What is alopecia? Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss from illness at center of Oscars row

(AP) – A disease that causes hair loss is at the center of the most talked about moment at Sunday’s Oscars ceremony. Actress Jada Pinkett Smith revealed four years ago that she suffers from alopecia and that’s why she shaved her head or wore turbans in public.

It’s unclear if comedian Chris Rock knew this when he joked about his baldness at Sunday night’s ceremony, but Smith grimaced and her husband, actor Will Smith, took to the stage, punched Rock at the face and profanely told him not to talk about his wife. .

Jada Pinkett Smith’s condition is called alopecia areata, a disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles, often on the scalp or face, but sometimes on other parts of the body. Sometimes the hair falls out and only partial baldness results. Sometimes the hair regrows, but repeated episodes of baldness can also occur.

According to the National Institutes of Health, it affects all racial and ethnic groups, men and women equally. There is no cure, but sometimes doctors recommend treating it with steroids, drugs that suppress the immune system, or drugs that stimulate hair growth.

Jada Pinkett Smith, left, and Will Smith appear in the Oscars audience on Sunday, March 27, 2022 at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles.(Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The National Alopecia Areata Foundation says the condition affects about 2% of the population, or up to nearly 7 million Americans. It can occur at any age, but most often in adolescence or early adulthood. Jada Pinkett Smith is 50 years old.

Other public figures with the condition include Ayanna Pressley, a Democratic congresswoman from Massachusetts, British actor and comedian Matt Lucas and bluegrass musician Molly Tuttle.

Alopecia tends to run in families. Total hair loss affecting the whole body can happen, but it is rare. The condition can also cause bumps and ridges in the fingernails and toenails, but those affected are otherwise healthy.


This story has been corrected to fix the name of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. An earlier version of the story called it the National Alopecia Areata Association.


Follow AP Medical Editor Lindsey Tanner on @LindseyTanner.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Moments before winning the Best Actor award, Smith appeared to punch Rock after the comedian made a joke about Smith’s wife. (Courtesy of AMPAS 2022 via CNN)

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

What is alopecia? Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss from illness at center of Oscars row

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