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Explained: What is alopecia areata, the auto-immune disorder that Jada Pinkett Smith suffers from?

Rock compared Pinkett Smith's shaved head to Demi Moore's look in 'GI Jane', saying he couldn't wait to see her star in "GI Jane 2", to which she rolled her eyes. The comment, however, did not go down well with Smith who walked onstage and slapped the comedian.

Jada Pinkett SmithJada Pinkett Smith arrives at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

The audience — both in-person and on TV — at the 94th annual Academy Awards were left in shock after host Chris Rock had an on-stage altercation with Will Smith, who won the award for Best Actor, after the former made a joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.

Rock compared Pinkett Smith’s shaved head to Demi Moore’s look in ‘GI Jane’, saying he couldn’t wait to see her star in “GI Jane 2”, to which she rolled her eyes. The comment, however, did not go down well with Smith who walked onstage and slapped the comedian. “Keep my wife’s name out of your f**king mouth!,” he said.

Rock is a superstar stand-up comic and television and film actor who has been host of the Oscars earlier too. Actor-producer Smith is the star of Men in Black, and has been married to actor Pinkett Smith since 1997.

Pinkett Smith suffers from a condition known as alopecia areata, which leads to hair loss. She had spoken about her “issues with hair loss” in 2018 in an episode of the Emmy-winning American talk show ‘Red Table Talk’.

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“It was terrifying when it first started. 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?’ It was one of those times in my life when I was literally shaking in fear. That’s why I cut my hair, and why I continue to cut it,” she had said.

In December 2021, Pinkett Smith posted a video on Instagram about her condition, in which she ran a finger across a bald line that has developed around her scalp due to alopecia.

“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,” she said.

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Earlier, celebrities like actors Viola Davis and Tyra Banks have spoken about their struggles with alopecia areata, and revealed that they suffered massive hair losses due to stress.

What is alopecia areata?

Alopecia areata is a condition that causes sudden hair loss in patches. “The condition is developed after the immune system attacks the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss, which cannot be observed easily. These patches connect and then become observable,” Dr Vijay Singhal, Senior Consultant, Dermatology, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute said.

Not just the scalp, sudden hairfall may also occur in other parts of the body. “It can occur suddenly in any part of your body like the scalp, beard, moustache, underarms etc,” Dr Kritika Bansal, MD, Dermatologist, Sharda Hospital, Greater Noida, explained. It may also develop slowly and occur again periodically or repeatedly after years between instances.

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What leads to alopecia areata?

In this disorder, your own cells attack the hair and cause them to shed, forming clear patches of hair loss, Dr Bansal said. It mostly occurs in people who have a family history of auto-immune conditions, such as diabetes and thyroid.

Dr BL Jangid, hair transplant surgeon and founder of SkinQure Clinic, had earlier listed the most common causes of baldness in both men and women.

*Hereditary or genetic factors

*Aging

*Loss of essential nutrients & improper diet

*Psychological pressure and anxiety

*Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause

*Chronic illnesses or auto-immune diseases

* Hormonal disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which affects women of reproductive age

* Environmental factors like pollution, dust, etc.

What are the different types of alopecia?

Dr Jangid listed the common types of hair loss.

* Cicatricial alopecia (non-reversible): It results in scarring of the skin and permanent hair loss. This happens due to lichen planopilaris, trauma, burn, infections, and congenital conditions.

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* Non-cicatricial alopecia (reversible): Hair loss can be reversed with no scarring of the skin. Other conditions like androgenetic alopecia (AGA) or male pattern baldness, female pattern baldness, and systemic infection are examples of non-cicatricial alopecia.

While alopecia areata, traction alopecia and tinea capitis are the common types of baldness in males, androgenetic alopecia, telogen effluvium, anagen effluvium, alopecia areata, and traction alopecia result in baldness in females.

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How can alopecia be treated?

According to experts, alopecia areata can be treated using both medical and natural treatment methods. Medical treatment includes topical agents, injections, oral treatments and light therapy.

Substances such as zinc and biotin, aloe vera drinks and topical gels, and onion juice are sometimes recommended to be rubbed into the scalp, Dr Singhal said. Oils like tea tree, rosemary, lavender, and peppermint, as well as coconut, castor, olive and jojoba oil can be helpful. An anti-inflammatory diet, which mainly includes meats and vegetables, scalp massages, herbal supplements such as ginseng, green tea, and Chinese hibiscus, etc, are also used to treat alopecia areata, Dr Singhal said.

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All treatments should be taken under the guidance of a qualified dermatologist.

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First published on: 28-03-2022 at 03:14:29 pm
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