Alopecia areata became a topic of national debate after actor Will Smith struck comedian Chris Rock onstage at the Academy Awards in retaliation for Rock’s comment about the appearance of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Pinkett Smith has been open about her battles with alopecia areata, an autoimmune illness that attacks hair follicles in the head and face, resulting in rapid hair loss.
Pinkett Smith became completely bald last year after experimenting with various hairstyles and showing off the results on social media. “Willow [Pinkett Smith’s daughter] had me do it since it was time to let go BUT… my 50s are ready to be Divinely lighted with this shed,” she posted on Instagram in July 2021, as reported by People. At the end of the most recent episode of her Facebook Watch show Red Table Speak, Pinkett Smith said, “Now concerning Oscar night, my deepest goal is that these two brilliant, talented men have an opportunity to heal, talk things out, and reconcile.”
She also expressed appreciation for the community’s acceptance of her alopecia. “Thousands have reached out to me with their tales, considering what I’ve gone through with my own health and what occurred at the Oscars,” she stated. I’m taking this opportunity to raise awareness about alopecia and give voice to our alopecia community, as one member put it: “I’m using this moment to give our alopecia family an opportunity to talk about what it’s like to have this condition and to inform people about what alopecia is actually like.”
She then interviewed other members of her “beautiful, amazing tribe,” including the mother of a 12-year-old girl who committed suicide after suffering relentless bullying because of her bald head; a dermatologist who discussed the symptoms and treatment of alopecia areata and other forms of hair loss, including those that particularly affect Black women; and several men who struggled with the stigma of alopecia areata.
Due to Pinkett Smith’s diagnosis, Alopecia Areata is getting more attention. For the first time in 2018, Pinkett Smith discussed her alopecia diagnosis on Red Table Talk. According to CNN, the actress was open about how she decided to shave her head after losing “handfuls” of hair in the shower, a “terrifying” experience.
She went into detail about the therapies she was undergoing, including the use of steroids, which she stated were ameliorating but not curing her bald spots. Pinkett Smith has experimented with short hairstyles, hair turbans, and close hair cuts at red carpet events over the past few years. She talked about her decision to shave her head as the hair loss got worse. She announced the news on Instagram in December, writing, “this is going to be a little tougher to hide, so I figured I’d just disclose it so y’all are not asking any questions.” She attached a picture of herself beaming after getting a spiffy new buzz cut.
Why Does Alopecia Areata Occur?
Alopecia areata affects both males and women with equal frequency. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reports that while the onset of this condition can occur at any time, many people experience the first symptoms in their teens, and the vast majority of those who develop this disorder do so before the age of 30. A study conducted in the United States in 2018 indicated that Black and Hispanic women are more likely to get alopecia than other ethnic groups.
Alopecia is more common in people who also have a medical conditions like vitiligo, atopic dermatitis, asthma, or thyroid disease. Although further investigation is required, a 2019 study revealed that vitamin D insufficiency may have a role. Recent studies suggest that the rheumatoid arthritis drug baricitinib may stimulate considerable hair regrowth in people with alopecia areata, although there is presently no cure for the condition.
Inspiring Others Through Her Own Self-Advocacy, Pinkett Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith has received an outpouring of support on social media from individuals who admire her courage in accepting her appearance despite the loss of her hair, which is seen as a symbol of femininity and young for women in many cultures. Pinkett Smith is an inspirational figure because of her status as a Black woman in Hollywood. Although hair loss is “exceedingly prevalent” among African American women, it is nevertheless a significant part of their identities.
According to a study conducted on 200 African American women in the Detroit region and published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 59% of the women had a personal history of severe hair loss, including extensive breakage and shedding. Because of Pinkett Smith, women are more comfortable talking about hair loss in the open. The actress has shared her hair loss journey with excitement and elegance on social media, encouraging her admirers to speak up and ask questions about alopecia.