Jada Pinkett Smith is using her platform to bring awareness to the devastating impact of Alopecia, which affects more than 147M people. On the new episode of Red Table Talk, the talk show host opened up about her own personal battle with hair loss.
“This is a really important Red Table Talk on Alopecia. Considering what I've been through with my own health and what happened at the Oscars, thousands [of people] have reached out to me with their stories. I'm using this moment to give our Alopecia family an opportunity to talk about what it's like to have this condition and to inform people about what Alopecia actually is,” Pinkett Smith explained in the opening of the show.
While reminding the importance of being mindful of the sensitive topic with her co-hosts Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris, Pinkett Smith acknowledged the healing needed after Oscars night (March 27).
“Now about Oscars night, my deepest hope is that these two intelligent capable men have an opportunity to heal, talk this out and reconcile. With the state of the world today, we need them both. And we all actually meet one another more than ever," she proclaimed. "Until then, Will [Smith] and I are continuing to do what we have done for the last 28 years—and that's keep figuring out this thing called life together. Thank you for listening.”
The mother-of-two later revealed, “147 million people are living with Alopecia, including me. It is so much shame around having alopecia and when you go bald, and you don't have a choice, you know what I mean? I think the part that makes it most difficult for me is that it comes and goes [...] It’s stressful.”
In the emotional episode, we were told the heartbreaking story of Rio Allred, a 12-year-old girl who sadly took her life after being relentlessly mocked and bullied at school because she had Alopecia Areata, an autoimmune illness that affects millions.
Alopecia has many mental impacts on patients' life, says Dr. Meena Singh who broke down the different types of Alopecia. The board-certified dermatologist and hair transplant surgeon explained, “I think is difficult for people to empathize with our patients that have hair loss because it's not life-threatening, but it takes a significant psychological toll on their mental health. I have patients whose significant others and their family members haven't seen their scalps and years because they have to hide it even at home.”
She went on to explain Alopecia Areata and Alopecia Universalis. “Alopecia is just an umbrella term for hair loss. But there are many different forms of Alopecia. [...] Both of these types of Alopecia are autoimmune, which means that your body is mistakenly attacking the hair follicle. We don't know entirely what causes it but we do know that there may be a genetic predisposition.”
Dr. Singh described the process of steroid injections to help combat hair loss. “We do around 80 pokes or 80 injections just into the scalp. We try to do them once a month because they start to wear off after several weeks,” she explained before revealing the most common Alopecia Black women experience is Traction Alopecia, which can be caused by tight hairstyles. “Traction Alopecia is the most common form and that's where we tend to lose the frontal hairline or we say lose our edges from tight hairstyles. That can occur in about one out of three adult Black women."
She continued, "There's another form of hair loss more common in Black women and that is a scarring, permanent destructive form called CCCA (or Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia) that can destroy the hair follicles. There is now known to be a genetic predisposition to this; tight hairstyles can make it worse, possibly relaxers, and things like dandruff may exacerbate it. The treatment for CCCA is very similar to how we treat autoimmune Alopecia.”
The expert went on to implore the importance of women, men, and children getting an early diagnosis from a professional. “I always advise that if you have hair loss, please do see a dermatologist that specializes in hair loss, because we don't want to miss the diagnosis.”
Hair professional Gina Knight echoed the importance of being your own health advocate while recapping her personal experience with CCCA. “I've had this for over a decade now. I was pregnant with my first child, I had very small circular spots of hair loss and I thought I absolutely don't know what this is. So I went to the doctors. Unfortunately, my diagnosis was all over the place. He said it was probably part of my postpartum shedding. And as someone who listens to her doctor, I ignored it. With CCCA, that's the worst thing you can do is ignore the hair loss because that spot grew and grew and grew. And eventually, I couldn't hide it or shield it.”
This new episode of Red Table Talk will stream Wednesday, June 1 on Facebook Watch.