Alopecia barbae: How to treat bald patches in beards and get thicker, fuller facial hair
If your beard is thinning or even falling out, you may have a condition known as Alopecia barbae – find out what causes it, the symptoms and how to treat it
M ost people will have likely heard of Alopecia and will know that it refers to hair loss, but did you know there are multiple forms of the condition? The best known is likely Alopecia aerata but there is another form called Alopecia barbae.
This form affects facial hair and is a common cause of bald patches, thinning beard hair, or poor beard growth.
To learn more about Alopecia barbae, including why it happens and how to treat and get rid of it, we spoke to Abbas Kanani lead medical advisor at Chemist Click.
Alopecia barbae: What is it?
Alopecia barbae is a form of the autoimmune disease Alopecia areata. It affects beards and other facial hair.
Unlike more common hair loss, which sees hair fall out in a specific pattern – such as a receding hairline, bald spot, or male pattern baldness – Alopecia areata causes you to lose hair in random small, uneven spots. The patches are usually small in shape but don’t occur in any sort of pattern.
Similarly, Alopecia barbae creates small patches of random hair loss and thinning across your face, where your beard or moustache would grow. At its worst, Alopecia barbae can cause you to lose all your beard hair, although this is rare.
Alopecia barbae isn’t always permanent; however, it is pretty common for facial hair loss to occur on and off over a period of years with some areas growing back and some not.
What causes Alopecia barbae?
The exact cause of Alopecia barbae is unknown. Stress has been shown to play a part, as has a host of other mental health conditions.
Genetics plays a key role and the condition is more common in those who have a family member with alopecia, allergies, or asthma. Similarly, if you have another autoimmune disease such as Type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, or lupus, your chances of developing Alopcea barbae increase. Other triggers include medications, substances, and viruses as well as your age.
Alopecia barbae symptoms
Alopecia barbae can come on suddenly, within days or over the course of a few weeks. The first symptom you may notice is bald patches appearing in small circles around the size of a £2 coin along where your facial hair usually grows.
These circles may start to overlap with one another as more hair loss happens. You may also notice that your skin feels itchy and painful before you start to lose your hair. This can lead to redness, irritation or inflammation in the areas where the hair used to be.
Sadly, because the root of the cause is largely unknown, there is no guaranteed way to prevent Alopecia barbae. However, living well and adopting a healthy lifestyle with limited stress will help. Easier said than done, we know!
Alopecia barbae treatments
While there isn’t an outright cure for Alopecia barbae, there are a number of treatments you can try; to either stem the rate of hair loss, encourage regrowth or calm any redness or irritation.
We have a whole guide on hair loss as well as hair loss treatments for men. These guides contain a number of recommendations and treatment options but the one that has been scientifically proven to be the most effective is Finasteride. It was developed to help manage male pattern baldness but it can also be used for Alopecia barbae because it stimulates hair growth and reduces hair loss from the inside out.
You can also try home remedies. They are not proven in the same way, but they have been shown to help slow the process of hair loss. Garlic, for instance, can help. As can taking zinc and biotin supplements. Other natural options include aloe vera, fish oil, essential oils, and wheatgrass.
Alternatively, there are beard hair powders that give the illusion of thicker, fuller hair. You have to apply them when you want to conceal the bald patches but it’s a cheap, instant solution.
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