Advertisement

What is alopecia? Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss from disease at center of Oscars spat

Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 2:44 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 28, 2022 at 7:11 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

(AP) - A disease that causes hair loss is at the center of the most talked-about moment at Sunday’s Oscars ceremony. Actress Jada Pinkett Smith disclosed four years ago that she has alopecia and it’s the reason she has shaved her head or worn turbans in public.

It’s unclear if comedian Chris Rock knew that when he joked about her baldness during Sunday night’s ceremony, but Smith grimaced and her husband, actor Will Smith, strode to the stage, smacked Rock in the face and profanely told him not to talk about his wife.

Jada Pinkett Smith’s condition is called alopecia areata, a disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles, often on the scalp or face, but sometimes on other parts of the body. Sometimes hair falls out in chunks and only partial baldness results. Sometimes hair grows back but repeated bouts of baldness can also occur.

According to the National Institutes of Health, it affects all racial and ethnic groups, men and women equally. There is no cure, but sometimes doctors recommend treating it with steroids, medications that suppress the immune system, or drugs that work to stimulate hair growth.

Jada Pinkett Smith, left, and Will Smith appear in the audience at the Oscars on Sunday, March...
Jada Pinkett Smith, left, and Will Smith appear in the audience at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.(Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The National Alopecia Areata Foundation says the condition affects about 2% of the population, or as many as almost 7 million Americans. It can occur at any age, but most often during the teen years or young adulthood. Jada Pinkett Smith is 50.

Other public figures with the condition include Ayanna Pressley, a Democratic congresswoman from Massachusetts, British actor and comedian Matt Lucas and bluegrass musician Molly Tuttle.

Alopecia tends to run in families. Total hair loss affecting the entire body can happen, but is rare. The condition can also cause dents and ridges in fingernails and toenails, but affected people are otherwise healthy.

___

This story has been corrected to fix the name of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. A previous version of the story referred to it as the National Alopecia Areata Association.

___

Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Moments before winning best actor, Smith appeared to smack Rock after the comic made a joke about Smith's wife. (COURTESY A.M.P.A.S. 2022 via CNN)

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.