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Explained: What is alopecia that Will Smith’s wife Jada suffers from?

healthcare | Mar 29, 2022 7:14 PM IST

Explained: What is alopecia that Will Smith’s wife Jada suffers from?


Will Smith's hair-raising slap has also shed generous light on an auto immune disorder called alopecia, which leads to varying degrees of hair loss. Actress Jada Pinkett Smith, whom Will married in 1997, had publicly revealed her alopecia diagnosis in 2018.

Hollywood actor Will Smith slapped Oscar presenter and comedian Chris Rock during the 94th annual Academy Awards ceremony on March 27 after the latter made a joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.

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Actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who married Smith in 1997, has been suffering from a medical disorder called alopecia, which leads to varying degrees of hair loss. Jada had spoken about her diagnosis in 2018.

During the Oscar presentation, Rock compared Jada’s shaved head to Demi Moore’s look in the movie GI Jane, saying he was hoping to see the actress star in the sequel. The joke did not go down well with Will Smith, who walked up to the stage and slapped the comedian.

“Keep my wife’s name out of your f**king mouth!” Smith said in front of a stunned audience while walking away from the stage.

Jada’s condition

Jada first publicly opened up about her condition on the Red Table Talk series in 2018, saying it "was terrifying" to deal with it initially.

“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?... It was one of those times in my life where I was literally shaking with fear,” Jada had said while talking about her struggles with the disorder.

She also said her decision to go bald was not an easy one as she considered her hair as a big part of her.

In December last year, she shared a video of her new look with the shaved head on Instagram.

"Mama’s gonna have to take it down to the scalp so nobody thinks she got brain surgery or something Me and this alopecia are going to be friends period! (sic)," she wrote.

What is alopecia areata?

The US Department of Health and Human Services defines alopecia areata as a condition caused by an attack of the immune system on hair follicles, resulting in sudden hair loss in patches. The condition can affect the head and face.

The hair fall happens in small, round patches about the size of a quarter. However, the degree of hair loss and its progress varies from one person to another. According to the department, most people with alopecia areata are healthy and show no other symptoms.

“Alopecia is a genetic disorder, so children have the susceptibility of getting it even if one of their parents have it, but the degree of susceptibility could be different,” Mumbai-based dermatologist and hair transplant surgeon Dr Sonali Kohli told PTI.

Other types of alopecia

Among the other types of alopecia, alopecia totalis leaves the entire scalp bald, alopecia ophiasis results in hair loss on the occipital, temporal, and parietal regions of the scalp and alopecia universalis leads to hair loss in the entire body.

Both men and women are susceptible to this condition.

What causes alopecia?

As alopecia is an auto immune disorder, one’s own cells attack the hair and cause them to shed. It mostly occurs in people with a family history of auto-immune conditions, such as diabetes and thyroid disorders.

Alopecia areata can also be triggered by depression, anxiety and stress, Dr Rashmi Sharma, consultant, dermatology at Fortis Hospital, Delhi, told PTI.

“Every person has two percent risk of developing this disorder or one in 1,000,” she said.

Can alopecia be treated?

Experts believe alopecia areata can be treated through medical and natural methods, although it is not curable. Medical treatment involves topical agents, injections, oral treatments and light therapy.

Application of zinc and biotin, aloe vera and topical gels, and onion juice on the scalp is often recommended, Dr Vijay Singhal, senior consultant, dermatology, at the Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, told Indian Express.

Tea tree, rosemary, lavender, peppermint, coconut, castor, olive and jojoba oils can also be helpful.

Those affected are advised anti-inflammatory diet, including meat and vegetables and herbal supplements such as ginseng, green tea, and Chinese hibiscus, Dr Singhal said.

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