Symptoms of alopecia areata

Scalp micropigmentation for people with alopecia areata

Its getting late so I’ll have to keep this last post relatively brief. So far today I’ve written about a new 3D SMP technique that looks really promising, I’ve introduced a provider called Good Look Ink based in Minnesota and I’ve given some basic pointers to those considering a hair tattoo. Before I wrap things up for tonight I just want to touch on how scalp micropigmentation can help those with alopecia areata, and what the primary considerations are.

How do you know if you have alopecia areata?

There are many forms of alopecia. In men areata is the most common, and some more progressive conditions such as alopecia totalis (total loss of head hair) usually start life as alopecia areata. Basically areata is the occurence of one or more bald patches on the scalp. They are usually round and can vary in size, in number and can even change location.

It is common for alopecia areata to present itself, then go away again, then come back. Outbreaks of the condition can be many months, years or even decades apart. If you had the condition as a child, there is a good chance it could come back later on in life.

Alopecia Areata at back of head
Alopecia Areata in evidence at the back of the head

How severe is the condition?

It depends on what you mean by severe. The condition poses no risk to your physical health, although it can be symptomatic of elevated stress levels or lifestyle factors such as alcohol or drug abuse.

The severity of an outbreak would be judged by most people according to the size and number of bald patches present. With this in mind, patches can be singular or numerous, and can vary in size from a pin head to the sufferers entire scalp. Areata can also affect eyebrows and other facial hair, although patches in beard hair are usually referred to as alopecia barbae.

What are the usual treatment methods?

Because no-one knows for sure what causes alopecia areata, treatments deal primarily with the symptoms of the condition. Scalp micropigmentation is an option (more on that in a moment), but there are many traditional options available. These include any combination of the following:

  • corticosteroid injections
  • corticosteriod creams and gels
  • immunotherapy
  • minoxidil (Rogaine)
  • finasteride (Propecia)
  • dithranol cream
  • ultraviolet light therapy

None of these options are guaranteed to work, and many sufferers resort to wearing a full or partial hair system (wig) to hide the affected areas. Some people have been known to undergo hair transplant surgery to combat its effects, a route that we would never recommend ourselves due to the unpredictable and recurrent nature of the condition. For more information about traditional options see this page on the NHS Choices website.

How can scalp micropigmentation help?

It is easy to understand why scalp micropigmentation has become a really popular option for those with alopecia. Like a hair system, it bypasses any treatment of the symptoms and basically covers them up. Given that SMP is permanent and relatively maintenance-free save for a bit of shaving and moisturising, it stacks up well against constant corticosteriod injections and other therapies, and is certainly a lot easier to live with than a wig.

SMP by Milena Lardi
This photograph shows a completed SMP treatment by Milena Lardi of Beauty Medical. This client has almost full head alopecia areata, so most of what you see is replicated hair follicles

One of the major advantages is that the treatment can be applied within the patients existing frontal hairline. This means that if the condition subsides, the pigments are simply covered by real hair and no-one needs to know any different. If the alopecia returns, the pigment dots are already applied, ready to camouflage those bald patches again. All the patient needs to do is restart their shaving routine.

Are there any potential complications?

Yes, but nothing that cannot be overcome. The issue is the recurrent nature of areata, and the fact that the balding patches can change position.

Many clients who consider scalp pigmentation to cover up their alopecia areata simply assume that pigment is applied to the affected areas only, and to be fair some providers will do this. On the other hand this can cause problems if the patches move or change size, as the pigmented area is either too small, or in the wrong place.

The solution is to treat the entire head, including down to the nape of the neck and throughout the sides and sideburns. This means that wherever the patches move to, and no matter what size they become, your camouflage is always in place. When the hair grows back, the treatment stays under the hair out of sight.

It is important to note that whether or not your entire scalp should be treated is something of a judgment call. If you’ve only ever experienced patchiness in one part of your scalp, or if your condition is fairly mild, then an entire head treatment could be more than you need. If on the other hand your areata keeps coming back, varies in severity or affects a different part of your scalp each time, a full head treatment could be the answer.

Bear in mind that a full head takes time to treat, and this will likely be reflected in the prices you are quoted.

If you suffer with alopecia and would like more general information about the condition, you should check out AlopeciaOnline.org.uk. The site is run by Alopecia UK and is a great resource for all things alopecia including treatment options and the latest research.

Laurie Downing

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