“It’s not Leukemia,” said HBO’s Bill Maher. He continued, “If hair loss bothers you put on a @%&*-ing wig.” His monologue on Real Time with Bill Maher Friday night was heavy with criticism. Judging from the amount of emails we got this weekend, he may not be alone in his assessments. Is Jada Pinkett Smith simply attention-seeking with her hyperbolic claim of hair loss?
One email we recently received wondered why–if Jada truly had Alopecia–did her head look so perfectly buzzed? The writer commented that you could see hair stubble in a uniform way all over her scalp. It seemed to her that Jada Smith deliberately shaved her head, perhaps in an effort to garner the media eye. The writer finally concluded with, “Real Alopecia doesn’t look like that.”
It seems humanity has failed at Psychology 101 when we try to decode a person’s behavior using just our eyes. Unfortunately, spidey-sense isn’t always accurate, especially if your sense depends on using only physical cues. Haven’t we always downplayed the victims who suffer emotionally? Physical abuse compared to emotional abuse. Diabetes compared to depression. For Alopecia to be legitimized, does it have to be so overt that we must see an entire body scant of hair? Maybe then it will be authorized as a medical condition by the social media police.
Here is what we know. It appears that Jada Smith does not suffer from Alopecia Totalis, which is complete baldness of the head–hence the stubble which would indicate there is some hair, if she chose to grow it. She also doesn’t appear to have Alopecia Totalis, which is where all of the hair on the body is lost, including eyebrows and eyelashes. However, she could have Alopecia Areata or Androgenic Alopecia. If we were to guess, she appears to more closely align with the latter: Androgenic Alopecia.
Androgenic Alopecia is characterized as a diffuse overall thinning, typically on the crown area of the head. It is often accompanied with a receding hairline and hair miniaturization. It is the most common kind of Alopecia in men and women. It is sometimes referred to as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness, or androgenetics. Its’ onset can be gradual or sudden. Often times, the hair that is able to grow has an unpredictable growth pattern and texture which make it hard to manage. Consequently, there are those who proactively shave their head to avoid the challenge.
There are many types of Alopecia with varying degrees of hair loss. It is not easy to quantify the psychological effects of feeling like your body is not functioning properly. For many people, the feeling is disturbing, if not debilitating. It’s true that none would dare to compare it to Leukemia. But, it’s also not fair to say that one isn’t justified to feel sadness over loss–no matter if it is hair loss.