Alopecia – What is it and What Does Treatment Look Like?

Alopecia has gotten more recent media attention due to the Oscars incident. Alopecia is a general term meaning hair loss from the scalp or body. There are many forms of alopecia, and treatment is based on the given subtype. Hair loss can have a large psychological impact and profoundly alter self-esteem because hair is a defining feature for most. The good news is there are many treatments for most types of alopecia.

Alopecia can be divided into two categories: scarring and non-scarring alopecia. The most common non-scarring alopecias we see in clinic include female or male-patterned hair loss, telogen effluvium (TE), and alopecia areata (AA). Scarring alopecias include more rare conditions such as frontal fibrosing alopecia (FFA), lichen planopilaris (LPP), and central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA).

Female or male-patterned hair loss typically presents before age 40. Thinning of the frontal scalp and widening of the hair part are the hallmarks of this disorder. Treatments for this condition include topical therapies such as minoxidil solution, KeraFactor'” Solution (1.69 oz, $169.00), and hair supplements. Oral medications and in-office treatments have also shown to be very effective, including PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) injections as well as Keravive™/Keralase™ procedures. Your dermatologist can review which options would be appropriate for your type of hair loss.

Telogen effluvium typically presents with diffuse hair shedding weeks to months after an inciting event such as childbirth, weight loss, a new medication, or a viral illness. Hair shedding can last several months, but regrowth happens soon after. Supportive care, such as supplements and topical minoxidil solutions, can aid in regrowth.

Alopecia areata (AA) typically presents with circular, smooth patches of hair loss on the scalp or body. If the entire scalp is involved, the condition is called alopecia totalis. If all body hair is also lost, then it is coined alopecia universalis. AA is typically responsive to intra­lesion steroid injections – small injections of steroid medication into the areas of involvement. Topical therapies and light treatments have also been used with success. Spontaneous regrowth is commonly seen as well. Alopecia totalis and universalis can be more challenging to treat and often require oral medication for hair regrowth. Recurrences are also quite common with medication cessation. This is a very distressing condition, and there are many online support groups and resources that can be found at New emerging therapies using Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors are currently being investigated and used with success.

Scarring alopecias are thankfully rarer but also more difficult to treat. These complex disorders often require immunosuppressant medications and/or in office therapies. Treatment should not be delayed, as once scarring of the hair follicle develops it is very difficult to get hair regrowth. A dermatologist can diagnose and offer appropriate treatment tailored to your type of hair loss. Call (847)459-6400 to schedule your hair loss appointment today!