Alopecia Areata: What Causes It & How Can You Treat It?
Aug. 28, 2020
Losing hair is often upsetting and concerning, no matter your age, and can be caused by several physical or mental health issues besides the process of aging. One notable cause of hair loss is alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition caused by an abnormality in the immune system.
What is Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata is a condition where the sufferer experiences sudden hair loss that usually occurs in circular bald batches. It can be an extremely upsetting condition, but it is usually a symptom of a bigger problem.
What Causes Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles and kills them, leading to hair loss.
Alopecia is, unfortunately, a mystifying condition, and researchers are still unsure about the exact cause of it. We do know that alopecia is common among those predisposed to other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis. Despite this genetic element, parents with alopecia don’t always pass it on to their children.
Alopecia generally occurs more commonly in women, but the volume of hair that is lost is typically more significant with men. Alopecia and male- or female-pattern baldness, are often compared, but alopecia causes hair to fall out in patches rather than overall thinning and eventual hair loss.
There are several different types of alopecia:
- alopecia areata occurs when coin-sized patches of hair fall out sporadically
- alopecia totalis, where the entire scalp of hair is lost
- alopecia universalis where all hair across the entire body is lost
- diffuse alopecia areata which results in sudden thinning over the entire scalp
- and ophiasis alopecia, where hair loss follows a pattern along the sides and lower back of the scalp.
What Does Hair Loss Caused by Alopecia Areata Look Like?
Hair loss caused by alopecia areata typically tends to occur in patches. It’s usually not until these patches connect that the hair loss becomes particularly noticeable.
Those suffering from alopecia may experience sudden hair loss on the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, and face. Alopecia can also develop gradually and recur after years between bouts.
This condition can result in alopecia universalis, in which hair is lost entirely and is often prevented from growing back at all. The loss and regrowth of hair varies from person to person, and each case is unique. Some people won’t require any treatment for alopecia because their hair will grow back, whereas others may need to try a number of techniques to encourage hair growth.
While there is currently no known cure for alopecia, there are ways to slow down current hair loss and encourage hair to grow back in the future.
How to Treat Alopecia
If you believe you have alopecia, you should always consult your doctor and/or dermatologist to determine the cause and the correct course of treatment for you. You may need further tests, or you may be able to make an assumption to what the cause is, so you can work on relieving the symptoms of alopecia. Some of the treatments commonly used are:
For those with mild or patchy alopecia areata, steroid injections can be applied to encourage hair to grow back on bald spots. Tiny needles inject the steroid into the affected areas every month or two.
- Minoxidil (officially known as Rogaine) is available over the counter, and you can apply it twice a day to your scalp, eyebrows, and beard if necessary. This has been proven to be a safe and effective treatment, but it can take up to a year to see any notable results.
- A slightly less predictable technique is topical immunotherapy, where a chemical such as diphencyprone is applied to the scalp to bring about an allergic reaction. A rash resembling poison oak will form and may encourage new hair growth within six months. Just as with Rogaine, this treatment must be used continuously to see any regrowth.
- Another drug that irritates the scalp enough to encourage regrowth is Anthralin or Dritho-Scalp.
- Those with alopecia often use corticosteroid creams like clobetasol (Impoyz), ointments, foams and lotions as they decrease inflammation in the hair follicle.
It’s not uncommon for people with illnesses that affect their skin or hair growth to be apprehensive about applying more chemicals to their scalp. From aromatherapy and acupuncture to stimulate the immune system to the simple application of rosemary, peppermint, tea tree or lavender oils, there are plenty of options. Some people choose to follow an anti-inflammatory diet that is fairly restrictive and consists primarily of vegetables and meats. Some take vitamins such as biotin or zinc, and some experiment with juices and herbal supplements.
When working with your doctor or dermatologist, you may realize that your lifestyle is not currently a healthy one. You may be under extreme stress, physically, mentally, or both, and need to consider taking a step back to decide whether this lifestyle is really the right one for you. If you are experiencing alopecia, taking some time to relax and recuperate and eat more nutritious whole foods may be the best way to get your body back on track.
Alopecia areata isn’t a simple condition to fix because it can be caused by so many different things, and there’s no one pill you can take to fix it. Rest assured, however, knowing that your doctor and/or dermatologist will be able to work with you to find a suitable treatment to help relieve or hide the symptoms. In most cases, it resolves itself within a few months, and this can certainly be sped up with some of the treatments listed above.
A Journey of Self 🌹
I figured Black History Month was as good as any opportunity to talk about my self finding. Growing up in a small yet old family, I always had questions about my roots and family history. I also struggled with self conscious doubts about my appearance. Why is my nose this big? Why is my hair this curly? Why am I taller than average? These weighed heavy on my mind growing up because honestly, sticking out sucked. So, I finally dove deep into my family’s origin and decided to do an Ancestry DNA analysis. I immersed myself with every corner of the site. I only got the chance to finish my maternal grandmas side of the family tree, but even that has plenty of gaps. Yet, when I received my DNA results I was stoked. Then I realized, I don’t know much about any of these places. So I dug even deeper. I have a little journal of things I’ve learned and want to know, but this was quite the experience. It was heartbreaking and satisfying at the same time. I highly recommend for every race and background to do this DNA Test. The best part of this was scrolling through photos of the people of the respected countries I was DNA matched to. I swear I saw a girl who looked like me, but everyone else thinks I’m tripping lol. In the end, I’m satisfied with my results and findings. Relatively speaking, this way of self discovery has been the most effective.
Wednesday Wellness 🙏🏾
This past week has been rather hard and long for me. I ultimately decided to get back on track with my wellness plan. My main wellness goal for 2021, is to indulge in myself more. I definitely am a firm believe in “as within, so without”. I started my day with: #Four Sigmatic - Mushroom Elixir Mix with Chaga[products]#[FiveStars] I have been getting back into adaptogen and herbal medicine. What we put into our bodies is just as important as what goes on the outside. Adaptogens are apart of ancient medicinal traditions traced all over the world. I also drink Tulsi “Holy Basil” Tea. If you need a pick me up or emotional boost I highly recommend! SUNDAY RILEY - U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil is my treatment of choice I used during the day. Do not be afraid to use salicylic acid during the day. I applied plenty of sunscreen afterwards as well! This is a GODSEND for clearing up acne and acne scarring. It’s by far the best acne treatment I’ve tried and its mostly due to the immediate results I get. This is a dry oil, so it should be used before a heavy moisturizer or sunscreen. THE BODY SHOP - Spa of the World Thai Makrut Lime Firming Oil is a staple in my night time routine. When I want to relax and really unwind I use a body roller with this oil. It smells like a fresh key lime pie and it’s so hydrating. This is great for firming, especially when paired with a body tool. What do you do for wellness?
My Farewell To Cherie
Follow me on Ig for more skincare since Cherie is leaving 😭 @naturedskinv This has been an amazing journey and I’ve made soo many amazing friends. Thank you for all the love, conversations, and just overall happiness I’ve experienced on this app. I’m definitely sad, a little upset, and a dash of confused, but thank you @cheriefor giving me such an amazing confidence boost and guidance. The way the app shaped my thoughts on skincare has been insane. I’m still willing to forget this and call it a joke if y’all are! 😭 Anyways thank you again and hopefully we can stay in touch 🙏🏾
Clear skin the gentle way?
Thank you @cheriefor this amazing gift 🤩 “buh-koo-chee-all” HERBIVORE - Bakuchiol Anti-Aging Serum I’ve already become a diehard Herbivore lover. So to receive this beauty was super exciting. When I started my acne journey on Cherie I was (and still am) a Differin Acne Gel stan. This was my choice of retinol and I wanted it strong to treat acne and boost my cellular turnover. Now that my acne is currently under control and it’s getting hot again, I definitely want something smooth and gentle. Bakuchiol is a gentler alternative to the very popular ingredient retinol. So essentially you’ll get overall youthful results for your skin. I haven’t tested this on my acne theory yet, but overall my face has been smooth and irritation free. This serum does not have a smell which I love for products of this caliber. I also love that it’s light and not drying at all. I use this at night and since i have a tolerance to retinol I use it every night. I haven’t been using it long enough to see results (about 12 weeks) but I definitely can’t wait to finish this. Have you tried Bakuchiol?
Clear Hydrated Skin The Clean Way✨
Staying in the trend of clean beauty, I have found an amazing product to add to my everyday routine. Odacité SKINCARE - Blue Aura Cleansing Water This is a cleansing water that is marketed to use in place of your cleanser for a “quick” clean. When looking for a good cleansing water, you want one that is hydrating and gets your face clean. Keep in mind not all cleansing waters are designed to clean makeup (I highly recommend a cleansing balm and cleanser). About This Brand: ✨Vegan ✨Cruelty Free ✨Certified Organic ✨ NO: Fillers | Parabens | Nanoparticles | Petrochemicals | PEG | Synthetic perfumes | Dyes | Phenoxyethanol. This cleansing water is so hydrating and satisfying to use. It smells very fresh and a little goes a long way. What is very important to me is my dry spot aren’t tight or irritated. I have been using this day and night and have seen amazing results acne and skin barrier wise. I included this in my routine after a regular cleanser and before my serums. So essentially, I use this as a “toner”. I do this to clean up anything my cleanse left behind, or the cleanser itself. INGREDIENTS: ✨Tumeric: Amazing for hyperpigmentation and overall skin brightness ✨Holy Basil: I drink the tea and can vouch this is an amazing adaptogen that can overall benefit every aspect of your life. It combats aging and free radical damage. ✨Neem: great anti aging ingredient that helps protects your skin barrier. ✨Aloe Vera Juice: this is great for your skin barrier overall. It hydrated, protects and brightens. I highly recommend this cleansing water and it is on sale for $9 at Boxycharm Pop Up 🥰🥰
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