Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Scarring Alopecia

Scarring alopecia, also known as cicatricial alopecia, refers to a collection of hair loss disorders that may be diagnosed in up to 3% of hair loss patients. It occurs worldwide in otherwise healthy men and women of all ages.

Each specific diagnosis within this category is fairly rare, but some examples include dissecting cellulitis, eosinophilic pustular folliculitis, follicular degeneration syndrome (previously called "hot comb" alopecia), folliculitis decalvans, lichen planopilaris, and pseudopelade of Brocq, to name a few. Scarring alopecia may also be part of a much larger condition such as chronic lupus erythematosus, where many organs of the body can be affected.

Recommended Related to Hair Loss

Caring for Your Thinning Hair

Michele Rosenthal of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., has tried every styling trick in the book to make her hair look thicker. She’s grown bangs to provide the illusion of more hair in the front and uses wide headbands to make it look fuller in the back. She is self-conscious about her hair and over the years it has affected her. On dates, when a man would ask her to let her hair down, she often found herself exclaiming, “Don’t touch the headband!” Rosenthal has dealt with thinning hair since the age...

Read the Caring for Your Thinning Hair article > >

While there are many forms of scarring alopecia, the common theme is a potentially permanent and irreversible destruction of hair follicles and their replacement with scar tissue.

Most forms of scarring alopecia first occur as small patches of hair loss that may expand with time. In some cases the hair loss is gradual, without noticeable symptoms, and may go unnoticed for a long time. In other instances, the hair loss is associated with severe itching, burning, and pain, and is rapidly progressive.

The scarring alopecia patches usually look a little different from alopecia areata in that the edges of the bald patches look more "ragged." The destruction of the hair follicle occurs below the skin surface so there may not be much to actually see on the scalp skin surface other than patchy hair loss. Affected areas may be smooth and clean, or may have redness, scaling, increased or decreased pigmentation, or may have raised blisters with fluids or pus coming from the affected area.

These visual indicators may help with diagnosis, but it is difficult to diagnose a scarring alopecia just from the pattern of the hair loss and the nature of the scalp skin. Often when scarring alopecia is suspected, one or more skin biopsies are done to confirm the diagnosis and help identify the particular form of scarring alopecia. A small biopsy of 2 to 4 mm in diameter is taken and examined under a microscope. A pathologist or dermatologist will look for destruction of the hair follicles, scar tissue deep in the skin, and the presence and location of inflammation in relation to the hair follicles.

Today on WebMD

hair in hairbrush
Ways to go about it naturally.
Young woman with thick curly hair
Causes and solutions.
man with thinning hair
How to keep the hair you have.
Closeup of Hairbrush with Hair Loss
Understand the basics.
Mens Hair Loss When To Start Treatment
A Dermatologist Talks About Hair Loss
Rogaine And Propecia For Hair Loss
Woman looking at thinning hair in hand mirror
Balding man in mirror
Close up of comb in woman's hair
Young woman with thick curly hair
hair problems