Hair loss, or alopecia, can occur for a variety of reasons, including genes, hormones, diet, or stress. Alopecia can affect hair all over your body, including in your beard. Here’s more on beard alopecia and how to treat it.
What Is Beard Alopecia?
Alopecia barbae is the medical term for hair loss in the beard. One common cause for alopecia barbae is the autoimmune disorder alopecia areata, William Yates, MD, FACS, a Chicago-based hair transplant surgeon, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
An autoimmune disorder is when the body’s immune system, which fights off harmful invaders in a process called inflammation, fights the body itself. In alopecia areata, your body’s inflammation attacks hair follicles.
“It usually appears in a circular form and can spread to larger circular areas,” Yates says.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, certain things can make you more likely to get alopecia areata, including:
- Your genes
- Asthma and hay fever
- Thyroid disease
- Down syndrome
- Nivolumab, a cancer drug
Low vitamin D levels have also been linked to alopecia areata, but more research is needed to determine if it’s a cause. Some with alopecia areata can regrow their hair. If your hair doesn’t grow back on its own, the academy recommends seeing a dermatologist.
Other causes of alopecia barbae include hypotrichia and razor bumps, says Chesahna Kindred, MD, FAAD, a Maryland-based dermatologist and National Medical Association dermatology chair.
Hypotrichia “literally means a decrease in the number of hairs,” says Kindred. According to the National Institutes of Health, hypotrichosis, or lack of hair growth, is usually genetic and can occur in healthy people.
“We have to recognize that not everyone is destined to have a full beard,” Kindred says.
Razor bumps, or pseudofolliculitis barbae, is “a condition in which the tip of the curly hairs creates a splinter effect in the skin,” according to Kindred. “This can trigger a cascade of inflammation that stunts hair growth or causes permanent hair loss with scarring."
Treatments That Work
Corticosteroids: These are lab-made chemicals that fight inflammation in your body, and they are the most common treatment for alopecia areata, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
“These can be in the form of topical steroids or can be injected as a solution into the patch of alopecia,” says Zain Husain, MD, FAAD, a New Jersey-based dermatologist.
Minoxidil: This topical medication for male pattern hair loss can also treat alopecia barbae, “with the goal of regenerating the follicles themselves,” according to Yates. “If that does not give the desired result, transplantation of scalp hair into the beard is a viable option."
Hair transplants: Hair transplants are also “currently [the] only one reasonable option for hypotrichia,” says Kindred.
Shaving lightly: For razor bumps, the treatment is “to avoid shaving the hair shorter than a quarter of an inch,” says Kindred.
Cosmetic tattooing: Permanent tattoos, also known as micropigmentation, could help camouflage areas where hair is thinning, says Yates.
Don’t Wait. Get Help Today.
The sooner you address the symptoms of hair loss, the more likely you are to prevent irreversible damage. Speak to a medical professional today to begin your journey to a fuller head of hair.