When thinking about hair loss, most people visualize a receding hairline or thinning of hair around the crown of the scalp. However, unknown to most people, hair loss affects the scalp and may also affect facial hair.
Some people develop hairless patches of the face in areas that would typically develop facial hair. The loss of facial hair may cause a lot of emotional stress and may even affect self-esteem. Facial hairloss can be corrected, and people can gain their confidence back.
Causes of Facial Hair Loss
Alopecia means hair loss, while barbae means on the beard. Therefore, alopecia barbae is the condition that causes beard hair loss in men. The disease, like hereditary balding, can be pretty frustrating since it occurs in small patches and can disturb a man’s facial appearance.
For most men with alopecia barbae, the condition presents as one or more patches of bald spots on the jawline or the neck. Alopecia barbae is a class of alopecia areata affecting the beard.
What Causes Alopecia Barbae?
Alopecia barbae is a form of alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy hair follicles. Hair grows in four stages: anagen, catagen, telogen, and a final return to anagen.
The autoimmune condition attacks hair follicles in the telogen phase. The attack leads to hair loss without substantial replacement, thus causing hairless patches on the jawline and the neck.
While there has not been any evidence to suggest the cause of alopecia areata, a few factors could act as triggers or risk factors for the condition. These factors are:
Having Other Autoimmune Diseases
Persons who suffer from autoimmune conditions like lupus, vitiligo, type 1 diabetes, and psoriasis tend to develop alopecia areata and alopecia barbae.
Genetic and Hereditary Risk
People with family members who have autoimmune conditions are at a higher risk of developing alopecia barbae. The risk for developing alopecia barbae is also increased in people with allergies, asthma, and other forms of alopecia. People with family members with these conditions are also at a higher risk.
Environmental factors such as stress (both emotional and physical) and injury or trauma may also trigger alopecia areata and alopecia barbae.
How Does Alopecia Barbae Present?
Alopecia barbae occurs over several weeks, and men will notice hairless patches the size of a quarter. The hair loss may be preceded by itchiness, redness, or irritation on the spot where the hair loss occurs.
After developing alopecia areata or alopecia barbae, men may also notice exclamation mark hairs. Exclamation mark hairs are hairs that are narrower at the bottom. The exclamation mark hairs develop around the hairless patches.
In some men, alopecia areata and alopecia barbae may be accompanied by changes in nail appearance. These men notice splitting or pitting of the nails, among other nail changes, prior to the hair loss.
Low Testosterone Levels
Testosterone plays an essential part in the expression of male secondary sexual characteristics. On the face, testosterone is used by hair follicles to help the follicles grow and increase in size.
Healthy levels of testosterone are essential to stimulate hair growth in the whole body, including facial hair. Low levels of testosterone will therefore affect hair growth. Low testosterone levels may not necessarily mean that a person will experience hair loss. Sometimes, low testosterone levels will lead to a slowed rate of hair growth and, in some cases, a lack of facial hair.
A medical professional can correct low testosterone levels. After conducting hormone assays, a doctor will prescribe a hormone replacement therapy, and the beard problems will be in the past.
Even though the name can be confusing, ringworm does not refer to an actual worm. Ringworm is a fungal infection that affects any part of the body. Ringworm may affect the head (Tinea capitis), the beard (Tinea barbae), and the toes (athlete’s foot).
Tinea barbae will develop in approximately 4-14 days. Some common sources of infection with tinea barbae include:
An Animal with Ringworm
Pets such as dogs, cats, horses, goats, and pigs can spread ringworm to humans.
A Person with Ringworm
When a person has ringworm, they should not share personal belongings such as clothes, combs, towels, and hairbrushes. The latter is because sharing personal effects may spread the ringworm infection.
The fungi causing ringworm thrives in damp areas such as public showers and locker rooms.
A ringworm infection is easily treated using oral and topical anti-fungal agents. After diagnosing the infection, the physician will prescribe an appropriate medication therapy. After the infection clears, the hair grows back as before, and therefore, ringworm-induced alopecia should not be a reason for concern.
Chemotherapy is used for cancer treatment. Chemotherapy not only affects cancer cells but also affects other rapidly dividing cells. Chemotherapy leads to hair loss that doctors call “chemotherapy-induced-alopecia.” Chemotherapy-induced alopecia affects the beard, eyelashes, scalp, and eyebrows.
Even though not all people on chemotherapy will experience hair loss, hair loss due to chemotherapy can be more drastic. Some people will have mild shedding that is hardly noticeable, while others can lose their hair completely. The extent of hair loss is dependent on:
- The dosage of the chemotherapy drugs
- How the individual’s body reacts to the chemotherapy drug or drugs
- The drug or drug combinations prescribed by the health professionals
Chemotherapy-induced alopecia is reversible after the chemotherapy is stopped. Hair grows back after chemotherapy treatments, and most men report having the same quality of facial hair grow back after chemotherapy.
Of all conditions that lead to facial hair loss, alopecia barbae is the most serious of conditions. Alopecia barbae and alopecia areata may not be fully treatable because they are autoimmune disorders. After getting diagnosed with alopecia barbae, a doctor may prescribe various medical or surgical treatments to correct the hair loss.
All forms of facial hair loss are reversible and treatable. Alopecia areata, ringworm, chemotherapy, or low testosterone levels should not cause a man any grief. All forms of facial hair loss are reversible.