t regrow or if more patches develop, then they realize there must be another reason for their hair loss.
Alopecia is a medical term for hair loss and/or thinning, Alopecia can be permanent or temporary. It can affect anyone regardless of gender, ethnicity or age. However, almost 50% of Black women experience some form of Alopecia.
There are 3 main classifications of Alopecia:
Alopecia Areata- is a common auto-immune skin disease causing hair loss on the scalp, face and other areas of the body. This condition usually presents as small to medium bald spots.
Alopecia Areata Totalis- is the loss of all scalp hair.
Alopecia Universalis- is complete hair loss over the entire body. In this condition, hair follicles are still alive and able to regrow hair. In fact, some people may find that the condition goes away on its own after a few months or years.
Hair loss can be temporary or permanent. Actually, you may experience sudden hair regrowth with or without using treatments if the hair follicles are still intact. In some instances, there is still the possibility that you will experience permanent hair loss. These categories are considered “non-scarring” Alopecia.
Various types of alopecia are:
Androgenic Alopecia-is also known as; male and female pattern baldness on the scalp. This condition is caused by an increase of the androgen hormone Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Testosterone in men and Dehydroepiandrosterone in women. When too much DHT is attached to receptors of the hair follicles, they tend to miniaturize and lose hair growth support. This condition is usually hereditary.
Men tend to show this condition with a receding hairline; whereas women tend to show it by excessive thinning of the hair.
Anagen and Telogen Effluvium- Anagen(growth)effluvium refers to hair shedding that arises during the anagen or growth stage of the hair cycle. This is in contrast to telogen (resting)effluvium or hair shedding that arises during the telogen or resting stage of the hair cycle.
Hair loss during the growth stage, also commonly referred to as chemotherapy-induced alopecia, is a disorder during which the cell separation to produce new hair is obstructed by toxins, medication, radiation, chemotherapy and infection. Such activity causes hair breakage and may lead to complete baldness if the hair follicle is affected.
Hair loss caused during the resting stage is when premature hair (anagen phase) moves straight to telogen (or resting phase) where the new strands fall out. In this case, the hair loses its overall volume.
Reasons for this type of shedding can be caused by:
Chemical Processes (Relaxers/Perms)
Tight Braiding or Locks
Tension from wigs, weaves and hair pieces
Scarring Alopecia- also known as cicatricial alopecia, is hair loss accompanied with scarring. This is in contrast to “non scarring” alopecia. It can be caused by a distinct collection of rare disorders that destroy the hair follicle and replace it with scar tissue which will cause permanent hair loss.
This type of hair loss is usually occurs when your body tries to protect itself from harm by causing inflammation. The inflammation destroys and replaces the hair follicles with scar tissue, as a result, the hair follicle will no longer be viable, thus causing permanent hair loss.
It most commonly appears on the crown of the head and front edges, It may cause papules, pustules, severe itching and sensitivity.
Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia-is a form of lichen planus (a common skin disease) that is characterized primarily by slow progressive hair loss (alopecia) and scarring on the scalp near the forehead. In some cases, the eyebrows, eye lashes and/or other parts of the body may be involved, as well.
This condition usually occurs in postmenopausal women. It is characterized by an excessive development of keratin in your hair follicles.
Traction Alopecia- is caused by the tight, constant pulling of your hair because of common hair styling practices which affect specific areas of the scalp on both natural and relaxed hair. If you consistently keep your hair in styles that cause tension; then you are likely to develop Traction alopecia.
Ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis) is a fungal infection of the scalp and hair shafts. If not treated properly can cause scarring alopecia.
The fungus is usually spread by coming in contact with infected hairs on combs, brushes, hats or pillow cases. The fungus can also spread through the air.
How to treat Alopecia?
You should always consult a medical professional for any form of Alopecia to determine the correct treatment for the type of alopecia you may have, and to identify possible causes. I have listed a few treatments that can be used for various types of Alopecia. Some treatments definitely require a Dermatologist or Hair Loss Expert to perform and/or instruct you on the treatment.
Treatments for alopecia areata include:
Intralesional Corticosteroid Injections- This method of treatment, the most common form of treatment for alopecia areata, uses corticosteroids that are injected into bare patches of skin with a tiny needle.
Topical Minoxidil/Rogaine- used to stimulate hair growth in adult men and women with a certain type of baldness. The exact way that this medicine works is not known.
Anthralin Cream or Ointment- used for the treatment of long-term psoriasis
Topical Corticosteroids- are synthetic (man-made) corticosteroid medications used for treating skin conditions such as rash, dermatitis, itching, eczema, and psoriasis. Topical corticosteroids have potent anti-inflammatory actions and also suppress the immune response.
Diet- Eat a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and protein, limit dairy.
Laser Therapy- Lamps, helmets, combs, brushes.
Vitamin Deficiency- Take a reputable hair vitamin to help facilitate hair growth.
Treatments for scarring alopecia include:
Scarring alopecia that involve mostly lymphocyte inflammation of hair follicles, such as lichen planus and pseudopelade, are generally treated with corticosteroids in topical creams and by injection into the affected skin. In addition, antimalarial and isotretinoin drugs may be used.
The best option is to do is remove the cause of the damage. Avoid using harsh chemicals such as relaxers, texturizers and hair color. Avoid tight braids, weaves, wigs and hair extensions and keep your hair and scalp from excessive strain.
Surgical Hair transplantation is one of the most effective treatments for restoring hair. With a rate of success between 10-80% and can be done in two different ways. Follicular Unit Transplantation involves cutting a piece of your skin that has viable hair follicles. The surgeon then cuts this piece into smaller ones and stitches them in.
Non-Surgical Hair Restoration options:
Hair Extensions (Installed by a professional)
Laser Therapy Treatments
Essential Oil Treatments
Best home remedies for alopecia:
Sandalwood, lavender, rosemary, and thyme oils have been used to treat hair loss for over 100 years. A compound in them is thought to boost hair growth. You can try massaging one or more of these oils into your scalp for at least 5 minutes every night. Then, wrap your head in a warm towel to help it absorb.
Always cover your hair while sleeping with a silk or satin cap or scarf whether your hair is natural or chemically processed.
Always keep your hair and scalp clean and always follow with a moisturizing conditioner.
Always moisturize your hair with non-petroleum products. (Rule of thumb; if you rub in on the back of your hand and it evaporates into the skin, like lotion, it’s ok to use in your hair)
Always seek out a Professional Hair Restoration Specialist for the best non-surgical hair restoration options.
Assure your hairstylist is a licensed professional who adheres to and practices all cosmetology sanitation guidelines.
*Please note that excessive hair shedding refers to shedding in excess of 50-100 hairs per day as this is normal process shedding. People with very healthy hair should see hair growth of at least .5 inches per month.
Thank you for reading!
Licensed Professional Cosmetologist
Certified Hair Loss/Restoration Specialist
Award Winning Salon Owner
*Disclaimer: The information contained in my blogs is to be used as an educational tool and guideline to assist those seeking answers for salon care needs. I am by no means offering or insinuating medical advice or instruction. The content included in this blog solely are my thoughts and opinions through my own efforts and education on the subject matter. You always have the freedom to seek out advice from any healthcare agency or provider.
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