The 2022 Oscars sparks conversation around alopecia and Jada Pinkett Smith was right in the middle of it. When Chris Rock made a GI Jane 2 joke about Pinkett Smith’s shaved head Will Smith took exception, walked up onstage, and slapped Rock for the comment. He proceeded to walk back to his seat and scream expletives during the live show. This is all anyone has been talking about since. The silver lining to this awful situation is the awareness it is bringing to the Alopecia community, which Bravadas has been serving for the past 20 plus years.
Pinkett Smith has shared publicly in May of 2018 that she had alopecia areata. For those who do not know this is an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss on the scalp and elsewhere. Alopecia areata begins with one or more small bald patches, typically on a person’s scalp. Hair follicles affected by the disease are mistakenly attacked by a person’s immune system, which stops hair growth.
According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, the condition typically starts in childhood, with one or more small, round and smooth bald patches. This condition is different from male or female pattern hair loss, which is called androgenetic alopecia and is the most common form of hair loss. Androgenetic alopecia happens when scalp follicles are hypersensitive to dihydrotestosterone, which is critical for most hair growth but detrimental to head hair growth.
The 2022 Oscars has sparked curiosity about the disease, which can affect anyone regardless of gender and race. Around 6.8 million people in the United States and 147 million people worldwide are dealing with it. Although Pinkett Smith is in the middle of the largest conversation about it, she has not been the first. People such as Oscar winner Viola Davis and Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley have shared their struggles with this in the past as well.
Genetics plays a large role in who gets this disease. Often people have a genetic predisposition to contracting hair loss. Regardless, the factors that make the disease active or inactive are still uncertain. It has long been said that alopecia areata is caused by stress, depression, anxiety, or other environmental factors. While there could be some truth in that, there’s not a lot of high-quality evidence to support it. We do have evidence to support that these factors can make the disease worse once it has been contracted.
According to ET Online, Pinkett Smith first discussed her alopecia battle in 2018, describing to viewers of her Facebook Watch show the moment she first realized her hair was falling out. “It was terrifying when it first started,” she said. “I was in the shower one day and had just handfuls of hair in my hands and I was just like, ‘Oh my God, am I going bald?’”
She said she’d found a treatment to slow down the loss. “I’m getting my little steroid injections, and they seem to be helping, but not curing, but they seem to be helping, but I’m open to other ideas,” she said, noting that she was also open to “other ideas.”
Regardless of how you feel about what happened at the 2022 Oscars, I think we can all agree that Alopecia needs to be talked about and researched more by our society.