Alopecia Barbae: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments in 2023
Alopecia barbae is a mysterious condition that can cause small circular patches of hair loss in the beard area. In some patients, it progresses slowly across your beard – in others, it can lead to total beard loss.
Like any form of hair loss, alopecia barbae can be devastating to overcome. You’ll not only worry about your appearance, but your general health too – is an underlying medical condition causing this to happen?
We’re here to put your mind at ease. This article will explain everything you need to know about alopecia barbae, including its potential causes and what symptoms you should look for.
We’ll also share a range of beard alopecia treatment options that can potentially slow down or even prevent future bald patches from happening and offer advice on dealing with this condition’s aftermath.
What causes alopecia barbae?
Although the root cause of alopecia barbae is still debatable, many researchers have drawn some theories.
Many believe it to be an autoimmune condition that sees your body’s immune system mistakenly attack healthy hair follicles in the facial region.
The following may be what potentially triggers the condition into action:
- Gender: Because alopecia barbae only affects facial hair, it generally presents itself more often in men than women.
- Age: Although this condition can affect anyone, irrespective of age, alopecia barbae generally occurs more frequently in older people.
- Genetics: If someone in your family has suffered scalp alopecia areata or other autoimmune disorders, this may increase your likelihood of developing alopecia barbae.
- Stress: During stressful periods, our body releases the hormone cortisol. This disrupts the natural hair growth cycle, can lead to thinning hair and may trigger conditions like alopecia barbae.
- Medical conditions: Certain diseases and conditions, such as lupus, thyroid disorders, psoriasis, or diabetes, have also been linked with developing alopecia barbae.
Alopecia barbae vs Alopecia areata
Because both alopecia areata and barbae can cause bald patches to develop, it can be easy to mistake them for each other.
But there is one key difference that sets them both apart – the area in which they affect most.
While alopecia areata can potentially cause facial hair loss, most hair thinning will occur on your scalp. With alopecia barbae, patchy hair loss is concentrated on facial hair, primarily your beard.
What are the symptoms of alopecia barbae?
While every patient is unique, and symptoms and severities can vary, there are some warning signs to be aware of in the case of alopecia areata barbae.
The first symptom is the most apparent – patchy hair loss in your beard. Bald spots can develop quite suddenly or gradually over days or weeks.
In some patients, this hair loss can be quite severe and noticeable. In others, hair loss may be subtle and indistinguishable.
You may see that hair surrounding the edges of bald patches starts to turn white –another key symptom of developing the condition.
Because many researchers believe beard alopecia is an autoimmune response, you may feel skin irritation, redness, or tingling around your beard. This is because the beard’s hair follicles are under attack.
Finally, be mindful of the size and shape of hair loss. While small patches on your beard may not be too concerning – alopecia barbae beard can worsen over time.
These patches can grow, spread, and connect, causing significant bald spots.
Alopecia Barbae moustache
Alopecia barbae refers to a specific form of alopecia areata that affects the beard area, including the moustache.
It’s an autoimmune condition wherein the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles in the beard region, leading to patchy hair loss.
The condition is not harmful or contagious, but its sudden onset can be a source of concern for those unfamiliar with it.
Celebrity with alopecia barbae – Louis Theroux
At the beginning of 2023, Louis Theroux shared his alopecia barbae diagnosis with the world.
Based on the alopecia barbae before and after photo above it’s clear that the condition caused him to lose massive patches of facial hair in his beard and moustache.
Theroux went through an incredibly tough time as the condition deeply affected him both physically and mentally.
Thankfully his fans showed him outpouring support, reassuring him that patchy eyebrows and moustaches are nothing to be ashamed of.
Diagnosis of alopecia barbae
People are diagnosed with alopecia barbae when they visit their doctor or dermatologist for a physical exam.
They will inspect your beard hair and surrounding area for clinical symptoms of skin inflammation, dryness, irritation, and loss of hair.
They also search for any unusual hair growth in the area. Your doctor may also consider your medical history and general health to see if a potential underlying condition is at play.
Finally, your doctor may also take a skin biopsy from the affected area to examine the tissue up close. They may also take blood samples.
Both are perfectly safe and give your doctor more information to amylase and rule-out other possible hair conditions.
Once formally diagnosed, your doctor or dermatologist can recommend an appropriate treatment.
Alopecia beard treatment – 5 Best options
While there is no known cure for alopecia barbae, there are several effective medications and treatment options for you to consider to help manage symptoms and prevent further loss from taking place.
1. Alopecia barbae injection (Corticosteroids)
Many people believe alopecia barbae to be an autoimmune disorder because immunosuppressants, like Corticosteroids, can be highly effective in treating the disease.
They can help slow down or stop any harmful activity by your immune system.
Serious cases of alopecia barbae beard are treated with injections, but corticosteroids come in many forms including tablets, topical serums and creams.
Known side effects include weight gain and fluid retention, high blood pressure, and potential mood swings.
Long-term corticosteroid use may cause an increased risk of infection, an inability to fight off infections, and reduced bone density.
Commonly known as Rogaine, Minoxidil is a highly-effective medication used to treat several hair conditions, including alopecia barbae.
It works by stimulating hair follicles to grow new hair and improving hair density.
Generally speaking, Minoxidil is considered safe, and its topical form can be bought over the counter in many pharmacies.
There is a chance of developing side effects, including itchiness and a burning sensation in your scalp hair. Your skin may also become scaly.
You must be patient with Minoxidil, as it can take many months to see results. It is also a temporary solution – you must continue treatment to maintain results. Once you stop, your hair will begin to fall out again.
Diphencyprone (DPCP) is a topical immunomodulator medication that affects your immune system’s behavior. The medication is applied directly to balding patches of your beard weekly, usually by a professional.
Diphencyprone induces local allergic contact dermatitis, which triggers your immune system to produce new hairs and keep hair follicles active.
The number of treatments will depend on the severity of your beard hair loss. You must also be mindful of possible side effects, including skin irritation, itchiness, and a burning sensation around the treatment area.
Anthralin is a popular topical medication that can treat alopecia barbae. It helps slow the growth of skin cells, in turn reducing skin inflammation. It is often used to treat skin conditions like psoriasis and hair loss conditions like alopecia areata.
Anthralin is a synthetic derivative of goa powder from the araroba tree. It is a topical treatment applied directly to bald patches in your beard hair before being washed off. Anthralin is often used with other treatments, such as UV light therapy or topical steroids.
Like any medication, this treatment may cause some side effects. These can include redness, a burning sensation, and increased skin irritation in affected areas.
5. Platelet-rich plasma therapy
Platelet-rich plasma therapy, PRP, is an innovative treatment that uses concentrations of a patient’s own platelets and growth factors to help trigger and induce new hair growth.
Blood plasma is drawn from the patient and, through centrifugal force, is prepared for reinjection.
PRP can be highly effective because injections can be targeted directly at areas with extensive hair loss, including developing beard alopecia. In some cases, pre-existing hair nearby may also improve, too.
Although innovative, patients may need to undergo several sessions of PRP when treating alopecia barbae to achieve their desired results.
Alopecia barbae natural treatment – Top 3 picks
Home remedies may also help alleviate symptoms of alopecia barbae and prevent further hair loss from happening around your beard.
Please remember that results are often anecdotal, and you must be realistic about their effectiveness in correcting bald patches.
The top three remedies for treating alopecia barbae include:
Alopecia barbae garlic treatment has long been a favourite hair care remedy among many patients. It has antimicrobial and antifungal properties, helping keep hair clean.
Raw garlic is also highly nutritious, is easy to add to your diet, and can result in greater hair growth and reduced hair thinning. That said, we need more research before we can say its efficacy.
As one of the world’s leading hair growth supplements, Viviscal is said to help promote hair growth by regenerating new cells and helping to strengthen existing ones.
It does this with its proprietary blend of proteins, lipids, and glycosaminoglycan, all derived from sustainable marine extracts.
Supplements are one of the most widely used alopecia barbae home treatment options for those who feel reluctant to take medication.
Eating a nutritious diet is one of the most effective ways of combating autoimmune disease. This way, your body has all the necessary tools to sustain hair regrowth.
Regarding hair, consider taking special supplements targeting specific vitamins and minerals, like zinc or biotin, which are both essential to hair production.
Can you get a beard transplant if you have alopecia barbae?
Although hair transplants have revolutionized how we treat hair loss, beard transplants may be ineffective at rectifying beard alopecia areata.
This is because, as a potential autoimmune disease, it may continue to trigger more hair loss after your procedure. There is no guarantee that any transplanted hair will survive.
If your hair loss is substantial, such as alopecia totalis (total hair loss), you may not have enough donor hair to provide for the transplant.
When you attend your initial consultation, the surgeon will examine your beard alopecia and determine whether you are an ideal candidate.
How to cope with beard hair loss
Alopecia barbae can be an incredibly stressful condition to experience. Not only might you be anxious about some underlying condition causing the problem, but you also have to deal with the emotional impact of bald patches in beard.
The condition can shatter anyone’s confidence and, in severe cases, can be near impossible to cover up. But it’s important to remember that you are not alone in fighting this condition.
Our article has shown that many effective treatments can help manage symptoms and reduce further loss.
If you’re struggling emotionally, reach out to local support groups, who can answer questions and offer emotional support for you. You may also want to talk to your doctor or therapist for further advice and support.
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- Cervantes J, et al. (2017). Alopecia areata of the beard: A review of the literature. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s40257-017-0297-6
- Treatments for alopecia areata. (2017).https://www.naaf.org/alopecia-areata/alopecia-areata-treatments
- Alopecia Areata of the Beard: A Review of the Literaturehttps://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40257-017-0297-6
- Bald Patch in the Beardhttps://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2014/0401/p583.html#afp20140401p583-b1
- Treatment of alopecia areata with topical garlic extracthttps://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/TREATMENT-OF-ALOPECIA-AREATA-WITH-TOPICAL-GARLIC-Maluki-Ddv/56c3c34224d76fc637f1d13d878d8b34f7af495a