In light of recent questionable pop culture happenings, we thought we’d shed some light on the condition behind the smack heard ‘round the world. With 6.8 million people in the U.S. having been diagnosed with alopecia, it’s a good idea to brush up on some facts about it for the not-at-all-unlikely event when you may have a client in your chair who lives with it.

Alopecia is a hair loss condition which affects 1 in every 500–1,000 people in the United States—that’s 147 million people worldwide. It affects both men & women equally, and it does not matter which ethnic background you belong to. The condition is an autoimmune disease, which means that one’s immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. In the case of alopecia, it’s the hair follicles. However, since it’s classified as a skin autoimmune disease, it can also affect the face, nails, and other parts of the body. It usually presents itself in childhood or adolescence, but people of all ages can find themselves experiencing some sort of hair loss due to the condition. 

There are different forms of alopecia, and how they present in people varies. Here are some of the most common types:

a brush full of hairAlopecia areata – The most common form, resulting in circular bald patches on the head or a loss of other body hair.

Alopecia totalis – This particular form leads to total hair loss of the scalp.

Alopecia universalis – Complete hair loss of the head, face & entire body. 

There is still much the medical world doesn’t know about autoimmune diseases, so unfortunately, there isn’t a current cure for alopecia. However, even when a person experiences alopecia-related hair loss, the hair follicles don’t die, which means the hair can & may grow back, even in more extreme cases. Scientists aren’t sure whether the cause lies inside the body or triggered more by outside environmental factors, but there are some key biological factors involved. Both parents need to pass on multiple specific genes in order for a child to develop the disease, so just because one parent or family member has it does not mean the child will also experience it.

As a hair professional, it’s imperative that you try to educate yourself on how best to serve your clients who live with some form of alopecia. Hair & scalp are your realms, so it’s comforting when a client comes to you and they feel understood on a medical level. They may be hesitant to even come sit in your chair in the first place, so speaking to them prior to their appointment about exactly what they’re hoping to achieve, and reassuring them that they can feel comfortable coming to you can go a long way. And, for those living with alopecia, know that your hair stylist is there to help you feel like your very best self. They get every type of head in their chair on a daily basis, and all they care about is helping you leave feeling good, inside & out. So, take this as a sign to book that self-care. Every single person deserves that. 

For more information, we encourage you to visit naaf.org/alopecia-areata.