Cover Jada Pinkett Smith at the Oscars last Sunday (Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images)

“I was in the shower one day and had just handfuls of hair in my hands,” says Jada Pinkett Smith

The controversy at the 2022 Oscars has unexpectedly drawn attention to a condition suffered by American actress Jada Pinkett Smith.

After comedian Chris Rock made a joke about Pinkett Smith’s shaved head at the March 27 (E.T) event, her husband Will Smith proceeded to slap him on stage. 

Pinkett Smith had previously shared her struggles with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss, on her talk show Red Table Talk in May 2018.

“It was terrifying when it first started,” she said. “I was in the shower one day and had just handfuls of hair in my hands—and I was just, like, ‘Oh, my God, am I going bald?’”

See also: Covid May Cause Long-Term Mental Health Issues, New Study Finds

What is alopecia areata and why does it happen?

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder.

For sufferers of autoimmune disorders, the immune system mistakenly attacks parts of the body. 

With alopecia areata, hair follicles are under attack—and this stops hair from growing. While the amount of hair loss is different for each person, it often starts with one or more small, round patches, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. 

Numerous sources state that doctors don’t know why the disorder happens. According to Hong Kong’s Department of Health, however, alopecia can be caused by a range of possibilities including a family history of baldness, other diseases, scalp infections, medication, radiotherapy, poor nutrition and stress.

There is currently no cure for alopecia areata. Clinical trials taking place now are exploring treatments for it. 

 

Who does it affect?

The disease affects men and women of all ages, and often first shows up in childhood.

According to a study on alopecia areata published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the US, the lifetime risk of the disease in the general population is around 1.7 per cent.

Up to 60 per cent of patients see symptoms before reaching 20 years old. 

 

What to do if you think you have alopecia

While alopecia areata doesn’t usually impact your physical health, it could be damaging to one’s confidence, leading to stress and anxiety. If you suspect you may have alopecia, visit a dermatologist to understand more about the condition. 

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