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6 Ways To Stop Alopecia Areata From Spreading
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Updated on February 14, 2024

Alopecia areata affects 1 in 170 people in the UK [1]. It’s a relatively common hair loss condition, but it can be concerning, especially if your alopecia areata starts to spread.

Severe cases can progress to alopecia totalis (total loss of scalp hair) and even alopecia universalis (total loss of body hair).

If your alopecia areata patches are starting to spread to other areas of your scalp or body, there are treatments available. Find out how to stop alopecia areata from spreading below.

Table of Contents

Will my alopecia areata spread to other areas?

You can’t always tell if your alopecia areata is likely to spread. Each case is different, and not everyone has progressive alopecia areata. Studies have shown that up to half of all patients can recover within a year even without treatment [2].

However, other research shows that approximately 30% of patients with patchy alopecia areata will progress to complete hair loss [3].

You’re more likely to have progressive or severe alopecia areata if [3]:

  • Your symptoms first started in childhood.
  • You have hayfever or other allergies.
  • You have a family history of alopecia areata.
  • You’ve had alopecia areata for a long time.

Yes, it’s often possible to stop alopecia areata from spreading across your scalp.

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition. White blood cells attack the hair follicles, damaging them so they stop producing hair.

However the hair follicles aren’t destroyed, so once they’ve been repaired, they can still produce hair. Sometimes this happens by itself, but other times you may need treatment.

Alopecia Areata Spot Example

6 ways to stop alopecia areata from spreading

Here are six proven ways to stop alopecia areata from spreading across your scalp.

1. Lifestyle changes

Before you start trying medication, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to minimise the chances of your alopecia areata spreading:

  • Quit smoking — Smokers are more likely to develop alopecia areata than non-smokers, so stopping smoking (or even reducing how much you smoke) can reduce the risk of progressive alopecia areata [4].
  • Reduce your stress levels — Alopecia may be more likely to flare up during stressful periods, so aim to manage your stress levels through exercise, relaxation techniques, and other stress-busting activities.
  • Check your vitamin levels — Some vitamin deficiencies can lead to hair loss, particularly vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, iron, folate, and vitamin E. If you think you might have a vitamin deficiency, head to your doctor or trichologist for a check-up.
micronutrient levels in people with alopecia areata
Chart showing the percentage micronutrient deficiency in people with alopecia areata.

2. Corticosteroids

Topical steroid creams for hair loss are effective for treating alopecia areata. They’re often used as a first-line treatment for patchy alopecia areata, sometimes alongside injected corticosteroids [5].

alopecia areata on the beard
results of using topical steroids for alopecia barbae

Before and after six months of topical steroid cream treatment for alopecia barbae (alopecia areata of the beard).

3. Minoxidil

Minoxidil promotes hair growth by widening the blood vessels that feed your hair follicles. Opening up the blood vessels means more nutrients reach the follicles, promoting healthy hair growth.

Topical Minoxidil can stimulate new hair growth in those with alopecia areata, but it’s less effective if your condition has already spread extensively [6]. So if you want to use Minoxidil, apply it in the early stages.

4. Topical immunotherapy

Topical or contact immunotherapy is often used to treat alopecia areata, especially if it’s already started to spread [3].

It works by exposing you to a weak allergen, known as a contact sensitiser. This induces a mild allergic reaction known as contact dermatitis. The allergen is then applied to your patches of alopecia on a regular basis.

This generates white blood cells which inhibit the autoimmune response that triggers alopecia areata, allowing your follicles to begin producing hair again.

Response rates of certain types of topical immunotherapy are [7]:

  • 88-100% in those with patchy alopecia areata.
  • 60% in those with severe alopecia areata.
  • 17% in those with alopecia totalis or alopecia universalis.

5. JAK inhibitors

Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors block the activity of JAK enzymes, which transmit immune response signals throughout the body. By suppressing these signals, your body is less likely to attack the hair follicles as part of an autoimmune response.

JAK inhibitors aren’t widely used in the UK, but they do offer an effective alternative treatment to stop alopecia areata from spreading. In 2023, the US Food and Drug Administration licensed Olumiant as the first JAK inhibitor to treat alopecia areata.

6. Low-level light therapy

Low-level light therapy is a non-invasive treatment that’s shown promising signs of promoting regrowth in people with alopecia areata [8]. It works by concentrating low-frequency laser beams on your bald patches, which stimulates cell growth in the hair follicles.

Can a hair transplant stop alopecia areata from spreading?

Hair transplants aren’t generally recommended for treating alopecia areata, and can’t stop it from spreading. That’s because hair transplants rely on moving healthy hair follicles from one area of the head to another.

If you transplant hair follicles that are later vulnerable to alopecia areata, you won’t see any benefit from getting a hair transplant for alopecia areata.

How long does an episode of alopecia areata last?

Episodes of alopecia areata can vary in length. 30-50% of patients with patchy alopecia areata see improvements without treatment within six to 12 months [9]. Two-thirds of patients will have complete regrowth within five years.

One study examined the duration of a current episode of alopecia areata for 50 patients [10]:

Duration of alopecia areata episodeNumber of patients
1 month3
2-3 months16
4-12 months15
13-24 months11
25-244 months5

It’s less common for a single episode of alopecia areata to last longer than two years.

What causes alopecia to flare up?

There are several possible triggers for an alopecia flare-up, although the cause is often unknown.

Some known triggers include:

  • Climate and sun exposure — In children, alopecia areata flare-ups are more common in autumn and winter, when sun exposure and vitamin D intake are lower [11].
  • Stress — Emotional and physical stress can trigger episodes of alopecia areata [12].
  • Lack of nutrients — Certain vitamin deficiencies have been linked with alopecia areata, so you may find flare-ups coinciding with periods of poor nutrition [13].

Does alopecia areata spread by touching?

No, alopecia areata doesn’t spread through contact with other people. Additionally, it won’t spread across your own scalp or body because you’ve touched your bald patches then touched skin in other areas.

How to stop alopecia areata from spreading naturally

There are no proven natural remedies for hair loss caused by alopecia areata. And because the condition has relatively high rates of spontaneous remission, the best option for those seeking a natural treatment may be to leave your alopecia to clear up by itself.

Reducing stress, quitting smoking, and eating a balanced healthy hair diet can all promote spontaneous hair regrowth.

However, repeat episodes are fairly common. So you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons of allowing your alopecia areata to regrow naturally without active treatment.

What is the fastest way to cure alopecia?

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for alopecia areata yet. However, there are several ways to effectively manage your condition.

Fast reduction of symptoms is most likely with a rapid diagnosis and immediate treatment. That’s why we recommend visiting a trichologist to diagnose any bald patches on your scalp.

At the Wimpole Clinic, our hair loss specialists are equipped to help you find the right treatment for your alopecia areata, so you can stop it from spreading. We offer both female hair loss treatments and male hair loss treatments, each of which is tailored to your specific needs.

Book a consultation to learn more about how to stop alopecia areata from spreading.

6 Ways To Stop Alopecia Areata From Spreading, Wimpole Clinic

Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Medically reviewed by Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)Updated on February 14, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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