Alopecia barbae refers to hair loss that affects the beard area of men. It can occur around the mouth, chin, cheeks and neck. It is a form of alopecia areata which one of the most common forms of hair loss seen by dermatologists. Alopecia barbae is said to affect around two percent of males between the age of 30 and 40 years. It is believed that alopecia is an autoimmune illness in which the immune system thinks the hair follicles are a threat to the rest of the body. Some types of lymphocytes, therefore, attack the follicles, causing inflammation and hair loss.
Stress and anxiety were once thought to be the main causes of alopecia. The exact cause is still not known but researchers now believe it to be an autoimmune disease although extreme stress can cause hair loss in some people. In the case of alopecia barbae, the white blood cells get into the chin area and cause inflammation which interrupts the normal growth pattern. This causes the weakening of roots and subsequent hair loss.
Genetics, toxins, and allergies are all believed to contribute to the condition. In addition, alopecia is sometimes associated with other autoimmune conditions including lupus, thyroid disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. However, treating these diseases does not affect the course of hair loss.
Signs and symptoms
It can be difficult to notice the initial onset of alopecia barbae and many men may miss or ignore the first small bald patch. When the condition becomes obvious, it can present as one small round patch of baldness. It may also occur as many patches spread randomly over the chin area. Since alopecia affects the follicles deep within the skin, there will be little to see on the surface, although the skin may appear very shiny. There is unlikely to be any redness or pain but some people may experience itching or a tingling sensation in the very early stages.
There is no cure for alopecia. Given the complexity of the immune system, treating alopecia barbae can be difficult and available treatments have varying levels of success. Doctors may recommend Minoxidil or Rogaine, a liquid which is rubbed into the affected area twice daily. It helps hair to regrow and prevents further hair loss but it can cause irritation. Another topical solution is Anthralin which comes in the form of a cream or ointment. It causes new hair to grow but once you stop application, hair growth also stops.
Dermatologists can inject corticosteroids in the areas where hair loss is particularly obvious. These treatments are more effective than gels and creams but they are painful. Some people affected by alopecia barbae have found natural home remedies to be helpful. Essential oils like lavender, thyme and rosemary are often recommended along with onion juice and nettle juice.
The most modern solution is hair transplantation. Advanced Micro-FUE 9 (Follicular Unit Extraction), is the most advanced technique and it is minimally invasive. It involves transplanting individual follicular units from an area of stable hair growth on the scalp to the bald areas of the beard. The procedure is pain-free and doesn’t leave scars. It also doesn’t require stitches. However, it can cost as much as $7 000.
It has been found that hair often grows back within a few months to a year in cases which begin with a small number of patches. Cases with larger numbers of patches may also grow back but it is also possible that they can spread. Alopecia barbae causes no other health problems but since facial hair is often linked to masculinity, men may experience low self-esteem due to hair loss. Getting the hair to grown again can be a significant boost to their emotional wellbeing.