/  03.29.2022

Nearly half of Black women experience some form of hair loss, according to a recent Johns Hopkins Medical investigation. In light of these findings and the recent series of events at the 2022 Oscars (specifically, Will Smith slapping Chris Rock following a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head), we’re discussing the alopecia areata medical condition and its associated causes and symptoms.

Over the years, the Oscars have been met with scrutiny surrounding their exclusion of Black and POC nominees. One acclaimed figure who has undoubtedly remained vocal about the ceremony’s need to diversify is Jada Pinkett Smith. That said, she and her husband did show up for the annual awards ceremony this year.

Will and Jada were hand-in-hand as they hit the red carpet together this past Sunday (Mar. 27). Jada donned a shaved head and a Spring/Summer 2022 couture gown by Jean Paul Gaultier and Glenn Martens of Diesel and Y/Project. The actress’ hairstyle was not a surprise to film enthusiasts, as Jada has openly shared her journey with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss.

More broadly referenced as “alopecia,” the medical condition’s main symptom is a “sudden loss of hair especially of the scalp or face in circumscribed patches with little or no inflammation,” registers Merriam Webster. Jada took to Instagram last December, saying, “I thought I’d just share it — so y’all not asking any questions… Mama is going to put some little rhinestones in there. I’m just going to make me a little crown.”

A crowning moment for the Smith family at the 2022 Academy Awards was when Will won his first-ever Oscar for Best Picture thanks to his portrayal of Venus and Serena William’s father in “King Richard.” But, while there was Will’s onscreen aptitude to celebrate, the ceremony did not end without globally televised controversy surrounding Jada’s alopecia. In tandem with the biological attack on the actress’ hair follicles was a verbal shot from comedian Chris Rock. “Jada, I love ya. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it,” the “Good Hair” documentary producer said to the audience. Following some awkward laughter, Will walked toward Rock and smacked him center stage. Thus, REVOLT readers, we are here.

While social media platforms are smoldering with opposing perspectives on respectability politics, The National Library of Medicine has already logged a “Race and Alopecia Areata amongst US Women” case study. Its abstract reads as follows:

“Few studies have examined the clinical epidemiology of alopecia areata (AA) in regard to patient race, and therefore, any disparities in incidence or prevalence of disease are largely unexplored… We conducted a cross-sectional analysis from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII)… We determined odds ratios for AA by race in a multivariate analysis. Among 63,960 women from NHS and 88,368 women from NHSII… we identified 418 and 738 cases of AA, respectively. In NHS, the multivariate-adjusted odds ratio for AA was 2.72… amongst Black women as compared with white women.”

Similarly, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 83, Issue 4 confirmed, “We evaluated odds of AA and its subtypes for… racial groups using logistic regression… Compared with whites, [Black] Americans had greater odds of AA …” With figures like these, one must also consider how Black women and men are invariably met with expectations to assimilate to European beauty standards in professional realms and throughout everyday happenings. The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University wrote, “Black women with natural hairstyles were perceived as less professional, [and were] less likely to get interviews.” The stressful consequences of living with a condition like alopecia areata clearly encompasses more than just cosmetics.

Following a bulletin review of the Social Psychological and Personality Science, the credited top 10 university also published, “[There is] empirical evidence that societal bias against natural Black hairstyles infiltrates the workplace and perpetuates race discrimination… The impact of a woman’s hairstyle may seem minute, but for Black women, it’s a serious consideration and may contribute to the lack of representation… [and supporting ideas of norms for] women’s hair, that benchmark is having straightened hair …” In concurrence, people living with alopecia areata may not have a lot of hair to straighten. Not to mention, the straightening process can cost thousands of dollars annually and heat and unnatural chemicals potentially invite health intricacies, scalp ailments, and long-term hair loss for those with kinks and coils. Not surprisingly, the Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings, Volume 19, Issue 1, found that Black American women as well as Latinas have an increased risk of alopecia areata compared with non-Latinx whites.

That said, contemporary inquiries are forming alongside today’s building of alopecia areata awareness. Conceivable buzzworthy questions may read like, “Does society consider racial implications when meeting Black and POC civilians with ultimatums, or quantify the mental health of those navigating criteria that exclude racial identities?” Each individual’s point of view is quantifiably subjective, but medical facts are not — on top of societal stressors, genetics highly factor into the probability of suffering from alopecia areata.

With regard to other explanations, life events also have the potential to trigger hair loss. Among other causes provided by Healthline Media are: “Hormonal changes. Women commonly experience hair loss after menopause, childbirth, and pregnancy… Trichotillomania, also called hair-pulling disorder… certain hairstyles… depression [and] prolonged periods of physical or mental stress.”

As Insider has reiterated, “The condition, which impacts men and women equally, does not have a cure.” Hair may return within months on its own, and treatment is available for those who seek more tangible solutions. Results are case-by-case. In conclusion, the three ordinary forms of alopecia, as specified by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, are:

“Patchy alopecia areata. In this type, which is the most common, hair loss happens in one or more coin-sized patches on the scalp or other parts of the body. Alopecia totalis. People with this type lose all or nearly all of the hair on their scalp. Alopecia universalis. In this type, which is rare, there is a complete or nearly complete loss of hair on the scalp, face, and rest of the body.”

Sources:

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/hair-loss-in-black-women-tips-from-an-expert 

https://twitter.com/jadapsmith/status/688380300586450945?s=20&t=lqmTILjCs4Pqojh8rx-5mA 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1087002417300400 

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/jan/18/jada-pinkett-smith-suggests-boycott-of-oscars-over-lack-of-diversity 

https://twitter.com/westbrookinc 

https://www.oscars.org/oscars 

https://www.harpersbazaar.com/celebrity/latest/a39549988/jada-pinkett-smith-gaultier-dress-oscars-2022/    

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8a93q1We4E0  (Editor Note – 0:58)

https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/alopecia%20areata 

https://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/2022 

https://www.insider.com/jada-pinkett-smith-alopecia-in-her-own-words-symptoms-acceptance-2022-3 

https://variety.com/2022/awards/awards/sidney-poitier-best-actor-oscars-will-smith-denzel-washington-1235152940/ 

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9620288/ 

https://www.oprah.com/entertainment/chris-rocks-good-hair-documentaryhttps://www.newsweek.com/chris-rocks-good-hair-doc-doesnt-jibe-his-oscars-alopecia-joke-1692681 

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1213585/ 

https://www.cnn.com/videos/entertainment/2021/12/29/jada-pinkett-smith-alopecia-hln-mxp-melas-vpx.hln 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29273106/ 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0190962219322996 

https://www.insider.com/jada-pinkett-smith-alopecia-in-her-own-words-symptoms-acceptance-2022-3 

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/03/27/movies/oscars-academy-awards 

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1948550620937937?journalCode=sppa 

https://www.byrdie.com/natural-hair-in-corporate-america 

https://www.fuqua.duke.edu/duke-fuqua-insights/ashleigh-rosette-research-suggests-bias-against-natural-hair-limits-job 

https://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/news/2021/09/13/duke-unc-nc-state-us-news-2022-best-colleges.html 

https://www.essence.com/hair/black-women-natural-hair-discrimination-workplace/ 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1087002417300400  

https://www.healthline.com/health/baldness-gene#other-causes 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10827399/ 

https://www.mdedge.com/dermatology/article/204792/hair-nails/alopecia-areata-study-finds-racial-disparities 

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