For many, the pop-culture debate regarding the slap heard round the world at this weekend’s Academy Awards ceremony has resulted in more questions than answers. Today we will get down to the root of one of those questions; just what is alopecia anyway?

Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss in any person, regardless of gender or age. This can lead to total hair loss or alopecia universalis. The typical key risk factors of alopecia are:

  • Hair loss by either parent
  • Age
  • Rapid or otherwise significant weight loss
  • Stress
  • Malnutrition
  • Other medical conditions, such as diabetes, lupus, or certain cancer treatments

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Another condition in the hair loss family is alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing hair to fall out in small patches that often connect to one another.

Then traction alopecia is most common in African American women due to utilizing tight, pulled back, or other heavily weighted hairstyles repeatedly leading to hair follicle damage.

And yet another form of hair loss, androgenetic alopecia, is what is known as traditional male pattern baldness, resulting in receding hairlines for men and just generally thinner hair in women. Androgenetic alopecia is typically caused by related medical conditions, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and coronary heart disease, as well as by an enlarged prostate in men and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women.

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There is currently no permanent cure for any of these disorders, but there are tips to help save remaining hair– beyond current prescription hair growth drugs:

  • Utilize gentle shampoos, leave-in conditioners, and other detanglers to slow hair loss
  • Do not damage any remaining hair with hot-oil treatments, hair dyes, chemical straighteners, and perms
  • Limit the use of heated products such as blow dryers, curling irons, hot combs, and flat irons; when you do utilize such tools, use the lowest heat setting
  • Do not use tight hair designs and brush gently as little as needed
  • Maintain a proper diet with high protein levels
  • Have bloodwork done to check for vitamin deficiencies and add supplements as needed

Finally, see a dermatologist if you are concerned about any hair loss.

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