Alopecia is a type of hair loss condition that affects either the head or on the body. It affects thousands of people worldwide on a on daily basis. There are several different types of alopecia caused by a number of factors.

Types of alopecia

Although the term ‘alopecia’ is known to refer to hair loss, what many people don’t realise is that there are several types of alopecia, ranging in cause, symptom and treatment options. Here’s a look at the various types. 

1. Androgenic alopecia

Often referred to as ‘male-pattern hair loss’ or ‘female-pattern hair loss’, androgenic alopecia is a common hair loss condition. 

  • Male-pattern hair loss: In men, androgenic alopecia causes the loss or thinning of hair on the head’s crown or thinning of hair at the temples. Often the U-shaped hair pattern around the back and sides of the head will remain, but in some cases, all the hair will fall out. 
  • Female-pattern hair loss: Around one-third of all women will experience some form of alopecia in their lives. Because hair loss is a lot less socially acceptable in women than in men, this condition causes quite significant emotional trauma. According to the Ludwig Classification, female-pattern hair loss is divided into three types: 

Type I: Minimal thinning that can be camouflaged with hair-styling techniques. 

Type II: Decreased volume and noticeable widening of the mid-line part. 

Type III: Diffuse thinning, with a transparent appearance on top of the scalp.

It’s unlikely that a women’s hair will recede or become totally bald over time, as with men. 

Causes: 

In all cases of permanent or temporary hair loss, there are several different causes which can also be unique from individual to individual. Androgenic alopecia can be triggered by:

  • Allergies
  • Environmental irritants
  • Toxins
  • Burns
  • Injuries
  • Infections
  • Medications
  • Iron deficiency
  • Vitamin A overdose
  • Malfunctioning thyroid gland
  • Hormonal imbalance 
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause

2. Alopecia areata

This is a hair loss condition which causes hair to fall out in small patches. Initially, the condition can go unnoticed, but if the patches eventually connect over time, then it is much more evident. It is a sudden condition that can affect the scalp, but in some cases, individuals can lose eyebrows, eyelashes and even hair on other parts of the body. It might occur once-off or recur over time. 

  • Ophiasis

This is a form of alopecia areata whereby loss of hair happens in a wave- or snake-like shape around the head. This particular condition derives its name from ‘ophis’ which is Greek for ‘snake’.

Causes:

Alopecia areata is believed to be triggered by autoimmune conditions, including:

  • Ulcerative colitis 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Lupus 
  • Vitiligo

Thyroid disease and allergic disorders are also believed to cause alopecia areata. The fact that it tends to happen to members in a family indicates some form of heredity.  

4. Alopecia universalis

Although this is a form of alopecia areata, alopecia universalis is the most advanced type of alopecia that essentially causes total hair loss all over the body. Hair loss with this condition includes: 

  • Loss of hair on the scalp
  • Loss of eyebrows
  • Loss of eyelashes
  • Loss of nasal hair 
  • Loss of body hair

Causes 

Alopecia universalis is also an autoimmune disease whereby the immune system attacks its own cells – in this case, the hair follicles. It is also believed to be a genetic condition. Stress is also considered a trigger of alopecia universalis. 

5. Alopecia totalis

This form of alopecia is effectively an intermediary between alopecia areata and alopecia universalis in that it results in the total hair loss on the scalp only. It can either be quick-occurring with complete hair loss immediately; or slow-acting, starting with patches that connect until there is total hair loss on the scalp.

Causes

Although there is no exact cause identified as yet, this is also considered an autoimmune disorder that results in the body attacking its hair follicles. 

6. Traction alopecia

This is a hair loss condition that results in patchy hair loss on the scalp when hair follicles are damaged by continuous tension over a period of time. 

  • Chignon Alopecia

This is a form of traction alopecia whereby the hair loss takes place at the crown of the head. It is often experienced by ballet dancers who are required to wear their hair tightly styled in a bun for long periods of time. 

Causes

Certain hairstyles worn by professionals (in the military and sports industries) are known to result in traction alopecia, including tight braids, hair rollers, ponytails or cornrows. There are also various types of cosmetic surgery that have been known to cause traction alopecia, including face lifts. 

Alopecia treatment options

It is important that any form of alopecia is first diagnosed by a medical professional before any action is taken. Depending on the individual case, there might be medical treatments available, and, in some instances, the condition will disappear on its own – particularly when it is triggered by stress. 

There are also many cosmetic treatment options available using modern techniques to give the appearance of hair. These are particularly beneficial for those seeking an enhanced self-image, or for those who are suffering emotionally as a result of the hair loss. Some of the contemporary solutions available include:

  1. Wigs and hair pieces – Ready-to-wear modacrylic fibre and human hair wigs have an incredibly natural appearance and are fitted with comfort cap technology to ensure no discomfort. 
  2. Hair systems – This is a light, breathable alternative to a wig which is tailored to individual needs.  It is attached using a flexible mesh scalp and is all top-quality human hair.  
  3. Hair enhancers / extensions – A range of hair options and styles that integrate with natural hair.
  4. Semi-permanent makeup – For those experiencing facial hair loss, this option provides a flawless finish. 
  5. Scalp micropigmentation / hair tattooing – This is a cost-effective yet revolutionary treatment that gives the appearance of a shaved head.

Alopecia is a much more commonly-occurring condition than many realise, but it’s not something that needs to be experienced alone. There are many specialist hair clinics with helpful professionals who can find the perfect hair solution for any individual.