Typically, when people hear the term Alopecia the first things that come to mind are tight ponytails, tight braids, missing edges, etc. This is known as Traction Alopecia, a “small or localized hair loss area caused by repetitive or persistent pulling or force on hair roots” (Cole, 2014).
There are several other types of alopecia that someone can be diagnosed with. One type is known as Alopecia Areata, a common disease that causes hair loss on the scalp or the rest of the body. The three types of Alopecia Areata are: Alopecia Areata (hair loss that occurs as various smooth patches), Alopecia Areata Totalis (total hair loss on the scalp), and Alopecia Areata Universalis (hair loss from the entire scalp and body). “In all forms of Alopecia Areata, the hair follicles remain alive and are ready to resume normal hair production whenever they receive the appropriate signal. In all cases, hair regrowth may occur even without treatment and even after many years.” Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disease; the person’s own immune system mistakenly attacks their hair follicles causing a halt in the hair growth stage. It is not life threatening but occurs suddenly, has an unpredictable course and can recur even after treatment, in any age, gender, or race. (About Alopecia, 2014)
How I Was Diagnosed
When I started my hair journey, all I wanted was healthier relaxed hair. So, I would ‘stretch’ my relaxers to minimize how often I relaxed each year. I was on a long-term stretch in 2011 (the goal was to go 6 months without a relaxer), when I noticed a small, smooth area on my scalp.
I first thought that this was from the permanent part I had down the middle of my head, or that was caused from the half-wig I occasionally wore as a protective style. I also wondered if the spot was related to life’s stresses. In about 2 weeks, the small area got progressively larger. I had stopped wearing the half-wig and was extremely careful about how I styled and handled my hair, but that one small bald spot continued to get bigger and bigger.
Then, a week or so later, I found two more spots on different areas of my scalp. It was then that I knew something wasn’t right and I decided to go to the doctor.
After initially finding out, I was devastated. According to everything I first read on the Internet, I thought the condition would progress and I would lose all my hair. However, I immediately relied on my faith and thankfully, things did not get a whole lot worse. The spots I found got bigger; however, with the help of cortisone injections to my scalp (in the bald areas), those areas started re-growing.
As of today, I haven’t found any other bald spots. However, I still worry that they may re-occur. Because my hair is so thick, it is often hard to check every area of my scalp for other possible bald spots. Regardless, I am thankfully that my experience was not worse and that I was able to get treatment to resolve the situation. Another positive outcome from my experience was that being diagnosed was one of the contributing factors to me going natural. Alopecia Areata may not be related to hair relaxers, but I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t adding any outside elements that would increase hair loss or affect my scalp any further.
Having a form of Alopecia Areata doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose all your hair. I’m living proof (Thank God).
Were you diagnosed with Alopecia Areata? What has your experience been like? Feel free to share your story if you feel comfortable.
About Tori: I’m Tori, a Jamaican-born natural currently living in Texas. I was reunited with my natural texture in January 2012 when I big chopped, after transitioning for a year and a half. I am still learning about my natural hair, and hope to share the knowledge and experiences I gain as I continue on my natural hair journey. You can find me on Instagram @bonafidestyle.
About Alopecia Areata | Types of Alopecia Areata – National Alopecia Areata
Foundation. (2014, January 1). About Alopecia Areata | Types of Alopecia Areata – National Alopecia Areata Foundation. Retrieved August 3, 2014, from http://www.naaf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_alopecia_types
Cole, G. W. (2014, January 1). Hair Loss Symptoms, Causes, Treatment – What is traction alopecia? –
MedicineNet. MedicineNet. Retrieved August 3, 2014, from