CHECK WITH YOUR DERMATOLOGIST TO SEE IF ANY OF THESE 10 SKIN CONDITIONS COULD BE CAUSING YOUR HAIR LOSS. MANY ARE TREATABLE, AND YOUR HAIR LOSS MAY BE REVERSIBLE.
Since hair grows out of the skin, any type of skin, or dermatologic, abnormality can cause hair loss. If you suspect your hair loss is the result of a skin or scalp problem, check with your dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible because many times the skin condition can be treated and your hair restored.
Ten skin conditions that can cause hair loss in men and women
- Seborrheic dermatitis: According to the Mayo Clinic, seborrheic dermatitis, also called seborrheic alopecia, is a harmless inflammatory skin condition marked by small, discolored patches or spots on the skin and scalp that can result in hair loss in large affected patches. Less severe is regular dandruff, small skin flakes on the scalp and within the hair, and atopic dermatitis, a mild skin or scalp reaction from unknown causes. The hair loss from these conditions can be reversed once the conditions are controlled. But don’t scratch and risk a secondary infection, which may scar, advises Callender.
- Psoriasis: According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, this autoimmune condition affects the skin whereby skin cells build up quicker than they shed, causing a thick buildup of cells. The constant cell buildup and resulting lesions can cause hair loss, scarring and follicle damage, according to dermatologists, but once the condition is controlled, hair may regrow.
- Traction alopecia and central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA); also known as “hot comb alopecia”): Every person has a different scalp-and-root tolerance to chemical and physical trauma before it results in a negative reaction on the hair and follicles. Tight ponytails, braids, hair accessories, burns and chemicals can all cause hair breakage, hair follicle damage and scarring, called local trauma, when used or experienced for a prolonged amount of time. Discuss your daily regimens with your hairstylist, who can identify local trauma by the patterns of breakage and hair loss and can teach you how to avoid or correct the problem. If there is evidence of infection and pain, a dermatologist can take a scalp biopsy and look at the follicles to determine the severity of the condition and then prescribe the proper medications and treatment so your hair may regrow. (See Traction Alopecia)
- Follicle infection: Any inflammation or irritation of a hair follicle that presents as redness, pimples, pustules, itching or a rash on your scalp is called simple folliculitis, explains Callender. The most common is caused by tight hairstyles (traction alopecia), but the second most common irritation is allergic and sensitive reaction to chemicals in hair products such as chemical relaxers and even fragrances in shampoos and conditioners or styling products containing alcohol. But even an infection caused by a buildup of sticky styling products not removed well enough attracts dirt and bacteria, which can plug pores and follicles, leading to serious secondary infections and hair loss. This infection needs effective treatment by a dermatologist in order to reverse any hair loss. (See Hair Loss and Follicle Infection)
- Fungus: Tinea capitis, more commonly referred to as ringworm, especially in children, is a highly contagious fungal skin infection that can appear on the scalp and can cause scaling, itching and redness in a circular pattern, along with an uneven area of stubbled hair loss. This fungal infection must be treated by a dermatologist, and usually hair will regrow, says Callender.
- Boil: Technically called a furuncle, a boil is a skin infection involving an entire hair follicle and nearby skin tissue; when the infection spreads to nearby follicles, it is called a carbuncle and can cause pain, inflammation and hair loss to the affected follicles. Dr. Callender stresses the importance of taking a culture of any large boil to determine the severity and type of secondary infection that may be present. “We have actually been finding MRSA [methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus] in many recent boil cultures, and it is important to catch this type of infection as soon as possible and before it spreads.”
- Sunburn: Hair protects your scalp from the sun’s harmful rays, but if your hair is thinning, you need to protect your scalp with sunscreen on a daily basis, says Dr. Eric Schweiger, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and hair transplant surgeon at Bernstein Medical — Center for Hair Restoration in New York City. Any mild scalp sunburn won’t harm your hair follicles, but exposure that causes blistering can cause scarring and precancer cells, which will harm hair follicles permanently. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends against indoor tanning because tanning-bed radiation exposure is similar to the sun and in some cases may even be stronger. (See Hair Loss and Sunburn)
- Scar alopecia: Scar alopecia occurs when scar tissue caused by any trauma, including burns, infections or diseases such as scleroderma and lupus, replaces destroyed normal tissue on the scalp and hair cannot grow through it. According to doctors, scar alopecia is permanent, and that’s why it is so important to be treated by a dermatologist as soon as possible to avoid scar tissue damage. Don’t wait!
- Scleroderma: According to the Scleroderma Foundation, scleroderma is classified as an immune skin and connective tissue disease that causes a hardening of the skin and can result in permanent hair loss because of scarring of the scalp.
- Trichotillomania (TTM): Pronounced trik’oh-till’oh-may’nee-ah, or “trich” for short, TTM is a compulsive disorder characterized by a secret compulsion to pull hair out from the head or body. TTM can affect any head, facial or body hair, resulting in noticeable bald patches, secondary infections and serious hair loss in severe cases. Once the destructive hair pulling is stopped, hair may regrow. (See Trichotillomania)
“The most important thing,” advises Dr. Valerie Callender, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and director of the Callender Skin & Laser Center in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, “is to get to a dermatologist to determine the cause of any hair loss you are experiencing and whether there is any bacterial or fungal secondary infection that can be treated successfully to keep affected hair follicles healthy.”