Alopecia Areata: All You Need To Know About Jada Pinkett Smith’s Hair Loss Condition

The whole controversy erupted after Chris Rock joked about Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head while presenting the best documentary feature at the Oscars.

US actress Jada Pinkett Smith attends the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

The Oscars 2022 has been a hot topic on social media for the last few days. Will Smith thrashing Chris Rock on stage has become a debatable outrage across social media. the fight between the two left the audience in shock at the ceremony and those at home are completely surprised and giving way to diverse reactions from all across the world.

The whole controversy erupted after Chris Rock joked about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head while presenting the best documentary feature at the Oscars. It should be noted that the actor-singer suffers from alopecia areata, a condition that causes hair loss anywhere on the body.

The comedian expressed excitement for Pinkett Smith’s role in ‘G.I. Jane 2’, referring to Demi Moore’s Navy SEAL look in the 1997 film ‘G.I. Jane.’ Smith was laughing at first, but Jada appeared to be affected by the joke. Smith then leapt to the stage and slapped Rock. “Keep my wife’s name out of your f—king mouth!” he yelled as he returned to his seat.

The incident sparked a flood of reactions and comments on the internet, with topics ranging from violence to standing up for one’s family (especially a woman), humour, and what should be an appropriate response to a crime.

To dismiss all doubts, Dr Kanu Verma, Consultant Dermatologist and Cosmetologist at Aakash Healthcare, Dwarka, told ANI about what the disease entails, how can one get it and how to deal with the psychosocial effects of hair loss. Dr Verma began, “Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that results in unpredictable, patchy hair loss. This is a very common type of hair loss that develops when the body attacks its own hair follicles (where the hair grows), which can cause hair loss anywhere on the body. Research studies have shown various factors — hereditary, environmental, stress, history of other autoimmune diseases like vitiligo or hypothyroidism — may play in triggering the immunological attack on hair follicles.”

Dr Verma added that it is a non-contagious, non-communicable condition, which means it does not spread by touching or staying together. As to who can get affected by this disease, Dr Verma elaborated, “Alopecia areata can affect anyone. Men and women get it equally and it affects all racial and ethnic groups. The onset can be at any age, however, most people develop it during childhood or their teenage years. About half of them get their hair to regrow even without treatment. When the hair regrows, it may never fall out again. However, it is possible to have unpredictable cycles of hair loss and regrowth for years.”

Dr Vinay Singh, Senior Consultant Dermatologist at Paras Hospitals in Gurugram, shared information about the condition’s cure and treatment. When asked about how long can one be affected till they are completely cured, Dr Singh shared, “As per an estimate, 50 per cent of people with mild alopecia areata recover within a year. However, the course of this condition varies from person to person.” He continued, explaining, “While some may have bouts of hair loss throughout their lives, others may have only one episode. The recovery is unpredictable too as hair may regrow fully in some people but not in others. Although there is no cure for alopecia areata, there are treatments that can help hair grow back more quickly.” Further, he talked about the available forms of treatment so far.

He said, “Doctors may recommend several things to try including corticosteroids, topical, immunotherapy and Minoxidil (Rogaine). Other treatments for the condition include medications that are sometimes used for other autoimmune disorders. A few drugs can manage alopecia areata, but these may not work for some people, so doctors recommend that patients must try multiple treatments or approaches before settling on something that works.”

Moving from the factual information to the psychological impacts, Dr Verma addressed the mental and emotional impact of struggling with hair loss. She shared, “Hair loss may be a sad experience, especially if it occurs quickly and is difficult to conceal. Often alopecia patients suffer from mental health conditions due to poor self-image and societal norms.”

Dr Verma suggested that patients who are having trouble dealing with the psychosocial effects of hair loss should speak with a health care professional about their concerns. “Alopecia patients suffering from mental stress and illnesses should work with a therapist, clinical psychologist, or support group. Often individual and group therapy can help patients adjust and cope with hair loss, and may also provide tips on cosmetic coverings,” she shared.

If you are not personally aware of someone’s struggle with hair loss (which may never be cured), there are several recent Indian films such as ‘Gone Kesh,’ ‘Bala,’ ‘Ujda Chaman,’ and ‘Hair Is Falling’ that attempt to address the impact of premature hair loss on an individual, due to alopecia or other factors.

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