During the 94th annual Academy Awards, Jada Pinkett Smith was thrown into the center of a major controversy when her husband Will Smith slapped Chris Rock (who was hosting the event) onstage after Rock made a joke about Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.
The 50-year-old singer-actress has since been open about her experience with hair loss due to alopecia. She recalled the “terrifying” moment she first begin losing “handfuls of hair.”
In mid-2021, ahead of her 50th birthday, Jada made the decision to go bald after being inspired by her daughter, Willow Smith, and shared a selfie featuring her new look to Instagram. “Willow made me do it because it was time to let go, BUT…my 50s are ’bout to be divinely lit with this shed.”
Research studies have found that alopecia can be psychologically damaging for most people, especially women, given that a woman’s hair can feel pretty central to her feminine identity. Alopecia is often incredibly misunderstood and underdiscussed. Here’s everything you need to know:
What Is Alopecia?
Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss. It refers generally to deficiency of the hair in parts of the body that usually have hair. Anyone can develop alopecia regardless of age and gender, but it is most common in people under the age of 30.
Alopecia can be different for people who have it; while in most cases it can be hair loss in a few spots, in other cases it can be more extreme.
There are several types of alopecia that are characterized by the extent of hair loss and symptoms, but the three main types of alopecia as explained by the American Academy of Dermatology Association are:
- Alopecia areata
This alopecia is an autoimmune disorder that is caused by the immune system attacking your hair follicles. The hair follicles, which are the structures from which your hairs grow, should not be attacked, but due to the immune system mistaking healthy cells (hair follicles) for foreign substances such as viruses and bacteria, an autoimmune disorder will develop.
It is believed that the person’s genetic makeup may trigger the autoimmune reaction of alopecia areata, along with a virus or a substance the person comes into contact with.
- Alopecia totalis
Alopecia totalis occurs when a person loses all hair on the scalp.
- Alopecia universalis
This is an extreme case of alopecia areata that occurs when there is complete loss of hair on the entire body. This type of alopecia is very rare.
The treatment for hair loss depends on the cause of your condition. Sometimes your hair loss may get better on its own and no treatment is needed. If your hair loss is related to a medicine you are taking, it is advisable to talk to your healthcare providers.
One popular treatment recommended by doctors to treat alopecia is the use of medications such as corticosteroids, powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can suppress the immune system. This medication, alongside others like Minoxidil, Anthralin, SADBE, and DPCP, may help with hair re-growth but do not prevent new bald patches from forming.
For those who have more than 50% hair loss on their scalp or other areas of the body, there are oral and injectable medications available. However, these medications do not work for everyone. That’s why it’s important to talk with your doctor to discuss the risks and benefits of using any medications
Although hair loss is quite common, research shows that it can take a toll on a person’s confidence. Alopecia should, instead of being seen as a bad thing, be embraced like Jada Pinkett Smith did. That’s why Jada is greatly admired for her upbeat attitude and confidence towards embracing her hair loss struggles.