Will Smith’s altercation with Chris Rock over a joke he made about Jada Pinkett Smith’s baldness has been the talk of the town after the Oscars. But what is alopecia – the “terrifying” hair loss disorder that Jada suffers from?
There were a lot of noteworthy moments at the Oscars 2022. The one that’s caught a lot of attention was Will Smith’s violence reaction to Chris Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head.
After Rock compared Pinkett Smith to GI Jane, Smith walked on stage and angrily slapped the comedian, before screaming: “Keep my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth.”
Her “terrifying” hair loss due to alopecia is something that Jada – who later chose to shave her head – has spoken about several times.
Here’s what you need to know about the hair loss disorder including symptoms, causes and possible treatment.
What is alopecia?
Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder that develops when your body attacks its own hair follicles, causing your hair to fall out – often in clumps.
The disease can cause hair loss on any part of the body and the amount of hair loss is different, with some people losing it only in a few spots and others losing a lot more.
Sometimes the hair grows back but fall out again. Other times, the hair grows back for good.
There are different types of alopecia, though they aren’t common. These are:
- Alopecia areata totalis – where you lose all the hair on your head
- Alopecia areata universalis – hair loss on your entire body
- Diffuse alopecia areata – causes a sudden thinning of your hair rather than hair loss
- Ophiasis alopecia areata – you lose hair in a band shape around the sides and back of your head
What are the symptoms of alopecia?
The main – and most often – the only symptom of alopecia is hair loss. However, you might the following symptoms as well:
- Small bald patches on your scalp or other parts of your body
- Patches that get larger and become into a bald spot
- Hair loss in part of your body, while hair grows back in another
- Lots of hair loss in short period of time
- More hair loss if weather is cold
- Red and brittle fingernails and toenails.
The bald patches after skin falls out is typically smooth with no rashes or redness, but you might feel tingling, itching or burning sensation on your skin just before the hair falls out.
What causes alopecia?
When you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks your body. In case of alopecia, the body attacks your hair follicles.
Doctors don’t have an exact reason for why it happens, but its believed that genetics have a part to play.
You’re more likely to get alopecia areata if you have:
- A family member who has it
- Down syndrome
- Pernicious anemia
- Seasonal allergies
- Thyroid disease
How to treat alopecia
There is no cure for alopecia, however you can treat it and try to help with hair growth.
You can use medication like anti-inflammatory drugs and immunotherapy to help your hair grow back.
Besides medication, you can take measures like wearing wigs, hats and scarves to protect your head from the sun and cover up the hair loss. Another tip is to actively reduce stress as this is thought to trigger alopecia sometimes.
What has Jada Pinkett Smith said about her alopecia?
Showing a line that developed around her scalp due to the disorder, she explained: “Now at this point, I can only laugh. Y’all know I’ve been struggling with alopecia and just all of a sudden one day, look at this line right here. Look at that. So it just showed up like that and this is going to be a little bit more difficult for me to hide.”
Jada first opened up about her alopecia in 2018, recalling how she lost “handfuls of hair”.
Speaking on an episode of Red Table Talk , she said: “I’ll tell you it was terrifying when it first started. I was in the shower one day and then just handfuls of hair, just in my hands, and I was like: ‘Oh my God am I going bald?’”
“It was one of those times in my life when I was literally shaking with fear.”