Jada Pinkett Smith has alopecia. What is it and what can be done about it?

Chris Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s appearance during Sunday’s 2022 Oscars led to one of the most shocking moments in the show’s history when her husband, actor Will Smith, walked onto the stage and slapped Rock in the face.

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Rock had joked, “Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see you,” apparently suggesting Pinkett Smith would be good for the role of a woman in the military because her head is bald.

Pinkett Smith has had a shaved head for about three years, and in 2018, she spoke on her podcast “Red Table Talk” about her decision to shave her hair off.

According to Pinkett Smith, she has alopecia, a disorder that causes a person to lose their hair in patches.

What is alopecia, what does it do to a person’s body and can it be treated? Here’s what we know about the condition now.

What is alopecia?

Alopecia is a type of hair loss. There are nine types of alopecia, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The most common types of alopecia are alopecia areata and androgenetic alopecia.

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss. Often the hair loss happens in patches. The hair can grow back and stay on the scalp, grow back and fall out again, or never grow back.

Androgenetic alopecia is a hereditary condition. It causes male pattern hair loss and female pattern hair loss.

Pinkett Smith says she has alopecia areata.

What is alopecia areata like?

When she first developed the condition, Pinkett Smith described her hair as coming out in “handfuls.”

“I was in the shower one day and then just handfuls of hair, just in my hands, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, am I going bald?’ It was one of those times in my life when I was literally shaking with fear.”

The condition can also cause changes in fingernails and toenails and cause some to lose their eyelashes or eyebrows.

The condition affects 0.1%-0.2% of the population worldwide.

Can you treat alopecia?

There is little you can do for certain types of alopecia, but treatment helps with other types.

Common treatments include topical steroids to stimulate hair growth.

Is it hereditary?

Research suggests that there is evidence of a genetic link for an increased risk for alopecia areata.

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