Alopecia is a catch-all term that means hair loss. There are lots of different types of alopecia that affect people in the UK and across the world. In fact, most of us will experience some kind of hair loss at some point in our lives.
In this article, we’ll explore all the different types of alopecia, including the causes, symptoms, and who is most affected by each hair loss type.
See all the major types of alopecia in this comparison table:
Type of alopecia
Scarring vs non-scarring
Round or oval bald patches (patchy AA)
Corticosteroids, JAK inhibitors, and contact immunotherapy
Genetics, hormones, and age
Receding hairline and crown hair loss (men) or diffuse thinning (women)
Minoxidil, Finasteride, Dutasteride, hair transplant
Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia
Diffuse thinning with scalp irritation
Anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, and improved styling methods
Rapid scalp hair loss
End of chemotherapy treatment
Abscesses and cysts on the scalp
Anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, antibiotics, and surgery
Frontal fibrosing alopecia
Autoimmunity and hormones
Corticosteroids, anti-androgens, antimalarials, and immunosuppressants
Diffuse thinning with redness and scaly skin
Treatments for the hair loss trigger
Hairline thinning with skin-coloured or white bumps around the follicles
Improved styling methods, Minoxidil, and antibiotics or corticosteroids for severe cases
Brittle hair and bald patches
Treat the underlying mental health condition
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which the white blood cells attack the hair follicles. This causes hair shedding from the affected follicles, leaving round or oval bald patches on the scalp.
There are several types of alopecia areata. These are all caused by the same underlying condition but can manifest in different ways.
This type of patchy hair loss is the most common type of alopecia areata. It’s characterised by small round or oval bald patches, which can appear anywhere on the scalp.
Alopecia totalis is a progressive type of alopecia areata that affects all the hair on the scalp. It results in total scalp hair loss (complete baldness). Celebrities including Matt Lucas have alopecia:
Alopecia universalis happens when hair across the body is affected by this autoimmune condition, resulting in complete hair loss.
Alopecia areata can also affect the beard. This is known as alopecia barbae, and it’s usually characterised by patchy beard hair loss (though it can also affect the entire beard).
Diffuse alopecia areata is a relatively rare type of AA, characterised by hair thinning across the scalp. It’s also sometimes known as alopecia areata incognita, as it can be hard to distinguish from other diffuse hair loss conditions like telogen effluvium and female pattern baldness .
Alopecia ophiasis is a rare type of AA that affects the back and sides of the head while leaving most of the hair around the top and front of the scalp intact.
Around 2% of the general population will experience alopecia areata in their lifetime. It affects both sexes equally and is more common in children than adults .
40% of alopecia areata patients experience their first symptoms by age 20. Up to 88% will see symptoms by the age of 40. So if you’re aged 40+ and you haven’t had symptoms so far, alopecia areata may not be the cause of your hair loss.
Learn more about alopecia areata:
Androgenetic alopecia is the medical name for male pattern baldness and female pattern hair loss. It’s caused by a combination of genetics, age, and a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Male pattern baldness is typically characterised by a receding hairline and/or crown hair loss. It’s a progressive condition that usually gets worse over time without treatment.
Male pattern hair loss is measured using the Norwood Scale.
Unlike male pattern baldness, which is localised to the hairline and crown, female pattern baldness usually presents itself as thinning hair that spreads evenly across the head. This is known as diffuse thinning.
Female pattern baldness is measured using the Ludwig Scale.
Male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss worldwide. It affects up to 80% of men by the age of 70 .
Female pattern baldness tends to affect women over the age of 50. It’s often triggered by the onset of the menopause .
Learn more about androgenetic alopecia:
Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia is a type of scarring alopecia. It begins at the centre of the scalp and spreads outwards. As the condition spreads, it damages the hair follicle, leaving scar tissue that can lead to permanent hair loss.
Damaging hair styling practices like straightening, relaxing, and wearing your hair in tight styles can trigger CCCA.
This type of hair loss most commonly affects women of African heritage, and may be hereditary [4-5].
Chemotherapy causes a type of hair loss known as anagen effluvium, meaning the hair falls out when it’s still in the growth phase.
This happens because chemotherapy drugs kill cells that multiply rapidly, including cells required for hair growth and maintenance. They can also reduce the density of blood vessels around the scalp, restricting blood flow to the follicles.
Chemotherapy is mainly used to treat cancer, so many cancer patients experience hair loss related to these drugs. Cold caps can be effective for preventing chemotherapy-induced alopecia.
Dissecting cellulitis is a relatively rare type of scarring alopecia. It’s characterised by blocked hair follicles that present as abscesses or cysts around the scalp.
Dissecting cellulitis is most likely to affect young men of African and/or Caribbean descent . It’s not usually hereditary, and it may be linked with other health conditions, including Crohn’s disease and arthritis.
Frontal fibrosing alopecia is a type of scarring alopecia. It causes permanent hair loss across the hairline and temples, and may also cause eyebrow hair loss.
The exact cause of FFA hasn’t yet been established, though genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors are thought to play a part .
Frontal fibrosing alopecia most commonly affects women. In up to 95% of cases, FFA symptoms start to develop after menopause .
Lichen planopilaris is another type of scarring alopecia that results in permanent hair loss. It’s a variant of an autoimmune condition called lichen planus, and it affects hair across the scalp. Unlike FFA, there’s no particular pattern to hair loss caused by lichen planopilaris.
Lichen planopilaris is usually accompanied by scaly skin and redness around the affected areas. Known triggers include:
Lichen planopilaris is more common in women than men. It usually affects younger women, though it can affect people of all ages .
Telogen effluvium is a common type of hair loss that manifests as diffuse thinning across the scalp. It happens when more of your hair than normal enters the telogen (shedding) phase of the hair growth cycle.
Telogen effluvium can be triggered by lots of different factors, but it’s almost always temporary. In most cases, the lost hair will grow back within a few months.
Here are some of the most common causes of telogen effluvium.
Hair falling out after giving birth is a common postnatal symptom. Postpartum hair loss usually happens due to hormonal changes that affect the normal hair growth cycle, though the stress of childbirth may also play a part.
Anxiety-related hair loss is common in people who have anxiety disorders, high levels of daily stress, or other mental health issues. You’re likely to notice you’re losing more hair in the shower than usual.
Many medical conditions have been linked with telogen effluvium, including:
There are many other illnesses and conditions that may cause hair loss. So if you have sudden unexplained hair loss, it’s a good idea to see your GP.
Surgical procedures can also cause sudden alopecia as a result of physical trauma.
Telogen effluvium can impact anyone experiencing any of the above conditions, as well as other types of emotional or physical stress.
Women are slightly more affected than men (though this may be due to higher reporting rates in women) . Additionally, older women tend to be more affected than other people following fever, trauma, or psychological stress.
Traction alopecia happens when you continuously wear your hair in heavy or tight hairstyles. These styles damage hair follicles and cause temporary hair loss. Destructive styles include tight braids, ponytails, and buns, as well as hair extensions and weaves.
If you continue to wear your hair in damaging styles when you have traction alopecia, your hair loss may become permanent.
Traction alopecia affects people of African descent more than those of other ethnicities. This is due to the prevalence of tight hairstyles among those with Black hair types, including dreadlocks, braids, and weaves.
It’s most common in women of African descent who have tight spiral textured Afro hair .
Trichotillomania is a mental health condition also known as hair pulling disorder. While it mostly impacts scalp hair, some people pull out hair from other areas of the body.
Hair loss stemming from trichotillomania isn’t usually permanent, though it can be highly visible, depending on the amount of hair that’s pulled out.
The best way to treat trichotillomania is to treat the underlying anxiety or trigger that leads to hair pulling.
Trichotillomania mostly affects teenagers and young adults, though it can be present in people of all ages. Girls and women are four times more likely to experience trichotillomania symptoms than boys and men .
Many types of alopecia present in similar ways, so it’s not always easy to tell which type of alopecia you have. Getting a professional alopecia diagnosis will help you better understand your condition, so you can treat your hair loss and restore a full, healthy head of hair.
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