Hair loss—both in men and women—tends to be a hush-hush subject. So when Jada Pinkett Smith took to her Facebook Watch talk show, Red Table Talk, to discuss her own experience with alopecia, a lot of people listened.
“It was one of those times in my life where I was literally shaking with fear,” the 46-year-old actress said, referring to the “terrifying” moment she noticed she was losing “handfuls” of hair in the shower one day. “That’s why I cut my hair, and why I continue to cut it.”
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While medical tests haven’t helped her determine the cause, Glenn Dale, MD dermatologist Valerie D. Callender, MD, who does not treat Pinkett Smith, says hair loss—not surprisingly—can result in extreme emotional stress on a woman. “There’s a loss of control. It has a big impact on self-esteem and confidence.”
Dr. Callender also points out that, while there are many causes of hair loss in women, a thorough workup is imperative to determine the cause.
“I recommend sharing a detailed history—medical illnesses, recent surgery, medications, hormonal changes, change in one’s diet, hereditary, etc.—with your doctor; doing a physical exam where your dermatologist performs a hair-pull test to determine the severity of the hair loss and uses a dermatoscope to exam the scalp; a lab evaluation to check for internal causes like thyroid, anemia, lupus, low protein, low vitamin D, excess androgens; and a scalp biopsy, which in-office procedure, is usually diagnostic.”
Regardless of the reasoning behind the hair loss, the best treatment is based on the correct diagnosis, Dr. Callender says, and stresses that patience is key. “Hair regrowth can take many months, although patients want results overnight.”