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Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks a person’s hair follicles, causing hair loss.
While this hair loss might not be noticeable at first, if you experience multiple instances of hair loss, the areas of alopecia areata may join together and become more visible.
Alopecia areata impacts an estimated
The condition can understandably be distressing. But there are many treatments that can help manage the symptoms of hair loss.
Keep reading to learn about the most popular ways to treat alopecia areata.
When alopecia areata occurs, inflammatory cells infiltrate the hair follicle, which can result in hair loss. This hair loss often occurs on the scalp, but it can also affect , , and body hair.
“Alopecia areata can happen to anyone, at any age, and it doesn’t discriminate based on race or gender. Often, it presents as circular patches of complete hair loss. In more severe cases it can affect the entire scalp,” says Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce, a board certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in Austin, Texas.
“It’s typically asymptomatic, meaning it’s not painful or itchy for most individuals. We aren’t sure why it happens. Some people think it may be triggered by a viral infection,” she says.
People with alopecia areata can lose a significant amount of hair on their head, face, and body, according to Dr. Lynne Napatalung, the medical director of dermatology at Pfizer. It often starts in adolescence or early adulthood.
The condition can result in total hair loss, known as alopecia universalis, and the hair might not grow back.
The National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF) reports that the condition affects as many as 6.8 million people in the United States and 147 million people worldwide.
People living with alopecia areata have options when it comes to managing their condition — although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. You might need to try a few treatments before finding one that works for you.
As alopecia areata is an , several treatments involve the use of .
Other forms of treatment involve stimulating hair growth. This works best for those with less severe hair loss.
“Most of the treatments involve keeping the immune system from attacking the hair follicles,” Geddes-Bruce says. “Treatments range from prescription topicals to prescriptions pills, in-office injections, and in-office topical therapies.” There are also a few over-the-counter options.
It’s important to remember that not all treatments work for every person. Sometimes, hair loss might occur again, even when treatment was previously successful.
The most important thing to do is consult a doctor to help decide which option is best for you.
“Since alopecia areata is unpredictable and impacts patients in different ways, every patient’s experience with specific treatments or products will vary,” Napatalung says. “That’s why it’s important that doctors and patients have an open and honest dialogue and work together on solutions to address individual needs.”
To make our selection of the best alopecia areata treatments, we consulted medical professionals and dermatologists for their recommendations.
We also consulted medical studies and resources to corroborate information about each treatment.
As alopecia areata can be a serious autoimmune condition, which affects people in a myriad of ways, we wanted to explore a range of treatment options.
It’s also worth noting that people often experience conditions differently and require support that is tailored to their needs, depending on the severity of their hair loss or their access to certain treatments.
- Best for: Extensive alopecia areata, including alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis
Topical immunotherapy involves applying chemicals directly to the scalp to cause an allergic reaction. In turn, this stimulates the immune system and aids hair growth.
Chemicals used in this way might include diphencyprone, dinitrochlorobenzene, and squaric acid dibutyl ester.
- This course of treatment is usually prescribed and directed under the medical care of a dermatologist.
- It can be very successful. According to , “Approximately 40 percent of patients treated with topical immunotherapy will regrow scalp hair after about 6 months of treatment.”
- If successful, continued use of the treatment should sustain hair regrowth.
- The general side effects, including a potentially severe rash, can be uncomfortable and difficult to deal with. A
2010 studyalso found that topical immunotherapy sometimes caused “persistent dermatitis, painful cervical lymphadenopathy, generalized eczema, blistering, contact leukoderma, and urticarial reaction.”
- Topical immunotherapy might not be widely available in your area.
- This form of treatment doesn’t work for everybody.
- Best for: Mild alopecia areata
Minoxidil, commonly known as Rogaine, is a topical treatment that’s easy to apply and can be easily purchased over the counter. Minoxidil works to help the hair grow faster once the follicle is no longer under attack by the immune system and is capable of producing hair.
Typically, topical minoxidil solutions come in strengths of 2 or 5 percent. You apply the treatment directly to the scalp, or any area it’s required, once or twice per day.
It works by encouraging blood flow to hair follicles, stimulating dormant follicles, and aiding hair growth.
You can also get minoxidil sent to you monthly. Consider subscribing to minoxidil drops through services like hims and Roman.
- It’s easy to purchase and apply.
- This treatment doesn’t cause many side effects if applied in recommended quantities.
- It’s relatively inexpensive, and possible to buy as a subscription if needed.
- Minoxidil might not work on its own. But when applied in combination with topical corticosteroid medications, some people see improved results.
- It doesn’t work for extensive hair loss.
- If you use too much, minoxidil may cause more serious side effects, including chest pain, weight gain, headaches, and an irregular heartbeat.
- Best for: Mild alopecia areata
Anthralin cream was originally used as a treatment for but was also found to be effective in the treatment of mild alopecia areata.
Known as a “scalp sensitizer,” anthralin creates an irritant reaction that stimulates the immune system and encourages hair growth.
You apply anthralin once per day directly to the scalp in areas where you want to encourage hair growth. You leave it on for a set period of time and then wash it off.
- If successful, hair regrowth is relatively quick. Studies have found that anthralin could encourage new hair growth within 2 to 3 months.
- It’s easy to apply at home.
- Anthralin is usually prescribed and monitored by a dermatologist.
- As anthralin causes the skin on a person’s scalp to develop irritant dermatitis, some people might find this uncomfortable or difficult to manage.
- Anthralin is a
purple “tar-like” substance, which might stain bathtubs and bedsheets.
- The treatment might cause a temporary, brownish discoloration of lighter skin tones and hair colors.
- Best for: Mild alopecia areata
Corticosteroid injections are often used in the treatment of alopecia areata, as they work by modulating immune system activity and lowering inflammation.
People with alopecia areata develop hair loss when their immune systems attack the body’s natural processes. Corticosteroids work to prevent these attacks from happening.
Corticosteroids mimic , the hormone naturally produced by the body’s adrenal glands. They’re injected into the sites of hair loss to encourage new growth.
- Corticosteroids can cause side effects, such as thinning of the skin on the scalp and skin atrophy.
- This treatment is administered with a needle.
- It doesn’t prevent new hair loss from occurring.
- Best for: Extensive alopecia areata, including alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis
While corticosteroid injections are more effective, you may be able to use the medication as a topical ointment or take it orally as a pill.
Much like its other forms, oral corticosteroids work by suppressing the immune system and inflammation in the body, which in turn encourages hair regrowth.
- They’re easy to take in tablet form under the guidance of a medical professional.
- This treatment has shown positive results in those with moderate to severe hair loss.
- Oral corticosteroids can be used in combination with other treatments under a doctor’s supervision.
- There’s a wide range of potential side effects, including , weight gain, high blood pressure, , and muscle weakness.
- Long-term use of oral corticosteroids increases the risk of developing more severe side effects, meaning that treatment is only a short-term measure.
- Hair loss may reoccur once treatment ends.
Rather than try to treat your hair loss at home, it’s best to visit a doctor if:
- you’re losing hair in patches
- you see more hair loss than usual while washing or styling your hair
- your hair loss is causing you anxiety or distress
- you notice that your hairline is receding
Your doctor should be able to help you figure out the cause of your hair loss and suggest treatment options. These may include an over-the-counter or prescription treatment, lifestyle changes, or other treatments.
Is there a permanent cure for alopecia?
Not currently. However, there are several treatment options that might slow down hair loss or even help your hair grow back faster.
Can your hair grow back if you have alopecia?
In some cases, yes. Hair may grow back, though it may also fall out again.
Can alopecia be prevented?
No. Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder that can be the result of several factors. These may include family history, other autoimmune conditions, skin conditions, and more. However, it’s not always possible to predict who will develop alopecia, which makes preventing it difficult.
Alopecia areata can be a challenging condition to manage, but continued scientific breakthroughs in the area suggest that the range of treatments will only increase in the future.
While an FDA-approved treatment doesn’t exist yet, new options, such as the oral Janus kinase inhibitor, might receive approval following clinical trials. This inhibitor is FDA approved for other indications, and dermatologists have used it safely orally and topically in recent years.
It’s important to talk with a doctor before trying any new treatment, since many cause side effects.
However, the growing range of treatment options for people with alopecia areata is certainly a positive thing.
Amy Mackelden is the weekend editor at Harper’s BAZAAR, and her bylines include Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, ELLE, The Independent, Nicki Swift, Bustle, xoJane, and HelloGiggles. She’s written about health for MS Society, MS Trust, The Checkup, The Paper Gown, Folks, HelloFlo, Greatist, and Byrdie. She has an unhealthy love for the “Saw” movies and previously spent all her money on Kylie Cosmetics. Find her onInstagram.
- Cut yourself a break: Hair loss is stressful. ...
- Consult a doctor right away for information and support. ...
- Learn about your treatment options. ...
- Understand the role of stress and the importance of easing it. ...
- See a therapist and treat depression. ...
- Find a support group and online resources.
If the part in your hair is widening, you find bald spots, or you're shedding more than 125 hairs per day, you're likely experiencing hair loss and need to see a dermatologist.Does hair loss treatment work for everyone? ›
It's important to understand that: Not every type of hair loss can be treated, but a dermatologist may be able to prevent further hair loss. It can take months before you see results from treatment. No one treatment works for everyone, even two people with the same type of hair loss.What is the best way to treat hair loss naturally? ›
- Massage. Massaging the scalp, which people can combine with hair oils and masks, stimulates the scalp and may improve hair thickness . ...
- Aloe vera. Aloe vera has long been used for treating hair loss. ...
- Coconut oil. ...
- Viviscal. ...
- Fish oil. ...
- Ginseng. ...
- Onion juice. ...
- Rosemary oil.
So, you're wondering if hair loss products actually work? Yes! FDA-approved hair loss treatments are effective on most guys who are dealing with male pattern baldness (or, if you like to sound more scientific, androgenetic alopecia).Should I be embarrassed about losing my hair? ›
No matter if you are a man or a woman, hair loss can impact your self-confidence. It's important that you don't feel embarrassed about hair loss as there are solutions that can restore your natural hair.What vitamin will help hair loss? ›
- Biotin. Biotin (vitamin B7) is important for cells inside your body. ...
- Iron. Red blood cells need iron to carry oxygen. ...
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential for your gut to absorb iron. ...
- Vitamin D. You might already know that vitamin D is important for bones. ...
Anxiety, OCD, and bipolar disorder have been known to cause hair loss. The disorder Trichotillomania creates an irresistible urge to pull out the hair from your scalp, eyebrows, and other areas of the body.What lack of vitamin causes hair loss? ›
Only riboflavin, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12 deficiencies have been associated with hair loss.What is the most effective treatment for women's hair loss? ›
The only medicine approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat female pattern baldness is minoxidil: It is applied to the scalp. For women, the 2% solution or 5% foam is recommended. Minoxidil may help hair grow in about 1 in 4 or 5 of women.
Yes. Most hair loss due to an iron deficiency can be reversed. If you've been experiencing hair loss and think it may be due to an iron deficiency, Dr. Piliang recommends talking to your doctor.Can hair regrow once lost? ›
It depends. “If a follicle has closed, disappeared, scarred, or not generated a new hair in years, then a new hair wouldn't be able to grow,” Fusco says. But if the follicle is still intact, yes, it is possible to regrow the hair—or to improve the health of the existing thinner hairs.What is the old medicine that grows hair? ›
It is minoxidil, an old and well-known hair-loss treatment drug used in a very different way. Rather than being applied directly to the scalp, it is being prescribed in very low-dose pills.Which food is good for hair thickness? ›
- Eggs. Eggs are a great source of protein and biotin, two nutrients that are essential for hair growth. ...
- Berries. Berries are loaded with beneficial compounds and vitamins that may support hair growth. ...
- Spinach. ...
- Fatty fish. ...
- Sweet potatoes. ...
- Avocados. ...
- Nuts. ...
- Minoxidil (Rogaine). This medication is a foam or a liquid that you put on your scalp. ...
- Finasteride (Propecia). This prescription medication is a pill you take by mouth. ...
- Microneedling. ...
- Hair transplant. ...
- Low-level laser therapy. ...
- Platelet-rich plasma.
It promotes stronger hair.
St. Bernard shares that “onions are high in sulfur which is found in amino acids that are key components of protein. Proteins are essential for hair growth, specifically the sulfur-rich protein keratin.” Because of this, onion water can promote stronger hair growth and thicker strands.
Too little iron in the bloodstream may contribute to hair loss. Doctors use blood tests to check the level of ferritin, a protein that indicates how much iron is stored in the body.How often should you wash thinning hair? ›
If you are experiencing thinning or balding, our Bosley experts recommend washing no more than three times a week.Why do I experience so much hairloss? ›
It can be the result of heredity, hormonal changes, medical conditions or a normal part of aging. Anyone can lose hair on their head, but it's more common in men. Baldness typically refers to excessive hair loss from your scalp. Hereditary hair loss with age is the most common cause of baldness.Does thinking about hair loss make it worse? ›
Nonetheless, a number of hair loss conditions are either triggered or worsened by emotional stress and anxiety. This is why it's important to stay calm upon noticing the first signs of hair loss, focusing on taking positive, decisive action instead of giving in to panic.
How much B12 should I take daily for hair growth? The lowest amount recommended that should be traceable in your body is 2.4 mcg. While you are looking for a difference in your hair growth you can increase this dosage to 3 mcg and beyond.What hormone causes hair loss in females? ›
Hormones are the most common cause of hair loss for both women and men. In both sexes, the specific hormone responsible for hair loss is the same: dihydrotestosterone (known as “DHT”), a hormone that your body produces as a byproduct of testosterone. Both men and women need testosterone.What is the best vitamin for female hair loss? ›
- Vitamin B. Complex B vitamins play a role in hair growth, and are “essential for metabolism and nervous system function,” says Dr. ...
- Biotin. ...
- Vitamin C. ...
- Iron. ...
- Keratin. ...
- Vitamin D. ...
- Zinc. ...
- Vitamin A.
Stress and hair loss don't have to be permanent. And if you get your stress under control, your hair might grow back. If you notice sudden or patchy hair loss or more than usual hair loss when combing or washing your hair, talk to your doctor.What does stress hair loss look like? ›
Telogen effluvium (stress-induced hair loss) usually causes diffuse thinning, a type of hair loss that affects your entire scalp. If you have telogen effluvium, your hair will normally look thinner and less dense than normal, especially under bright light.How long does hair loss stress last? ›
Fortunately, stress-related hair loss is usually temporary, lasting only for three to six months before your normal hair cycle resumes.How much vitamin D should I take for hair loss? ›
According to Levitan, getting between 800 and 2,000 IU—or 20 to 50 micrograms—of vitamin D daily is usually enough, and “too much can cause toxicity.” Some people require 5,000 IU daily to maintain optimum blood levels and Vitamin D should be taken in the morning with Magnesium for maximum bioavailability.What is missing in my diet if my hair is falling out? ›
A deficiency in one or more micronutrients may lead to hair loss. If you're experiencing hair loss, you may want to be tested for deficiencies in iron, vitamin D, zinc, B vitamins, and copper.What diet should be taken to prevent hair fall? ›
- Fatty Fish. Some types of fish that have essential fatty acids, including omega-3s, and vitamin D are: ...
- Eggs. Eggs are like nature's multivitamin because they contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. ...
- Leafy Greens. ...
- Fruit. ...
- Nuts and Seeds.
Is it reversible? While some forms of AFAB hair loss are temporary, female pattern baldness is permanent and irreversible without treatment. However, proper treatment can stop the hair loss and potentially help regrow some lost hair.
There are various treatment options for female hair loss, including topical medications, such as Rogaine. Other options include light therapy, hormone therapy, or in some cases, hair transplants. Eating a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also help keep hair healthy.Can a blood test detect hair loss? ›
Yes, a blood test can diagnose alopecia. Your doctor may order several blood works to determine the cause of the hair loss along with a scalp biopsy. In most cases, the particular lab tests your doctor could depend on accompanying symptoms or recent life changes you have.What does hair loss due to iron deficiency look like? ›
Iron deficiency hair loss can look like traditional male- and female-pattern hair loss. A study published in the Journal of Korean Medical Science found that iron may not only play a role in hair loss, but it may cause hair to fall out in a fashion similar to that of genetic male- and female-pattern baldness.Can iron pills fix hair loss? ›
Research states that there is not enough evidence available to suggest that taking iron supplements will help a person with hair loss grow new hair if they have iron-deficiency anemia. However, there are many other hair regrowth treatments available.Can thin hair become thick again? ›
Here's the truth: You can't change the size of your hair follicles. If you were born with fine hair, it's genetics, and no product will completely alter that. Of course, there are ways to maintain your hair health, add volume, and keep it from getting any thinner.How long does thinning hair take to grow back? ›
The bottom line. Hair grows back at a rate of about 6 inches per year. If your hair is falling out, talk with a healthcare professional so they can diagnose the cause of your hair loss.How long does it take to recover lost hair? ›
Products with minoxidil help many people regrow their hair or slow the rate of hair loss or both. It'll take at least six months of treatment to prevent further hair loss and to start hair regrowth. It may take a few more months to tell whether the treatment is working for you.Does Viagra Help hair growth? ›
Sildenafil enhances proliferation of hDPCs and up-regulates the mRNA expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), which are responsible for hair growth.Is there a pill to grow hair? ›
One medication, Propecia (finasteride), is typically prescribed for men only, due to possible side effects when taken by pregnant women. Another, Rogaine (minoxidil), is useful for treating both men and women.What has been proven to stimulate hair growth? ›
- Massage Your Scalp Frequently. ...
- Get Frequent Trims. ...
- Avoid Chemical Treatments. ...
- Brush Your Hair Frequently. ...
- Avoid Heat. ...
- Use Less Shampoo. ...
- Rinse Your Hair with Cool Water. ...
- Handle Wet Hair Carefully.
It depends. “If a follicle has closed, disappeared, scarred, or not generated a new hair in years, then a new hair wouldn't be able to grow,” Fusco says. But if the follicle is still intact, yes, it is possible to regrow the hair—or to improve the health of the existing thinner hairs.Can your hair grow back after thinning? ›
Thinning hair can grow back depending on what caused it to thin in the first place. People who experience thinning hair due to nutrient deficiencies, stress, pregnancy, and other nongenetic reasons could experience regrowth. If you're experiencing new hair loss or hair thinning, it's best to consult your doctor.What is the number 1 hair growth product? ›
Best hair growth product overall
Sometimes, the best-known product is best-known for a reason. Rogaine contains the active ingredient minoxidil, which has overwhelmingly been shown to effectively treat hair loss in clinical trials. And the clinicians I spoke to recommended it for women as well as men.
There are various treatment options for female hair loss, including topical medications, such as Rogaine. Other options include light therapy, hormone therapy, or in some cases, hair transplants. Eating a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also help keep hair healthy.What illness causes hairloss? ›
There are a wide range of conditions that can bring on hair loss, with some of the most common being pregnancy, thyroid disorders, and anemia. Others include autoimmune diseases, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and skin conditions such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, Rogers says.What is the difference between hair thinning and hair loss? ›
The normal amount of hair loss is about 100 hairs a day. If you are loosing more than this amount then you may be experiencing shedding instead of thinning. To determine if you are loosing an abnormal amount of hair, collect all the hair you lose in a 24 hour period.What shampoo do doctors recommend for thinning hair? ›
Dr. Sadick suggests OGX's Thick & Full Biotin & Collagen Shampoo, which aims to thicken strands with a blend of vitamin B7 (biotin), collagen, and hydrolyzed wheat protein.Which shampoo is best for hair growth and thickness without chemicals? ›
Khadi is a household name when it comes to chemical-free, gentle formulations. We love recommending the Khadi Natural Ayurvedic Amla and Bhringraj Hair Cleanser to folks who are dealing with hair loss or have to wash their hair with hard water.Can female hair loss be fixed? ›
The only medicine approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat female pattern baldness is minoxidil: It is applied to the scalp. For women, the 2% solution or 5% foam is recommended. Minoxidil may help hair grow in about 1 in 4 or 5 of women.What is the main reason for hair loss in females? ›
Family history (heredity). The most common cause of hair loss is a hereditary condition that happens with aging. This condition is called androgenic alopecia, male-pattern baldness and female-pattern baldness.