Should I use an areata treatment?
The skin disease alopecia areata can be unpredictable, whereby bald patches can re-grow without treatment. Doctors can advise that if sufferers only exhibit a few small bald patches, they should leave off from applying any areata treatment and monitor the condition. This is known as watchful waiting, leaving the condition a few months, perhaps only disguising or covering up the affected area during that time.
Hair regrowth is quite common with this condition, there is a good chance hair will regrow within months, but not usually within the first three months of hair loss. Regrowing hair can be slow to regain colour, so it can be dyed while the natural pigment colour returns.
If hair loss increases or becomes more extensive, then advice should be sought from your Doctor or skin care professional. Even with further hair loss, there is still a chance it will return without treatment, although the likelihood decreases.
Counselling is at times considered helpful for people finding coping with hair loss difficult or for those who have coexisting psychological issues. There are many patient support groups available when talking with fellow sufferers can make it easier to adjust to your condition.
Researching environmental triggers or other potential causes could be particularly helpful – See this sites research into:- What causes or triggers alopecia areata?
Disguise, cover and conceal!
While you are patiently waiting for signs of regrowth, or if you have made up your mind to try to get on with life as normal, there are a few options to help disguise, cover and conceal patches of hair loss. These can range from a simple change in hairstyle to cover the bald spots, to a hair accessory or even a hair extension or wig.
Those with longer hair sometimes find that hair extensions help with camouflaging the area of hair loss with restyling. Some hairdressers can help advise and demonstrate the different options available. Avoid too much tension on the hair, especially close to the affected areas, as this could cause additional hair loss called ‘traction alopecia’. Artificial eyelashes can also help those affected in that area, as can eyebrow pencils and eyebrow tattoos.
There are concealing products available that can be applied to either thicken the surrounding hair or mask the area with a similar hair effect.
Wigs are a common choice for patients with alopecia areata, especially those with more extensive hair loss like with alopecia totalis or alopecia universalis (see: Types of Alopecia Areata). You can even get some wigs on the NHS if you have a referral from a skin care specialist to sanction an NHS wig prescription. A wide range of hair pieces are available privately and your local hospital surgical appliances (orthotic) department can help or advise and can even recommend local suppliers or online sources.
Embrace the look!
Some people learn to embrace the condition, both men and some women have been known to shave off the remainder of the hair. If you do choose this route, please remember to protect your scalp with the appropriate sunblock, hat or accessory when needed, to reduce the chances of developing longterm sun damage.
What should you consider when choosing an areata treatment?
As always with any treatment, you should take the advice of a medical professional and consider any possible treatment side-effects before making a decision. This is especially important as alopecia areata itself won’t affect your health, so take that into consideration and avoid any treatments that warn of serious risks.
Treatments to promote hair to re-grow do not treat or cure the underlying cause of the condition. So, if you find a treatment that works for your particular case, once you stop maintaining the treatment, hair loss could return. Some treatments can be particularly expensive to keep up, so try to be honest with yourself on how much the hair loss matters to you or your way of life.
It may be helpful to keep a record of your hair loss and track the progress of any treatment. You could ask someone to photo the affected areas on a regular basis, or use a mirror or a ‘selfie stick’. This way you can understand if the treatment is effective and worth continuing.
How can it be treated?
Due to the nature of the alopecia areata skin condition, where hair can grow back spontaneously without treatment, researching the effectiveness of treatments can be difficult to establish. The success rate for the various treatments is not always high nor guaranteed, hair that is regrown may not persist if the treatment is not maintained.
Doctors can refer you to a hospital where a skin care professional can administer steroid injections. These are usually applied directly into the bald patches of the scalp to suppress the local immune reaction of alopecia areata, allowing hair follicles to function normally and for hair to regrow.
This treatment is usually only an option for small to medium sized patches, but they do not work in every case. Several invections are applied to each patch during a session, but this can be painful so is limited and explains why larger patches are often not attempted to be treated in this way. injections are usually repeated every 4-6 weeks.
Injections can also be administered to the brows, but special care is taken to ensure glaucoma is not caused (raised pressure inside the eyeball).
It can take 1-2 months for the hair regrowth to occur following treatment, but there is no guarantee that re-grown hair will persist once the treatment has finished.
Rub-On (topical) Steroids – Creams and Scalp applications.
There are many steroid creams, sprays, gels and solutions available today. These are not considered to be effective as steroid injections, but are less invasive and readily available, although some can be expensive. As with the injections, any hair regrown may not persist if the treatment is not maintained.
Rub-on treatments can be a good alternative to injections if you have large patches of hair loss to deal with, or if you are still waiting to see a skin specialist for injections.
Treatments applied to the scalp can take 3-6 months to occur, but if treatment is not effective after a year, an alternative treatment should be considered.
Always seek professional medical advice when considering over the counter solutions. The two popular rub-on solutions currently contain either Redendsyl® or Minoxidil. You will have to pay the full cost for these as prescriptions are not available on the NHS. Some of these are not directly reported to treat alopecia areata and are more commonly used for other types of alopecia, including male pattern baldness.
Some examples of these products available to buy today: –
ACCELERATE HAIR GROWTH & PREVENT HAIR LOSS – Our hair growth tonic contains highly efficient active ingredients which stimulate blood circulation and deliver vital vitamins and nutrients to hair follicles. This boosts hair growth and combats hereditary hair loss.
MORE EFFECTIVE THAN MINOXIDIL – Panthrix contains Redendsyl®, the active ingredient distinguished in 2014 with the In-Cosmetics Silver Award for innovative active ingredients. This contains the patented molecules DHQG and EGCG2, which promote the multiplication of stem cells of hair follicles. Clinical tests show that Redensyl® is 81% more effective than Minoxidil.
EASY DISPENSING – Just press the pump cap to dispense whatever amount you need. Usually, 3 to 6 pumps are enough to cover your scalp with the active ingredients.
FAST RESULTS – The first signs of improvement should be visible within the first two months. You should see excellent results within about three months.
2-MONTH SUPPLY – With recommended use twice per day, the 100ml bottle is enough for about 60 days.
- ✔️ HAIR REGROWTH – REGAINE® Foam and Solution contains the active ingredient minoxidil, the only over-the-counter treatment clinically proven to help prevent further hair loss. Using REGAINE® twice daily can even reverse the process, resulting in regrowth.
- ✔️ EASY APPLICATION – Simply hold the can vertically and press the nozzle to dispense the foam (1g) onto a dry part of your scalp. Then gently massage through the affected area. Wash your hands and you’re done. Any massaging of the scalp should be gentle to minimise hair breakage.
Large doses of steroid tablets can result in hair regrowth. This treatment is only potentially effective until the treatments stop.
The use of steroids over regularly over a long period of time can come with the risk of serious side-effects including diabetes, stomach ulcers, raised blood pressure, weight gain and cataracts. Seek advice from your Doctor.
This is thought to be one of the most effective options for extensive alopecia areata, but that comes with the risk of side-effects. You will need to be referred to a skin care specialist for treatment.
Contact sensitisation treatment, or topical immunotherapy, is said to cause the skin to react like an allergy. Increasing strengths of a substance (like diphencyprone; DPCP) is applied to the skin over several weeks, in weekly intervals. Once the skin has reached a look of mild dermatitis (eczema), the skin reaction seems to affect the cause of alopecia areata to allow the hair to regrow.
Side-effects can be cause for considerable concern in some cases, including severe skin reactions, itching, blistering and enlarged glands in the neck, some people can experience widespread eczema, loss of skin colour or depigmentation can occur, so professional medical advice is essential, seek a specialised medical centre.
As with other treatments, hair loss can return if regular treatments are not followed.
PUVA light therapy
Ultraviolet (UV) phototherapy can be effective because the disease is quite deep below the skin surface on the scalp at the hair follicles.
Light therapy is combined with a plant substance called psoralen, in tablet form or by applying the cream, to make the skin sensitive to light. The bald patches are then exposed to the ultraviolet light.
Treatment occurs over a number of months, two or three times a week as sessions in the outpatient’s hospital department.
Occurrences of hair loss can return if the treatment is not maintained and the long-term risk to the skin must be considered.
There is currently very limited evidence available on the effectiveness of complementary therapies on alopecia areata, although there are some claims that certain types of aromatherapy and acupuncture have had positive results.
These tablets look to suppress the immune system and on occasions are used to treat the more severe types of alopecia areata, where other treatments have failed. However, the serious nature of potential side-effects needs serious consideration, under advisement from a healthcare professional.
Janus Kinase Inhibitors
New research during the second half of 2018 has seen very promising results regarding the usage of Janus Kinase inhibitors (JAK Inhibitors).
Investigational drugs look to target this autoimmune disease by suppressing the inflammatory resposes linked to hair follicles, allowing them to return to normal function.
See our latest post on New evidence-based alopecia areata treatment