Fact Check: Alopecia Is NOT Just Hair Loss -- It Can Be Caused By An Autoimmune Disease

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: Alopecia Is NOT Just Hair Loss -- It Can Be Caused By An Autoimmune Disease It's A Disease

Is alopecia literally just male or female pattern baldness or hair loss? No, that is missing context. Alopecia does mean "hair loss," but it can be "an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss," according to Yale Medicine. The claim was made after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars on March 27, 2022, when the comedian joked about Jada Pinkett Smith's bald head. Rock compared her to the bald character Demi Moore played in the movie "G.I. Jane." Pinkett Smith has spoken publicly about her alopecia diagnosis and shaved her head as her hair began to fall out.

The claim appeared as a Facebook post (archived here) on March 28, 2022. It opens:

🔵A wealthy African American male, assaults another wealthy African American male on a world stage,...for making a joke.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Mar 28 22:04 2022 UTC)

The post reads:

Jada Pinkett Smith has Alopecia.
People are too lazy and brainwashed by social media to actually look up what it is. They ran with the thought that it was something serious.
Per google it literally means male or female pattern baldness. Hair loss.
Jada started going bald.

A top search result on Google for "alopecia" returns a link to Yale Medicine (third page) with this description:

'Alopecia' means hair loss, and that includes everything from common male-pattern baldness to chemotherapy-induced hairlessness to patchy bald spots appearing out of the blue to the complete loss of all scalp, facial and body hair.

When patients come to Yale Medicine seeking treatment for alopecia areata, they have a form of hair loss that is an autoimmune disease. Yale Medicine doctors are at the forefront of research on alopecia areata and see patients who travel from around the world for treatment. It is a condition affects about two out of 100 people and causes symptoms that may wax and wane over a patient's lifetime.

In patients with alopecia areata, hair follicles release a chemical message that causes the immune system to attack them. This causes the hairs in those follicles to fall out. As long as the immune system is fighting the follicles, new hair will not grow.

The National Alopecia Areata Foundation explains that it is a "common autoimmune skin disease" and as many as 6.8 million people in the U.S. are affected by alopecia areata.

The National Institutes of Health explains the disease is more than just male or female pattern baldness:

Alopecia areata is a disease that happens when the immune system attacks hair follicles and causes hair loss. Hair follicles are the structures in skin that form hair. While hair can be lost from any part of the body, alopecia areata usually affects the head and face. Hair typically falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter, but in some cases, hair loss is more extensive. Most people with the disease are healthy and have no other symptoms.

Pinkett Smith spoke about her alopecia during a 2018 episode of her show Red Table Talk:

It was terrifying when it first started. I was in the shower one day, and then just handfuls of hair just in my hands, and I was just like, 'Oh my God, am I going bald?' It was one of those times in my life where I was literally shaking with fear, that's why I cut my hair.

In December 2021 she posted a video on her Instagram page explaining she was "struggling with alopecia."

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  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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