Growing a beard can be tricky, not every man will be able to grow one, and for those who can it takes time, patience and commitment. Typically, between 2 and 4 months after starting hair growth a beard should emerge, as facial hair tends to grow 0.3-0.5 mm every 24 hours. For many men, though, the results are less than satisfactory, with beard patches being the main cause for concern.
In recent years there has been a rise in beard transplant popularity, so with a well-groomed beard high on the agenda of many, we are exploring what beard patches are, how they appear and what can be done to treat them.
What is Alopecia Barbae?
Alopecia barbae is a specific form of alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition. An autoimmune condition is when your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells, in this case the hair follicles.
In alopecia areata, the condition affects the scalp, but alopecia barbae specifically affects the beard. Over time, the damage caused can miniaturize your hair follicles, preventing them from producing new hairs and causing permanent loss.
You might notice hair thinning or loss caused by alopecia barbae on:
- The cheeks
- The chin
- The neck
- Around the top lip
- On or around the jawline
How Alopecia Barbae Appears
Typically, alopecia barbae comes on suddenly, and you begin losing beard hair in small circular patches, around the size of a coin but sometimes much larger. Patches can appear round or unusually shaped, and often, but not always, the visible skin is smooth. Some men will experience redness, itching and irritation in the areas of hair loss. Frequently, in and around the bald patch, exclamation mark hairs can also appear - these are hairs that are thicker at the top and narrower at the bottom.
Alopecia barbae can affect any man old enough to grow facial hair. It isn’t always permanent, but it is quite common for it to impact sufferers on-and-off over the course of several years.
Why does Alopecia Barbae Occur?
While the exact causes are unknown, there are a few elements linked to those impacted by patchy hair loss caused by alopecia barbae.
Psychological and/or physical stress has been linked to both types of alopecia.
Genetics may play a role, it is more common in those with, or related to someone with, alopecia, asthma or allergies.
Autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, lupus, and psoriasis are also a link, with those who suffer from, or has a relative who suffers from, an autoimmune disease at a greater risk.
External factors such as certain viruses, substances or medications can also be triggers.
How to Treat Alopecia Barbae
The first step to treating any form of hair loss is getting it properly diagnosed. If you have noticed hair loss or thinning, it is always best to arrange an appointment with a hair loss specialist. A medical specialist will take a closer look at the scalp and take a detailed history in order to reach a diagnosis.
At HHC Clinics, we use the latest technology to magnify and analyse hair follicles and thoroughly discuss symptoms and family and medical history in order to correctly diagnose the cause of hair loss. We may also request further tests to reach the root cause of the problem.
While there is no cure for alopecia barbae, hair loss as a result can be treated and managed. There are several options available with the aim to block the attack of the immune system and to stimulate hair growth, although there is no ‘one cure fits all’ so finding the solution for you may take some time.
Generally, treatments are more effective if you have lost less than half of your hair. A hair loss specialist will be able to discuss all options, and recommend one based on the desired result, the extent of hair loss and any health or lifestyle factors.
Medications used to treat alopecia barbae include:
- Corticosteroids - These are used to suppress the immune system, usually they are applied topically or given as an injection.
- Minoxidil - A topical liquid or foam used to treat pattern baldness. Results can be seen in as little as three months.
- Diphencyprone (DPCP) - A medication that can be applied to bald patches. It causes an allergic reaction characterised by redness, swelling, and itching. This is thought to trick the immune system into sending white blood cells to the surface of the skin to keep the hair follicles active.
- Anthralin - A cream or ointment often used to treat psoriasis, applied to hairless patched once a day it works similarly to DPCP by irritating the skin to promote hair growth.
The latest treatment used to treat alopecia barbae
- Platelet Rich Plasma - Promising results have been achieved with Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), this is when blood is taken from the patient, centrifuged and the platelet rich plasma isolated using either a separating gel or activated by calcium chloride irons, this concentrates the growth factors 5-6 times the normal level, which in turn is able to stimulate the progenitor stem cells located in the hair follicles.
- Microneedling - While commonly known for being used as an anti-ageing skin treatment, microneedling is now frequently used to treat hair loss. There is evidence to show that it can help hair loss caused by alopecia areata, using the same process of creating wounds in the skin to regenerate the health of hair follicles and resulting in new hair growth.
A tailored and combined regime
Many specialists will recommend a combination of treatments and medications to treat alopecia barbae, and many other types of hair loss. Here at HHC Clinics, we see the best results when the treatment regime has been tailored around the individual, that is why our focus is bespoke, patient-centered hair restoration plans.
The Results of Alopecia Barbae Treatment
It can take several months before the hair appearance begins to improve, and it is common for the hair to grow back a slightly different texture or colour, or at a different level of density than it did before.
If you suffer from persistent bald areas, it is possible to restore the density of the beard through hair transplantation. At HHC, we use the follicular unit extraction technique to transplant hair to the beard, offering natural beard density and lifelong results.
Ready to restore your Beard Thickness?
Speak to our experts! Here at HHC Clinics, we have supported thousands of people with their hair restoration journey.
Our modern clinic is packed with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the field, and our team of leading hair loss and dermatology specialists use the latest advancements to create unique hair restoration packages that are tailored to each individual’s concern, condition and desired result. We are CQC-rated excellent with a reputation for patient-centered care.
Get in touch today, for FREE advice from our team.